Last August I got the call I had been waiting for—waiting, it seemed, for most of my life. My agent, Gail Fortune, who had been stubbornly sending out my manuscript for two years (!) called to say that she had received not one, but two offers to publish the first two books in my Samuel Craddock series.
Finally my perseverance had paid off. Everyone said so. Although I smiled in agreement what I secretly knew is that it took a lot more than perseverance.
In the late eighties and early nineties I wrote one book after another and snagged one fabulous agent after another, each of whom would at the end of a year send my torn and tattered manuscript back with, “close, but no cigar.”
After my son, Geoff, started school I decided to take time off from the rejection cycle to spend my time being a mom. I wrote school newsletters, articles and copy for annual reports. And I wrote some fiction, but I didn’t send anything out. When Geoff was a senior in high school, it was time to gear up again. I wrote a new book, and started looking for an agent. But in ten years, how the publishing world had changed! Before, I had easily found agents. This time, even an agent eluded me. Although I got several nibbles, there were no offers of representation.
Back to the drawing board. And eventually to publication. So what happened that eventually made the difference? It was that I started taking myself seriously and learning—about the craft of writing, about current fiction trends, how the publishing world was evolving, and how to find people who could help. Before, I had simply trusted to luck and instinct to find my way to publication. Now I realized it would take a lot more. I read books about writing, where I got gems of advice that I could use to make the next book even better.
You can learn a lot from books about writing and publishing. But nothing is better than talking to fellow-writers. I attended workshops and writers’ conferences, and joined a critique group. I talked to other writers who had written one book after another before they got published--and I listened to what they did to improve. I learned to do the tedious work of targeting my audience—sending my work to agents who were interested in the kind of book I write. It took a lot of time and effort, but this time when I found an agent, I knew she liked the kind of book I wrote. Instead of returning my manuscript after a year, she kept working to find it a publishing home.
With the current publishing climate, I had to make the decision whether I still wanted to go through a traditional publisher or strike out on my own. Was it perseverance, stubbornness, or fear that kept me going after a traditional publisher? Probably a little of each. I knew that whichever way I chose, I still had to perfect my craft, make my book as good as it could be and target my audience.
Bottom line: I learned to take myself seriously as a professional. I did the hard work of making my book the best it could be in terms of craft. I did the hard work of finding good beta readers, and finding the right agent for me. So in the end, it wasn’t just that I persevered, but that I kept learning.
And finally, I’m there….Oh not quite! Now I am finding there is one more learning curve—promotion and marketing. A whole new bag of tricks.