Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Long Game

I quit my day job in 2006. If someone had told me it would take me eight years before I published my first book, I’m sure I would still be working that day job or one like it. I thought it would take me a year…maybe two tops. I was ambitious and overly confident. I didn’t realize that if it took me ten years that would be normal.

Edith Cohn, Middle Grade Author
I didn’t know many other writers at the time. The ones I did know were unpublished like myself. I attended my first writers’ conference that fateful year of 2006, the Rutgers One on One Plus where Laurie Halse Anderson was the keynote speaker. I got so fired up about finishing my book, I exploded into a firecracker of determination. I quit my job while living in NYC—probably the most expensive city in the US. I was armed with what every writer needs: A benefactor. Mine came in the form of a supportive husband. But it was far from easy. We were both dreamers. We didn’t really have the money to pull this off. Eventually, we moved some place cheaper. We took and borrowed from other kind benefactors: The Father-in-Law, The Credit Card.

Artists have been doing this for ages. And they will continue to do it, because that’s what being a novelist is. It would take me several years before I realized it, but indeed, writers are artists. Sure, some people make money as authors. Some people also win the lottery. The truth for most of us? Being a successful novelist is a long game.

It’s a long game. Kristen Kittscher said this to me recently. She is one of those authors who encourages and supports other authors. She’s the sort of person who kindly turns on the lights when you might be feeling around in the dark. She said this phrase to me not in regards to money, but in regards to building a readership.

Because not only is getting published a long game, it’s also a long game after you get published. Being published isn’t the finish line. Being published allows you a place at the starting line.

Spirit's Key FSG/ Macmillan
Publishing a first novel is only the beginning of our careers. I’m so thrilled to have SPIRIT'S KEY my debut novel, a mystery about a psychic girl and her ghost dog, on the shelves. But I'm a newbie at a new job. I’m only beginning to build a readership, to navigate bookstore events and festivals, to get the word out about who I am and what I have to offer. I’m surrounded by more experienced authors who have more books under their belts and readers who already love them. Edith who? Spirit’s what? It’s enough to make one panic.

But then, Kristen’s words come back to me: It’s a long game. There’s no reason to get one’s blood pressure in the red. I might be at the starting line again with new goals to accomplish, but it’s actually not a race. It’s a game where I will publish not one book, but many books. It’s a game where I will build a readership and success through my work over many years. It’s a game where I will do what I have always done published or not: I will write. And that is always a dream come true.

A fun dream-come-true video where I open a hardcover copy of SPIRIT'S KEY for the first time.

Edith Cohn is the author of SPIRIT'S KEY a middle grade mystery about a twelve-year-old psychic girl who works with the ghost of her pet dog to solve a crime on a remote island filled with magic keys, wild dogs and superstitious characters. Learn more at


  1. All very true, Edith! It's not a sprint. It's a marathon!
    Congratulations on the release of Spirit's Key!

  2. I love that. The long game for writers who live, think, and dream like artists.

  3. Well said! And a good thing to remember, wherever anyone is in her career. And congratulations on Spirit's Key (great title).

  4. This is a lovely, lovely and oh, so truthful post. Must be in it for the long haul!. That said, who doesn't want a job where you get to do what you love...write?

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