You must realize the journey to become published is long. Good agents and interested editors are very hard to find. I sent out literally hundreds of query letters to agents and even managed to hook up with several poor agents. This was primarily an exercise in frustration. Finally, I attended multiple writing conferences and did manage to get signed by a reputable agent. I thought my journey was near its end. However, I learned that even finding a decent agent doesn’t guarantee selling your book to a mainstream publisher. My agent couldn’t sell my book. Finally, I decided to go the self-publishing route. This proved to be the way to go. I chose CreateSpace, which worked fine for me—there are several other good alternatives out there. Be prepared to pay a small amount to get your book published—it pays to price-shop. Once set up, you can sell your book as an inexpensive ebook on Amazon (and elsewhere). The internet is an extremely valuable sales platform and if your book is half-decent, it can spread by word-of-mouth alone. Readers leave reviews and rate your book and this can attract new readers. I’m pleased to report that Adrenaline sold very well as a Kindle ebook. In 2014, over 80,000 copies were downloaded from Amazon pushing it to the #1 paid medical thriller. I also picked up over 440 reader reviews (mostly 5-star). Armed with these sales numbers and positive reader reviews, I was finally able to attract a mainstream publisher (Oceanview Publishing) for my third medical thriller, Fatal Complications, due out in December 2015.
So the point of all the above is simple—the publishing industry has undergone massive changes in the last ten years. Self-publishing no longer has the stigma that it once had. Many people want to write a book, and now is a great time to do so. I believe the strategy I outlined above, of self-publishing first and establishing a track record of sales and good reviews (sadly, there’s no substitute for writing a decent story) is a very viable strategy. After you have done this, then you approach an agent or editor and make your pitch. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, you’ll have a much better chance of getting picked up by a traditional publisher and save yourself a lot of trouble and pain of rejection in the process.
Finally, my advice for would-be novelists is fairly straightforward. Nothing worthwhile in life is quick or easy. Writing is no different. Expect to spend a long time learning the craft and improving upon it. Don’t expect to become famous overnight or make a lot of money easily. The best advice I can give is this: You shouldn’t write because you want to make millions or become a household name—you’ll likely be disappointed. Rather, you should write because you enjoy the process and feel the need to tell a story. Let the results take care of themselves.
Other things I’ve learned along the way: I’ve learned to believe in myself even when no one else seemed to. I’ve also learned the power of perseverance and patience. The path to successful book publication is notoriously long and arduous for most. Developing a thick skin is also helpful to protect oneself against the many rejection letters and obligatory nasty reviews that will come your way. Finally, I’ve learned that writing a good book is probably only half the battle. Getting it published and successfully marketing it may be the most difficult part. Good luck and keep writing!