Some Advice from a First-time Author

This column was published in the Laurel Leader Call newspaper (Laurel, MS) on May 8, 2012:

Recently, I published my first book, The Last Jeffersonian: Grover Cleveland and the Path to Restoring the Republic.  It re-examines the life of a great, but largely forgotten President and extolls the policies he used to solve the political problems he faced in his day, which are many of the same issues we now confront.

I am now working on a couple of book projects for future publication, one on the history of the Democratic Party since Grover Cleveland and a defense of another tarnished President, Warren G. Harding.

I’ve had many questions from people who are also interested in writing a book, seeking my advice and guidance, for whatever it’s worth.  I’m often asked questions like, how long it took me, how I found a publisher, and how hard it was to actually produce a book manuscript.

So, rather than producing yet another opinion piece on the sad and frustrating state of our politics, and on the recommendation of friends, I wrote today’s column to answer some of these questions.

Over the years, I had often heard many authors I’ve come to know tell me that writing a book was extraordinarily difficult and labor intensive.  Upon hearing this I thought, No, it’s not hard work if you really like doing research and writing.  And I love it!

The research for my book came from my doctoral dissertation, also on Grover Cleveland.  So that part was already done.  All that was left was the research on our modern problems in order to make an accurate comparison.  That, plus the actual writing only took about a month to do.  Then, it was on to finding a suitable publisher.

As most writers will tell you, those that are honest, rejections from publishers are just part of the process, and I had my share.  But I stuck with it.

Once I found a willing publisher, I sent the manuscript in.  I was riding high.  I thought, Those other writers are crazy.  There’s no hard work to this.  This has been a blast!

But how wrong I was.  What they meant by hard work was the actual publishing process.  I must have read that manuscript dozens of times, to the point of getting tired of it.  It had to be edited, re-edited, then the galley proofs read and approved.

In between reading and reading, there are dozens of tasks you must take care of on a daily basis it seems – check-in coordinators, content managers, production managers, book consultants, marketing consultants.  My email inbox had messages from different staffers every single day.  There were phone calls and conference calls, all involving more work.

But in the end, it was more than worth it, to finally see your name blazoned across a published book.  Looking back on it, the process, now that I understand it, was not all that bad.  It was just necessary in order to get a good book published and onto the market.

Though at times I thought I would never do it again, now I can say that I can’t wait to finish my next manuscript and do it all over.

The best advice I can provide anyone who is thinking of a writing career (or any career for that matter) is this:  Believe in yourself, believe in your work, and don’t ever take no for an answer.

I don’t care what anyone tells you.  I don’t care if someone says your work is the sorriest piece of writing they ever read.  Don’t listen to it.  Move on.  If you need to hone your skills, by all means, do so.  Don’t be afraid to allow someone else to read it.  I did.  But, the bottom line is, keep working and keep believing.

Many great authors failed numerous times before finally seeing success.  L. Frank Baum was rejected many times attempting to find a publisher for a children’s book he finally got published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

John Grisham is one of the most successful authors of all time, yet he could not sell his first book, A Time To Kill.  In fact, he had many boxes in his attic filled with unsold first edition hardcovers.  When he did hit it big, those rare editions became extraordinarily valuable.

Both men had one thing in common.  They never gave up.  Nor should you.


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