By Don Helin
During my time in the military, I must have written a gazillion “Subject to” papers, but unless you care what some general has to say, no one bothers to read them. As I was preparing to leave the army, I attended a travel writing symposium sponsored by The Washington Post. I enjoy traveling and figured, why not get paid for it.
After about four years of travel writing, I decided to try fiction. I enjoyed reading thrillers and thought, “Hey, I can do that.” I remember the day when I received what most authors refer to as, “The Call.” My wife thought I was nuts as I danced around the kitchen when the acquisitions editor at Medallion Press said, “We want you.”
My first published novel, THY KINGDOM COME, was actually my fourth manuscript. So don't pine away at your mail box when you finish one manuscript. Get busy on your computer or as my friend says, “Slam your butt in the chair,” and start writing another one. You'll get better with each manuscript.
In the summer of 2009, I signed a contract with Medallion Press for my second novel in the Sam Thorpe series. Then the e-book frenzy hit. The following spring, my publisher put up a detour sign. “Sorry, we only want to publish your novel as an e-book, not an e-book and paperback like the first one.” Once I decided to cancel the e-book only contract, I went to work on a new series featuring Colonel Zack Kelly.
The key is to get involved in writers' groups and volunteer. Early on, I joined Pennwriters, a state-wide writers' group in Pennsylvania. Conferences will help you make contacts, grow as a writer, and stay up to speed on the myriad of changes in the industry.
Being a debut author at International Thriller Writers allowed me to receive mentoring from some of the best. I made friends with my debut mates, who one day will become leaders in the publishing industry.
On one Thrillerfest panel, I met a well-known author who introduced me to his publisher. She liked DEVIL'S DEN, and here I am, doing book signings. Contacts matter.
Whenever I do a signing, I always think of what Donald Maass said at a conference. “It's not only about how many books you sell, it's about building a community.” You are your brand. If people know you, they may read your book. If they like it, they might become life-long fans. So, get out there and meet people.
The publishing industry is changing, but I see success stories every day. I'm convinced these successes are facilitated not only by hard work and a thick skin when you get rejected, but by becoming involved with writers' groups, having a competent critique group, and staying abreast of what's going on in the industry.
Good luck to each of you. Please check my website: www.donhelin.com. I'd be delighted to discuss my experiences so don't hesitate to ask.
During his time in the military, Don served seven years in the Pentagon as well as multiple tours in the United States and overseas. His Washington D.C. insider positions have provided him ample material for his novels. His first thriller, THY KINGDOM COME, was published in 2009. Don is an active member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and Pennwriters, a state-wide writers group. He makes his home in Pennsylvania and is hard at work on his next Zack Kelly thriller, RED DOG.