Aspiring Writer: Breaking Through to Publication

Not many writers receive “the call” by phone anymore. These days the coveted call usually arrives by e-mail, yet breaking through to publication is still the longing of every writer’s heart …

The Breakthrough

Monday night. Rushing around, trying to leave on time for my Word & Pen critique group meeting, I quickly gathered the printouts of my next chapter and reached out to shut down my computer. Oh, maybe just a quick peek at my e-mail.

fireworksA message from my agent? I stared at the subject line: “Lighthouse of the Carolinas offer for Deadly Inheritance.” (Later titled Her Deadly Inheritance.)

My heart skipped a beat. I held my breath.  A respected traditional publisher wanted to publish my novel? Had the soon the Lord had promised actually arrived?

I scanned the brief message, “Hi Beth, Lighthouse has offered you a contract for Deadly Inheritance. I’ve attached it for you to look at … if you have any questions … Jim Hart.”

Quickly printing the contract, I grabbed it and left for the meeting–not to read it to my critique group, but to hold it in my hands while I told them the amazing news. Excitement erupted as they cheered and congratulated me. It was a victory for all of us.

Two days later on December 11, 2014—with my questions answered and having prayed to know God’s will—I signed the three copies of the contract. As I mailed them to the publisher that day, I realized that a year ago in 2013, the Lord had first indicated that my novel would publish soon.

Days after signing the contract, I was still stunned. Though deeply grateful to the Lord, my agent, and the editor who had brought me to this place, I had not told anyone except my critique group. But now was the time to share the good news with family and friends.

God had kept his promise at the right time and with the right publisher.

***

Dear Reader, as impossible or far away as it may seem now, one day you, too, will share the good news of your novel’s breakthrough. You can count on it because our ever-faithful God always keeps his promises. Work hard and believe!

~ Beth

Copyright 2015 Beth Ann Ziarnik

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Aspiring Writer: Finding the Agent

Oh, if only we had a good agent. That would make all the difference! But what if after following all the advice and doing our best, it still doesn’t happen. Does that mean we’ll never get an agent? Not necessarily …

The Agent

Wow, Lord! Really? It felt like some incredible dream. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

My left wrist still recovering from being crushed, I stared at the cast that had replaced the external fixator in the steps toward healing since April. It was now Wednesday of the dreams-come-truelast week in June. Lord, what could a one-handed writer do?

Hmmm. I wiggled the index finger on my right hand. Ha! I knew people in the writing industry. Icould invite some of them to link with me on LinkedIn.

Before I knew it, I was chatting online with a well-known and respected agent I had met at several Christian writers’ conferences. At one point Joyce Hart wrote that she was bringing her son into her agency. She needed projects for him to look at and asked, “Do you have any you send me?”

I blinked. Is this you, Lord?

I sent her my list of eight projects, and she chose the romantic suspense novel which would one day be titled Her Deadly Inheritance. One-handed, I spent four days polishing its proposal before e-mailing it to her. Ten days later, Jim Hart sent a message. He loved the sample chapters and wanted to see the whole manuscript.

I blinked again. Was I dreaming?

During the previous eighteen months of submitting my novel’s proposal, two other agents had requested the full manuscript and then passed on it. They were kind enough to include encouraging words about the quality of my writing and my clear understanding of the romantic suspense genre. One even told me to keep my chin up, and I would find that agent who loved my novel.

I did my best to follow her advice but still failed to find that elusive agent who would believe in me and my writing. Someone who would want to partner with me and see my novels published.

Would this be yet another round of encouragement, letting me know I was close but not quite ready? Or …

Well, whatever the Lord had in mind, it wouldn’t hurt to keep moving ahead. Take that next step. I requested two weeks to go over the 80,000 word manuscript one last time—yes, with one hand—and then e-mailed it to him by our agreed-upon deadline.

How merciful the Lord was! He kept me busy with a family camping vacation followed immediately with an out-of-state family wedding. When I returned, a message from the agent waited in my in-box. As I read his most welcome words, my heart almost stopped. He loved my novel and offered representation.

I was in!

Hardly able to believe my eyes, I called in a lot of prayer from friends and family and tried to calm down. Then I sent the agent my phone number and said I would be glad to talk with him. That afternoon, he asked if he could send me a contract, and I told him I would be glad to look it over, but I had a lot of questions. He offered to call me the middle if the contract-signingnext week.

The next day as I prayed about this opportunity, I knew the Lord wanted me to sign that contract. A few days later when the agent called, I let him know I intended to sign the contract. I then ran my questions past him, knowing it’s not wise to sign a contract unless both parties fully understand the agreement. Then I signed the contract, dropped it in the mail, and officially became a client of the Hartline Literary Agency. I danced with joy!

God’s Word says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, King James Version). Without a doubt, the Lord had directed my steps, just as he does for each of us as we seek his will,and no matter what pathway he chooses for us.

* * *

Dear Reader, it may not feel like it now, but your day will come. Keep taking your next step as the Lord directs. The details of how you team with an agent may not be the same as mine, but one day the Lord with bring to pass your agent partnership.

God bless you on your journey.

~ Beth

Copyright 2013 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Author Interview: Cindy Ervin Huff

I’m excited to welcome my friend, Cindy Ervin Huff, as my first author interviewee. Her debut novel, Secrets and Charades, will release in March 2017. Can’t wait for readers to get to enjoy your historical romance as much as I did, Cindy.cindy-huff-headshot-2016

Here’s a sneak preview of Secrets & Charades’ plot:

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. Battlefield nightmares add to his burden, but his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, and a mail-order bride seems the logical solution. When an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, Dr. Evangeline Olson abandons her medical practice and travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, they are faced with cattle rustling and kidnapping. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together to save the ranch and their fragile relationship?

Now, back to Cindy: How did you decide to take up writing?

I worked at writing for many years, though there was a season when I gave up. Then on a mission trip, God said it was time to pick up my writing again. “If you want me to start writing,” I said, “I want to take a writing course to sharpen my skills. If you really want me to write, I need ($$) to take this online course.” I had just enough doubt in myself that I needed definite confirmation.

Within a month of the mission trip, I received a letter from a law firm about a class action suit against a company who had run credit reports and targeted specific people. I was one of them and agreed to put my name in the lawsuit. Well, you can guess the outcome. I received the money I needed to take the course.

The Lord does provide, doesn’t he? So, Cindy, what sparked the idea for Secrets and Charades?

It came about the same time. I not only have a serious reading addiction, I also have some near-and-dear people who struggle with serious emotional baggage due to their past.

My heroine, Evangeline, appeared to me in a mid-1800’s dress. As a doctor, this intelligent woman struggled with a society that felt women were a bit feeble-minded and helpless. She also had a dark secret from her past and problems in her present. I suggested she go west as a mail-order bride. She was appalled. But, of course, I am the master of her fate and brought in a few other surprises that gave her little choice.

gate-to-texas-ranchJake is a great guy who had his hands full with a tomboy niece to raise, and a large ranch with a too-small crew. His only experience with women left him feeling betrayed, and he had no idea how to make a successful marriage, especially with an educated wife. Other characters added stress and drama to their fragile relationship along with mystery, intrigue and some I-did-not-see-that-coming moments.

Ten years ago, I wrote the rough draft in five months. I edited it over the next year, and promptly got rejections. I had no idea that if publishers request the proposal or even the whole manuscript, they could reject it. Some publishers gave me edits. Those were precious even though it meant a lot of rewrites and deleting. I discovered I had a lot more to learn about the craft of writing a novel.

After 20 rejections I almost trashed the manuscript. Then I won the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award at Write-to-Publish. My novel and I then went on an editing journey through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I knew that even after receiving the award, I might not get published through LPC, but God is good, and they offered me a contract.

Ten years and twenty rejections–wow! You really hung in there. What was it like when you finally received “the call”?roses

I got “the call” by e-mail. How did I feel? Grateful, surprised, and stunned that my ten-year journey was nearing the finish line.

And what surprised you the most during this year of preparation to launch your novel?

This year of preparation has been daunting. I have a great editors working with me, Andrea Merrel and Kathy Davis who is acquisitions editor for Smitten, the new romance line for LPC.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas gives their authors lots of training and encouragement to help them succeed. I had so much to learn. I’m still trying to get my head around the best time to accomplish various tasks.

What’s it like as you continue to prepare–challenges and solutions?

I am a deadline person, so I asked writer Erin Curtis to help me meet my personal deadlines. A recent graduate from Taylor University, she made me her beta test to see how well she can help me launch my book. She not only has a heart to launch debut writers and become a mentor, but is young and willing to do what it takes. I am grateful God brought us together in our critique group and has kept us in contact for such a time as this.

And what do you count as the best thing that’s happened during your preparations?

I was so blessed by the seven people willing to endorse my novel. Sometimes getting one is tough. I’m still looking for more launch team members. My “Stage Crew” consists of four people so far. So I seek the advice of my more experienced author friends for the how-to. Those friendships are golden and their insights will make this new phase of my life successful.fear-and-doubt-meme-from-cindy-huff

While I wait for Secrets and Charades to release, I am working on a sequel, and my agent, Cyle Young from Hartline Literary Agency, is sending out proposals for New Duet, a contemporary romance. I realize if I wait for fear my first book doesn’t sell well, I’ll miss opportunities. Fear and doubt are a writer’s worst enemies.

Any advice to aspiring novelists?

If I could share one piece of advice with aspiring writers, it would be “network.”

  • Get to know other writers. If you don’t know any, go to conferences to meet them.
  • Join a writer’s group with members who are serious about getting published.
  • Have a presence on social media long before you’ve written the rough draft of your first novel. There you establish friendships and future fans who will want to buy your book because they know you.
  • Pay it forward by promoting other authors on your social media. Do book reviews.
  • Before your book comes out, people should know you from the way you’ve helped others.
  • Your social media presence should be easy to find if someone googled your name. Don’t wait until you have a contract. Those face-to-face and social media contacts are a catalyst to book sales.

Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey, Cindy, and for that great advice. All God’s best to you in your new life as a romance novelist.

Here’s more about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured in The Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers where she and her husband make their home.

You can connect with Cindy on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.