A Lesson In Persistence

A guest Post by Kristen Stieffel, author of Alara’s Call. This article, part of a blog tour for the new novel, includes Kristen’s remarkable publishing journey. Well worth the read.

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I once made the mistake of telling an agent just how long I’d been working on Alara’s Call. She said, “If you’ve been trying that long without success, you should probably give up and try something else.”

It’s the only time an agent made me cry.

There were times—many times—I tried to walk away from this book. When I wrote the first draft—longer ago than I’m going to admit—I did not know what I was doing. I had only written short stories before, never a novel.

I wrote this book eight times before I learned how to write a novel. And if you check out the stop I made at Steve Rzasa’s website on September 17, you’ll see that even then it had a lot of room for improvement.

I got feedback from a book doctor, implemented his recommendations, and started pitching. At first I got rejections like the opening was confusing or the worldbuilding was insufficient. I got feedback from another editor who helped me fix the opening. I kept revising. I kept submitting. I kept getting rejections.

Some of the rejections were just angry-making, like, “Many Christian denominations don’t have female clergy, so this book won’t appeal to those readers.” Others were just wrong, like, “There’s no market for that.” It took me a long time to figure out that what agents mean when they say this is, “That market is too small to be worth my time.”

In addition to agents, I started pitching to small-press editors who were willing to work with unagented authors. Finally, finally, early in 2013, I got a contract. Not just any contract—a four-book contract on the series. I was over the moon. This was the fulfillment of an over-the-top, big hairy audacious dream. New novelists don’t often get four-book contracts.

I never got editorial notes from the publisher. All I got was a cover mock-up that still had the stock photo site’s watermark on the image.

Then I heard nothing. Months. Years.

Fortunately, my contract specified that if the publisher didn’t release the book within two years of my turning it in, the rights automatically reverted to me.

So by 2015, I started looking for a new publisher. Collected a bunch more rejections. A few were silly, like, “We already have a fantasy novel with a female lead.” A lot were the dreaded, “Does not meet our needs at this time.”

In the summer of 2016, at the Realm Makers conference, I pitched to Michele Israel Harper of Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing. She loved the story and offered me a contract—only on the first book. A reasonable offer.

Meanwhile, I had finished Book Two. And as Book Three took shape, Tyana, a character who’d barely been mentioned in Book One, came to the forefront as one of the major players.

When Michele sent her editorial notes, I told her I was going to make other changes as well, to beef up Tyana’s role. She gave me the go-ahead. So when I turned in my edited copy of Book One, I had laid the groundwork for Tyana’s appearance in Book Three. This would have been impossible if Book One had been published two years earlier.

Isn’t it awesome that God knows what he’s doing, even when we have no clue?

When my first contract fell through, it seemed like a disaster. In hindsight, I see the four-book contract as God’s way of granting my big hairy audacious dream while reserving his right to bring the work into fruition on his schedule rather than mine. During the year between getting my rights back and finding my new publisher, I pitched to several editors who rejected me, and queried many agents who ignored me. Knowing my story was worthy of a four-book contract kept me going.

Paul tells us, “. . . suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 NIV). There were days I thought I had quite enough character building, thank you very much. But God is no more finished with me than I am with my characters.

Persevere, my friends. Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2) will ensure that your troubles are not in vain.

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Michele Israel Harper with Tim Akers and Kristen Stieffel, both Love2ReadLove2Write authors
Photo Credit: Fen Wilson

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit http://www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

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Book Summary

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.

A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.

But it’s a ruse.

The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.

But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace . . . by any means necessary.

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Published in: on September 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “But God is no more finished with me than I am with my characters.”

    Loved this line! Well said.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So thankful you never gave up, Kristen! I am eagerly looking forward to reading it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so happy for you that you finally got a contract to publish Alara’s Call. Wishing you great success. Sounds like an intriguing story… Looking forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] the 22nd, Rebecca LuElla Miller, http://www.rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com, “A Lesson in […]

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  5. […] the 22nd, Rebecca LuElla Miller, http://www.rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com, “A Lesson in […]

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  6. Good that you didn’t gave up

    Like

  7. […] Hoo-boy. That’s a long story, and it’s a lesson in perseverance. Can I point you to this blog post I wrote for Rebecca LuElla Miller that tells the story? rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com […]

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