The Secret to Getting Published

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Friends of ACFW, Publishing, tips, writing Leave a Comment

by Richard L. Mabry, MD

Gotcha! How many of you clicked on this post thinking I’d give you the magic formula for turning dross into gold? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Let me tell you my own story.

My first writer’s conference was an absolute disaster. I felt as though I’d been dumped into a foreign land without knowing the language, the customs, or my mission there. By the end of the day, I wanted to leave. God bless my wife, Kay, who suggested that I attend the class she was taking. The next morning, I sat mesmerized as a man who described himself as a “recovering lawyer” showed movie clip after clip and told story after story that brought the art of writing fiction to life. I began to get it. I came in to class that morning muttering, “I want to go home.” I left thinking, “I can do that.”

Of course, I couldn’t do that. Not at first, at least. Although I eventually did get a publisher for the book I wanted to write, and The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse remains in print after ministering to thousands of people, I wasn’t as fortunate with my novels. But I continued to do the work.
I bought and read books on the craft. As I type these words, I’m looking at a shelf filled with books on writing, books that have all been read and re-read, with whole paragraphs highlighted. I went to more conferences, listened to lots of lectures, took pages of notes. I read novels—good ones to see what worked, not-so-good ones to see what didn’t. And I practiced. I wrote, edited, rewrote, tried, failed, tried again.

That was the story of my road to writing.

Finally, after four books written over four years and garnering forty rejections, I acquired an agent, got “the call,” and was on my way to having my first novel published. Next month, my fifth novel of medical suspense will be released, followed in six months by my sixth. I’m thrilled, of course. But it would never have happened if I’d listened to that small voice inside me that said, “You can’t do this.” I’ll always be grateful to James Scott Bell, Alton Gansky, Gary Terashita, and the dozens of others who got me started and encouraged me along the way.

Are you still looking for that big break? Congratulations for hanging in there. Do the work, and don’t give up. God’s got a plan for each of us. Maybe His plan for you is publication. You’ll never know if you leave too early.

Richard Mabry 2
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His next medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), will be released in April, to be followed by Heart Failure in October.

Comments 0

  1. Thanks, Doctor. There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with encouraging friends who are on the same journey to keep you plugging away. I’ll have a long list of names to put in my acknowledgements!

  2. I like a challenge … good thing, right? I appreciate your encouragement to keep going, Richard. I know practice and persistence are the ways to publication, but it’s still good to hear they work from authors like you who are up ahead. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I believe it’s telling that I left that conference thinking, “I can do that,” but I couldn’t…not yet. Persistence and a devotion to the craft is imperative. And if there’s really a secret to getting published, that’s it.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement not to give up.

    Some days I want to give up. But I don’t.

    I met you briefly in Dallas at my first ACFW conference. You were so nice. One of my bright spots because I was terrified.

    I’m looking forward to my second conference. I hope to be a tiny more relaxed and make more contacts and learn more.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thank you for today’s blog, Dr. Mabry. It was a shot in the arm, to use an tired old (but appropriate, and MEDICAL, you must admit) phrase!

    Gail Kittleson
    gkittleson at

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