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.