Publish or Perish… Get the Inside Scoop 10 Lessons Learned by a First Time Author in the Real World of Writing and Publishing

tombstone publish or perish seeking how to get published

Publish or perish” is a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia to rapidly and continually publish academic work. Until I looked it up, I thought it was my personal mantra. It seems forever I’ve muttered it under my breath and inadvertently screamed it in the shower. How to get published

We penned our book between loads of laundry, before and after work, while slurping soup, baking quiche; in lieu of naps, a good book, and television. At times, I thought we might drop dead before typing “The End.” How to get published

What we didn’t know then is that the crux of our journey had not begun. The publishing process for us (and most everyone), echoes the Israelites promise land journey through the desert. We know how long that took… right? And, yes, like our Biblical ancestors, at times, we grumbled.   How to get published
“Are we there yet?”

There’s great information swarming around the cyber desert, enough to bow the legs of your camel. Everything you need to know (or not) about publishing. The problem is not quantity, availability, or even quality. The problem is application. It all sounds good, reading through the bullet points on the essentials for writing a killer book proposal. It’s easy to imagine the world’s top publishers in a bidding war at high noon. But, when you sit, ALONE, ready to write your own market plan, best-selling book comparisons and reasons why a publisher should invest in your story? That’s when tension threatens to break the camels back. How to get published


Because authors are not necessarily equipped to be the best marketeers.

For me, the harder I tried to ace the tasks, the more confused I became.

Do blah blah blah.

Don’t blah blah unless blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah and blah before you blah blah.

Never blah blah… that is, unless blah blah blah.

With the  book written, quitting is hardly a choice. That’d be like designing and building a home; hand selecting each board, nail, minute décor detail—but never moving in. How to get published

We choose to publish. Publish or perish! Right? Weary, we evaluated the situation. Here is a digest of what we figured out.

If the kitchen sink springs a leak, we need to call a plumber. Eureka! Don’t fix the leak yourself. You will screw it up. In other words, get help building your platform, writing a stellar query and tackling the mysterious book proposal. Tired of trying to plug the hole in the dyke with our thumbs, we got help.

When we enlisted the help of Mark Malatesta, a former literary camel in desert seeking how to get publishedagent, we were no longer alone, wandering the publishing desert. We had a guide. One who’d traveled this road many times before with a map to the publishing oasis. (Note to authors: Here is the link to learn more about Mark’s services:

Working with a coach is like going to school. That’s good. It means you get something tangible for your time and money—a skill. It suits me to have a coach. It’s like having permission to break out of the box, knowing whatever needs to go back inside will be revealed. One big change is the title, now: “Love and an Intervention – A Dual Memoir About Second Chances. Another change is that I stopped writing the blog enabling time to write for journals and literary magazines. Some paid decent money, justifying time away from the blog and having more current published works added needed credibility to our proposal.

When the proposal and query were perfected, the pursuit for a top literary agent began. We collected a few truly encouraging rejection letters, and many more soul-crushing form letters. The rejections hurt, plenty. Even the nice ones. But, we could rest knowing we had the best tools possible. Yes, we COULD rest. We didn’t. But we could have.

Then it happened–one said yes.

And, we lived happily ever after in the promised land of published utopia.

Or not. How to get published

We got what we wanted, a chance to test the waters where the big fish swim. Our agent pitched the book to the top three Christian publishers—Thomas Nelson—Zondervan—Tyndale. If you know how the publishing world works, you know we would have never gotten this chance without help.

Did all the publishers respond with favor? Two out of three? One? No. Sadly, all three sang praise for the story and writing, but gave a thumbs down for the size of our platform. They all said some form of: “When publishing memoirs, we want the author to have a massive, preexisting platform assuring thousands of books to be sold before it even goes to print.”

Did it hurt?

Heck yeah.

Are we sorry we tried? Not a bit. We’ll never have to wonder “what if” because we gave it our best shot. How to get published

Is it over? Nope. It’s time to get back on the camel, this time we’ll chase after the smaller presses and if that doesn’t work, we take on self-publishing.

For those who like bullets and lists here you go:

10 Lessons Learned by a First Time Author in the Real World of Writing and Publishing

How to get published

  1. Stop saying, “I should write a book.” Write the book.  (it’s not your imagination. People ARE rolling their eyes when you say it).
  2. That dream? The one with the cabin in the woods, growing a beard, consuming whiskey and donuts for breakfast while writing the next bestseller. Forget it. Write the book.
  3. Be careful who you consult with about the writing and/or publishing process. There are oh-so-many self-proclaimed experts. Their sentences start with: “You should just… or “My author friend said… or “Why don’t you….
  4. Be flexible. Learn to push through writing in settings that are not ideal; like in a noisy café or while entertaining hoards of bored children. If you must have quiet, grab a flashlight and hole up in a closet. At page one, I insisted on quiet and no interruptions. Had I not learned to write through life, page two would not exist.
  5. Study today’s publishing world. Read, listen ask and look for proof that what they are saying is true. Most importantly, don’t let anything stop you from writing your book.
  6. Yes, the competition is brutal. Okay. Now, write the book.
  7. There will be days when you have nothing to write. Write anyway. I set a timer for 10 minutes. If I want to quit at the sound of the “ding” I can. Funny, how that never happens. One word begs for another, and one more and before you know it, you’ve been writing for an hour.
  8. End your daily writing session in a place that you know where you are headed… mid-sentence works great. When you begin the next day, it’s like rolling downhill.
  9. Get comfortable. Nothing moves fast in the literary world. It takes time to produce, perfect and then get found by the right agent or publisher.
  10. Remember, not everyone knows how to fix a leaky sink. Likewise, you might need professional guidance to get the best shot in this competitive market. If you possibly can, get a professional to help you build the best query and book proposal possible.

No matter how many times my hand is slapped away from the brass ring, I will keep reaching. I hope  you do the same. How to get published


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