How I Got Published: Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk

A few months ago I posted in this series an article on Judy Penz Sheluk in which she’d published her short mystery stories.  You can read more here. 

At the time she’d finished her debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, and was in the midst of trying to find a publisher for it.

She finally did find a publisher but not without a LOT of patience and persistence and in July 2015 her book was published.

In her blog, Judy has intensively documented her publishing path which spans from April 2013 to January 2016. Her informative posts include topics such as first drafts, rejections, using social media and scrivener, dealing with contracts, filing for copyright and galley proofs. In her own words :

 I try to share my experiences as a writer (the good, the not-so-good, and the extremely humbling).

Anyone interested in getting published would be wise to read her blog and gain from her experience which she generously shares here.

In this post Judy highlights her struggles to get her novel published. I admire her persistence and there’s much truth to the saying: Those who get published are those who don’t give up. Of course you have to have a good book. But that’s not a problem with The Hanged Man’s Noose for it’s a fun, suspenseful and smart novel.

How I Got Published 

There’s an old adage: Patience is a virtue. Unfortunately, it’s never been one of mine, though I have learned that it’s a necessity for writers seeking traditional publication. But in the early days, when I was armed with no more than a big dream and a bad first draft, I didn’t know that. I honestly believed it would be easy—especially since I’d developed a decent reputation as a freelance writer and editor. After all, my10+ years of experience in the field had to count for something, right?


since January 10, 2015, so when Carol invited me back to discuss my path to publication, I was more than happy to come and share a little bit about what I’ve learned:

After meeting a “dream agent” at Bloody Words in Toronto in 2012, I was convinced she would offer me a contract when my book was finished. I submitted it to her, at her request, in February 2013.

I’d like to tell you that this dream agent wrote back with an offer of representation, but the reality is after four months of waiting, I received this email:

“Thank you so much for your patience while I reviewed this project! After much debate and multiple reads, we’re ultimately going to pass. I think that your voice is superb, and the premise is very strong, I just didn’t fall entirely in love with the characters. Please know that this was not an easy decision, and I genuinely wish you the very best with it.”

Not only did the rejection hurt, I was pretty much shattered. But after some serious feeling sorry for myself time, I dusted off my bruised ego and tried again. Using QueryTracker to zone in on my best bet for success, by late fall 2013 I had queried roughly 30 agents, with better than average results. I’d netted a few partial requests (the first so many chapters or pages), which in turn led to three full manuscript requests, and one offer to write a cozy mystery under the name of another author.

One agent wrote to say she was swamped and it would be several months to a full year before she even had a chance to read my manuscript. The other two agents ultimately rejected it, albeit kindly. They loved my writing, they said, and my premise, but the story had two protagonists, and too many points of view. I’d already heard much the same from other agents who’d reviewed and rejected my partial submissions. As stubborn as I am (and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m very stubborn), it was time to accept the inevitable: a complete rewrite. One protagonist, one sidekick.

I spent the remainder of 2013 consulting with a professional editor, and then rewriting the story, start to finish. As much as I hated to let go of my two-protagonist, multiple POV premise, I had to admit the story was much stronger without it. I’d also given up on finding an agent. The process was too slow (I’d already invested a year) and too one-sided. It was time to find a publisher who would accept unagented submissions.

Enter Barking Rain Press, a small press publisher based out of Vancouver, Washington, that came highly recommended by my fellow Sisters in Crime Guppies (which stands for the Great Unpublished). []. I submitted the first three chapters during their “open” period in February 2014, received a request for the full manuscript in April, and waited.

Did I mention patience is a virtue?

And then on July 1, 2014, I received an email that started like this:

“Thank you for your patience as we reviewed your manuscript, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE. It is an engaging story, filled with evocative characters and places — plus a very intriguing murder mystery. We would love to have the opportunity to publish this book in July 2015.”

Oh there were still some required edits, but working with Narielle Living, one of BRP’s editors, the process was painless, and in the end, I had a much better book. Here’s a brief synopsis:

Hi-res New

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in a tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme—before the murderer strikes again.

Find Judy at, where she blogs about the writing life and interviews other authors. You can also find Judy on


Twitter: @JudyPenzSheluk



 Buy Links:

 The Hanged Man’s Noose is available in print and eBook at and all the usual suspects, including Amazon:, Barnes & Noble:, and

37 thoughts on “How I Got Published: Judy Penz Sheluk

  1. Your story is one I can relate to. This is often a looong process, and when you add up the years spent writing then querying, our books may not see the light of day until a few years later. But as you’ve shown, persistence and hard work often pay off. Your book sounds wonderful. Congrats!


  2. These insights are really helpful. No doubt about it, patience and perseverance are the key. Thanks for sharing, both.


    • Thanks Margot. I was such a pie-eyed optimist when I started — which I think is another necessary quality for writers (if we don’t believe in ourselves, who will) — but no question, the two “p’s” are essential!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning Carol, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post…and learning about Judy. I am a great believer that consistency and persistency do pay off in the end. I will look forward to reading this…meanwhile have a lovely weekend. Janet. 🙂


  4. Judy, your story is one of so many ups and downs and shows the hardships along the publishing route. So many rewrites, so much patience and recovery from the knocks. You give some brilliant advice and hints, I’m going to read this again and then go and visit your blog. Brilliant about your acceptance by Barking Rain Press and I wish you best of luck with your book. Thank you for sharing Judy’s publishing journey here, Carol.


    • Yes, I know, Jacqui. It makes me sound so naive, but I wanted that message to get across because I really believe many newbie writers come from the land of “I don’t have a clue but it won’t matter because I’ll be different.” So part of my journey is sharing the stuff that’s kind of embarrassing (or at least humbling). And as my mother would say, it reminds me of where I came from. (Her big thing: Don’t forget where you came from.)


  5. Thanks for this. Am in the middle of a very painful re-write, in year three on this project. It’s good to read that this takes a long time for others, too. Congratulations on getting your book published! And thanks again for your story. Cheers to you and the Guppies.


    • Rewriting is usually painful, J.B. because we end up deleting huge chunks of what we once thought was brilliant! Even after the publishing contract, there are revisions. In my case, my manuscript was considered very clean, but there was one chapter I just loved — it has multiple POVs and I thought it was quite brilliant. They strongly suggested that I delete it and rewrite it from one POV. That stung, but I didn’t argue, I just did it. And it turned out they were right — it was a lot stronger without the multiple POVs. But it was still painful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Carol and Judy for sharing this informative post. Kudos to Judy for stretching her patience and having the courage to continue the hunt after painful rejection. This book seems my kind of read, and once again, thank you Carol for sharing and finding another great book to add to my TBR. Congrats Judy! 🙂


I'd love to hear your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s