News: Commitment and Persistence Win Big Fiction Contest Prize for Eye Doctor

Peter BekendamWhat does an ophthalmologist with a family do in his spare time? For Dr. Peter Bekendam, an ophthalmologist in a VA hospital, it’s writing fiction and studying how to market it on Kindle. And it has paid off big-time with first place in the Operation First Novel Contest co-sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and Worthy Publishing–and a fiction contract for Prime of Life from Worthy with a $20,000 advance. But there’s more to that storyline.

Dr. Bekendam initially submitted a proposal for a comedic novel to his agent, Les Stobbe, in 2007. After several revisions the agent sent it to fiction editors, only to repeatedly get rejections with “Humor does not sell for us.” In succeeding years he continued to rewrite and in early 2012 decided on a bold strategy to get publishing executives’ attention. He embarked on intensive research into Indie e-book self-publishing to prove to editors his book, Prime of Life, would sell. He concluded that he would need to sell 2,000 copies.

Free Offer Launches E-Book

Launching his book at $2.99, the lowest price amazon permits Indie Kindle publishers to list while still retaining a 70% royalty, he started his campaign with a free launch the first day. Five hundred downloads later he knew there was interest in Prime of Life, which he had listed in both Humor and Christian Fiction categories. The reviews were stunning, consistently registering at five stars, with an average of 4.7, including reviews by obvious non-Christians. By early 2013, he had more than 130 reviews.

“One reviewer panned the book for its Christian message, only to be quickly refuted by others,” says Dr. Bekendam.

As the reviews piled up, Prime of Life moved up in the rankings, eventually reaching the upper stratosphere, as one of the top 100 Humor e-books sold by Kindle. The rise in ranking fueled increased sales.

Since the Operation First Novel Contest did not consider self-published books as “published,” Dr. Bekendam entered Prime of Life in that contest. He was so convinced he would not win that he decided to prepare for his meetings with editors at the Writing for the Soul Conference by offeringPrime of Life free on the previous Saturday. With 15,000 free downloads in one day and a total of 50,000 downloads over the past year, he was ready to do battle with editors who had reported comedic novels did not sell. He was in shock when he was announced the first prize winner in the Operation First Novel Contest. Commitment and persistence, and the faith of his agent in him as a writer, had paid off.

Dr. Bekendam was one of two Stobbe clients who were finalists in the 2013 Operation First Novel Contest. The other finalist was Sue Montgomery with Despite an Oath, another novel eight publishers rejected in 2008 and the author kept working on until she submitted it to Operation First Novel. Talk about commitment and persistence paying off. An earlier Stobbe client winner was Topm Pawlik, a Tyndale author, and finalist was Rusty Whitener, now with two Kregel contracts and a movie in post-production.

Visit Dr. Peter Bekendam’s blogspot for more of the story at

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