04/25/2014 01:07 pm ET Updated Jun 25, 2014

Publishing Can Be Hell--But it Can Be Heaven, Too

In its wisdom, Amazon is currently my novel The Germany Money for a special promotion on Kindle.

I'm glad they chose it because the book is one of my favorites for many reasons. The story of children of a Holocaust survivor arguing on the Upper West Side about her will, it took me twenty years, on and off, to write. I was thrilled when I finally found the right mix of setting and voice, and after it was published, I toured with it in the U.S., England, and Germany. Audiences loved it at every stop, but what a struggle to get the book published!

I came closest at Knopf, the house I'd always dreamed of publishing with, but the board didn't think it would sell 50,000 copies, so they crushed my hopes and the hopes of the editor who was crazy in love with it. I left my agent at the time and found a wonderful press on my own, Leapfrog, then run by Ira Wood and Marge Piercy. Leapfrog did a superb job of editing, production, and publicity, and it was a BookSense Pick. The early reviews were mixed, though, and they still rankled when I got a once-in-a-lifetime rave from The Washington Post. Here's what it said:

What a gift for a writer to be able to sustain unflagging, sweaty-palm suspense in a novel almost through character alone. This is what the prodigious Lev Raphael pulls off in The German Money, a mystery whose shocking denouement is so organic to the whole thing that it feels as if a boiling volcano has finally let loose. Best known for his fiction and nonfiction about Holocaust survivors' children, Raphael has also written five witty mysteries. The German Money combines his multiple talents with his understanding of Holocaust survivors and their families to produce one of the most powerful suspense novels in years, a kind of Kafka meets Philip Roth meets le Carré--a beautifully modulated narrative.

Wow. Being compared to three of my favorite authors in one sentence absolutely blew my mind. I was sure a review like that guaranteed the novel would be a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year, but that year, for no apparent reason, mysteries weren't included. I was devastated.

So I did what writers learn to do with defeat and disappointment: I moved on to another book. And another. And another after that. Some did well, some didn't. And that's the business of publishing, where authors often feel like the lines from The Unnamed: "I can't go on, I'll go on."

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres and is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Michigan State University.