One Author’s journey from manuscript to publishing

This guest post is written by James T. Crouse who has just published his debut novel, Broken Eagle, a hard-hitting story with a military-legal-aviation theme.

The journey of publishing my first novel has reached the stage which allows for reflection, which I hope will be interesting but more importantly useful to others.EXTRA PIC COVER jpeg

As long as I can remember, I have written. Letters to the editor in my teens, an editor’s sports column in my high school newspaper, and poetry in my 20’s.  Then law school and my litigating career, briefs and memoranda of law, then a highly acclaimed aviation law casebook.

But I still had an itch.  Hearing something on the radio, I would mentally compose a full op-ed piece in five minutes. I concluded that I could do this forever but if I really wanted to send a message, I had to go deeper. Novels were the answer.

For two years I played with what would become Broken Eagle, then I joined the North Carolina Writers Network. At my second conference, fate smiled on me and I met the terrific Betsy Thorpe who became my trusted editor and friend.  Betsy and I worked for over a year and she gave me tough, fair and helpful criticism. We “finished” (I thought) Broken Eagle. I quickly got a great, experienced agent  who pitched the manuscript as a best seller.  Then followed over a year of rejections with no uniform theme.  According to the editors at the big publishing houses, Broken Eagle was deficient in many ways.

I was not going to quit—didn’t get that gene. I learned all about self-publishing, engaged in more editing, copy editing, book and cover design, submitted to publishers, submitted eBook formats, formed my own publishing company, developed a website, and now it’s marketing—a 24-hour a day effort.  An audio book is coming. In all of this, Betsy guided me and assembled the necessary people, including the terrific Lisa Kline, another editor who has become my friend.

I am now beginning to reap the rewards.  My beta readers wrote glowing blurbs.  The people to whom I have gifted the book have repeatedly commented, “I can’t put it down.” Press releases are out and reviewers are reading.  I sent marketing copies to bookstores, retail chains, military exchanges, media personalities, law schools, aviation museums, professional organizations and others.  Several interviews have been given, articles have been written in professional newsletters with more planned.  Book readings and signings are scheduled with more to come. Friends are talking to friends, recommending the book.

So let me reflect for a moment about what I have learned in the process.

  1. Write from the heart. You know the adage that you will only be successful at something you care about.  That is especially true in writing.  The whole process takes so much effort you better REALLY want what you have to say to get to the public.

That’s why I wrote Broken Eagle, and in the future will write about the wild horses of Corolla, the flawed aircraft certification process, pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, and the selling of government. Since I can remember, injustice has inspired me to take action. My decision to become a lawyer was fueled by this same motivation.  Representing the families of people killed or individuals injured in aviation disasters and other accidents has only reaffirmed the goal of telling the stories of people harmed by the negligence and intentional acts of people, corporations and governments that often act with impunity.

No group is more unfairly affected than our military men and women.  When the products they have no choice but to use injure or kill them, they find out that they have far fewer rights to recover for their injuries than their civilian neighbors.  Trying to get redress, they face a phalanx of laws, rules and court decisions that greatly narrow their paths to recovery.

So, it was time to tell this story. And others.

  1. Gird Yourself for a Struggle. It’s not life or death, but it seems that way. Editors’ comments sting, publishers tell you that you’re not good enough, copy editors cut the soul out of your manuscript, and the technical requirements of publishing and marketing are like learning a whole new language. Listen to all and work with them to get better—but fight for what you want. Talk to them.
  2. Beware of the Charlatans. I can’t tell you how many books I bought about writing, editing, dialogue, character, setting, marketing, etc. Only a few were instructive and helpful. It reminds me of infomercials preaching how to make a million dollars in real estate. By convincing you to buy their program, they make a million dollars–but it isn’t in real estate.  If I get another opportunity to write a guest post for this site, I’ll give you my thoughts on the best writing guides I found.
  3. Be Creative. Think outside the box in all you do—writing, editing, finding an agent, publishing, and marketing.

Good luck!

For more information about James T. Crouse and his book, visit his website at ; on Facebook at; on YouTube at; on Twitter at, on LinkedIn at; and on Goodreads at

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