Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
One Last Cast
Evan Swensen claims to have the best job in the world—he gets up in the morning, puts on his fishing vest, picks up his fly rod, kisses his wife goodbye, tells her he’s going to work—and she believes him.
Bringing One Last Cast to market began when I crossed the border and moved to Alaska in 1957, and since then, I’ve pretty much lived the fantasies of almost all outdoorsmen. I’ve been the publisher and editor of Alaska Outdoors magazine and producer of the Alaska Outdoors television show and outdoor videos, and the host of Alaska Outdoor Radio Magazine. After Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine ran its course and went off the air, the book, One Last Cast, was born.
As a private pilot with a float rating, I’ve logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska in both wheel and floatplanes. I’m a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a fly rod, and using bait or lures. I live in Alaska and work in the outdoors. I love to fish, hunt, fly, hike, and be in the outdoors.
As publisher of Alaska Outdoor Magazine, I had an idea for a book: The Insiders Guide to Alaska Outdoors. I wrote inquiry letters to 34 publishers and received 34 rejections. I was disheartened. I thought that I’d have 34 publishers scrambling to be the first to send me a book-publishing contract. I had no idea how tough it was to get a publisher to publish my book.
A few weeks after the last rejection arrived, I received a call from a small publisher. They were looking for someone to write The Hiking Guide to Alaska. I explained to them that I did a great deal of hiking, but my hiking was to go fishing or hunting. The editor told me they were considering a Fishing Guide to Alaska and asked if I was interested. Of course, I was interested and signed a contract for both the fishing and the hiking guide to Alaska.
I signed the contract and proceeded with writing the books. My late wife, Margaret, a great researcher, did the research, and I did the writing. We worked on and coauthored the books.
I remember the high we experienced when we received our copies from the publisher. We celebrated our success as writers. The memory lingers today as I remember holding the product of our yearlong labors. It was wonderful.
After the books were published, reality set in as we discovered that we were at the bottom of the publishing food chain, and our publisher cared little about us. We found that in the contract, we had signed away all our rights to the book. We didn’t even own the copyright. Our books were not ours—they belonged to the publisher. It was discouraging to know that in our innocence, we had relinquished all rights, in all markets—forever.
The small publisher sold to a larger publisher, and as bad as the small publisher treated us, the new publisher was so bad they made the first publisher look good. We even had to get a lawyer and threaten the new publisher with legal action to get them to honor the terms of their contract. Dealing with publishers took away a great deal of the thrill of being a published author.
At the conclusion of Alaska Radio Magazine, I’d end the show each day with these words, “There’s just time for one last cast.” I then proceeded with a 90-second vignette about one of my Alaska outdoor adventures—primarily adventures with one of my nine children. A few years later, we put 120 of those last cast stories together and published our book—and we own the copyright.
One Last Cast contains uplifting stories of friends, family, and fun, preserved for posterity.