The Published Journey of a “Newbie/Wannabe” Novelist

The Published Journey of a “Newbie/Wannabe” Novelist, guest post by Ronald S Barak

The published journey of a “newbie/wannabe” novelist like me in 2018 is full of pratfalls. For me, the journey actually began in 2017, but you, the reader, will be reading this in 2018 so I will use 2018 for purposes of this guest blog. Lesson #1, worry about the reader first and last. That, and a lot of sweat and luck, and everything else will hopefully work out for the best. Oh yeah, and be sure to distinguish yourself and your brand if you want to rise above the crowd, and the noise. I could have used “setbacks,” but I chose to use “pratfalls.”
The Published Journey of a “Newbie/Wannabe” Novelist, guest post by Ronald S Barak
All writers must, early on, come face-to-face with plotters versus pantsers and with traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Plotters are those who outline (plot it out) before they write. Pantsers are those who write by the seat of their pants. Traditional and self-publishing hopefully need no further definition.
Jeff Deaver is an ultimate plotter. He says he spends six months outlining a novel and then needs only two  months to write it. That’s because, give or take, it’s all there in his outline. Lee Child is an ultimate pantser. He writes his opening sentence with no idea what the second sentence will say until he gets there, let alone what the story’s about. His characters “let him know” where the story will travel. Whether to outline or leap before you look is a matter of preference.
For me, I don’t have the patience or the discipline to outline, but for those of us who don’t have the talent that Lee Child does, “pantsing” can be treacherous—in terms of those . . . pratfalls. (Did I just make up a new verb, pantsing? I can’t imagine that I’m the first to use that word.) For you, the decision to be a plotter or a pantser, or anything in between, is yours. And yours alone.
Traditional versus self is another decision every newbie must make. But, in the context of plotting versus pantsing, “yours alone” is a little misleading. In how to get from the first page of your manuscript to your last, it really is up to you. Not quite so for which method of publication. You can decide what youwant on your own, but the wishes of others come mightily into play on how that will turn out.
I wanted The Amendment Killer to be traditionally published. Why? More so for ego reasons than necessarily for smart reasons. I figured, and I still do, that being published by a traditional publisher means “instant” validation and credibility, a seat at the table. Maybe.
What do I mean by “maybe”? Two things.
Cut a deal with a traditional publisher and then wait typically 12-24 months until your book hits the street. How “instant” is that?
Second, you give up virtually all control over your destiny when you sign with a traditional publisher. Of course, they know a lot about the industry, but that doesn’t mean the decisions they make will turn out to be the best for you. For sure, they will take care of much of the administrative headaches of publishing for you, but that doesn’t mean they will promote and market the book like you might expect, or want.
If they had to bid at auction to get your book, then you probably enjoyed a six figure advance and they will promote and market your book extensively because they have an investment to protect. Otherwise, you may be disappointed by what they (don’t) do for your book, paying you a much more modest advance and expecting you to spend virtually all of it on promotion and marketing that you will need to do if you want it done.
I have a friend who was “lucky” enough to sign with a major publishing house. He was ecstatic. I, who didn’t land a traditional deal, was envious (but genuinely proud of and happy for him). They set the price points of his book unrealistically high because that was what they wanted. They didn’t promote and market nearly enough, nearly as much as my friend had hoped they would. Sales have been less than impressive. And, worse, they may choose not to publish his next book because his first didn’t do as well as they wanted. Even though that might have been because they set the price points of the book unrealistically high.
Why didn’t I land a traditional deal when I really wanted to? Because, no literary agent wanted to take a chance on me. Was my writing not good enough? They didn’t say that. What they said, simply, was that they liked the manuscript—both my writing and the story—but they just weren’t quite “passionate” enough about it.
What is a newbie like me to make of that? Even though I have heard all the stories about how early manuscripts of John Grisham, Vince Flynn, John Lescroart and countless other branded authors today were rejected by literary agents only subsequently to become bestsellers, I figured they knew better than I and I just didn’t have what it takes. Not as a writer anyway.
Those literary agents who were a little more candid told me that I had a male protagonist in a crowded political thriller field that is burned out. Political thrillers are passé. Really? In this day of unprecedented political turmoil and dysfunction in current Washington, D.C.? I should have, they said, been smart enough to write another Gone Girl or another Girl On The Train (not to knock those remarkable successes).
So, I almost quit. But for my stubbornness and the fact that my manuscript was essentially finished. “All” I had to do, I thought, was self-publish it and then I could call it a day.
Well, trust me, the “all” that is involved in self-publishing is no small task. In fact, the tasks are countless and daunting, but—if you’re determined—it is manageable. And there are consultants out there who will help. And, you get to control your destiny, even if you don’t always know what you’re doing. (That’s what those consultants are for.)
You can pick your own title, you can select your own cover, you can make your book look just as good as the books published by the traditional publishers. (It’s for you to decide whether my writing is as good as it should be, but no one can question that my book looks as good as one that is traditionally published.) And I got to set my own price points. And The Amendment Killer made it into the book stores more than a year sooner than it otherwise would have. And The Puppet Master, the prequel to Amendment Killer, will be in bookstores before the middle of 2018, sooner than you could have been reading a traditionally published version of The Amendment Killer.
So, traditionally versus self-published is a complex determination, much more so than plotting versus pantsing. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. There are lots of tradeoffs to consider. But one thing I’ve learned through this experience, is not to put too much stock in literary agents as the best gatekeepers for the bookstores, or at least for the traditional publishing houses. I’m not unsympathetic, literary agents have a tough job. Their compensation is contingent and they have very little time to look at your query submission to them. You’re just one of hundreds per week that the highly regarded agents receive.
But, nonetheless, those literary agents almost caused me to quit. What kept me going was a dozen or so branded authors who were kind enough to read my manuscript and provide me with their testimonials.
Lee Child, the number one New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels, was the first to put his reputation at stake on the cover of The Amendment Killer: “Tense, timely, and terrific!” “Timely” he said, not passé. (Maybe he noticed that while mine was a male protagonist, my heroine was an 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter of a Supreme Court Justice.) Other branded authors followed: Andrew Gross, John Lescroart, Jon Land, Sandra Brannan, K.J. Howe, Anthony Franze, to name just some. They’re all there on the home page of my website, And then there are the editorial reviews that followed as well, including one of the most exciting I’ve received, Best Thriller Magazine’s cover feature of The Amendment Killer proclaiming it “easily the best high stakes legal thriller of 2017.”
And don’t forget all of the five star reviews I’ve received on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t forget those for a minute! The Amendment Killer is now being read—and reportedly enjoyed—by thousands of readers. Readers who say they can’t wait to read my next one. So, when it comes to those newbie/wannabe decisions we all have to make, you need to follow your own heart and your own instincts.
And, in the case of The Amendment Killer, you be the judge, and perhaps one of those growing list of reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads. Please. Oh yes, and thank you.

The Published Journey of a “Newbie/Wannabe” Novelist, guest post by Ronald S Barak
Described by his readers as a cross between Agatha Christie, Lee Child, and John Lescroart, bestselling author Ron Barak keeps his readers flipping the pages into the wee hours of the night. While he mostly lets his characters tell his stories, he does manage to get his licks in too.
Barak derives great satisfaction in knowing that his books not only entertain but also stimulate others to think about how things might be, how people can actually resolve real-world problems. In particular, Barak tackles the country’s dysfunctional government representatives—not just back-seat driving criticism for the sake of being a back-seat driver, but truly framing practical remedies to the political abuse and corruption adversely affecting too many people’s lives today. Barak’s extensive legal background and insight allow him to cleverly cross-pollinatepollenate his fiction and today’s sad state of political reality.
In his latest novel, THE AMENDMENT KILLER, Barak calls upon his real world legal ingenuity and skill to craft a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution criminalizingcriminalizng political abuse and corruption that Constitutional scholars across the country are heralding as a highly plausible answer to the political chaos destroying the very moral fiber of the country today. It’s difficult to read THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not imagine what could—and should—be expected and demanded of those political leaders who have forgotten they are there to serve and not be served.
Barak is also a committed and strident advocate of finding a cure for diabetes. One of the primary characters in THE AMENDMENT KILLER is the feisty and precocious 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter of the Supreme Court justice holding the swing vote in a case in which Congress is challenging the validity of Barak’s hypothetical 28th Amendment. It is no small coincidence that Barak is himself a diabetic. Or that he has committed 50% of the net proceeds of THE AMENDMENT KILLER to diabetes research and education.
Barak is singularly qualified to have authored THE AMENDMENT KILLER, which will appeal to political and legal thriller aficionados alike. Barak is a law school honors graduate and a former Olympic athlete. While still in law school, he authored a bill introduced in Congress that overnight forced the settlement of a decades long dispute between the NCAA and the AAU to control amateur athletics in the United States.
Present-day politicians would do well to read THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not underestimate the potential of Barak’s 28th Amendment. You can read his 28th Amendment at You can also read his occasional political blogs at
Ron and his wife, Barbie, and the four-legged members of their family reside in Pacific Palisades, California.

Catch Up With Our Author On:

The Published Journey of a “Newbie/Wannabe” Novelist, guest post by Ronald S Barak


  1. I found this post to be very insightful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Jo, for providing me with this nice platform to share a little about my writing journey to date with your readers. I hope they find it interesting. I love engaging and personally respond to all emails sent to me at


I love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc.

Thanks for being an active part of the Writers and Authors community.