View Full Version : Your Journey to Publication

08-18-2006, 01:58 AM
For those of you lucky enough to be published, could you share your story to motivate and inspire us? Pretty please?? :popcorn:

08-18-2006, 03:37 AM

I wrote my first romance about 4 years ago. The first draft tore out of me in less than six weeks, then I wasn't really sure what to do with it. Knew nothing about publishing, had no idea if it was anywhere near good enough.

So, after a few weeks of free-floating anxiety, I sent it to my mother. Yeah, she's my mom, but she's also a lifelong reader, and I hoped she would tell me honestly if it sucked. She liked it. I sent it to my sister and one of my brothers. They liked it. My brother was so proud, he mentioned it to a woman author he knew who wrote romantic erotica for an e-pub company. She, who had never met me, became my very first outside reader--and she liked it, too.

I began to teach myself about publishing, checking books out of the library, lurking in online writers' forums, and about seven months after I'd finished the ms., sent my first agent query. Their website said a response would come in 6-8 weeks. After more than 10 weeks, I accepted that I'd been rejected by default, and prepared a round of 8 queries, half snail and half email (see, I'd been learning in the meantime!). My printer was down, so I sent off the 4 e-queries. Never did send the 4 snails.

The next day, I'd received 2 rejections and 1 request for partial, which turned into a request for full, which got me an offer of representation by the end of the week. Right after I signed, the first agent I'd queried got back to me, asking for an exclusive on the full. I put it down to fate...

My agent loved the book, but was upfront about the challenges of placing a gay historical romance. And it did take a while--over a year--before she found Seventh Window (http://seventhwindow.com), a small gay press which had decided to focus on romance. In the meantime, we got a bunch of encouraging rejections and had one or two close calls. I also had to rewrite the second half of the book for the guy who became my editor, because he didn't buy the plotline.

The book, The Price of Temptation (http://thepriceoftemptation.com), came out last fall and did quite well in its niche, making a couple of gay bookstores' best-seller lists and being named a finalist in the Romance category of the Lambda Literary Awards. Seventh Window was pleased enough to contract a second book, Discreet Young Gentleman, which will be released at the end of October.

It took time. On my side, I had a decent book, and a deeply-committed agent who didn't give up when there wasn't a quick sale. And today...well, I ain't rich, but I am building a readership. Who knows what'll happen next?

08-18-2006, 05:05 AM
I'm gonna be lazy and c&p some of my tale of publication that I posted on my website: ^_^

A few years back when I decided that I wanted to turn my writing pursuits towards the realm of the Professional Romance Novelist, I contacted a recently pubbed author whom I admired, babbled on a bit about my "ground breaking, totally different, sure to light a fire in the hearts of the publishing world" idea. What I expected to get in reply was a bit of encouragement, perhaps a "How nice ... good luck." What I got was a multi-paged single-spaced letter listing the MANY reasons I'd probably not succeed. The letter ended on a note like this:

"Have I discouraged you? I hope I have..."

Discourage me she did. After all, she'd written and sold a couple books. She'd graduated with honors from a prestigious university and there I was with nothing but a basic diploma from good old Lawrenceville Catholic High. Not only that, but my little western romance broke a bunch of "The Rules".

I was crushed.

I cried.

Then, I got mad.

How dare she? Who did she think she was anyway? Why did MY Indian characters have to wear buckskins and live on the Plains? Why couldn't they be REAL people? Why did my heroine have to be the typical WASP?

I think you get the idea.

Determined to "show her," I kept at it...for years ... through illness and multiple family crises ... through typo-filled editors' rejections and red-ink laden critiqued pages. I wrote two historicals, two short contemporaries (don't ask), and started on five other projects. I longed to "be in the loop," to rub-elbows with the big boys and girls, but it was HARD. I made progress --- personal rejections ... offers to submit other work...requests for full manuscripts on query letters alone. Still, I was a nobody and out there in the Romance Novel Cosmos, Ms. Professional seemed to be publishing 'em left and right.

Holding on to my dream (barely), I became involved in RWA and the Outreach International Chapter. I cringed when one by one my long-distance friends received The Call or won a big contest, but I kept plugging away.

On May 1st of that year (1998) I began to think Ms. Degree was right after all. I'd never make it. After all, my latest submission had just come in with "Sorry, but the quality of writing in this piece does not compare to other submissions we're considering...." As if that wasn't enough, I'd gotten hold of a second hand computer. The danged grammar check told me (gleefully) that my sentences were hovering at 6th grade level. I felt like a Total Idiot for recently having posted to a mailing list that an editor had requested a full manuscript of mine in a mere Two Weeks on the basis of a query letter. I mean, here it was, going on two months after I mailed the buggar, and not a word was to be heard.

Give it up, my practical side said. You're only fooling yourself. Those people have connections you don't. They have Educations. They have Talent that You Don't.

I nodded in agreement then consoled myself by surfing the web instead of writing. I got tired of surfing because all I seemed to hit were author's web pages --- taunting me. Rubbing it in my face that they were Somebody and that I Was Nobody.

I Gave Up.

I Gave Up on Myself.

Then, on May 5, 1998 while I was hanging the laundry, the phone rang. It was

......THE CALL......

Yes, indeedy. A real live, honest-to-goodness-respected New York Editor was offering me Cash Money for the book with the 6th grade grammar, the book that didn't measure up to the other publishers' standards, a book featuring -- unlike everyone else's -- "Indian characters."

Suddenly, the sun came out.

The birds sang.


Believe in Yourself. Distance yourself from the rejections, the envy, the bad vibes. Write from your heart. Write it Your way. And Never, NEVER, NEVER Give Up!


Of course it kind of went downhill from there.

My fantastic editor left before my book was out and the editor I was foisted upon hated EVERYTHING I submitted, my agent dumped me because she was no longer "enthusiastic" about my work, family stuff got BAD and my writing Muse DIED--for four years-- and I did what I said to never do. I "gave up". I stopped trying to write to sell because it was hopeless, right? My 7.5 minutes of fame had come and gone. I was the most lowly of beings--an unknown "has-been" :e2violin:

However, there is an upside to this pathetic tale---During my "Pity Party" phase I managed to resell two of my old books to a well known e-publisher and placed three more that I had sitting around with two other smaller publishers. Then, while I was frittering around killing time with an online roleplaying game I met my friend Anne Cain. We became quite obsessed with our little "bad boy" characters and began writing them outside the game for fun. We put together a 120,000 book in almost no time at all and then another and another. In a year we've managed to do six novels (the shortest about 60k), a 13k novella and 3 short stories.

The novella is out with a great small/e-publisher, two are set for next year (same pub) and four are underconsideration--one with a few top NY editors, so while Fame & Fortune continue to be elisive beasts, I'm still hanging in there and more importantly am having FUN writing with Anne.

So that's pretty much the story of my publishing life --aren't you sorry you asked (and even more sorry I replied?) :D

Cathy C
08-18-2006, 05:29 AM
People hate hearing my story, so I'll go last... ;)

08-18-2006, 07:02 AM
The nutshell version...

Book 1: THE LORN (adult contemporary fantasy) took me 16 years (including about 12 rewrites) to write. Started querying for agents in February 2004. Scored triple-digit rejections, mostly on the query, some on the partial, a few on the full. Was devastated.

Book 2: HEY CHARLES, YOUR SLIP IS SHOWING (adult chick lit) took me 5 months to write. Started querying for agents in June 2005. Scored about 40 rejections, many more from the partials and a couple fulls. Much more personalized rejections, mostly of the "not differentiated enough" variety. Was truly devastated. Went into therapy. (Seriously.)

In July 2005, I read an interview that changed my writing. Media Bistro's Avant Guild editor interviews. In a throwaway mention, one editor said how at the weekly editorial meeting, one of her colleagues was betting that the "next big wave" would be "magical chick lit."

And I said, "Damn it, I can DO THAT."

EDITED TO ADD: Another huge inspiration was advice from Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels mystery series: If you want your business to be writing, treat writing like a business. Study the market. (This is a horrible paraphrase, but you get the idea.)

Book 3: I came up with the basic plot of what I originally was calling DEMONS DON'T DANCE and started writing it in August 2005. About 12,000 words into it, I realized that I had given away the cow along with the milk in chapter 2, and I started over, now calling it HELL'S BELLES. Finished the draft at the end of October 2005. Took about a week off to do my query letter and synopsis, and come up with a list of agents. Finished the revision the first week of November. On November 9, I read in Publishers Marketplace about an author (Richelle Mead) who just sold SUCCUBUS BLUES (about a modern-day succubus who preferred her normal life to that of her magical/demonic life) in a three-book deal to Kensington. After crying and freaking out for about 90 minutes, I said "screw reading it one last time" and started querying that night.

By the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (about two weeks later), I had five offers of representation. I chose my agent. Next day, I handed in an eight-book series overview for HELL ON EARTH. Day after that, he submitted to ten editors.

Exactly one week later was my 35th birthday. (I was supposed to be a bestselling author by 30. Alas.)

And the next day (Friday), we got a pre-emptive offer for three books, trade paperback, in a very nice deal. Took the weekend to think about it and speak with the editor. On Monday, we accepted.

So...16 years for an "overnight" success. (Well, I hope success. HELL'S BELLES hits the shelves December 26, 2006. You can pre-order it now at Amazon, if you're so inclined. I would love you forever if you bought it.)

I just finished (yesterday) THE ROAD TO HELL and sent that to my agent for his blessing. Fingers crossed.

And I just just finished (like, this evening) the first draft of THE MAGIC BRIGADE, a YA urban fantasy rewrite of THE LORN (scroll up to Book 1). Hey, I can't help it: I LOVE this story, and I really, really, REALLY want to tell it right (heh, write) and get it published. Fingers double crossed...

EDITED TO ADD: Back in the early 1990s, I got terrific advice from an author whose name, sadly, I don't remember. What she said was this: "Never be daunted." I pass this on to you all.

And this one's an original Jackie Kessler quote: The best defense against skepticism is obscene success. :-)

Heather Lewis
08-20-2006, 11:18 PM
I hope more of you will post stories. It's encouraging to hear about your path(s) to success! :)


08-24-2006, 08:20 AM
wow what a great post. I love reading about everyones sucess stories. I think I might tag this post so in years to come after I finish my first novel and get my 129 rejection letters than I can read this for comfort.

Keep them coming!


08-24-2006, 04:11 PM
Wow - love hearing the stories.

Mine is similar in that while the OP said 'those lucky enough to be published' the truth is it was a heck of a lot more blood, sweat and tears than luck. Not to totally discount right place and right time playing a role in all aspects of publishing ;)

Ugh, I can't even retell this story again - in short - read my 1st cat romance with 2 kids in diapers and hubby living a state away while I tried to sell our house. Loved it and wanted to do the same.

Years and tears, a class in writing, a couple RWA meetings and a couple very good critique groups later (by accident Elizabeth Harbison, Stephanie Bond and I ended up together before any of us were published - now between us we have like 70 books pubbed in the last decade!) I sold. I, too, had an 'expert' tell me to give up, cowboys and inspirational writing were dead.

Yep, that's what I sold - cowboys, babies and brides as Natalie Patrick to Silhouette (6 books)
And in the Christian market (14th book coming out in Dec)
Also southern fiction - 3rd single title (Heathen Girls) out in trade now, in mass market paper in Jan.

I realize I don't have the NAME or the $$$ I thought this many years and books would bring but hope springs eternal and as long as the contracts keep coming I will keep writing.

annie jones
awa Luanne Jones