Thursday, January 16, 2014

Getting the Call: Mariam Kobras

Call stories come in all forms, but this one takes an unconventional path. See how Mariam Kobras befriended her way into showcasing her talent for a publishing contract that won her Independent Publishers awards.    

Some things in life happen when you least expect them.
When I woke up on that cold and dreary November morning in 2010 and decided to write a novel, I had no idea that only two years later, it would be published, and go on to win a Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award.

I met my publisher, Buddhapuss Ink LLC, on twitter about the same time I started writing.

Or rather, they found me. Looking back now, the serendipity of it all still makes my breath stop. There I was, a middle-aged, bored housewife, tweeting my little heart out with overseas friends to overcome the loneliness of my daily life, and out of the blue that publisher with the black cat as their icon was tweeting with me.


I’d never thought of publishing my writing before that. I hadn't even thought about creating a novel someone else would want to read. My writing was meandering through the lives of my protagonists, it captured every detail and mood of their exciting adventures, down to the color of their socks. I had created a pretty little fantasy world for myself where no one ever had to think about what they’d serve grumpy high school boys for dinner, or listen to a teacher husband’s rants about kids unwilling to study.

So here was this publisher, and I was chatting with them about what we were having for breakfast, the weather, about the puppy they’d just gotten that was keeping them awake at night. Of course I quickly figured out that I wasn’t talking to a publishing house, but to a real person, and so, after a few months, in a very quirky mood, I offered the first three chapters of my first novel, The Distant Shore, to her (the publisher) instead of the usual virtual  cup of coffee.

Heart attack #1: she replied, “Yes, I’d love that!”

I remember quite clearly how my heart raced, how I told my son to shut up, lunch would be late, I had more important things to do than boil potatoes.

I sent those chapters. There was no response. We still talked about the weather, coffee, the puppy, but there was no response to my submission.

Now I know that it was a kind of submission. Back then, I didn’t. I knew nothing about submission protocol, about the no-nos of a query. I just tossed my chapters at her as if they were cookies, confetti, dry leaves.

My life went on as if nothing had happened.
I posted blog posts now and then, never with great enthusiasm, and one day I posted page 99 of The Distant Shore on my blog. Again, serendipity steered my hand, because I tweeted the link to Buddhapuss.

Moments later, I got a comment: “If you keep this up we’ll have to sign you!”

That was when I had heart attack #2. I’m sure you can imagine!

Only seconds later, they’d sent me a private message on twitter: “When can we have the full manuscript?”


Heart attack #3.
I replied that I needed time; that the novel wasn’t finished, that I’d not edited Distant Shore yet; that it would take me at least six weeks.

“Okay,” they said, “we’ll wait.”

I know. I know. I can hear you gasp, can see you clutch your throats. But I’m telling you again, I had NO idea about submission protocol.

Also, I was facing a monstrous task. My novel had 400K words, and I knew that it was way too long to get accepted.

So I whittled it down to just over 136K. Many beloved scenes and chapters ended up on the cutting room floor.

The query letter that went with it was a very short bio, and the sentence. “I’ll do anything I have to to help market my book, except dance naked on tables.”
Forget the synopsis.

Christmas passed. I waited. January and February passed - and I still waited.

Then THE CALL came. It came in the form of a Skype conversation, and the person I was talking to was a very nice lady about my age.
She told me that she totally believed in my project, and yes, we had a book deal, if I wanted it.

Seriously? We had a book deal!

It was Good Friday, just before lunch, and my always-hungry teenager was stomping through the house, yelling for food, and mom, the pasta is boiling over, but there I was, laughing, and chatting with my publisher.

My publisher. Suddenly, an author. Wow.

In January 2012, my first novel, which was also my first attempt at writing, was released. It went on to win the Bronze Independent Publishers’ Award right away.
In fall 2012, my second book, Under the Same Sun, the second in what would become the Stone Trilogy, was launched, and it, too, won an award, this time, the silver medal.
Last year, the third book in the trilogy was released: Song of the Storm.

I’ve since written two more books, which have expanded the trilogy into a series. They are prequels, and they will both be released in 2014: Waiting for a Song: Naomi's Story in spring, The Rosewood Guitar: Jon's Story in the fall.

A few weeks ago I started on a new project, leaving the Stone family behind and moving into the mystery genre, which makes my publisher very happy. They love mysteries.

While all this was going on, I traveled to the US twice to see my publisher. I’ve spent hours sitting at a desk in their offices, signing books, bookmarks, bookplates, while they fed me Chinese food and red velvet cake. I’ve been in their storage vault and seen the cartons and cartons of my books, ready to be delivered to Amazon and other sellers.

One time, a lot later, after I’d read many, many blog posts by agents on how to submit, I asked my publisher at Buddhapuss Ink why they’d accepted my very unconventional submission.
The answer I got was, “Because you dared to follow a new path. And because you’re very talented.”

Gosh, I love those people. They gave me a new definition. Writing for them is a blast. Just call me the happy author.

Two-time Independent Publisher's Book Award Winner, Mariam was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Growing up, she and her family lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia before they decided to settle in Germany. Mariam attended school there and studied American Literature and Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons, and two cats.



  1. Thank you! :) You're an amazing support, Michelle!

  2. What a fabulous post Michelle, throughly enjoyed reading it well done Mariam and long may it continue

    1. Thank you, Chrissie! Three years later, and it still feels unreal. :)

  3. Mariam, your story in itself is shocking (in all the best possible senses of the word) -- but what really nails me to the wall is that you took a 400K draft and whittled it all the way down to 136K. THAT is some serious darling-killing. You've done amazing work! Thanks for sharing your story with Michelle and the rest of the world!

    1. LOL thank you, Tracy. I had to do it in a few weeks, too. Publisher don't like long waits! I have to say though that it taught me a lot. Now when I write I'm able to put the story into 100K to 110K – and my publisher is happy. :)