Over on Twitter, I got into a conversation about how long publishing journeys can be. Sure there are those few overnight successes (a friend of mine signed with the first agent she did a conference critique with, it was with the first novel she’d written, and it sold very quickly), but those stories are far, far from the norm.
Because here’s what happens when you write many, many books:
- Your books get better.
- You learn more about publishing.
- You build a network.
- You understand criticism and learn to deal with rejection.
Because even for the overnight successes, there’s going to be rejection in publishing. Editors reject books. Reviewers reject books. Bookstores reject books.
But that’s okay, because you know how to write another book. You have a network that’s giving you support. You can handle that criticism and let it fuel you instead of stop you.
After a request from a follower, I posted about my own journey to publication on Twitter too. Depending on which starting point you choose, my journey’s either one or multiple decades. But let’s skip to when I got really serious about getting published in novels. I had said 2008 on Twitter, but looking it up now, it was actually 2007. That’s the year I finished my first novel. (That was NOT the year I started the novel, but that’s another story.)
So, let’s look at the timeline:
2007: Finished first novel
2009: Queried first novel
-Finished second novel
2010: Queried second novel
-Finished third novel
2011: Queried third novel
2012: Finished fourth novel
2013: Queried fourth novel
-Finished fifth novel
2014: Started writing sixth novel.
2015: Signed with my agent in January. After revisions, my third novel went on submission in October.
-Finished sixth novel.
2016: Revised my third novel based on editor notes.
-Wrote a novella
2017: Third novel went on submission at the beginning of January and had two offers within three weeks.
2018: WAKE will be released by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster on June 26.
So, it took 10 years between finishing my first novel and selling a novel. My third was the first one to sell, but I wrote two more novels before I signed with my agent. And when we signed, I had…
- Grown my craft through learning, writing, revising…
- Learned so much more about publishing from when I’d started, including winning some awards and getting valuable mentorship…
- Built a network of amazing writer friends, agents and editors who I’d connected with at conferences and workshops…
- Created an understanding of criticism through all those revisions with critique groups and manuscript swaps, so I could more easily work with my agent and editor. And gained the ability to not get so bogged down with rejections but allow them to keep me moving forward.
But perhaps the biggest milestone in my timeline came around book five. I had two solid books that were making the rounds of agents, getting requests for fulls, then sitting in inboxes indefinitely. The waiting was awful, worse than a rejection. I felt as though there was no forward movement in my career and it was out of my hands.
So that’s when I stopped focusing on the publishing endgame. Instead, I focused more on my craft and on making the best, most professional book I could. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been concerned with craft before, but my goal was to get an agent and publishing deal. I still wanted that, but it was no longer my goal. I figured that when I finally found the right agent for me, I wanted to make sure I was as ready as I could be for a career as a novelist.
That, more than anything, helped me. It didn’t affect my signing with my agent because she read a draft of WAKE that had been revised earlier, but it helped me not see every rejection as an end. Instead of being hammers that would knock me backwards, rejections became more like gnats that I could push out of the way as I forged through the jungle of publishing.
I wasn’t waiting for those responses from agents anymore. I was anxious to get back to the page and my book and telling my story.
Now, I’m a step further and learning loads of new things about publishing. But in between all the wonderful firsts I’m experiencing as my debut novel gets prepped for its release next year, I’m still focusing on one thing:
Telling the best story in my next book.