by | Apr 11, 2024 | Karna Small Bodman, The Writer's Life | 10 comments

By Karna Small Bodman
Patience Pays Off
Image of the Code Name Saphire cover

Our Naples Public Library hosts four best-selling fiction authors a year at luncheons that draw some 600 readers and are major fund-raisers for the library. At one, the speaker was Pam Jenoff. Her latest book is Code Name Sapphire: A World War 2 Novel. Inspired by a true story, it features a woman who must rescue a family from a train bound for Auschwitz. In the process, she joined the Sapphire Line, a secret resistance network. 

During her talk, Pam told us what she went through when she started writing. She wrote her first book and mailed out 100 “query” letters to agents (this was before we had email). After a long wait, finally just one offered representation. That agent sent it to many publishers who turned it down. But after eleven months, one editor did agree to publish it. However, sales were tough, marketing was a challenge, and yet Pam kept writing more and more books while also teaching law school and raising three children. She said, “I’m grateful that my husband does the cooking.” It took ten years before one of her novels made the New York Times bestseller list. This certainly shows that patience pays off.

Another author in the series was the most popular storyteller of our time, James Patterson. The creator of great characters and series, including Alex Cross, and the Women’s Murder Club; he also wrote true stories about the Kennedys, John Lennon, Princess Diana, and coauthored #1 bestselling novels with Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton. His latest book, The #1 Lawyer, instantly shot to the bestseller list. However, in the “need to have patience” category, he said his first novel was rejected by 32 publishers! 

Patience Pays Off
Image of the James Patterson, The #1 Lawyer cover.
Patience Pays Off
Image of Karna Bodman and Lee Child in a hallway (assumably at Thrillerfest).

Well known author, Lee Child, created the Jack Reacher series. The latest is The Secret. Two of those books were made into hit movies. Lee often attended Thrillerfest where I had a chance to chat with him about that movie deal. He said that since his character, Reacher, is a big 6’5” hero, he told his agent to sell the rights to anyone BUT Tom Cruise (who is just 5’7”). Then she did sell it to Cruise, and we all gave Lee a hard time about that. But Lee simply smiled and said that Cruise is an excellent actor and that was that. One other thing Lee told me is that he never made a bestseller list until he had written half a dozen novels and eventually changed publishers.

Other examples of authors having to wait for success: 12 production companies turned down Harry Potter, and most studios also turned down Star Wars. (It makes me wonder where those acquisition editors are today). 

The bottom line is: Yes, it takes patience, but remember the old adage, “You never fail until you quit.”

Karna Small Bodman
Based in several states, including Florida, author of several thrillers, a children's book, and this blog: How Patience Pays Off

Karna Small Bodman is the author of five international thrillers that have hit #1 in Thrillers on Amazon and won several awards, as well as a series of children’s picture books. Her books were inspired by the six years she served in the Reagan White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director of the National Security Council where she was the highest-ranking woman on the White House staff. On book tours she has given over 400 speeches and interviews nation-wide.  When not writing or traveling, she is serving on several boards and swimming laps at their homes in Naples, FL, Washington, DC and Rancho Santa Fe, CA. 

Read More Blogs On This Topic:

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Dick Bodman

    I don’t know how she gets all this done, but she does it all with patience and well.

  2. Alex Kava

    My first novel received 116 rejections from literary agents. It’s never been published but was certainly a lesson in perseverance and patience.

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Alex – 116 rejections – they were idiots! But I’m really glad you “persevered!!!”

  3. Jenny Milchman

    Oh gosh I give a talk called the Joy of Rejection all across the country. Forged in its fires–from long before I became a writer–i believe they have made me who I am as a person, wife, mother, and creative.

    But they still hurt.

    • Karna Small Bodman

      We’ll have to compare notes on our talks!! But now – no more “hurts” — only celebrations when your new books come out.

  4. Tosca Lee

    Wow. This blog and also Alex Kava’s comment above give me hope. It took me six years to sell my second novel. The first didn’t deserve to be published and is still in the basement with the skeletons. I, too, wonder where the editors greeted Harry Potter and others are today. 😂

    • Karna Small Bodman

      Hey Tosca, I think you should dig out the one in the basement, edit it a bit perhaps and submit it to your current publisher!

  5. Lisa Black

    Sorry, but I have to say, oh boo-hoo!!! I wrote nine, count ’em, nine full-length novels before I even got an agent, and in turn a publisher. And my husband tried to tell me he ‘didn’t know how’ to make toast.


    Persistence definitely pays off!!

  6. Karna Small Bodman

    Nine? I hope those are the ones that are published now!

  7. Chris Goff

    I, too, have a collection of unpublished novels on my shelves. Four, to be exact, plus one that I abandoned halfway through. As much as I cringe when I hear others stories of rejection, it’s kind of nice to hear how so many super successful authors struggled before making it to where they are. It gives me hope!