Posted: February 7, 2016 in publishing, Uncategorized
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Where should I start?  The beginning, I guess.

My historical novel, Black Iron Mercy, began as a notebook filled with research more than four-and-a-half years ago.  The project started as a pledge to tell the story of the Iron Brigade from the viewpoint of a common soldier, inserting a fictional protagonist among the actual participants.  Nine months of research followed, utilizing 19 books, countless articles, and the help of many friends, colleagues, and experts, to produce a rich, historically accurate and entertaining epic about one Wisconsinite’s exploits before, during, and after the American Civil War.  The result was a poignant tale of love and faith, war and discord; a family shattered by loss and sorrow, and a man who struggles every day to hold onto hope.  Deeds Publishing, of Athens, Georgia, is the company that has changed my life forever.  The advance reading copies, for endorsements and reviews, will be out later this month.  The expected launch date for the general public is mid-June.


Success!  Oh, it feels so sweet.

How did I get here?  More research!  Even as the research stage of this project was ending, I began to research the publishing industry in earnest.  Over the last few years I spent nearly twice as much time researching the business as I did the novel, because failure was not an option.  For new authors, there is no advice I can give you that is more important than “Do the research.”  Learn the industry, including things like literary agents and agencies, query letters, synopses and synopsis writing, book marketing, book publicity, and formatting.  Nothing will lead to failure faster than showing the publishing world that you’ve spent zero time getting to know their business.  This blog was created strictly because I did my homework.  The publishing industry wants you to have a nest in order to promote and sell your work when the time comes to do so.

In June of 2015, I was ready for the querying process to begin.  I had a notebook filled with literary agents willing to take on historical novels.  I knew each of their expectations, their quirks, their requirements, and their attitudes toward eager, new authors.  You must remember that each literary agent has a very strict, detailed list of requirements.  If you stray from them even a little, you’ll be rejected before any of your material is even looked at.

Allowing myself one full year to find an agent, I sent out a total of 66 queries… usually in groups of five to eight.  Some contained only a query letter.  Some contained a synopsis and the first three chapters.  Some contained a synopsis, the first fifty pages, a photo of me, and a bio.  And although it felt like some contained the kitchen sink, not one of them contained the entire manuscript for Black Iron Mercy.

In time, I received 32 rejections.  Yes, the first couple were difficult.  Nobody likes to be rejected.  Not for a date, not on the dance floor, not in the publishing world.  But after a while, even I could appreciate being rejected, because receiving a rejection letter is better than being rejected without notice.  Many literary agents will warn you up front that they do not have the time to respond to all queries.  Because of this, I actually looked forward to receiving a rejection.  Quite frankly, I felt like I deserved a notice when rejected.  It’s not difficult to fire off an email that reads, “Not for us, thanks.”  (an actual rejection, my favorite… because it’s not a form letter.  It may be short, but it’s personal.)



By November, I had grown weary of the whole query process.  Sure, I had received 32 rejections, but I had actually been rejected all 66 times, whether they had sent notice or not.  But here’s the kicker:  NOT ONE OF THE 66 REJECTIONS WAS BASED ON THE ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT!  No one had even seen the entire manuscript.  Few, if any, had more than fifty pages of the double-spaced document, which equated to one-sixth of the entire novel.

Now, wholly bitter about agents and the agent process, I decided to forgo the agent course, and began researching publishers in the same way I had researched agents six-months prior.  I needed a publisher who would not only publish a historical novel, but who would do so for a first-time, unagented author.  So, I took five weeks to explore this option, compiling a list of 86 possible publishers, and whittled it down to the top three.  These, I queried on December 29, 2015, sending each of them a query letter, a synopsis, and the entire manuscript.  To one of them, I attached a comprehensive, six-page marketing plan aimed specifically at their company.

The very next day, I received a warm, personal note from the CEO of Deeds Publishing, saying that he would try to read at least 10% of my manuscript over the next week.

Wow!  I couldn’t believe it!  I was so emotional, I sat and read his message over and over and over.  Someone was actually gonna read my manuscript.  Life couldn’t have been any better than at this moment.  Or could it?

From an email dated January 2, 2016, just three days later:

“I am reporting that here at 8:00am on Saturday, January 2, I had read 10% of your book – and it grabbed me so completely that this morning I finished the last 10 pages. I have read your whole book – cover to cover.”

I wept.  I sobbed uncontrollably.  I’m not ashamed to admit this.  This book has been my life for the last five years.

After much discussion, Deeds Publishing, LLC offered me a contract.  I sat on it a while, an excruciatingly painful thing to do, while I obtained some legal advice.  Then, on the 15th day of January, another extraordinary event occurred:  I was offered a second contract by one of the other publishers I queried.

Are you effing kidding me?  A month ago I couldn’t get anyone in the world of publishing to look at my material.  Now?  I’ve got choices!  I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening!  I’m still in disbelief.


I signed with Deeds on January 21st.  The book is in layout, and a front cover is being designed as I write this.

Authors:  Don’t give up.  If you’re being rejected, keep trying.  If you’re still being rejected, circumvent.  There’s always a way.  Don’t allow anyone else to be responsible for your failure.  Sooner or later, you’ll find the one that says, “Yes.”


  1. Success is measured by the willingness and courage to continue in the face of adversity or “no’s”. Congrats my friend!

  2. sknicholls says:

    Hey! Congrats! Perseverance payoff, and an outstanding one. The manuscript and a viable marketing plan. That was smart. 😉

  3. Congratulations on your book deal! You’re living my dream and I bet when you hold your physical book in your hands and then open it to see all of your words inside, each one like a fragment of your heart, you’ll hug that book so tightl, laughing, weeping, cheering in disbelief and gratitude. A massive well done to you and thank you for the inspiration to keep trying. I have submitted a children’s book to four agents and had four rejections and became disheartened but I realise now you’re right, sooner or later I will find someone to say yes! Enjoy your journey!

  4. Bob Babcock says:

    Excellent blog, Eric – we are very happy you chose Deeds as your publisher, and we chose you. Lots of great things ahead of us. I wish all authors could read your blog – we’ll help pass it around.

  5. Can’t wait to read your novel. I am a sucker for historical fiction. I am currently editing my second historical work and my second crime/detective novel is coming out in March. I say this in all disbelief for my fortunate path to publication. I sent queries for over a year and received less than half of them back in rejection. First time author blues. My search was ultimately drawn to he small publishers who want to pay their electric bills the same as I do. However, your wall outshines my spiral notebook. Just how long I’ll keep my notebook of rejection I’m not quite sure. Maybe after my fourth book currently under contract is on Amazon I’ll have no further need for it.

  6. jimmastro2 says:

    Excellent news! Congratulations, Eric!

  7. nijharasasha says:

    being myself an aspiring writer sir… this is very inspiring. 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog and commented:
    This is a must read success story by my friend Anthony Eichenlaub. He is proof that you must always reach for your dreams. Never accept “no” until it’s your own “no.” So proud of Anthony and can’t wait to read this book!!!

    • I do not know who Anthony Eichenlaub is, but you are crediting him with writing my blog.

      • Oh crud. I’m so very sorry. You’re right. I’m away from home and dealing with octogenarian parents. Needless to say my brain isn’t working properly and and my brain read something different than what it should’ve been. Still a great blog and worthy of reblogging, but I will make the appropriate changes. My deepest apologies. And huge congrats to you on your publishing contract.

      • Changes have been made. Again — my deepest apologies. I’m so sorry for the error, but deeply grateful (and mortified) that you spotted it.

  9. It’s fine! I’m grateful for the kindness and publicity!

  10. uniquelyyourscards says:

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to wrap my arms around your novel and loose myself in your character’s lives!

  11. Eric T Knight says:

    Congratulations! Perseverance pays off! I love historical fiction and I hope to read your novel.

  12. jerry and janice hempel says:

    Eric…Jerry and I are so happy for you. What an accomplishment! Good for you to keep pursuing your dream. Please keep us updated . love Jerry and Janice

  13. Deehempel says:

    Can’t wait for the book! Congratulations….perseverance once again pays off!

  14. Warmest congratulations!! I got emotional reading this and one of my favorite parts was something you said last year and I quoted it to another blogger friend who received a rejection and that is “because receiving a rejection letter is better than being rejected without notice.” You’ve put so much work into this project and receiving this awesome reward was going to happen it was just a matter of when. Thank you for sharing your experience this valuable information will be helpful to those looking to market their first book to the masses.

  15. saratbaker says:

    I am considering querying Deeds. Can you indicate what your contract looks like in general terms? That is, what per cent of the profits do you keep? What are the advantages of going with this publisher vs. self publishing?

  16. Sabiscuit says:

    I am so happy for you. Your diligence is moving. I know some people would stop after the 6th no, but you believe in yourself and value your work. I admire that so much. That for me is what makes you a winner. You know what you’re doing, you know it’s good and won’t hear anything else. Best wishes for the future. Warm regards. x SB

  17. noteablepad says:

    This is very inspiring! I thank you for sharing your publishing journey- I am an aspiring writer, and this is exactly what I needed. Thank you! I’m really happy for you.

  18. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success! I recently read a post by another author who had put their book on the market and somewhat berated the blog followers for not buying out the copies in that first month. To be fair, the author openly stated that they created the blog solely for the purpose of attracting buyers but the writing styles and topics were on opposite ends of the spectrum. After stumbling across your blog, I have to admit that I like what you do though the topic is not one of my usuals… you created the blog to prove you would have an audience and you cover the same topics. Nice work!

    • … and therein lies the situational irony. I created the blog to gain followers, the great majority of which followed me not because of my writing, but because I paid attention to THEIR blogs. And although there is a possibility that some of them, maybe up to ten so far, have purchased my book, I never had an expectation of selling to all 3,200 of my followers. I have yet to use the blog to push the book. We’re still in soft-sell mode, so my efforts have been aimed elsewhere. I’ll get to trying to reel in some of these followers soon, but I’m realistic as what the results will be. My markets are elsewhere, not with the majority of my followers.

      It is nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!


  19. Marsha says:

    What a heartwarming story, Eric. I’m so glad your contract with Deeds came through. Thanks for sharing your story of how hard it was. I loved the photo of your rejection board. Who hasn’t been there?

  20. […] his About page. He wrote about his 66 rejection slips and his search for a publisher. The heart of this post was encouraging other authors not to give […]

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