Lauren Salem: A self-published author at 25

25-year-old from Goshen publishes after winning third-place Amazon Breakthrough Novel award

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  • Lauren Salem

Synopsis: 'Reunion at Walnut Cherryville'

Johnny Cockit accidently murdered a man when he was ten years old, which is why he was sent to Sonoran Correctional high school, a gender-segregated boarding school located in Phoenix, Arizona. Two months before graduation, Johnny and his friends are drugged and abducted by Walnut Cherryville secret watchers during an afternoon counseling session.
Making decisions about the future never felt important until the students are forced to work in a remote produce factory owned by the vengeful Quinton family. Walnut Cherryville is no ordinary factory; it’s the Quinton’s futuristic, desert village governed by the principle that people live better quality lives when they don’t make their own decisions. To ease the burden of life’s simple, yet complicated choices, the government limits misdirection by choosing every citizen’s career path and lifestyle.
Johnny and his friends plot an escape, but must avoid being recaptured because “abandonment” is a crime punishable by death. In a scandalous turn of events, Johnny uncovers the reason they were captured is rooted in an ancient family feud between the Cockit and Quinton families.

By Ginny Privitar

— People sometimes dream about writing a best-selling book. Some even get one written. But very few ever get their book released in print by the big publishing houses.

But online publishing is changing that for savvy writers, like 25-year-old Lauren Salem of Goshen. They are disenchanted with the traditional route through numerous rejections letters to a publishing deal that, if it ever comes, will take a significant chunk of the profits.

Salem's journey is a study in perseverance. She learned the basics on her own.

She graduated in 2010 from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where she earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies. Unable to find a job in her field, she bounced around in administrative assistant positions but found the work unsuitable. So she decided to take the time "to do something I really wanted to do, which was write a book series, which I’ve been doing since middle school.”

In college she had worked on several drafts of two different stories. One became "Reunion at Walnut Cherryville," the first in the three-part "Eternal Feud Series."

The book is young adult science-fiction fantasy with a dystopian theme. It evolved through several re-writes. Originally, the book was narrated from a first-person perspective. Salem got the idea for using multiple narrators from watching the TV show “Lost.”

She had some experience writing for the Independent NEPA magazine in northeastern Pennsylvania, but she was unable to find work that offered a living wage. So she moved back to Goshen to live with her parents. She came to an agreement with her dad — she could continue to live at home for a year and not seek work, as long as she completed her novel. It took a little longer than a year, but she did finish it and began sending inquiries to literary agents. Usually she'd receive a form rejection letter that didn’t explain why the book was rejected or how she could improve.

She submitted sample chapters to for its Breakthrough Novel Awards. The 10,000 entries were narrowed down to 400, and she made the cut.

Next thing she knew, she had won Third Prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards competition. The award brought expert editorial review and feedback on the quality of her query letter and on the first 5,000 words of her novel.

Several reviewers described her work in part:

Strong imagery; I can imagine this dystopian world. Reminds me a little of "Holes."

All in all, this is well written and the reader is anxious to learn more.

Strong sexuality. For sophisticated high schoolers.

Salem said her parents were really “surprised, shocked and excited," realizing the book might actually be successful.

After receiving the award, Salem self-published through Smashwords, which bills itself as "the world’s largest distributor of independent ebooks." Smashwords helps with marketing, distribution, and file formatting, so that the work is available on devices like Kindle and Nook. It also is available in print.

Salem said the big publishing houses have started their own online publishing deals but take a huge percentage of the writer’s profit.

Salem’s book is available now at Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, Print on, Print on It will soon be available on Nook and Sony Reader.

“It will take a while for the book to get noticed and make money," Salem said.

To publicize her book, she uses social media. She has a Facebook page and uses Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

She is working on the second book in the series: "Revenge of Rivals." She also writes short stories and poetry. When she’s not writing, she’s trying out new recipes. She hopes to find a part-time job that will enable her to continue writing and move into her own place.

You can follow Salem on Twitter @EternalFeud and on Facebook for more author and book updates. Salem’s blog and more information about her book can be found at

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