Never give up. These are simple words that best describe the long road that lies ahead for any new author wanting their books published. My experience is no different.
I wrote my first novel, The Patience County War five years ago when I turned 40. I had just experienced a significant business set back that impacted me on all levels, not the least of which was a blow to my self esteem. I had been writing since I was a teenager but had never put enough emphasis on it for it to be meaningful. I had a great deal of time on my hands as I returned to the practice of law after leaving it to open a restaurant and pursue other business opportunities. I turned to writing to help relieve stress, to occupy myself and to do something that I felt I had some talent for. It was an important decision. Not only did I build momentum as my novel unfolded, it helped to center me as I rebuilt my practice. I was able to release some of my frustrations through my writing. I felt that if I worked hard at it I could eventually get published and then write more books. Little did I know that writing the book is the easy part.
Once I’d completed, The Patience County War, It was professionally edited. After I’d completed the rewrite, I felt I was ready to begin the process of finding an agent. I must have sent out more than 200 paper query letters to agents I’d found on the internet. I sent out countless other e-mail queries. I got piles of rejections, even after a few were willing to review a few sample chapters. I tried to rationalize all of the various reasons why I couldn’t find an agent. I was and am very confident in the entertainment value of my writing, but I just couldn’t seem to get a break. I’d read that many authors, Stephen King included, wrote several novels before they found a publisher. I wasn’t sure I could stick with it and write several, but I figured that my ego could take one more. I took my favorite character from Patience, Madeleine Toche and decided to write about her exploits as a young woman fighting the Nazis in occupied France during World War Two. I knew it was a saturated genre, but her story was so compelling that I had to write it. I’m glad that I did, not just because I eventually got it published, but I discovered many other characters that I now will get to write about in the future when I tell their stories.
Writing is not a privilege, it is a right. Regardless of whether or not I have any degree of commercial success as I go along, I know that readers enjoy what I write. That means that I have a talent for it. Modesty is fine, but not when you believe in your work to the degree that any writer pursuing publishing must have.
My published novel, Cold Lonely Courage tells Madeleine’s story of trial and anguish as a lone assassin fighting the Nazis in occupied France. Perhaps some of her fortitude helped me to carry on and continue to try to find an agent or publisher.
When I finally found an agent, I thought I’d now cleared the hardest hurdle. The agent offered Courage to several publishers without success. Unfortunately my agent withdrew her representation due to a medical emergency. I was on my own again. I decided to try a direct approach and pursue small independent publishers on my own. Several expressed an interest and requested manuscripts as I included the fact that I had previously been represented. I am confident that was a factor that initially got me out of the slush pile. The fact that my work had been ‘vetted’ to a degree got Cold Lonely Courage some additional consideration. When Black Rose Writing offered a standard publishing contract, I took it.
Black Rose Writing has been professional, responsive and helpful on many fronts and I can’t thank them enough for providing me the opportunity to present my work to the world.
As with any new author, self-promotion is integral to future success. I worked both with my publisher and on my own in that regard and am currently engaged in a two month virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book Promotion. The market place is changing daily. Soon most all media will be distributed on-line. I wanted to get the word out as far and wide as possible.
Ironically, after Black Rose Writing agreed to publish Courage, I ran an internet search to check on my copyright and found out that I had won first place in a national fiction competition that I’d entered, the 15th Annual Writers Network Screenplay and Fiction Competition. I had moved my office and failed to inform the competition coordinators of my new address and e-mail. I couldn’t believe it and wondered that if I’d have known sooner perhaps that might have helped me find another agent or publisher sooner. Life is funny that way.
I’m sure my story is similar to thousands of others. The only advice that I have is to never give up. I don’t intend to.
Soren Petrek is a practicing trial attorney with a passion for studying World War Two. He lived in England and France listening to people’s stories of struggle and sacrifice during the darkest periods of the war. Soren’s debut novel, Cold Lonely Courage was inspired by the true story of a young Belgian woman who helped countless Jewish children escape from the terrors of the Nazi regime. Soren lives with his wife, Renee and sons, Max and Riley, in central Minnesota. You can visit Soren’s blog at http://coldlonelycourage.blogspot.com. Cold Lonely Courage is Soren’s debut novel.