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On Getting Published

Getting my cyber war thriller published wasn’t easy.

My experience started the day after I finished the manuscript. I was excited – probably over-eager. The query looked like this:

I’m looking for an agent for my recently completed thriller, ALL SYSTEMS DOWN.

One day. That’s how long it takes for the cyber war to bring everything crashing down. Twenty-four hours of banks closing, phones dying, and satellites falling to earth.

Brendan Chogan knows he needs to get his family out of Portland. But he can’t do it. Not with two little girls. Not with streets clogged with traffic and choked by riots.

That doesn’t keep him from trying, though.

But they don’t get far. A brick through his window and an attack from a mob send his car limping up the driveway, tires flat, windows shattered. And all around, the modern world continues to collapse.

Then, when it seems his situation can’t get worse, {The rest of this is redacted for spoilers}

ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is complete at 78,000 words. The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request.

About me:

—I’ve won writing awards from Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Oregon Society of Professional Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists.
—I worked in book publishing for four years, and helped market three (non-fiction) best-sellers.
—In 2015, I sold my multi-million-dollar marketing agency to devote myself to fiction writing.

I’ve included the first five pages, pasted below. Let me know if you’d like to see more.

I sent eighty-eight emails to agents, over the course of many weeks. As you might guess, the rejection letters started piling up almost immediately. Some of the agents liked the writing but thought the story wouldn’t sell. Some liked the story but thought the writing needed work. Some liked everything but told me they’d just signed a project that was too similar. Some had never read anything similar and couldn’t run away fast enough.

Months passed and I hadn’t secured representation of any kind. Like I said, it’s not easy.

With an inbox split open from rejections, I moved forward sans agent and started querying publishers. Big ones at first. But those big fish are the same ones that want you to have an agent. And even for the few where I was able to charm my way past the gatekeepers, crooning about my writing awards and professional background, I still couldn’t sink the hook in deep enough to bring them up onto the bank.

It wasn’t easy. And now more months had passed.

So I started to write to small publishers. I had worked at two different small publishers more than a decade before. (Both went bankrupt – probably not because of me. And there really aren’t many small publishers left. At least not many worth a damn.)

But I had some luck here. And I guess this is where things started to get a little easier.

Maybe it was the story I’d written – a commercial thriller dominated by what I’ve been told is a page-turning plot – but the small publishers liked what they read. And after a slurry of offer letters I decided on the one I felt would work best for me: Lakewater Press.

What do I like about this small press? Flexibility, enthusiasm, the owner’s delightful accent? Those are the things that got me to sign the two-book contract. But what I really like is the community of writers in this small press – the daily communication on Facebook, the encouragement, the ready willingness to drop everything to help a fellow author come up with a slogan or work through a branding issue.

So now I’m getting ready to launch this cyber war thriller and I’m really happy where I landed. Writing is sometimes hard work, but it’s the getting-published-part that wrecks most of us. And if I’ve learned anything it’s that small presses can be just as good for authors at the beginning of their journeys as large ones, and maybe more welcoming.

Read Chapter One