How to Publish Your First Novel at Fifty by Jeffery Hess

I’ve had the pleasure over the past few years to both know Jeff Hess as a friend as well as to work with him as his editor. We’ve worked on everything from short stories to a novella to a full-length novel. And that’s why I am especially honored to welcome Jeff to the site—the novel we worked on together, Beachhead, drops today from Down & Out Books. Given my early involvement with the book, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to formally review it. (But it is great, so go get it!) I’m more than happy, however, to share Jeff’s tongue-in-cheek, but still true, step-by-step process for becoming a debut author…at fifty.

Jeffery HessHow to Publish Your First Novel at Fifty

1. Make the decision to become a novelist at seventeen years old.
2. Begin creative writing in earnest at twenty-five.
3. Take creative writing classes at a university with no true creative writing program.
4. Dream up half-baked ideas and force them into the short story form.
5. Get as much writing time as you can—lunch hours, nights, weekends, etc.
6. Ruminate on the page about all the thoughts and memories of your character.
7. Ignore the character’s interior and just detail every minute action in his or her day.
8. Complete a novel and revise it.
9. Send it to agents.
10. Appreciate the rejections for both the compliments and criticisms they contain.
11. Sacrifice more of your social life to devote to writing.
12. Even with this increased writing time, make time to read great books, including craft books.
13. Have a penchant for offbeat characters without wide appeal.
14. Go to graduate school and change the way you write.
15. Write and workshop a thesis that will one day embarrass you.
16. Graduate and begin to change your writing back to the way it was, only better.
17. Spend the next two years rewriting that graduate thesis.
Jeffery Hess18. Keep in contact with the awesome friends you make in graduate school.
19. Write another novel.
20. And then another.
21. Discover the style and subject matter you’ve developed has a name and an audience.
22. Read all of those writers you can find.
23. Curse fate that you didn’t discover these writers sooner.
24. Appreciate the gift that you did at all.
25. Read more of these books, especially new books from independent presses.
26. Sacrifice even more of your social life to devote to writing.
27. Write another novel of your own. Make it even better than the last.
28. Send it out to agents.
29. Appreciate the rejections for both the compliments and criticisms they contain.
30. Query small presses you like.
31. Get lucky.

Jeffery Hess proudly joins the ranks of first-timers-at-fifty like Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski, and Donald Ray Pollock on March 7, 2016 when Down & Out Books publishes his first novel, BEACHHEAD. Hess will make a number of public appearances to read from and sign his novel, BEACHHEAD. While on tour for BEACHHEAD, he expects less fanfare than if he were a 20-something wunderkind, but he considers it a moral victory that he always has money for gas and usually looks people in the eye during conversations. Learn more at or on Twitter. #BEACHHEAD.


  • Kathleen M. Rodgers

    March 8, 2016 - 6:37 PM

    Dear Jeff,

    I am so happy for you on the publication of Beach Head. BTW, my first novel (16 year effort) released on my 50th Birthday. We should start at “First Novel @ 50” Club.

    Again, congratulations,


  • J.L. Abramo

    March 8, 2016 - 9:13 AM

    Jeff…my first novel was published when I was 54 years old…so you are ahead of the game. Congratulations. Pleased to be with you as part of the UNLOADED anthology.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      March 9, 2016 - 1:59 PM

      Welcome to another member of the 50+ Club!

      I’m looking forward to UNLOADED. Congrats to you and Jeff for being part of such a worthy project.

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