Sunday, July 22, 2012

Never Give Up On Your Dream!

You’ve been working on your novel for months, maybe even years, and lately you feel more discouraged than ever. Perhaps it’s the disappointment of not having finished the book yet. Maybe you don’t know where to go next with your story. Or it’s possible that you’re just physically and emotionally drained from all the time and effort you’ve poured into this dream. I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there now.

At the moment, I have four books rolling around in my head. One is a mystery I’ve already started writing. The second is a non-fiction book I’ve outlined and could probably write in a month if I had 24 extra hours in my day. The third is a legal thriller I’ve discussed writing with another author. The fourth is a book of short stories that are just dying to get out. All of them, I truly believe, have bestseller potential. Too bad they’re stuck in my head.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to put pressure on myself to write. To write despite the demands of my day job. To write no matter how tired I was. To write no matter what. Starting July 1, 2012, I publicly vowed via this blog to write 5,000 words per week. Every week. I’m proud to say that I have just over ten thousand words of my sixth mystery under my belt. I’m not so proud to admit that during this past week, Week No. 3 of my Public Writing Journey, I didn’t sit down in front of the computer even once. Life, unfortunately, got in the way. I woke up this morning feeling pretty down about it. Fortunately, I’m not someone who stays down in the dumps very long.

Failing to meet your writing goal on any particular day or in a given week isn’t reason for alarm. It happens. And it will definitely happen again. To me and to you. What’s important is getting back on the horse. It’s also important to discard all those excuses you’ve been relying on.  I don’t have time. I’m too tired. It’s too hard.  I’m too old.  Maybe I’m not good enough.  Start focusing on the I can, not the I can’t. That’s exactly what I plan to do.

Writing a novel, finding an agent, and getting a book deal or even publishing your book yourself isn’t easy. But it can be done. As proof, I’d like to share with you the inspiring story of one writer who made her writing dream come true by taking the bull by the horns—literally. It was an uphill battle, but these days, Elle Newmark, author of The Book of Unholy Mischief and other books which take readers to faraway places, is on top of the world. With the permission of the author, I’d like to share with you Elle’s writing journey, which I first wrote about back in 2009 in one of my articles.

By the age of 56, Elle had finished her third novel and collected her share of rejection letters. But finally, she landed an agent. Not just an agent, but one who told her, “This book is a gold mine.” 

Elle assumed she was on her way to the writing career she could only dream of.  But she wasn’t. Six publishing houses rejected the book and her agent—the agent who called her book "a gold mine"— stopped submitting it. 

Instead of giving up, Elle decided to write another book. But she couldn’t get an agent for that one. She spent weeks being depressed and coming to terms with the likelihood that she would never be a published author.  

When she hit her 60th birthday, still crying in her soup, something happened. She got angry and decided that she would play the publishing game by her rules. She decided to self-publish. 

I'll let Elle tell the rest of her amazing story:

“I turned away from traditional publishing and took the humble route of self-publishing. I really wanted to hold my own book in my hands. I believed that just holding a book in my hands would be enough. So I risked money, I went through endless edits, and I risked more money. Then, one day I had a book for sale on Amazon. My baby made its debut to a shrieking silence and a riot of apathy. My friends bought a copy out of loyalty but I don’t have a lot of friends, just very good ones, and the book maintained a rank of about 400,000, which is slightly above nonexistent.

“I finally had a book out and it wasn’t enough. That’s when I decided it wasn’t about holding a book in my hands, but knowing that lots of other people were holding it in theirs. They weren’t, and I went into another funk

“One night, moodily slumped in front of a late night rerun of Sex in the City, I watched Carrie Bradshaw’s glitzy book launch party. Carrie Bradshaw isn’t even a real person and Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t even a writer, yet there she was having my book party. Champagne flowed, beautiful people milled, cameras flashed, and I got an idea.

“I gambled on a do-it-yourself website and spent thousands on an Internet marketing course. I would throw myself a virtual book launch party. Crazy? Maybe, but no guts, no glory. When you get older you start to think that way. I organized a one-day virtual party designed to generate a surge of sales on Amazon, and catapult me onto the bestseller list. The website looked colorful and festive, but we all know the most humiliating disaster is to throw a grand splash and have no one show up. Then I’d have to kill myself for sure. I needed to reach 500,000 people to make a few hundred sales and reach the bestseller list. I needed partners.

“I asked droves of website owners to participate. I sent them a letter, a box of homemade cookies, and a signed book marked on the page where those same cookies appear in the novel. The cookies are called ‘bones of the dead’ so, with an aching back, I stood at the kitchen counter, well into the wee hours, shaping cookie dough into little bone shapes, baking them to the perfect golden shade of doneness, and then rolling them in powered sugar to make them look bonier. Only the boniest cookies went out—fifteen hundred of them. The rest…well, I gained four pounds.

“My friends and family were apprehensive. I could see the pity in their eyes. Isn’t it sad to see Elle grasping for the brass ring that has so clearly passed her by? But I forged ahead, bold as an old crow. I blogged and talked up my book on message boards. I got a few Internet partners, I baked more cookies, I begged, pleaded, flattered, cajoled, bargained and I got more partners. In the end I had enough support to reach 500,000 people. Yes! I would hit the Amazon bestseller list. Then agents would notice and publishers would come knocking. That was the plan.

“But two days before my virtual party, my son, Michael, thoughtfully stroked his goatee and said, 'Mom, if you want agents and editors to notice your book, why not just invite them to your party?' And there’s yet another advantage to age: Grown children capable of clever ideas. However, that idea was definitely against the rules. You’re supposed to approach agents according to a well-established protocol, and you’re not supposed to approach editors at all. Michael’s idea was risky and audacious, but in the end, I decided I was too old to be timid. I just didn’t have that kind of time. I got online and dug up email addresses for 400 agents and editors. The night before the launch, I wrote personal invitations with a link to the party site and brazenly hit send 400 times.

“By noon the next day, I’d heard from dozens of agents and editors. People were clamoring to read my book! An editor from a major house flat out offered me a hardcover deal via email based solely on the reviews. Agents asked me to speed books to New York, and while I manned the computer, my husband, Frank, made multiple trips to the post office. Within 24 hours I had offers from several impressive agencies—including William Morris, with whom I made an agreement at whiplash speed.

“I did hit the Amazon bestseller list, not that it mattered anymore.

New York talent scouts were talking about The Book of Unholy Mischief, and the buzz was so loud I could feel the vibration in California. I swear the earth moved. During that first wild week, my new agent turned down a respectable offer from a major publisher. She said, 'We can do better.' I swallowed hard and hoped she knew what she was doing. Two weeks after my virtual party, The Book of Unholy Mischief went to auction.

“The auction was due to start at 11:00 a.m. EST, which was 8:00 a.m. for me on the west coast. I planned to be sitting at my phone, showered and fully caffeinated by 7:30. As I stepped out of the shower at 6:00, the phone rang, and I ran for it, dripping and clutching a towel. My agent said, 'Are you sitting down?' I stood there, holding my towel, and said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Two book deal, Simon and Schuster.' Then I sat down. I was naked and wet—like a newborn.

“In the following unbelievably heady days, the foreign sales started. It was a global feeding frenzy. As of this writing The Book of Unholy Mischief will be published in a dozen languages. Personally, I can’t wait to see the Hebrew and Cyrillic and Korean editions—I love exotic alphabets that look like music—and I have a place in my house ready to display them all. Dec 30 The Book of Unholy Mischief will be released in the United States and Canada. In January I’ll go to Venice for the Italian launch, then come back to the U.S. for a national book tour—every writer’s dream.

“I’d like to refrain from using that tired old chestnut, Better Late Than Never, but I can’t. It is better late than never. In fact, I might even say, Better Late Than Early. First of all, there is no doubt in my mind that I earned my success, and I feel a profound gratitude that I probably wasn’t capable of twenty or thirty years ago. Second, I’m pretty sure my agent and editor are not worried that I will celebrate by getting sloshed and trampled in a mosh pit, which is a comfort to all three of us. Third, there is the knowledge that I did not waste my time writing for no one and nothing. Every day I lived and every word I wrote was necessary to find my voice.” 

The moral of the story? Elle Newmark didn’t give up and neither should you!

You can find out more about Elle Newmark and her books at

Happy writing!



  1. Very encouraging. I'm going to open my laptop now! :-)

  2. Very encouraging. I'm going to open my laptop now! :-)