Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 12

Becoming A Published Author

Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book

By Evan and Lois Swensen

Chapter Twelve

Becoming A Published Author

Cil Gregoire

Writing a novel was on my bucket list in high school, along with moving to Alaska and building a log cabin in the woods. These were big dreams for a Cajun girl still running barefoot in the deep, fertile Louisiana mud. The log cabin in the Alaska woods was quickly achieved, but completing a novel remained elusive. It wasn’t for lack of life experiences, but rather the consuming abundance of daily adventure that accompanied a commercial fishing lifestyle in Bristol Bay and Norton Sound in the summer and living remotely in the northern Susitna Valley in the winter. Homeschooling our son, splitting wood, hauling water, baking bread, and inventing a hundred ways to prepare moose were only a few of the items on my daily to-do list.

I did write, though, in the form of long descriptive letters to folks far removed from the Alaska experience. These were always highly praised. I also wrote tiny skits for my son and the neighbor’s kids, who lived a quarter of a mile away and were also homeschooled, which they had fun acting out. I even started a novel or two…but never finished them. Then after twenty-five years of remote living, we moved to town. Not a very big town, mind you, but “town” by virtue of roads, power grids, and flush toilets. Life suddenly got a lot easier. I joined social outlets like Homemakers and Red Hats and bought a new computer. I worked for a paycheck during the busy summer tourist season, but began to utilize the dead time of winter by taking up writing. My first endeavor was a skit for Community Theater; my acting troupe, ladies from The Red Hot Ravens, Talkeetna’s Red Hat Society. The first skit was a great success, and I ended up writing five more over the next five years. But I still wanted to write a novel.

“Write about living in the woods,” I was told time and time again. Yes, but I didn’t want to write another book about living in the woods. Instead, I wanted to use living-in-the-woods as the vivid, realistic setting for something far more significant. And suddenly, thanks to global warming, I also had an excellent idea for a fantasy/sci-fi adventure novel. “What if the retreating Susitna Glacier released a magic crystal from a distant world…” and from that thought, Crystalline Aura was born.

Once I became excited about what I wanted to write, it happened. Of course, there were highs and lows along the way, but I never let go, and the work in progress became ever more absorbing of my day-to-day consciousness until two or three years later…or more…I finally reached the end. Rejoining the real world, I suddenly realized I had written a novel! Wow, I did it! Not long after that stunning realization, I came to a daunting brick wall; how do I get my book published?

I assume every author feels as I do; my story and writing are so great that everyone will want to read it. But first people have to know about it. It quickly became evident that I would not be published through a large publishing firm. The publishing world was evolving…still is evolving…and I would publish my novel one way or another. I researched options, and I found Evan Swensen and Publication Consultants without waiting until I could plaster my walls with rejections(I’m too far along in life for that). Evan accepted my work under a plan that I could afford and offered promotional help after publication. In just a few short months after signing a contract, I was a published author. Two years later, with the help of Publication Consultants, I published my second novel, Anthya’s World.

Selling books is getting increasingly more challenging. In the short time I have been a published author, I have seen the demise of bookstores. Evan has worked tirelessly to find new outlets for authors to do book signings, but we share promotional responsibility. I still honestly believe my novels are must-reads (If you doubt my words, read my work and see for yourself), and I am working on learning more about getting the word out.

Of course, if you are already famous, selling books is easy. I was doing my initial book release signing at Costco for Crystalline Aura shortly after Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue came out. My book signing table was set up near a massive stack of her books. I actually did quite well at that book signing, but Sarah Palin did even better, and she wasn’t even there!

“My book is better,” I told a shopper, ignoring my work, but reaching for hers.

“Sure,” he said, hardly glancing at me and walking away dropping a copy of Palin’s book in his shipping cart. This scenario played out pretty much the same every time I tried it. I can’t help but wonder how many of those copies of Going Rogue were read. Another interesting fact to note, when shoppers bought my book, they didn’t buy hers.

Now that I have written two novels, I can see why there has always been a slight distinction between a writer who has written one book, and a writer who has written two or more. I’ve already noticed that if I can interest the shopper in the series, frequently the customer will buy both books. If they only buy one book of the series, I know they will love it so much that eventually they will want the other. So there I go, believing in myself again!

People often stop by my table when I’m doing a book signing, not to buy a book, but to tell me about their son, daughter, niece, nephew, etc., who has been working on a book for years and has never finished it. They want advice from me that they can pass on to their afflicted relative. I did research advice from other writers while trying to complete my first novel, and here are a couple of bits of advice that have worked well for me.

First, do not expect to perfect the first chapter of your book before moving on to the next. Your first aim is to lay out the first draft. There is a far greater chance you will finish the work if you at least make it to the end of a first draft. It isn’t until you have a first draft and can see your effort in its entirety that you are ready for that magical rewrite, and you will have much more insight for the beginning when you reach the end. The perfection will come when you do the rewrite and edit, edit, edit.

Second, don’t wait until you have exhausted all your ideas on any given day before breaking away from your work. Stop each writing session while creativity is still warm, keeping threads of ideas you can toy within your head until you return to your work. With creative thoughts spinning in your mind, you will be eager to get back to writing. But no strategy will work without consistent effort.

Happy writing!

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.