Guest post: My road to (very moderate) success by Sofia Essen

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of becoming a published author, is brought to you by chick lit novelist Sofia Essen.

My road to (very moderate) success

Taming wild horses is much less difficult than attempting to become a “published author”. Of course, I only speak from my own experience in both. Horses are easy to communicate with once you learn their language. I understand them. The feral beast that is publishing remains an indecipherable enigma to me in many ways.

I started writing when I moved to a small village in Crete three years ago. I spent my first year on the island writing my novel at a leisurely pace and thoroughly enjoying myself. Then I devoted the following 18 months to querying literary agents. They were 18 rather painful months in which I received a rejection letter almost every week. After the first dozen or so letters, one would think one would become immune to the sting of rejection. But each negative response was a blow to my ego, more agonizing than the kick of any horse’s hoof. Yes, again I speak from experience in both.

The majority of the rebuffs came in standard form rejection letters, impersonal and coolly professional. A handful of agents offered advice along with their refusal to represent me. “Try a Swedish agent,” one suggested. While I’m still a Swedish citizen, I left the country more than twenty years ago. My book is written in English, and I speak better Thai than Swedish. But I queried every Swedish literary agent I could find on the web anyway. None of them wanted anything to do with my novel. “You should contact a local agent,” I was told. As it turns out, literary agents are thin on the ground here on this island and they, understandably, weren’t interested in representing a Swedish woman who had spent two decades in Asia prior to moving to Crete and writing a novel in English.

Luckily, the beauty of living in Crete kept me sane and distracted me from the ever-growing pile of rejection letters. Crete has a way of softening harsh realities with its gentler pace of life and persuasive routines – I’m expected at my local café for a cup of sweet Nescafé coffee without milk at ten o’clock every morning whether I’m having a bad day or not.

I had almost given up hope of ever getting my novel published when 48fourteen, a small ePublishing company, sent me an e-mail in which they expressed a wish to read my full manuscript. A week later, they sent a contract! I signed the contract faster than you can say “whiplash”.

Of course, I would have loved to be signed by a major publishing house. As I was writing my novel, I had extravagant daydreams of book tours, giving interviews, and maybe talking about “Change of Pace” on Oprah and chatting with Ellen. Oh yes, I had some wonderfully grand delusions.

I’m old-fashioned at heart, and it would have been amazing to see my book in print, not just downloadable online.  There’s something magical about going into a bookshop and being surrounded by stories on sturdy shelves. I love to walk up and down the aisles, running my fingers along the book spines as I go. To me, the experience of reading a good book is improved by turning its pages one at the time, hearing the pages whisper against each other, and inhaling the musky scent of ink of paper. My biggest dream is to one day pop into a bookshop and find a book with my name on it. I’d pick it up to feel the weight of it in my hands, sniff it, and finally open it and read the dedication. It would say, “To Mum and Dad with all my love.”

Until that day comes (fingers crossed), I’m satisfied knowing I did my best to write a good story, which people will be able to read and hopefully enjoy.

That’s (hopefully) why we write although Oprah and Ellen would be a bonus. 🙂 Thank you, Sofia.

Sofia has a blog at and Change of Pace is available on:, Barnes and and


If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with poet, novelist and publisher Sam Smith – the four hundred and forty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.