After signing the contract, I spent some time reflecting – trying to figure out what worked. How did I get here? I came up with a list of things that I believe helped. Hope they help you – wherever you may be on your journey.
Pursue learning. I wrote my first two novels not knowing much about anything and got a whole lot of rejections. It wasn’t until I spent a summer devouring every writing book in sight that my writing turned a corner. I highlighted. I took notes. I wrote blog posts about what I learned. I paid for professional critiques. I found two very amazing critique partners. I entered contests. I listened to feedback.
Persevere. I didn’t give up when I got rejected. I determined at the start that I wanted to be published by a traditional publisher—one that would actually pay me—and I didn’t let rejections influence my determination.
Keep writing. We submitted my book in the fall of 2009. By the time it went to pub board almost a year later, I’d written two more novels. My editor was able to bring not one, but three books to pub board. She was able to show the committee that I wouldn’t be a one-book wonder. She was able to show them that I know how to write novels.
Surround yourself with supportive people. This business is hard. You meet a lot of people who don’t get it. A lot of people who get it, but don’t like your work. Having some encouragers in your corner is vital. I am blessed with three amazing friends who are my biggest fans (hi Erin, Susan, and Melissa!) These girls believed in me when I couldn’t and spurred me on with their encouragement.
Keep a journal. All those times I wanted to rant and rail against the publishing industry? I did it in my journal. My safe, private journal. Ranting online would not have helped my cause.
Go to writing conferences. Not for learning, because you can save yourself a ton of money and get the bulk of that from books and blogs. But go for networking. Go when your writing is ready. I got face-to-face time with my editor and agent at the 2009 ACFW conference and landed my agent two months later. I got more face-to-face time with the same editor at the 2010 ACFW conference and landed a book contract two months later. I can say with complete confidence that I would not be where I’m at today if I wouldn’t have gone.
Hold out for a reputable agent. I know this is a hard one to control—especially when you just want an agent already. But I’ve heard it said a bad agent is worse than no agent, and I believe this 100%. Rachelle is well-respected within the industry and she goes to bat for her clients. Without her determination and follow-through, I wouldn’t have Waterbrook Multnomah as my publisher.
Of course, there’s a caveat. A big BUT at the end of this list. Something I think is important to understand.
You can do every single one of these things, and still find yourself waiting, because so much of it is out of your control.
You might be an amazing writer – but the agent you want has a full roster, or too many clients who write books similar to yours. You might have an awesome agent and solid work to submit – but your genre just isn’t selling right now.
So much of this comes down to….timing. Everything lining up just so. Some luck. And God. I like to think God.
Here’s the good news: If you’ve got the talent, the passion, and the right attitude, your time will come. Work hard. Persevere. Keep writing. Believe in yourself.
Let’s Talk: Do you have anything else to add to the list? Are there any you disagree with? Any you struggle with? What has helped you the most on your journey?