My Journey to Indie Author and Beyond...

I’ve been asked how Prime of Life came about, so here’s the story.
Way back in college I wrote a novel and thought it was brilliant. Turns out it was terrible. Really, really terrible.
In medical school I wrote another, this time a YA novel called The Incredible Adventure of Thomas Fate. It was passable. I sent samples off to Literary Agents and actually landed one,Les Stobbe, but all the acquisition editors passed it by.
During residency I wrote my third novel, The Blinding. Les Stobbe passed it along to several editors and it got some serious attention but no contract, so I wrote an entirely new manuscript and called it The Blinding too (guess I ran out of titles.) Big surprise--it also got rejected.

Then one night I found myself wandering the halls of the hospital in a sleep-deprived, stress-induced fog at two in the morning when I happened to pass a guy mopping the floor. I was working eighty hours a week as a woefully underpaid resident physician doing my best not to kill any of my patients, while he was listening to his headphones and dancing with his mop. As I glanced at him with genuine envy the premise for Prime of Life planted itself in my tired brain. It was my fifth attempt at a manuscript, but as I worked on it during my spare time, holding my newborn son in my lap in the wee hours of the morning between hospital shifts, I just knew this one had a chance.
Near the end of my residency I completed Prime of Life (it was titled Too Late at that time). The publishing houses were more excited about this one. It even made it to the final committee at a few houses, but the marketing people passed on it with rejections that went something like "humor doesn't sell for us."

When all avenues seemed exhausted Les Stobbe suggested I enter it into a competition called Operation First Novel through the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. I decided to give it a shot in 2008. The manuscript made it into the top ten.
Then my wife was diagnosed with cancer and I shelved my writing for a time. By the grace of God we made it through this difficult period, and three years later I happened to see an interview on CNN featuring an indie author who had sold hundreds of thousands of self-published books on Amazon.
I hadn't really noticed this, but when the Kindle was born a major change occurred in the publishing world. Suddenly it became extremely easy for independent authors to put their work out there for people to discover, download, and hopefully enjoy. This phenomenon is a wonderful thing. Anybody can publish an e-book and it doesn’t cost a dime. If it is any good, it will sell. If it stinks, it will fade away and settle among the other 1.4 million titles available in the Kindle store, perhaps to be forgotten forever—or maybe to be re-discovered at some later date.
So I rewrote the manuscript yet again, did my homework on e-publishing, took a deep breath, and put Prime of Life out there. I decided to go exclusive with Amazon. Over the course of a year Prime of Life was downloaded more than 50,000 times through a combination of sales and free promotions. My goal was to reach as many readers as possible in both the secular and Christian markets to prove that people from all walks of life enjoy reading books like Prime of Life. So far, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
Armed with this encouragement I decided to take a two-pronged approach to try again to get Prime of Life traditionally published. I re-entered it in the 2012 Operation First Novel Contest, and if I failed to win I planned to approach the publishing houses again--but this time armed with the compelling data from my sales and reviews.
It turns out Prime of Life won the contest, which means it will be published by Worthy Publishing!

And that is the story so far...

2 comments:

Cristine Eastin said...

Peter, First of all congratulations on your OFN win! Brilliant!
Question: Did your status as an indie published author with KDP cause a problem when Worthy printed your book? (I know the rules for OFN have changed: a novel can no longer be epublished prior to submission.) I'm thinking ahead to after my next OFN submission I may go to epublishing at the same time that I continue to go for print publication.

P. D. Bekendam said...

Hi Cristine, sorry I somehow missed this post. I usually try to respond sooner than this. I don't think my status as indie published caused any problems. There are many stories of indie authors proving they have a market through this route, and I think traditional publishers are going to be picking up more indie authors in the future.

I was not aware of the OFN rule-change. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I supposed that may have had something to do with me...