Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 27

Becoming A Published Author

Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book

By Evan and Lois Swensen

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Writing and Publishing a Best Selling Book

Mary Ann Poll


There is one thing to be said for coincidences. There aren’t any. And before you think I’m crazy or just narrow-minded, consider the following story of how I became a published author.

A day came when I was confronted with an indisputable fact: My eternal soul lives in nothing more than crockery. That day came in May 1998.

I awoke for another day of work. Hands reaching toward the ceiling in that wonderful morning stretch were stopped instantly by sharp, tear-producing pain. As the initial pain subsided, I downed a pain reliever and was at my desk by 9 a.m. The pain returned with a vengeance by noon. At 1 p.m. I found myself in the emergency room. A disc had herniated in my neck and I faced surgery with a long recovery.

This small writing sample is from a piece I wrote several years ago when I was asked to describe how I became an author. As they say, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Indeed, He does. Because if a disc in my neck had not herniated, if I had not read 100 books in ninety days because I could do nothing else while I healed, and if I had not listened to a good friend who suggested I write a novel, I would not be writing this story today.

My first book in what is now the Iconoclast series took many more years before it saw the black and white of printing. That journey was full of trips down other paths—going back to work time and again to make the almighty dollar and avoid the emotions and mental weariness that writing took. I took courses, joined online chat groups and talked about writing until I was blue in the face. In the end, I accepted that the idea of writing was not going to go away. That was the day I sat down to write a book. It took twelve years to summon the courage and face the passion that would not leave, no matter what I did.

In all the trips down other pathways, one helped me. I found out about National Novel Writing Month from a contact I made on a Christian writers forum. This is a yearly event where more than 300,000 writers come together and grind out a novel in 30 days. I had tried everything else, so what was there to lose? So I committed to the project. Lo and behold, Ravens Cove was born.

Once it was written, I was faced with the frightening and somewhat overwhelming question every writer has: “What now?” My answer for several months was, “Nothing!” This was when I first discovered that writing a book is akin to giving birth. I wasn’t putting my “baby” out into the world for criticism and rejection.

So, I let the book sit in the dark for several months. It stayed in the rawest of formats and I think I was actually in denial that I had written an entire novel. I didn’t have (or make) the time to edit it because I had no clue where to go and who to trust with my baby.

My husband read the prologue and told me it was great. Of course he did. He wanted dinner and to sleep in his own bed—what else could he say? I knew he meant it. I also knew he loved me so I dismissed his compliment.

My father-in-law came to visit the summer after I wrote Ravens Cove. He asked if I might allow him to read it. His reading it was not such a frightening thought and, to be honest, I really wanted his opinion. And I trusted his view because he has a PhD in education and had published works of his own. He also happened to be the most avid reader I had ever met.

I gave him the book. He and my husband left that weekend for our RV in Anchor Point. He read it there. He came back and told me he really liked it. He said he had read authors he thought should have never been published. And he thought my book should be.

My husband, with the I-told-you-so-look, agreed. Then he took it a step further and emailed links to several publishers and publishing houses with information on what it took to get the book to press. Here’s where providence is again disguised as coincidence. One of those names was Publication Consultants.

I debated sending out query letters to the “big houses.” I heard stories of books that were tied up for months, even a year or more, by those big publishing houses that had initially accepted the author’s work and then left them hanging forever. I debated the self-publishing houses and again read and heard of the horror stories of authors that were taken financially to the point it wasn’t worthwhile to pursue marketing their books. With all this I decided I wanted to be able to look a publisher in the eye. So I met with Evan Swensen of Publication Consultants.

Evan reviewed the first few pages of what was to be Ravens Cove. There were some problems but he told me the story was good and he would publish it—after I took it to an editor to fix the “boulders”—his word for problems. The rest is history. Since 2010, I have been privileged to call Publication Consultants my publishing house.

Publication Consultants was and still is invaluable to this author. They have taught, and are still teaching me the ins and outs of the road to becoming a successful author. There have been numerous mountains to climb and valleys to traverse. They have stuck with me throughout the process and have opened doors that self-publishing could not. Without Evan Swensen and his staff, I would not have reached the goal of becoming a published author.

As I stated when I began this story, there are no coincidences. Each occurrence that seemed so small in and of itself led me to Publication Consultants and the adventure of being a published author. To date, the journey continues with a third book in the Iconoclast series in draft. And when ready and God willing, it will come to maturity with the assistance of Publication Consultants.

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.