Getting Published

I started teaching creative writing in 1985. Since I wanted a well-rounded program, I studied everything I could on how to get published. The books said to go to writers’ conferences. I did that. I bought countless How-to books, How to Sell You Novel, etc. I talked to published authors for their advice – “Well, first you get an agent and the agent will help you get a publisher.”

I jumped in the game. In January of 1986, I sent a query letter about my first novel to agent Jean Nagar in New York. My wife had seen her on TV and liked her. She was Jean Auel’s agent (Clan of the Cave Bear). A week later, my Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) came back – great news – she wanted to see the whole thing and would get back to me within three weeks.

Three weeks became three months and then six months. Just like the books said, I sent polite reminders. No response. That summer on the verge of attending another writers conference, I broke the rules – I called her office. A woman answered, not Ms. Nagar. I explained everything, how I was going to another conference and needed to know if her agency was interested.

“What’s the name of the book again?”

“Prisoners of the Williwaw.”


I had to spell Williwaw for her and explain what it was.

“What’s it about?”

“Three hundred hard core prisoners¾”

“Just a minute.”

I heard a definite negative tone in her voice, but I still hoped. “Just a minute,” became ten minutes, for which I was paying long distance charges.

Finally she came back to the phone. “We’re not interested in that. Goodbye.”rejection

I was crushed, more than I thought possible. I debated throwing this writing thing from my life completely, but somehow I carried on.

Things didn’t get any better in my publishing efforts.

  • An agent returned my novel, “There are too many men to make it a woman’s novel and too many women to make it a men’s novel.”
  • A publisher (Hancock House in BC) returned a manuscript to me three years after I sent it to them
  • A Texas literary agent rejected a work of another author and sent it to me.
  • Some publishers said, “Get an agent,” and then an agent would say, “Get a publisher.

I went forward despite all these rejections and I used Print On Demand to print my three novels and two works on non-fiction. That was great for local readers and family, but it made no dent in national markets.

Then along came E-books. I’m back to 1985, learning how to sell my books all over again. But it seems to be a wonderful new age for writers. The Gatekeepers (publishers and agents) are no longer in the loop.  Kindle, Smashwords, your social network platform – all new things to learn. A colleague of mine put his novel on Kindle and it rose to the top.

It’s a new age and now there’s hope.


8 responses to “Getting Published

  1. What I like about this post, Ed is not the rejection and its weary process… I love your attitude and your ability to remain positive and forward thinking. That’s one of the hardest parts of it, isn’t it? Thank you for this inspiration. Good luck with it all! 🙂

  2. I had exactly the same experience, Ed, starting around 1995. Last year, Cameron’s Management in Aust’a took 12 months to reject me. I sent them the partial in Feb, they told me they’d like to read the lot. Exciting. Three months went by, no word. I noticed on their website they were closing their books for 8 weeks, so I sent it again. Months later, the same thing: they liked it, please send the rest. This went on three times. Finally on Christmas Eve eve they sent me an email rejecting it. It was positively Dickensenian, but not the first time that had happened to me. In the previous year a publisher had managed to reject me, after months, on Christmas Eve! It just goes on and on. Like you, I’ve now turned to e and POD books, and am planning to put my first one out next year. I try to tell emerging writers that it’s only the first ten rejections that hurt; after that, the writer becomes immune and tends to regard them with a kind of humour. Thank heavens.

    • Ha. Ha. I love it. As you say, “it’s only the first ten rejections that hurt.” I remember going to the mail box in the early years and coming back to the house totally depressed. And for you — getting rejected on Christmas Eve. You’d think they could have waited until January 10 or something.

  3. This is such an inspiring read Ed. It’s true we are now in a new age…not waiting to be picked by the gatekeepers..rather we are picking ourselves…am happy for this change.
    And I like the way you dealt with rejection, it’s a bump in the road for writers…but all the same, it does teach us persistence and to never givinng up on our craft.

  4. Pingback: Summer reading madness | Lindea·

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