When Beverly Stowe McClure was in eighth grade, her teacher sent her poem “Stars” to the National High School Poetry Association, and she was soon a published writer in Young America Sings, an anthology of Texas high school poetry. Today, Beverly is a cum laude graduate of Midwestern State University with a BSEd degree. For twenty-two years, she taught children to read and write. They taught her patience. She is affectionately known as the “Bug Lady” because she rescues butterflies, moths, walking sticks, and praying mantis from her cats.
Most of the time, you’ll find Beverly in front of her computer, writing the stories little voices in her head tell her. When she’s not writing, she takes long walks and snaps photos of clouds, wild flowers, birds and deer. She also enjoys visiting with her family and teaching a women’s Sunday school class at her church. Her articles have been published in leading children’s magazines. Two of her stories are in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ANTHOLOGIES, and she has nine novels published, two of them award winning novels at Children’s Literary Classics and other competitions.
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Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Beverly: Unlike most authors, I never planned or wanted to be an author. I wasn't even crazy about reading. Life is strange though and we often surprise ourselves by the paths we follow. I taught in elementary school for twenty-two years. Reading Newbery winning books with my students made me realize what I had been missing: Reading was fun. Then I started wondering what it would be like to write one of those great books, the satisfaction the author must have when she saw children reading her stories and possibly learning something from them. I decided to give writing a try and see what it was like. I started with articles for children's magazines, mostly about things we did in the classroom: science experiments and art projects. From there I switched to writing novels. I'm so happy I did.
Is this your first book?
Beverly: No, this is my ninth book.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Beverly: MuseItUp Publishing is a small press, fairly new. I chose this publisher because they publish the ebook within a year and print books follow the next year or thereabouts. They also do lovely work. My other novels are also with small presses, and I've been pleased with each of them.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Beverly: When I first decided to write, I had no idea where to start, so I signed up for a mail course in writing. The instructor taught me the basics and I was successful in having some magazine articles published in leading children's magazines, as I mentioned above. I then took another course on writing novels and thought, Oh boy, this will be easy. When I finished my first novel, I sent the manuscript to a couple of New York publishers, positive they'd want my story. I learned pretty quickly it wasn't that easy. They weren't too impressed. After a while I put that story away in a box. It's still there. I didn't give up, however, and wrote a second YA novel. I sent it to a few traditional publishers with no luck. Then I saw a small publisher mentioned on a message board and decided to try them. They accepted the story and published it as an ebook. They also went out of business the next year. I found another small publisher for the book: eBook and print. It’s been out since 2006. For my next novel, I submitted the manuscript to several agents. Some had helpful remarks, but they didn't offer representation. The rest of my books, from picture books to young adult, are with small presses.
The smaller publishers, to me, are more like a family. There is a lot of support from the other authors at a house, as well as the publishers, illustrators, and editors.
I suppose the major cons are the difficulty of getting books in physical bookstores and reviewed by the major magazines, like School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Beverly: It was easy for me to get discouraged. I taped many of the letters that had encouraging notes on them from agents and editors to the wall in my writing room to remind me they found something positive about the story. It just wasn’t for them. I stayed the course and never gave up. The writing world is tough, but I was determined to find the publisher(s) that liked my work. My critique groups (I'm in two) help so much in finding scenes that don't make sense or that repeat something I've already written. The Internet has made submitting easier today, since most publishers accept and even prefer emailed submissions. Also, writers have more options today in publishing their work. Many are self-publishing and doing quite well, from what I hear.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Beverly: Small presses work for me. I can't say for others, because everyone is different. It doesn't hurt to try. You may be pleasantly surprised.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Beverly: Believe in yourself and write, write, write. Also, read a lot.