I debate on this a lot – should I talk about the downs of being a writer as well as the ups? And if so, how deeply do I delve? In the end, I think I try to go with a middle path.
Today I want to talk about the in between place. I’ve been here a while now and it’s frustrating and at times, debilitating. What I mean is this – I’ve achieved a certain level of success, which is wonderful and I’m sooo grateful for it. At the same time, I want to take new paths and one of those is to a New York publisher.
(a very long and not always shiny entry behing the “more” tag…
I tend to be a goal oriented person. I set goals, I work my ass off and hopefully I achieve those goals. This is the basic pattern of my life and I believe in it. My parents raised me to believe that hard work is the key to success and I believe it’s the best lesson they taught me. Because you will not achieve success without hard work. You won’t. And so, you suck it up and you do it. You put in the time, even if it means less sleep or no leisure time or whatever.
When I started writing seriously, I didn’t know anything about publishing as a business. And in retrospect, I’m glad or I would have given myself an ulcer over it. I didn’t have a crit group, I didn’t know about the RWA. I didn’t know about supposed rules either. I just wrote the story I loved and in a moment of wonderful kismet, Martha Punches saw it and passed it to Raelene who, despite the technical flaws, saw something special in it and asked me to fix stuff and resubmit. I did and within a month of submission, I’d sold my first book.
I write every day. I rarely take a break from it. If I’m not writing something new, I’m editing or revising. I don’t watch much television, I have three young kids and I don’t write during the day. But I make writing my job and I do it every night, even when I just don’t want to. I am committed to making this work and because of that and a lot of luck, I’ve been so blessed to be able to be an author.
At the same time, after a while, I thought I might want to pursue other places, try new things and so, totally out of the blue, I ended up talking with my now agent, Laura Bradford. She asked me to send her something but she didn’t think the first thing I sent was right but the second thing I did, she loved and I signed with her. That was roughly a year ago.
Like many authors, I thought when I signed with an agent, things would get easier. BWAH! They do for some authors. Some authors sell on the first pitch in like half an hour (CHARLENE TEGLIA, JACI BURTON – hmpf, if y’all weren’t so lovely and talented I’d hate you. Also, not to imply people like Charli and Jaci didn’t do their time – god knows I used to watch Jaci like a hawk when I first started out – she works harder than just about anyone I know) Anyway, over time, I learned several important lessons – one was to simply not get my hopes up. I know it sounds awful, but it’s a way to protect yourself from the realities of publishing. Namely, rejection. Now, the nice thing about an agent is she bears the front line of rejection so you hear it from her instead of getting the letter yourself. And you can then work out next steps so the edge of the rejection is dulled a bit. Still, at first I was like, “oh she’s pitching today, I’m going to sell!” and every time the phone rang I’d get all excited.
Here’s the painful lesson, or rather, the most painful lesson – hard work is only part of it. You can work hard, so hard you sweat blood and that is not a guarantee of success in publishing. Now, you won’t be successful if you *don’t* work hard either, but it’s not the way it works in every other kind of endeavor I’ve undertaken.
Another reality is the wait. No, I generally don’t have to wait as long as non-repped authors do for an answer but it’s not instantaneous either. Weeks, months go by and there’s nothing. Part of you is like, “well no news is good news!” and another part of you is frustrated and at times very excited and other times dreading news.
I hear a lot about how authors are too sensitive and they need to deal and you know what? I’m an author, I do deal. But I have actual feelings. So yes, it does suck when my manuscript gets rejected. It sucks even more if I read something and I think, “oh my god, this blows, how does this get published and I can’t sell!” And I could have left that out, pretended I never do that but I’d be lying. I do do that and I do believe I’m a good writer or I wouldn’t be doing this. But I’m not immune to self doubt, I’m not immune to having hurt feelings when something I’ve worked on for months or years is rejected or misunderstood or whatever.
Still, you pick yourself up and you try again. Because what else is there? Quitting?
I told myself it was a goal to sell to NY before the end of 2006 and I did. I am grateful for that sale and it keeps me going. I have other manuscripts in play right now but I’ve been to acquisitions a few times now and “nearly” selling is worse at times than a quick rejection. *Almost* sucks boys and girls. Not as much as “not a fucking chance” of course, at least almost means you’re getting closer.
So I’m stuck in the in between place. I’ve got this book coming out from Spice in March and I’m thrilled. I continue to sell to Ellora’s Cave and Samhain – both very fine publishers where I’ve been able to spread my wings and take risks. Even better, readers have responded in very positive ways. I *AM* an author. I will continue to write every day. I will continue to work to create stories I want to tell. I hope like hell they sell to BOTH New York and my epublishers.
I have good self-esteem. I do. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when I measured myself against others and felt like I’ve failed. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry about it sometimes. Or got pissed off, frustrated, upset, sad, etc. Writing *is* solitary but once you’re finished, you take that thing from your head and you toss it out there and it’s the strangest kind of competition I’ve ever been through – and I went to law school!
I am thankful for my success. I am lucky. I know this. Do I want more? Always.
May 22nd, 2007 at 1:44 pm · Link
It’s sounds trite but true. You have to hang in there. You are an extremely talented writer and NY will see it. I wish I could tell you when but it will happen eventually. Probably when you least expect it. 🙂
May 22nd, 2007 at 2:00 pm · Link
Some authors sell on the first pitch in like half an hour (CHARLENE TEGLIA, JACI BURTON – hmpf, if yâ€™all werenâ€™t so lovely and talented Iâ€™d hate you.)
First, thank you. You are so sweet.
Second, *snort* on selling on the first pitch. So didn’t happen that way. Actually I had a couple proposals out there that received that ‘um, we kinda don’t like this very much’ response from editors. 🙄
In fact, at the same time Surviving Demon Island was getting bids at auction, I was receiving rejections on it from other editors who didn’t like it at all. So it’s all a matter of the right book hitting the right editor’s hands at the right time.
I’ve been where you are, at that in between stage. It’s both exciting and frustrating as hell.
You have the talent. It’s just a matter of timing, darlin. It’ll happen for you. Hang in there and have faith.
And when it does, I’m coming back to say “See? Told ya so.” 😉
May 22nd, 2007 at 2:44 pm · Link
May 22nd, 2007 at 3:15 pm · Link
It took a little more than half an hour. But thank you.
This is a career with ups and downs. Overall hopefully there’s an upward progression, but nobody’s going to be flying high all the time. Some of my favorite authors, amazingly successful authors, have been out of contract for a time.
I think you have to think in two directions. You have to think like a business and plan like a business and work like a business. And you have to think like an artist and follow your gut instincts and be true to your creative vision. And I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. To quote Lawrence Block, “You can sell without selling out.”
But the thing I think most people don’t realize in the beginning is that as hard as it is to get published, it’s just as hard or harder to stay published. This isn’t an easy job, but it’s the only one I want. 🙂
May 22nd, 2007 at 4:51 pm · Link
What a great post. And there are folks like me who look at you, and your hard work and great books, and NY sale, and think “gosh, what will I have to do to get THERE?” I think the in-between (and they come at every stage is my guess) is hard for any endeavor.
Can I wax on/wax off poetic? I learned something in martial arts. Just before I was about to get much, much better at something, everything would start to feel awful–awkward, too slow, too hard. I learned to welcome that feeling, because I knew I was about to break through to a new level. My internal spirit, or whatever you want to call it, was no longer satisfied with the status quo.
May you be at one of those wonderful crossroads that don’t feel good until you’re on the other side!
May 22nd, 2007 at 5:38 pm · Link
Ciar, Julia Cameron mentions that stage in The Right to Write. I’ve been through it at least twice. It sucks when you hit that, but then suddenly you get past it and everything comes together at a new level.
May 22nd, 2007 at 9:50 pm · Link
Lauren, I like that you shared this–it’s important to me to hear all aspects of the writing process as it’s something in which I am quite interested. (I wrote “ups and downs” but ups doesn’t look right, does it? Makes me think of UPS. I digress.) I am currently in a waiting game myself–waiting to be “chosen” as adoptive parents. It’s a balancing act between being excited and hopeful, wanting to be protective of your feelings and wanting to scream out the window because it’s so overwhelming and WHY DOESN’T SOMETHING JUST HAPPEN???? Makes me feel not quite so alone even though our balancing act is for different things. So thanks.
May 23rd, 2007 at 6:30 am · Link
I can relate, although I rarely post anything like this on my own blog because I’m loathe to admit how I feel sometimes. Still, I completely understand.
May 23rd, 2007 at 6:51 am · Link
Sigh. I haven’t even sold yet. My manuscript is out there in front of NY publishers and has been since April, but I haven’t heard a word. I still wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, and it IS frustrating as hell. 😕
May 23rd, 2007 at 9:54 am · Link
I’m glad you blogged about this because I’m feeling the same way right now. I have submissions out there I’m waiting to hear on and I watch other authors with so much success and I get envious. I’m not gonna lie. I’m happy for them and jealous at the same time. That’s just human nature.
I admire your hard work and your writing Lauren – I’m gonna sound like a cornball but you’ll get there! But I understand your feelings – this business is tough, but there’s no where else I’d rather be.
May 23rd, 2007 at 10:56 am · Link
Great post. I hear you, I wonder if I’ll ever be happy. I love to make a goal and seek a higher one. See it’s all a matter of perspective. Because where you’d like to be where Jaci is and other similar writers, my next goal is your level now… unless I got hit with the lucky stick and sold to NY tomorrow and became a best seller in two years! 😆