Rewriting the Publishing Dream, Guest Post by Karen Lenfestey

What does it take to be a successful author? It may not be what you think. Here’s the story from guest columnist, Karen Lenfestey, author of A Sister’s Promise.



Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer, but until recently hadn’t had much luck. When my parents banished me to my room as a child (probably for something my brother had done), I wrote stories to entertain myself. I didn’t know anything about scene or sequel, but I loved the feel of my pen dancing across the page.

As I grew older, I realized that creativity wouldn’t provide a steady paycheck. I went to college and found a “real job.” Eventually my desire to write blossomed again. I picked up a book on how to plot and in the evenings, I wrote a novel. I sent it off to publishers and received one encouraging reply. This was enough to keep me going. Over time, I wrote more novels, attended writer’s conferences and joined an honest yet supportive, critique group. It had taken me years to find the courage to share my words with others, but this was an essential step in polishing my manuscript.

I queried every agent I could find that represented women’s fiction and once again, received a few encouraging rejections. Deep down I knew I’d written a compelling story. And if it wasn’t good enough, why bother trying to write another one?

Sensing my frustration, Judy Post, a fellow author, suggested I publish with Amazon. Around that same time, I read an article in Newsweek about Boyd Morrison who published e-books. When his sales took off, a traditional publisher finally showed interest in his work.

So I put my novel, A Sister’s Promise, on Kindle. I told all of my friends and family about it in my Christmas letter. I figured I’d be lucky if I sold 15 copies. It took a few weeks, but I sold my 15 then kept selling. I wrote a press release to the local news media and my sales jumped a little. I asked all of my friends to mention it on their Facebook pages. Eventually, my sales snowballed. I checked daily and discovered that I actually sold books overnight while I was asleep in bed. Within three months I’d sold over 2,000 copies and A Sister’s Promise became the top selling book about siblings on Amazon. Soon, sales will hit 30,000.

I tell you all of this, not to brag, but to offer an alternative to the writer’s vision. For me, I didn’t set out to make money. I just wanted to share my words with others. If it were about money, I should’ve published several books at once.

I still long to see a copy of my novel on a book store shelf, but I wonder if I shouldn’t adjust my definition of success a little bit. After all, the royalties on my e-book provide a nice, if unpredictable, income. Best of all, people are reading and enjoying my books. That’s all I really wanted.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider my dream. I’d be pleased if a publisher showed interest, but I’m pretty darn happy right now. After all, I’ve found a job I not only love—but one that pays me while I sleep!


Tips for Success:

  • Make sure your book is polished and edited. Join a critique group like
  • Search to make sure your title is original
  • Create a bold book cover, which shows well in thumbnail size
  • Read similar books’ summaries and write an equally compelling blurb for yours
  • Contact me at if you have any questions

Karen Lenfestey, a Midwest Writer’s Fellowship winner, writes about strong, compassionate women. Her novels, A Sister’s Promise
and What Happiness Looks Like, are available at Visit her at

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