I read a blog post once and I’d love to give the author credit, but for the
life of me I can’t remember where I saw it. The takeaway from the post,
however, was genius, and went something like this:
Debut authors have no idea how to get published. They simply know how they
At the time, the dream of my story on a bookshelf seemed a
near-impossibility. I assumed every published author could tell me exactly what
But, the more I talk to debut authors—the more I read about their
journeys—the more I understand just how small we authors are in the gigantic
machine that is the publishing industry.
Oh, we play a part. Each of us. A vital, important part. But, we’re very
specific cogs in a very particular machine, and our journeys to that spot are
near impossible to duplicate.
That blog post was right: I can’t tell you how to get published. Because I
I can only tell you that the things I did, as misinformed as they sometimes
were, didn’t prevent it from happening. Over the past two years, I’ve had three
books published. Here are a few things I can pass on to those of you walking a
few steps behind me on the road to publication.
Waiting sucks. For everyone. I hate waiting. My agent hates
waiting. My writer-friends hate waiting. We all hate it. But, it’s part of the
process. It doesn’t mean bad things. It doesn’t mean good things. It just means
you’re waiting. You can let it drive you crazy or you can write your way
through the wait. The choice, as always, is yours. I say write. Life is short
and there are words out there that need to be put on paper. And by submitting
your novel to editors and agents, you’re saying, “Hey, I can do this! I can put
words on paper.” So, do it. Do it while you wait.
Timing is everything. I have a whole blog post worked up on
this point, but the short version is this: Are you ready? Not ready for good
things to happen to you–though that part is awesome–but are you ready to work?
Because the word “contract” is synonymous with “a ton of work.” So, don’t
begrudge the wait. Timing is everything.
There will be hiccups. Oh yes! And they’ll hit when it’s
most inconvenient for you. In my case, my first agent quit the business of
agenting while my dream publisher was actively considering my manuscript. Um.
Yeah. Inconvenient to say the least and havoc on my nerves. But, while I was
panicking, every writer-friend I know told me the same thing, “If someone wants
what you’re selling, hiccups won’t stop them from buying it.” And you know
what? They were right.
Playing by the rules worked for me. There are folks out
there who recommend sending pink, perfumed pages of your romance manuscript to
every editor you can think of. There are brave souls who claim they’ve attracted
the attention of a super-agent by standing on their heads and serenading them
from four stories down, but I am far too squeamish to attempt feats of
grandeur. Instead, I paid attention to submission guidelines on agency web
pages. I stalked agents and publishing gurus on Twitter to get a feel for their
likes and dislikes, and then I queried only those who seemed to fit my
manuscript. It took a bit, but it worked.
You need a writer friend. Or two. Or twelve. Because this
road can be lonely if you let it. The good news is there are lots of ways to
interact with writers: crit groups, workshops, conferences, bookstores. If you
can find another writer in your hometown to connect with, all the better.
Nothing beats a cup of coffee with someone who understands the daily grind of
Acknowledge the luck factor. That’s right. I said it. Of
course, I generally attribute these luck-type things to God and His providence,
but it’s important to understand that being in the right place at the right
time really does have its advantages. Often, that’s something you can’t
control. Sometimes you’re exactly what a publisher (or agent, or editor) is
looking for. Sometimes you’re not. Accept that rejection—like in issues of
love—can be about what they want, not who you are. Decide to be okay
And, finally, keep the faith! The funny thing about hope is
this: we all have something to hope for. You may be hoping to land an agent or
attract a publisher. Me: I’m hoping my books continue to sell. There are no guarantees
in this industry, but the rest of us can spot a bitter soul a mile away. Keep
hoping, keep dreaming. Keep believing. And write because you love it.
I have no idea how you’ll get published, but my guess is you’ll find a few
things along the way that are worth passing on. Share ’em. Share them here or
with a friend. Share them on your blog or at your crit group. Share them with
the guy you see standing in the writing aisle at B&N.
Our journeys are all so different, but the business of writing sentences
ties us together.
So, spread the love!
For the next twelve days on my blog, I’ll be drawing names and letting the winners choose just which of my Angel Eyes books they’d like to receive this Christmas.
12 days. 12 winners. 12 books. Fun, right? Visit ShannonDittemore.com to enter.