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Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Post by Dianna T. Benson -- A Writer's Journey

Dianna T. Benson

When U.S. DEA Special Agent Lelisa Desmond refuses to follow an order to bury evidence in a high profile case, her superior hires a hit man to kill her deep in the ocean off Grand Cayman Island. Lelisa survives the first attempt on her life, but someone close to her is mistakenly murdered in her place.

With no one to trust, Lelisa enlists Inspector Alec Dyer for help but learns she's his number one suspect in the scuba diving homicide. She sets off on a daring mission to bring down the man who ordered her execution. A man in a high position, with power friends. A man who will stop at nothing to silence her forever in order to hide his son’s crimes. 

A Writer's Journey

In 1993, I started writing my first suspense novel. After completing five novels, I signed with an agent in 2007. Six agents offered me representation that spring; it was difficult to turn down the other five since all of them are top-notch agents. In the fall of 2007, a film agent requested a screenplay of The Hidden Son after reading the book. Just days before I completed the script, I learned the film agent suddenly and recently retired due to health issues. I never pursued anything further with the script.

In 2009 I was offered a four-book publishing contract in mainstream, but soon after that my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I turned that contract down to focus on our young family of five, and God carried all five of us through the surgeries and radiation treatments.  

I finaled in the Golden Palm in 2007, finaled in the Daphne in 2010, double semi-finaled in the Genesis in spring 2011, and won the Genesis September 2011. I switched agents January 2012. I signed a nine-book publishing contract July 2012. My first book, The Hidden Son, released in print world-wide on March 1, 2013.

Starting in February 2012, for thirteen weeks I had a pending contract offer from one of the largest traditional print publishing houses. They made me an offer only three days after my new agent submitted my work out. The entire editorial staff and the entire leadership team loved my writing, but the business team was concerned their suspense list is already too full.

The senior acquisitions editor drew up a matrix broken down by genre of their release list for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (my books included in it), proving to them they have room and finances for one more suspense writer (me). Much to that editor's stunned shock, after thirteen weeks the business team decided they can’t add another suspense author.

During this thirteen week timeframe, the senior acquisitions editor thought it was just a matter of time before my contract finalized, so my agent understandably let go of all the other interest in my writing. Soon after those thirteen weeks with that publishing house, Ellechor Publishing House, a small traditional print house, contacted me and asked me to submit my 2011 Genesis Winner, Illusion of Safety. A few days after I did so, they offered me a nine-book contract.

The publishing industry today is not just about the writing (not even close). A reputable agent won’t offer representation unless he/she truly believes the writer has potential in today's market. Your marketing platform needs to be an absolute stand-out. Example: I’m an EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative; I write suspense and medical thrillers.

However, even if you have a solid marketing platform, there are other obstacles.

Two other large traditional print houses loved my writing as well, but neither could offer me a contract only because they can’t have me competing with their current authors who write the same genre I do.

A limited number of books every month are print-published worldwide. Every traditional print house nowadays (large and small) is fighting to stay in business, and it takes a ton of money to publish and market a book, so the business team of any traditional print house needs to be convinced spending tons of money on a debut author is profitable for them without hindering any of their current authors.

Contest wins look great on a proposal, but in the end the business side of a publishing house makes the final decision on contract offers, and reality is unpublished writing contests have no relation to their current lists, their financials, the market, sales, a writer’s platform, or what constitutes as excellent and high profitable writing.

A little discouraging, but my hope here is to inform (not discourage) as well as to focus on the positive.
The publishing industry is rough, but I think stand up comedy is way harsher. When a comedian gets rejected (their act isn't going well), they're on stage in front of a live audience—yikes.

Keep in mind, if you’re unable to land an agent and/or a traditional print publishing contract, it doesn’t prove your writing is the problem, so continue to believe in yourself as a writer.

Above all, if you love to write, then never stop writing. God gave you a passion, so spend time on your passion and enjoy yourself! It may not be all about the writing anymore in the industry, but it will always be all about the writing to us writers.


Dianna T. Benson is a 2011 Genesis Winner, a 2011 Genesis double Semi-Finalist, a 2010 Daphne de Maurier Finalist, and a 2007 Golden Palm Finalist. In 2012, she signed a nine-book contract with Ellechor Publishing House. Her first book, The Hidden Son, released in print world-wide March 1, 2013.

After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need. Her suspense novels about adventurous characters thrown into tremendous circumstances provide readers with a similar kind of rush.

Dianna lives in North Carolina with her husband and their three athletic children.