Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Path to Publishing Success

By Ava Pennington
Guest Columnist

I dreamed of writing for years, but never considered publication a realistic goal. Writing took a back seat while I worked in New York City. When a co-worker published her first novel, it validated her effort to follow her dream, and it gave me hope for my dream, too.

When we moved to Florida, I put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. My passion is teaching, so I first completed an inspirational non-fiction book. Rejections from several publishers were tempered with comments that although I had a fresh writing style, the content had already been addressed by more well-known names. I was crushed that my first manuscript did not enjoy the same overnight acceptance my friend’s did.

Then I submitted a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and eagerly waited. A year later I learned they received over 5,000 submissions. I’m happy to say my story was selected.

This writing business seemed easier than I first thought. My friend was published on her first try. My first anthology submission was published. Surely an agent or editor would soon recognize the quality of my writing and offer me a book contract.

After I finished patting myself on the back, I continued to submit my book to agents and publishers. No takers. I also continued to submit short stories to anthologies. Still no takers.

I finished my second book, a novel, but no one was interested in that one, either. In fact, no one was interested in my work for the next three years. I kept plugging away. I joined a writers’ critique group. I had much to learn about writing and publishing!

Then I attended my first writers’ conference, The Florida Christian Writers Conference, in 2006.

Several speakers suggested the participants think “outside the box.” They encouraged us to develop our skills and our platform by writing articles for periodicals. I showed a chapter of my non-fiction manuscript to one editor of a monthly magazine. Based on that sample, he gave me a freelance assignment for one article.

That article led to several more, and in the past three years they published five articles. A meeting with another editor at the conference also resulted in an article published by his magazine.

I attended the FCWC again in 2007. There I met with additional magazine editors, and subsequently published more articles. In 2008, I met the editor of a monthly devotional, and have now published a month of devotionals through her organization.

Since 2006, I have been published in sixteen anthologies, including twelve different Chicken Soup for the Soul books and three Cup of Comfort books. Additionally, I have published (or am contracted to publish) more than thirty magazine articles with more submissions in the pipeline.

But here’s the best news of all:

In 2009, I attended FCWC and pitched a one-year devotional guide which will be published by Baker-Revell, to be released in 2010!

Another writer and I also pitched a children’s book series at the same conference. The proposal has since passed Committee with another publisher and we are awaiting word on a contract.

I’ve learned that overnight successes in publishing are rare. For me, the path to success consists of a series of small steps: membership in writers’ groups, attendance at writers’ conferences, writing magazine articles and short stories, co-authoring a children’s book, and finally, authoring my own book. In the process, I’m becoming a better writer.

Ava Pennington


  1. Ah, what hope for the rest of us. Thank you. I love the Florida Writers Conference! Great post!

  2. Congrats, Ava! Hope to see you at the coming conference.

  3. Congratulations Ava! My first book is due out in 2010, as well. It's a six week Bible study entitled, Ecclesiastes: Understanding What Matters Most. I also plan on attending the Florida Writers Conference in March. It will be my first writers' conference. I hope to see you there.

  4. Stephanie,

    Congrats on your upcoming book release. We'll look forward to meeting you at the conference next spring!

  5. Thanks, Karen, Johnnie, & Stephanie.
    Hope to see you all at the conference in March!

  6. Thank you for this encouragment. I am older now, and hope that I don't have to be rejected until I am too old to read. But I am going to follow the steps you have pointed out. I hope to get a scholarship to the March Florida Writer's Conference.

  7. It's a learning process, Sandy. Rejections are often part of the process, but they can teach us so much. Hope to see you at the conference!


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