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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Launching a Career

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion, received an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She also serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

If you faithfully follow Novel Rocket, you might have a vague recollection of the tongue-in-cheek article I posted last year called “How to Write the Unmarketable Novel.” Oh, you skipped that one. Who can blame you?

Truth is, I wrote my first novel before I knew anything about the fiction market. I actually am NOT a glutton for punishment. But there it was…written. And I loved that book. While many writers complete five to ten manuscripts before getting published, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote that story for years until I got it right. Finally, despite the marketing hurdles, I found WhiteFire Publishing, and although sales have been low, I have no regrets.

However, a year ago I began to feel a new sort of stirring. A stirring to not only create novels that would impact lives, but also to earn a living. What better way to earn a living than to actually turn my beloved writing pursuit into a career. So last fall after “coincidentally” being stuck at the airport with my agent for several hours thanks to plane delays and discussing my career at length, I decided I would do my best to write a “marketable” novel.” I would switch to a clear genre that was easy to sell and choose a setting that would appeal to that audience. I had no idea if I could do it, but I determined to try.

I prayed for several weeks for an idea. Finally, a title dropped into my head, and a story began to unfold in my mind. As I sat down during NaNoWriMo to pen my first “market-driven” novel, an amazing thing happened. I worked on my hot genre, my popular setting, and even focused on plot for once in my life. Each time I had a decision to make, I asked myself what would be more entertaining. But as I did so, my voice and themes still found their way into the novel with little effort, and I somehow managed to turn out yet another book that I thoroughly loved. After a few rounds of revisions with my critique partners and my agent, said agent sent the book to a number of publishing houses in May.

Again I hit my knees in prayer, bringing before God not only my desire that this book would find a publisher, but also that it would launch my career. Then I prepared myself to wait, and wait, and as most of you know, to wait some more.

But to my great surprise, magic happened. That serendipitous moment when an author who has done the hard work meets a publisher who is looking for exactly what they wrote. I could have never guessed that Zondervan was about to open an imprint that would feature new authors. I didn’t realize that would I end up teaching at the same Blue Ridge conference as editor Sue Brower just a few weeks after my manuscript was sent to her. And I certainly didn’t know that she’d be looking for a polished novel ready to launch the Zondervan First imprint a few short months later.

So now, less than a year after I started writing this book, my Virginia set historical romance, Love In Three Quarter Time, has released with Zondervan First. It still blows my mind. I’m hardly earning the big bucks yet, but I’ve made significant strides towards my goal of becoming a career author.

Although I’m not a big fan of formulas, let’s look at this scenario for some keys to launching a writing career.

1)    Learn the craft
2)    Practice the craft
3)    Find a support team
4)    Listen to the experts
5)    Consider the market
6)    Network with professionals
7)    Submit your career to God
8)    Follow his leading
9)    Pray diligently
10) And then pray some more

May the Lord bless your writing and guide you into his plan for your future, whatever that might be! And to find out more about the opportunities available with Zondervan First, visit them at
When the belle of the ball falls into genteel poverty, Constance Cavendish must teach the dances she once loved to help her family survive. The opportunity of a lifetime might await her in the frontier town of Charlottesville, but the position will require her to instruct the sisters of the plantation owner who jilted her when she needed him most. Can Constance possibly face Robert Montgomery, her painful past, and the guilt that threatens to destroy her in time to waltz her way to a fresh start.


  1. Dina, I've definitely reached this point in my writing, as well. I've always known I want to get my books out to as many people as possible (thus, traditional agent/publisher). But after almost five years learning about the CBA, I'm determined my next book will be a bit more "mainstream."

    It pays to find out what time periods, locations, and genres are getting picked up before starting a book. Sometimes we're so far ahead of the curve, we're OFF the curve, and pubs can't fathom how to market us. It's great to be different (I wouldn't write if I couldn't write something different!), but keeping it in the parameters of what's getting pubbed can get us in faster. Although my "out-of-the-box" book is still out with some publishers, so I'm keeping the prayers up that someone might be looking for something new.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom today!

  2. Heather, that's so true about learning the market. I really discovered that through the Hiswriters group, and I'm glad to see you're coming to the same conclusion. As you know, I personally love unusual settings, but I actually ended up loving my Virginia plantation setting, and I have ideas in my head right now for at least nine more Virginia set books.

    1. Yes! God can use you to have something that hasn't already been done, but is still "mainstream" enough to get published. I'm having all kinds of ideas for the book series I'm working on now. So nice to know He still uses us, even when we switch courses!

  3. Great advice. Thank you. And congrats. So excited for you! And I can't wait to read Love in Three Quarter Time :)

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God


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