"The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself." Mark Caine
"You can't do it," they said. Common, current wisdom is that it's harder than ever for a new author to be published. If you've been following this blog, you've seen that wisdom spouted many times. My very first rejection, in fact, came on the same day I sent my very first queries, from an agent who flat-out said he doesn't represent new authors. The same guidance came more subtly from other sources, too--agents running seminars at the JRWC, for example, who spoke of the need for an established platform and for how much more of an affect having a few thousand sales under our belt helped.
Can't blame them. It's hard to break into any field. It's devilishly hard to break into a field dominated by old-guard names when those paid to help authors are paid a percentage of the author's wages. If the author makes very little, as newbie authors do (and ought to, to be honest, considering the time it takes to build skill in writing), then the agent also has troubles feeding his kids as well as his dream for a Maserati.
"Every agent lives in fear that they'll reject the next Harry Potter," Arielle Eckstut said at a conference I attended recently. Other agents I've read have disagreed, but I question that. The typical agent earns 15-20% of author's domestic and international earnings. Harry Potter earned J.K. Rowling over a billion dollars, U.S. Fifteen to twenty percent of a billion dollars is a crapload of money. Tell me again how an agent wouldn't be bothered over turning that down?
In any event, I agree that my next book probably isn't the next Harry Potter. Not that anybody who's got a whisker of sense is willing to suggest that they know the next HP on sight, but odds are quite in my favor if I suggest that my book isn't. Hell, I know it isn't. I saw the crap back when it was full of crap. I changed its diaper, to use a crappy metaphor. I've revised the crap out of it, to be sure, but it's still no Harry Potter. I like it a lot, but--yeah, you know what's coming.
So all that said, I've submitted to 69 agents and 3 publishers. I received 28 rejections, including everything from "it's not right for us" on a pristine postcard to the generic "this is a subjective business so though I don't love it please submit it to others" to a specific "it's not ready for publication and here's why..." comment (from a busy publisher, believe it or not) that, to my and the JRWC's credit, detailed all the flaws I'd already fixed as a result of a writers conference.
Depending on whether you count the lack-of-responses as rejections (and I do) I may or may not be somewhere close to The Help's 60 rejections. But it doesn't matter. It only takes one yes.
On a side note--I still want to see somebody track number of revisions against number of rejections. I don't have time; I'm too busy writing. But I'm curious whether The Help's 60 rejections all rejected the same thing, or if all of the Harry Potters that went into slush piles were the same submission. I know in my case they weren't. Sometimes I wonder whether I'd have gotten a different response from the earlier agents had I sent them version 7 of the query letter rather than version 1 or 2.
Nah, probably not. I was still a newb.
In any event, I got that yes a couple of weeks ago, and at first couldn't believe my luck. A friend I'd been chatting with for a while on Facebook recommended Trestle Press, her publisher, and I submitted to them. The publisher replied that he wanted more, and I gave him more. He then said he wanted to publish me, but by that point I'd come back with loads of revisions to make based on the conference.
To revise, or no? To revise is always a good choice, but it risks the publisher becoming vexed with you.I decided it would do my career some good to put him off a bit and revise--make the debut novel as good as it could possibly be. I explained what was going on, and he was fine with it. I blasted through, and then blasted through again, and to be honest I think I now have the best book I could ever have written.
Long story short--I signed a publishing contract and am soon to be published. I saw the graphical artist's draft for cover art for my book today, and it stopped my heart for a moment. I wish I could bottle that feeling. There's nothing quite like seeing your name on the cover of a book, even when that book doesn't technically exist yet.
Look for more about the upcoming release soon! It's exciting, but oh, so much work.