Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Choosing Words of Encouragement by Elaine Marie Cooper

The words sank my heart to the depths.

“Lots of writers have made that mistake.”

In a few short sentences, this multi-published author sent me an unsolicited note on Facebook, telling me that my book was doomed because I had chosen to self-publish.

She essentially took all my heartfelt writing and proceeded to slice and dice my hopes and dreams with her well-intentioned words of advice.

My historical romance novel had been painstakingly crafted and submitted to editing, before I had it published by a reputable company. I was right in the middle of promoting this book, The Road to Deer Run, when I received her post. Although she had never read my novel, the sum of her sentiment was, “Real writers go through years of rejection before being accepted by a large traditional publisher.”

Crushed, I mentally wandered through a desert of despair. But thank the Lord, he has blessed me with a fighting spirit that was willing to go to battle for my book as well as other books that are self-published. It was 2010. Didn’t that successful author know that the publishing industry was in turmoil, rejecting new writers left and right?

I doubt that in her position, she understood. But I understood something very important: On my journey to defend the self-published, I needed to be forgiving to those who snubbed their nose at authors like me. Just because another was hurtful, it was no excuse for me to be unforgiving.

Asking the Lord to be my guide, I continued to promote my book on Facebook and every blog on which I could get an interview. It was time consuming—but worth it.

I discovered a new online contest called Clash of the Titles, where excerpts from books were chosen anonymously by the editors and sent to “battle” against another excerpt. Submissions were in categories such as “Most Romantic Moment.” That is the category I entered with a 500 word selection from The Road to Deer Run. Not only was my excerpt chosen, but I won the “Clash!” Up until this point, I was a complete unknown. Gradually, a few folks started recognizing my name.

Continuing to enter more contests, I was delighted to win “Honorable Mention” at the 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival and was a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Oh, happy day!

The sequel was self-published in 2011. The Promise of Deer Run won “Best Romance” at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival as well as being named a Finalist at ForeWord Review’s Book of the Year contest.

The third book in the series, The Legacy of Deer Run, was contracted with a traditional publisher and released in May 2012.

I say all this not to brag, but to show what the Lord has done with my writing, completely separate from the traditional path that most authors deem “professional.”

I also say this to encourage other writers to build up and not tear down. This business of writing is lonely, heart-wrenching, and often not very profitable, unless your name is John Grisham or Steven James! Are we so caught up in our own ideas of what is “real” writing and who is a “real” author that we don’t see God’s incredible creativity at play in the writing world?

My journey may not be your journey. But if it is the path the Lord leads you on, then rejoice and run it with pleasure, determination, and covered with prayer. When we submit to His way, He will do His work through us.
 Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest. Cooper is also an award-winning newspaper freelance writer, has written for magazines including Better Homes & Gardens and Life: Beautiful, and is also a contributor to the inspirational book, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson.


19 comments:

  1. Usually, Christian fiction is one of the few writing professions that doesn't "eat its young." Unfortunately, we're still human. I confess, I judged a few entries for the Genesis contest this year and I cringe when I think of my comments to these unpublished writers.

    I just hope that they took my words in the spirit in which they were offered: as a help to make their work shine.

    Thanks so much, Elaine, for reminding us that we should build each other up in the Body of Christ.

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  2. Great post, Elaine! Thanks for sharing your encouraging story. I, for one, am glad you didn't listen to the critics and persevered, because I loved the first two Deer Run books and look forward to the third.

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  3. There is a difference in being helpful with tact and being hurtful with smug words. I know there are times someone may want a review from me and, after reading their book, I cringe about what to say. Do they really want to know? And how can I carefully speak words that will not discourage them from ever picking up their "pen" again? I always try to start with the positive, then hone in gently on a few things that might help, then uplift again—find something of value in their work. The Lord knows my writing is not perfect and I appreciate truly helpful tips. I guess one of the differences in whether or not to say something is this: Did the person ASK for input, an evaluation, or a critique? The writer that sought me out gave criticism out of the blue, without me seeking her opinion or advice. Not only that, it was not even an eval. of my writing but of my choice of publishing. I would say that, overall, Christian fiction writers are quite supportive of each other! Thank the Lord for that. We NEED each other.

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  4. Hi Lisa!! Thanks so much for commenting and for your sweet encouragement. And I am looking forward to YOUR next novel but I have not heard if it is a sequel to "Prize of My Heart" or is it a stand-alone? Either way, it will be out-STAND-ing as well! ((HUGS))

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  5. Very inspiring, Elaine! I'm glad you didn't give up and that you're sending that message of hope to other writers. We surely need it some days!

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    1. Thank you, Lynetta! Yes, we ALL need to have hope and the encouragement of others. At the writers' conference I went to last month, the emphasis the WHOLE week was, what can you do to help or uplift another writer? A message filled with wisdom. :-) Blessings!

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  6. Hi Elaine - Thank you for sharing this message.

    I think a big part of your growing success is because of this:

    "I doubt that in her position, she understood. But I understood something very important: On my journey to defend the self-published, I needed to be forgiving to those who snubbed their nose at authors like me. Just because another was hurtful, it was no excuse for me to be unforgiving."

    I appreciate the encouragement and insight!

    Have a blessed day!
    Brenda

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    1. Thank you, dear Brenda. Those were encouraging words, indeed. :-)

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing your story and congratulations on all your subsequent writing awards. In the end, I think it all comes down to our passion--writers simply can't not write!

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    1. You are absolutely right about that, Sandra. It is a passion that pushes our "pens!" Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Elaine! The world of publishing is not for the faint of heart. We need to encourage each other, regardless of the personal journey.

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  9. Thank you, Lynetta and Dawn. There are days I feel like fainting, but God manages to bring me streams of refreshment when I need it. Hope and encouragement should be our writers' banner! Thanks for commenting.

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  10. I've had a couple agents and authors condescendingly tell me that I'm unpublished because my three novels are small press. Every time, I've struggle with doubt, insecurity, and even anger. Last month, another agent said the same thing, but it was said in such a kind and sympathetic way that I didn't bristle. In fact, it prompted me to question her about why people would say that. She gave me an understanding and thorough response that helped me see why, to a large house, I'd be considered a debut novelist. It makes sense to me now. But the moral of the story is that the tone the information is given in makes all the difference as to how it will be received. Elaine, I'm so happy that Clash of the Titles was there for you at the beginning! You've made my day. :-)

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    1. Hi April! Well, Clash of the Titles was just what the doctor ordered in 2011 to boost MY day! Your contest was so healing to my injured writer's heart. THANK YOU and all the wonderful ladies at COTT.

      I'm so glad this most recent agent had a kinder spirit. I would still disagree with her but I'm so glad she was gentle. The Big Houses (LOL!) like to keep up on the hill. But the smaller presses reach out to the reading public with a huge array of opportunities for readers who love good stories and writers who can write! YOU, April Gardner, are an award-winning, published author. You don't need an agent's affirmation of who you are or are not. Bravo to you! :-)

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  11. Thank you for sharing your story, Elaine. In my humble opinion, we all have to decide for ourselves what the best route is. If God leads us to this or that, that's what we should do. He will be our defense. And from the feedback you're getting from all the contest wins, it sounds like He has/is vindicated/vindicating you. Your courage inspires me! I sincerely wish you all His best in your writing endeavors. Thanks for visiting!

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  12. Thank you so much, Annette! We all have a route that God has hand-picked just for us. Wouldn't life be so boring if we all took the same journey? Thank you for your kind welcome.

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  13. Good to see you here, Elaine! And thanks for continuing to share your story. You made the effort to make sure your work was excellent, and that's the kind of professionalism everyone should desire.

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  14. Elaine, I read your post with interest. When I was in financial planning, one of the things that really hurt some of my clients was bad advice from a well meaning friend. Writing is the same way. Critiquing is hard to take when I solicit it, but even harder when it comes unsolicted and especially from someone who isn't a published writer. We, who write, need Rhino skin. I loved the two of your books I've read and looking forward to the third one.

    Blessings,

    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack
    http://tomblubaugh.com

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