Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 1

Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
Chapter One
Douglas Anderson’s Publishing Story
I Had Given Up Hope

Publishing a book is easy. You make copious notes, collect all sorts of data, and finally sit down to write. The ideas pour forth faster than you can assign the words to paper, and soon you have your manuscript ready to submit to a publisher. You are convinced it’s destined to become a bestseller. It’s all so easy. Or is it?

In 1977 my company moved me from Montreal, Canada, to Alaska to support the Trans Alaska Pipeline. For several years, I traversed the pipeline – in all seasons – from Prudhoe in the north to Valdez in the south and viewed lots of wild and spectacular country. I was unquestionably hooked on Alaska. Eventually, I started flying, hiking, and gold prospecting with an excellent friend. For a few memorable years we embarked on wilderness adventures that few ever have a chance to experience. Then, in 1985 my friend went to pursue a degree at the University of Hawaii and, shortly after that, my company relocated me to Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately, along with relocation, my adventurous lifestyle underwent a dramatic change for the worse, and I was unsettled and none too happy at having been coerced to leave Alaska.

In my new position, I traveled extensively and spent many hours on long flights and lonely nights in hotels, motels, or less desirable accommodations in unfamiliar places. To pass away the time and alleviate my feelings of homesickness—and sometimes anger—I started to write about my Alaska adventures. Initially, I had no thoughts of writing a book. It was simply therapy and my way of reliving the experiences of flying, hiking in the wilderness, and the excitement of prospecting for that elusive gold. Sometimes I found myself laughing at a particular situation I was writing about – occasionally shedding a tear or two as well. For years I added more to the manuscript, and it finally dawned on me that I had the makings of a pretty exciting book. I, therefore, set about word-processing my rough tome into a more logical form with chapters and headings.

I began researching ways to have my book published and quickly realized it could be both complicated and expensive. Many publishing companies will not even consider looking at your manuscript simply because you are an unknown writer. I became disheartened and decided that my writing had served its purpose and would go no further than my bookshelf. The manuscript began to gather dust, though I picked it up occasionally and tinkered with it as a reminder of more exciting times.

Happily, in 1995—having spent ten years in Georgia—I found a way to return to Alaska. Finally, I felt I was returning home and was happy to be back in support of the pipeline. Within a few months, I became aware of Publication Consultants and was introduced to Evan Swensen. Evan appraised my manuscript and encouraged me to shake the dust off it once and for all. Maybe it could be turned into an actual book if I could tidy it up just a little more. But, of course, it was already organized and had been honed so many times I believed it was pretty near ready for the printing press.

My manuscript­—word-processed to the best of my ability—was passed to the Publication Consultants editor then returned to me a couple of weeks later. I guess, up to that point, I thought I was a pretty fair writer. However, all the cryptic red squiggles, dashes, punctuations, and deletions of superfluous words and even entire paragraphs, convinced me I had a long way to go. It’s one thing for us aspiring authors to put ideas to paper, but it takes a professional to turn that into something others can read and enjoy. Formatting deems there should be no long dragged-out sentences. There can only be so many lines to a page, so many pages in the book. All those orphan words sitting alone on the last paragraph line have to be eliminated, and a chapter can’t end with two lonely lines on an otherwise blank page. A writer’s style may even be compared with Hemingway—though I never did like his style. And so it goes.

I worked on the suggested grammatical and punctuation changes, and Publication Consultants worked out the final details. Within twelve weeks from signing an agreement, and Evan taking command, my book Gold in Trib 1 was in many of the bookstores around Anchorage. I figured I had gone “national” when a friend found Gold in Trib 1 on the shelf in the Walmart store in Plattsburg, New York, and another friend took several to England and Scotland.

Evan was not satisfied. He soon pointed out that I had left myself wide open to writing a sequel to Gold in Trib 1. It took a little while to convince me, but I eventually authored Mystery in Trib 2, and Publication Consultants once again took it to press. It is said: “practice makes perfect.” I think there was less editing necessary on this second book.

Publication Consultants arranged for occasional book signings, and a group of authors would get together at some location. It was enjoyable; we encouraged each other and had fun. In addition, it was undoubtedly the best way to sell books.

With two books in print I thought I was finished with writing books. In 2001 my wife and I retired to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Leaving Alaska again was a difficult decision, but my consulting work was tapering off and I was working more at locations in the Lower 48 states. Undoubtedly Alaska was still in my bones. In 2009 I surprised Evan by writing a third book entitled Lost in a Foreign Land, which links the earlier books. Publication Consultants kindly took that to press as well.

One can take pride in being a “published author” no matter what the theme. We may never become rich – very few authors do – but there’s much satisfaction in knowing that we achieved something that only a tiny percentage of people manage to do and that our books will withstand the passage of time.

Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.