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Publishing
My First Book

Authors Talk with OnceWritten.com About Their Early Publishing Experiences


OnceWritten.com speaks with traditionally published authors and ask them to share their experience in getting their first book published. Authors listed on this page are ones who have chosen to take a traditional publishing route and rather than being self-publishing, they have first-hand experience in the trials of finding an agent, finding a publisher, working with a large or small press, and signing a publishing contract.


David Oppegaard

David Oppegaard

David Oppegaard

June 10, 2010

I could talk about many different aspects about my path to publication--how I got lucky and found an awesome literary agent, surviving a graduate school writing program, working a variety of jobs to pay the bills while writing at night--but I think the most important aspect of my particular story is the words I've left behind.

Or books, actually. My first published novel was actually my fifth novel, and my second published novel . . .

David Oppegaard on Getting Published


Lori Foster

Lori Foster

Lori Foster

February 22, 2010

I see a lot of new authors, or unpublished authors, who have misconceptions about the biz. I know I had them! If you don't understand the difficulties going in, you'll be taken by surprise, and maybe even discouraged.

My journey was a little different because I didn't even know that I wanted to write stories until I started reading romance. Before that, I hadn\'t read much of anything. Cereal boxes, occasional make-up advice in a . . .

Lori Foster on Getting Published


Tom Bale

Tom Bale

Tom Bale

February 8, 2010

For me, getting published was a long and painful process. I set my sights on becoming a writer at the age of seven, and it took more than thirty years before that ambition was realised.

For most of that time I collected rejection slips - hundreds of them, mostly pre-printed, but occasionally there would a little handwritten message of encouragement or praise: enough to inspire me to keep going.

There were even one . . .

Tom Bale on Getting Published


Orna Ross

Orna Ross

Orna Ross

May 28, 2009

To turn Dickens back to front, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times. For me, the path to publication was long, full of emotional twists and turns, highs and lows – not unlike the novel, Lovers Hollow, that I was trying to get into print.

Every writer who wants to be published, especially ones who don’t have a best friend in the publishing industry, has been there: the please-like-me-and-my-book subjection and . . .

Orna Ross on Getting Published


Tara Yellen

Tara Yellen

Tara Yellen

April 23, 2009

I wrote AFTER HOURS AT THE ALMOST HOME in three days—and spent the next eight years revising it.

The novel began as my Masters thesis for the writing program at the University of Colorado—though it wasn’t my original thesis. Two months before the due date, I was working on a collection of short stories. I was also working at two bars—one an upscale martini bar, where I lied to get the job because, despite years of waiting tables, I . . .

Tara Yellen on Getting Published


Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel

March 16, 2009

I’ve been writing for most of my life. I was homeschooled as a child, for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me, and one of the very few requirements of my haphazard curriculum was that I write something every day. I had a few essays and some poetry published as a teenager, but my career plan involved contemporary dance, and I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my early twenties. I was living in Montreal at the time, . . .

Emily St. John Mandel on Getting Published


Jane Kennedy Sutton

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Jane Kennedy Sutton

November 6, 2008

For years, I considered myself a 'professional tourist' as my husband's job took us to the Far East, Europe and the Middle East to live. When he retired, I discovered I had run out of excuses for not following my dream of a writing novel.

I began to dabble with bits and pieces of stories I?d started but never finished. One night I awoke with the sudden thought of putting two of the selections together. I couldn?t wait to get . . .

Jane Kennedy Sutton on Getting Published


John Addiego

John Addiego

John Addiego

October 15, 2008

I am one of those people who crawls out of bed every morning at five to write before reporting to the paid work that supports a family. I’ve done it for decades, and I know there are thousands of others doing this, my waking sisters and brothers in spirit, perhaps all of us coming out of one collective dream to write one story we’ll never fully understand.

My path to publication started with poems in literary magazines while I was . . .

John Addiego on Getting Published


Julie Luongo

Julie Luongo

Julie Luongo

October 8, 2008

I titled my book THE HARD WAY. What was I thinking? With all of that advice out there about the laws of attraction I should have known better and titled it EASY STREET or THE SIMPLE WAY. Lesson learned.

After I wrote THE HARD WAY in a cabin in the woods with no running water, I festered. I hadn’t really thought much further than “must write book now.” So, in the absence of a better plan, I agonized. I fretted. I worried. What if my . . .

Julie Luongo on Getting Published


Diana Holquist

Diana Holquist

Diana Holquist

August 14, 2008

I always knew there was a secret key as to who got published and who didn’t. It obviously wasn’t about good writing or perseverance or who had the best web site. Finally, I learned the answer and decided to live by it. What is the key?

The hook.

A beginning writer needs a great hook to sell. Sorry, but it’s true. Here’s how it happened for me:

When my family moved from Manhattan to a tiny town in upstate New . . .

Diana Holquist on Getting Published


Jasmin Rosemberg

Jasmin Rosemberg

Jasmin Rosemberg

August 4, 2008

Some people think I’m financial analyst who decided to write a novel. I say I’m a writer who, for a short while, masqueraded as a financial analyst.

For, ever since fourth grade, I knew I would be a novelist. It was the profession I always dreamed about – the way the other girls dreamt of being movie stars or ballerinas. Yet somehow, after attending college at the University of Pennsylvania, I found myself wooed by the . . .

Jasmin Rosemberg on Getting Published


Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein

May 27, 2008

I’ve wanted to be a published author pretty much from the time I was published in Brown Middle School’s “Author’s Corner”, and had my short story (painstakingly copied, in pencil, on yellow legal paper) stapled to the wall outside the principal’s office. There was also a broody, black-and-white photo of me, staring presciently out at my sixth-grade readership. Done, I thought at that point. After that, the rest would be downhill. . . .

Jennifer Cody Epstein on Getting Published


Joseph Wambaugh

Joseph Wambaugh

Joseph Wambaugh

May 1, 2008

Joseph Wambaugh, an ex-cop turned #1 New York Times bestselling writer, forged a new kind of literature with his early police procedurals. When asked about two novels that marked the beginning of his legendary career—THE NEW CENTURIONS and THE BLUE KNIGHT—he responded:

My early experiences as an aspiring (closet) writer were not very remarkable. I sent short stories about my police experiences to many mass periodicals, even to . . .

Joseph Wambaugh on Getting Published


Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur

March 28, 2008

My journey to publication is one of persistence. DANCING WITH THE DEVIL was the fourth book I’d written, but the first book I actually believed might have had a chance of being published. Unfortunately for me, none of the publishers I submitted to liked it. It was a paranormal romance, and written at a time when paranormal romance wasn’t the ‘it’ genre. Getting a publisher to take a chance on such a story when the author was an unknown was . . .

Keri Arthur on Getting Published


Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker

February 21, 2008

The summer before I started high school, I filled a loose-leaf notebook with the tale of an overweight girl who wanted to find a prom date, so I guess you could say I always had some book dreams.

As soon as I started peeking behind the scenes of modeling and fashion as a magazine editor, I knew that I wanted to put a "real girl" in the middle of this crazy world, a girl who would see it from the outside and be like, "Holy crap!" It’s . . .

Melissa Walker on Getting Published


Jenny Gardiner

Jenny Gardiner

Jenny Gardiner

February 13, 2008

The funny thing about SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is that it came about when the title came to me. I didn't have the story, but the title came into my head and it felt "catchy". So that meant I had to brainstorm an actual book. No problem, right?

The little thing was I didn't write fiction. Not one bit. I was trained as a journalist, and really the only writing I'd ever done was of the journalistic bent. I was, actually, very stuck on . . .

Jenny Gardiner on Getting Published


Aimee Liu

Aimee Liu

Aimee Liu

February 6, 2008

My first book deal might be described as an intentional accident.

The year was 1977. All of 24, I was working as a flight attendant and aspiring writer without much writing to show for the aspiration. One day between flights I picked up a Vogue magazine and read a column about a little-known condition called anorexia nervosa. This was the first time I’d heard that phrase, but the list of symptoms told me that I’d suffered . . .

Aimee Liu on Getting Published


Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr

January 23, 2008

I finished my first novel in 1996; I was twenty-six years old and decided that I’d have a novel published by the time I turned thirty. So I followed all the usual steps everyone tells you to follow: querying agents, going to conferences, networking with other writers. I even got a good agent pretty quickly and figured the rest of the pieces would fall into place like clockwork. But nothing ever happened with that book. I wrote a second novel and . . .

Sara Zarr on Getting Published


Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

January 15, 2008

MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT is my debut book, but is actually the fifth novel I have tried to get published. When I took a job as a technical writer in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s, I found that many of my co-workers wrote fiction on the side. This inspired me to take a creative writing class at a community college where I began writing short stories about my experiences with Japanese culture. They were well received in my classes and after many . . .

Wendy Nelson Tokunaga on Getting Published


Warren Adler

Warren Adler

Warren Adler

December 10, 2007

I was over forty and still burned with the hope that I would realize my dream of becoming a career novelist. At the time, I owned an advertising agency in Washington D.C., which I had founded to support my growing family. A man walked into my office who had written a non-fiction book THE MORAL SOCIETY. He asked what we would charge to promote his book. In a eureka moment, I said our fee would be if his publisher, a small one in Philadelphia, . . .

Warren Adler on Getting Published


Timothy Schaffert

Timothy Schaffert

Timothy Schaffert

October 25, 2007

I wrote lots of fiction… short stories, parts of novels, a few plays here and there. A few of those bits of fiction were published or won awards, and occasionally I’d get a well-meaning letter from an agent, or a friend of mine would get an agent, and so I’d send my completed novel out, and they’d send my novel back, always complimenting the book’s merit and potential, but lamenting their lack of passion for it (or, at least, “the kind of . . .

Timothy Schaffert on Getting Published


Jeff Rivera

Jeff Rivera

Jeff Rivera

September 27, 2007

I know this may sound corny but having my first book published by Warner/Grand Central proved to me that dreams really do come true. I mean that's what it did. All those nights of dreaming and long hours of writing, and wondering if it would really come true were worth it.

It was a long trail for me because I did it non-traditionally. I self-published the book at first using the only $200 I had a the time and promoted the book online. . . .

Jeff Rivera on Getting Published


Shobhan Bantwal

Shobhan Bantwal

Shobhan Bantwal

September 20, 2007

My first book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, started out as a rather dark short story—a homework assignment for the one and only creative writing course I took a few years ago.

When everyone in the class was asked to read a paragraph or two each week for critiquing, as our respective stories progressed, mine sounded rather strange. I was the only ethnic student in class (Indian-American) and THE DOWRY BRIDE was set in small-town India. I was . . .

Shobhan Bantwal on Getting Published


Lani Diane Rich

Lani Diane Rich

Lani Diane Rich

August 21, 2007

I wrote my first book, TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR, on a lark. After the birth of my second child, I’d left my day job and did consulting work part-time from home, and that left me with some extra time to write. I’ve been writing forever, but never dreamed I’d actually make a living at it – I mean, what were the chances? – so I joined an online writing group called Momwriters. There, I met a bunch of great girls, a few of which are still some of . . .

Lani Diane Rich on Getting Published


Megan Crane

Megan Crane

Megan Crane

August 1, 2007

I wrote my first book in graduate school. I think I needed to escape into something fun while writing my infinitely depressing dissertation. I'd been writing my whole life, but I knew that this finished book was different (mostly because it was finished!) I decided that I should send it out. I had no idea what this meant, but a friend encouraged me and I thought I should too, because why not?

I thought I would try to send it to this . . .

Megan Crane on Getting Published


Holly Shumas

Holly Shumas

Holly Shumas

July 19, 2007

I'd have to say that for me, the breakthrough was writing without expectations, instead of writing what I always thought I should. I'd done several semesters of an MFA program years before, and developed the tacit belief that I should be writing literary fiction. But when I did that--in what I thought was the "literary fiction" voice--it just came out heavyhanded and humorless. When I finally sat down to start Five Things I Can't Live . . .

Holly Shumas on Getting Published


Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter

June 26, 2007

I wrote my first book while aboard the ark during those hot summer afternoons with elephants scrunching peanuts in my ears. A friend in New York where the ark happened to land told me about the primo editor of the primo imprint Signet (NAL), so I wrote her this dumb letter about a mystery set in Regency England -- in truth rather gothic in nature, but with a really cool earl as hero, and a first person heroine with curly red hair. Three days . . .

Catherine Coulter on Getting Published


Andrea Portes

Andrea Portes

Andrea Portes

May 31, 2007

After I'd finished the manuscript for HICK, I realized I had no idea what I was doing, in terms of finding an agent, finding a publisher and the whole monster, in general. So, I went to the library and researched their Writer's Market, went to the bookstore and read their literary magazines while sitting on the floor next to a red-and-yellow cat. I couldn't afford to buy any of these things, so I was, basically, doing the research on the . . .

Andrea Portes on Getting Published


Marta Acosta

Marta Acosta

Marta Acosta

May 7, 2007

I researched agents who were members of Association of Authors Representatives and might be interested in Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. I contacted several and about five asked for sample chapters. One agent, Julie Castiglia, saw the possibilities of my wacky novel and agreed to represent me. I had to rewrite and tighten up the novel before she sent it out to publishers. There was an agonizing wait, and then three . . .

Marta Acosta on Getting Published


Tim Newman

Tim Newman

Tim Newman

May 1, 2007

I sent out the first chapter of my novel Yesterday's Falcon to the agents who listed fiction and fantasy as an interest and was fortunate in getting back a number of positive replies. Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services in New York was the first to read the entire manuscript and offered me a contract.

I happily signed on the dotted line. Actually, he later told me that the night he read the novel he was at a cabin in the . . .

Tim Newman on Getting Published


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