August 7, 2013

Made It Moment: David Edgar Cournoyer

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:28 pm

On The Level

Is there a rift between traditional and self-publishing? Or are they two different, yet viable paths to the same goal–that of bringing great books to readers–each with its own set of pros and cons? If there is a rift, could it be a temporary one? Or is it more an unbridgeable chasm?

The author you’re about to meet and I may differ about the state publishing is in, and the role traditional publishers have to play, but we are in lockstep when it comes to what makes us as writers. It’s a sense of connection. Of belonging to a community of writers and to the readers we write for.

To my mind that kismet between David and me provides all the answer to the above questions we will ever need. Unbridgeable? Not even close.

David Edgar Cournoyer

My made it moment began the day proof copies of my first novel arrived. ON THE LEVEL is my first work of fiction but not my first book. Nonetheless, my hands shook as I opened the carton containing the proofs. I knew that this was a trial run, designed to catch errors missed by me and sharp-eyed proofreaders. But holding the glossy cover and flipping the crisp pages brought back familiar feelings associated with major life events like exchanging wedding rings and holding a newborn child. Seeing my book for the first time was joyous and dream fulfilling, but also scary.

ON THE LEVEL was the result of my efforts at personal reinvention. I had left my job, determined to live life more on my own terms. One item on my to-do list was to learn how to tell a good story, a story that people would read for fun and think about after all the pages were read. Like my protagonist I’m a fanatical do-it-yourself-er, so I chose self-publishing partly to sidestep the crumbling legacy publishing system but mostly to experience all the steps in book creation.

The culmination of my made it moment came a few weeks later at a book signing event in the library, arranged by a critique group in which I participate. Surrounded by smiling and enthusiastic people, I discovered something I hadn’t expected. Somewhere along the way I’d become a member of a community of writers and readers. I belonged. It felt very good.

At nine years old David Edgar Cournoyer had his first and last job in the publishing world as a paperboy after he sold his leather crafts business to another fourth grader. Since then he has been a textile worker, plastics fabricator, independent researcher, builder, college professor and for one year was Interim Dean of the School of Social Work at a large eastern university. By training he’s an Anthropologist. By aptitude he’s a builder. Thanks to great coaches, study, and much practice, he’s also a writer.


  1. Thanks for this blog on self-publishing. I enjoyed it and could relate to some of what you say about the publication of your first book being one the highlights of your life. I think most of us feel that way, regardless of how we’re published. I wish you every success with ‘On the Level’, David.

    Thanks, Jenny, for sharing David’s story and for all you do.

    All the best,

    Comment by Joan Hall Hovey — August 8, 2013 @ 7:59 am

  2. Joan, Thanks for reading my story and commenting. The transition from academic publishing to the commercial publishing world was quite an interesting experience. After a personal chat with authors Barry Eisler and Carolyn Rose, who are successful in both publication worlds, I decided to put my efforts into writing the best book of which I was capable and self publishing. I had to build a team including an artist, editor, proof readers, etc. but ultimately the final product was my responsibility, warts and all. I like that. David

    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 8:37 am

  3. Jenny:

    Thanks for the Made It Moments. It’s great fun to read the experiences of other writers on your blog and it’s a thrill to be featured today. The Made It Moments column contains the most inspiring pieces I have read on any site. It’s nice to have a place where writers reflect on moments when it felt good to be a writer(there are plenty of the other kind of moments). I know how busy you are with your own writing and your national book tour, so I’m especially grateful to you for providing this ongoing encouragement to the rest of us.


    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  4. David,

    Good luck with your novel. I hope it will be very successful. The publishing industry is in a state of flux. It’s difficult to tell just where it’s going. At one time, self-publishing was looked down upon. That’s no longer the case. Amazon has made self-publishing much easier. So many frustrated writers, tired of being ignored by agents and major publishers are going this route. The fact is that as the big publishers consolidate and people buy fewer books in print, the publishing industry is shrinking. But ebooks are a growing business. We will have to wait and see what the future holds for those of us who write professionally.

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — August 8, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  5. Jenny and David, thanks for sharing this great moment! I can so relate to your feelings, David, and I hope you have many more such wonderful moments as your writing career advances.

    Comment by P.L. Blair — August 8, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  6. First, a disclosure: I had the privilege of editing several drafts of David’s *wonderful* mystery. After reading his last revision, I thought “On the Level” should/could be acquired for publication *and* I supported David’s choice to self-publish. Unlike some self-pubbed books, David’s is thoroughly professional in format and absence of copy errors. The cover and pages are higher quality than what he would have seen from a publisher–a sensual delight for those of us who still love paper (although David’s book is also available as an e-book).

    What’s striking to me in David’s “Made It Moment” is that he was able to have that joyful moment, of holding his completed book in hand, many years in advance of authors who wait to be represented, wait for their books to sell, and wait for them to be published, if indeed that ever happens. There is a downside–promotion. Published or self-published, we writers have “the joy of promotion” (sarcasm). Although advances for first-time mysteries are very low, they may be higher than the cost of producing a book as fine as David’s.

    Maybe another downside to self-publishing is that David is free of the pressure a publisher would bring to write another mystery within a year. He can take his own sweet time, but I want him to know that this fan is clamoring for his next book.

    Comment by Elizabeth Lyon — August 8, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  7. Jacqueline,thanks for commenting. I agree about the flux in the publishing world. The academic presses are also under stress, although the issues are different and the audiences are more stable. I understand that the open source movement is insisting that content developed by public money be available (free)to the public, undercutting for profit publishers. I don’t disagree, but that does upset the old order as much as the ease of self publishing does to trade publishing. David

    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 11:52 am

  8. P.L.Blair: I see from your web page that you’ve had several similar moments. Good luck and may the next be the best! David

    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 11:55 am

  9. Elizabeth: You’re right. My natural impatience and multiple interests were not compatible with traditional publishing. Using Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing made creation of the actual book and digital files easy (and free)but it took a lot of researching the steps and hiring professionals to make the final product look less amateurish.

    In addition to your help as a writing coach and editor,your book, Manuscript Makeover, was a huge help. Only Pinckert’s Practical Grammar comes close.

    The next book is about a third written. We’ll talk soon. David

    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

  10. I also had the pleasure of reviewing David’s early drafts when I worked with Elizabeth Lyon as an associate editor. She asked me to take a first look at his project because I come from a long line of carpenters and jacks-of-all-trades and thus would understand the terminology. David and I hit it off in e-mails and, when he and his delightful wife came west, I invited them to stay with us and dragged them around to my husband’s Shakespeare in the Park rehearsal, to the cheese factory, to the coast, up the Columbia Gorge, etc. David and Gloria smiled through it all and we’re still pals and someday I hope to visit him in Connecticut and maybe being allowed to hammer something with him.
    David pegged it, we are a community.
    I love welcoming new writers to the community, and look forward to introducing Jenny Milchman to some of my writing pals when I host her at Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver WA on Saturday, August 17th.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — August 8, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  11. Omg Elizabeth Lyons– I loved her comments!!

    Comment by SavvyBlue — August 8, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

  12. David: As the former host of the “Mr. Fixit Show” on KEX radio in Portland. Full disclosure. I have zero home repair skills. On the radio, my rear-end was covered by the series of building contractors we brought in to answer questions. My role was to crack the whip on long-winded callers, joke around and make sure the commercials ran. I’m happy for the chance to read page-turning fiction and pick up a few tips for my “honey-do” list at home.

    Comment by Mike Nettleton — August 8, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

  13. Carolyn & Mike: It’s always nice to hear from you two. Yes, we had fun when Gloria and I drove cross country and ended up on your doorstep. See a blog of the 31 day trip at

    I’m glad Carolyn is planning to visit Connecticut and wants to get her hands dirty. Come soon, I’m working on a master suite and way off schedule.

    Mike, if you come too maybe you could call someone who was a guest on your show for advice if we get stuck.

    On a serious note, Carolyn’s success advice on self publishing was a major factor in my decision to take this approach.


    Comment by David Edgar Cournoyer — August 8, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

  14. Very interesting post, and one I can relate to. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Comment by Marja McGraw — August 9, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  15. Made-it Moments make for a great blog post, Jenny. Everyone deserves a spotlight on that special moment when one feels they are doing exactly what one was meant to do. The dust will settle one way or the other on the new/old publishing method debate; the exciting thing is that more people than ever seem to to be reading. That’s got to be good for all of us!

    Comment by Suzy Cordatos — August 9, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  16. I love the ‘Made it Moment’ post. It’s fun and inspirational!

    I had the pleasure of working with David in a critique group a couple of years ago. He is an amazing guy, wonderful writer and helpful critique partner.

    Reading David’s publishing journey was really motivating, I enjoyed learning how and why he chose self-publishing, but my favorite part was his description of the first time he held the proof of On the Level. SO touching.

    Thanks again for this entertaining post, Jenny and to David for detailing his journey and for his fun, fast-paced book – On the Level.

    Comment by Kristi Rhodes — August 9, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

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