Nothing fills my writer’s soul than hearing other author’s road to publication. Or their road to not being published yet. It reminds me that while writing is something we do on our own, our experiences are shared. One for all and all for one.
Today, Phoebe Fox shares her journey to publication with us. She uses words like REJECTION and PERSISTENCE. Words every writer can relate to.
Please welcome Phoebe to WFW and share your own stories of persistence in the comments!
Persistence On The Road To Publication
by Phoebe Fox
Long before I was published or even had an agent, a dear friend of mine, multi-published, ridiculously talented author Sarah Bird, revealed this authorial secret to me: that only one thing separated her from all her unpublished writer friends.
Being the type A overachiever that I am, I greeted this news with delight. “That’s it? Persistence? Shuh, I can do that all day long.” I used to be an actor, for god’s sake; I knew all about handling rejection.
When my first manuscript made the agent submission rounds to a resounding lack of interest, I reminded myself that the way to win the game was just to stay in it. Undaunted, I wrote a second story, polished it up, and sent that sucker out.
This time I was rewarded with more action: lots of requests for partials…requests for fulls… And then, invariably, the painfully polite form letters.
I got rejections. Then more. Then dozens and dozens more. On what was literally my hundredth rejection, finally my determination started to falter. “That’s it,” I said to my faithful critique group, to whom I’d been trumpeting my “persistence” theme for years. “I guess I’m putting this one in a drawer too.”
But this is the problem when you tell people about your personal mission statement: They remind you of it. They hold you to it.
One of my writing partners exhorted me to keep going, not to give up—to persist. And because I generally hate to accept defeat (and even more to have my own damn proclamations thrown back in my face), I reluctantly agreed.
I kept submitting–and on query 113 it finally happened: I got the offer. Superagent Courtney Miller-Callihan of the Sanford J. Greenberger Agency was marvelously enthusiastic and encouraging. She loved the story, loved my writing, and wanted to represent me.
I will admit to feeling a certain amount of gleeful vindication here: I was right all along! All I had to do was persist and there was no way I couldn’t succeed.
Courtney submitted my manuscript and I waited excitedly to find out which pub house would snatch it up—or whether, as she hoped, we’d be lucky enough to go straight to auction.
We got amazing feedback. Editors loved the original idea, my “fresh voice,” the clean, tight prose.
We got some of the nicest, most positive rejection letters you’ve ever seen.
And not a single offer.
This was a much harder blow. Like a lot of authors I assumed that getting an agent was the toughest part of the journey, and once you had been thusly anointed the rest of the path to publication was a sure thing. And it was especially painful because the feedback we got from editors told us that we’d been frustratingly close.
But I gritted my teeth, put the story in a drawer (beside the first one…) and grimly started plodding the path again. This time it was harder to start over. But I reminded myself of Sarah’s words. All right, dammit. I’d persist. I finished another manuscript—my third, if you’re keeping count.
But I kept thinking about my near-miss with the last one. That story had merit, I thought, and I’d never been able to get the characters and the storyline out of my mind.
This was right when the digital publishing world pretty much exploded, and I realized that there were other avenues open to me now if I really wanted to usher my stories into print.
I did a heavy revamp of that rejected manuscript and told Courtney that I’d decided to publish the story myself. At which point she whipped out some persistence of her own: “We came awfully close last time,” she told me. “Will you give me one more crack at it first?” (I’m telling you, every author wants a Courtney Miller-Callihan in her corner.)
And so for an unheard-of second time she shopped it around to publishers—more than a year after our first round of submissions.
And this time…we got the offer. That story became my first published novel, as well as the eponymous first title in my Breakup Doctor series, of which I’m now writing the fourth book.
In hindsight it’s easy to see that The Breakup Doctor is a much better book than it was the first go-around. I needed time to “season” it, as well as to season myself as a writer. And in the intervening time Henery Press, which has turned out to be the perfect home for it, had hit the ground running with a roster full of USA Today bestsellers and award winners, and had created an impressive reputation in the business.
To me, my convoluted journey to publication is not unlike the story of The Breakup Doctor itself—something really, really good came out of what at the time felt like nothing but rejection and heartbreak.
But if at any point I’d given up, or accepted defeat—been less persistent—I never would have gotten any of it—an agent, a publisher, a series contract, nothing.
After I signed a multi-book contract I thought the hardest part was done—and then I got to learn all about promotion, marketing, reaching your readers, and embarked on yet another difficult lesson in persistence.
Over and over again I have found persistence to be the most important trait any writer can have, and I’ve never received better advice.
Persist in writing. Persist in querying. Persist in trying to get published, to market your book, to write another book…and another. There are so many people and reasons ready to convince you that you shouldn’t—you have to be the number one voice always reminding yourself that you should.
You must be the person who always believes in you, who never gives up faith.
Keep moving forward.
Phoebe Fox is an author, a columnist for major media outlets, and a close observer of relationships in the wild. Her latest in the Breakup Doctor series, Heart Conditions, will be released February 2016. You can find her at www.phoebefoxauthor.com.