Friday, July 13, 2012

My Journey to Publication by Susan Sleeman

Have you ever felt discouraged in your writing journey? My guess is that the majority of us have struggled with feeling down and defeated at times. We work hard and feel good about a project, only to be rejected once again. What do you do? Author Susan Sleeman is here today to share some experiences in her own journey to publication and what she discovered along the way. Enjoy! ~ Dawn

My Journey to Publication
by Susan Sleeman

At a recent doctor’s appointment where everyone knows I’m a published author, the medical assistant told me she wanted to write a book. She added that she didn’t know where to start and asked what I would suggest. For a moment, ideas raced through my mind and I couldn’t decide what to tell her in the few minutes she had between patients. I eventually told her to sit down and write and to look for a writer’s organization where she could connect with other writers.

As I left the office, I wondered if I’d given her the best advice and I started thinking about my journey to publication. It started when I had health issues and had to quit my job. Faced with sitting around all day, I decided I should write the book I always wanted to write. Had I ever done much creative writing? Did I have a degree in writing? Was I even any good in grammar and other skills writers need? NO! I just wanted to write a book.

So I sat down and began putting words on paper. I read everything I could find on how to write fiction and studied books in my chosen genre. I listened to other author’s recommendations for books to purchase. And I found several online resources including American Christian Fiction Writers. I finished the first draft of my first book and entered a contest. I finaled in the contest and I just knew I was on my way to publication. Wrong! I still had so much to learn so I joined a critique group.

In the next few years, I wrote five complete manuscripts and developed additional skills. Soon I signed with an agent and yet, for years I sold nothing. You see, I was writing books that I wanted to write regardless of what readers in the Christian market wanted to read. This doesn’t mean I ignored basic inspirational fiction guidelines regarding swearing, sex and graphic violence. I stayed within these guidelines and even had a few times when books went before publisher’s committees. But ultimately, I was told the books didn’t fit their needs or they wouldn’t sell to the predominantly female reader in the Christian market.

And honestly, I was tired of writing complete manuscripts only to be told they liked the writing, but the books were not for them. In a word, I was discouraged. I wallowed in self-pity for a bit then decided I needed to find a better way to target the publisher’s needs. So I looked at publishers who had specific needs where I could tailor my writing to those needs. That led me to Barbour’s Heartsong Presents Mystery line and Love Inspired Suspense line. I studied their guidelines, crafted proposals to fit their needs and voila, I now have six books in print and five more contracted.

So does this mean I sold out? Gave up on my dream to write books I wanted to write?

I don’t think so. It means I started approaching my writing from a practical slant if I ultimately wanted to have a writing career. I love, love, love writing for Love Inspired Suspense. I’ve learned a great deal from the editors and hope they will continue to keep publishing the books I write for years to come. But I also continue to write those harder-hitting, edgier suspense books that I want to write and my agent keeps submitting them to publishers. One day, I hope one of these books will land at the right publisher, but until then, I am gaining valuable experience in the publishing world and earning a good living.

So where are you in your writing journey? Are you a novice or someone who has heard a few nos from publishers? Is there a publisher out there that you can target as I did? I’d love to hear about and chat with you about your journey so let’s get a dialogue going.

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SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson.

To learn more about Susan, please visit her