Last night we had a pot luck dinner at church before the midweek Lenten service. Pot luck dinners are the cornerstone of most church bodies, combining fellowship and chatting with lukewarm casseroles and endless pans of brownies. Last night was no different. Most of the people I talked to were still glowing over the spaghetti dinner our teen group put on last Saturday. But there was one gentleman who stopped me as I was popping a brownie on my Styrofoam plate.
"I hear you sold a book!" says he. (He's married to one of my best church friends, but he doesn't pay too much attention to her when she talks, so it's no surprise he's just now getting the news about "Dream in Color.")
"I did," says I.
"Now you'll have to tell me how you did it so I can sell mine," says he.
He moved off to get a cup of bad church coffee. (That's redundant, really. Church coffee is in a class of bad all by itself.) I went to sit down with a lady I know vaguely from choir practice.
On my way to the table, though, I pondered what the gentleman wanted from me. It took me by surprise, though thinking about it, I suppose it shouldn't. How did I sell a book?
At this point, more than a few of my friends will be nodding and asking that question out loud.
How does anyone sell a book these days? It seems like there are endless titles of self help books on how to get published. I think the fastest way to get published is to write a book about how to get published!
With so many authors out there writing the stories in their hearts, and with agents and editors buried under piles of queries (all written in the style recommended by the latest "how to get published" book.), synopsises and partials, it's a wonder anyone gets published. Sure, if your name happens to be Stephen King, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, or Danielle Steele, it's slam dunk easy. But what about the rest of us?
I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you how "Dream in Color" to be, and what I'm doing now with "Lies in Chance."
1) Hard work.
Your mother was right about this. Nothing happens if you don't work at it. In "Dream" and in "Lies" both of my heroines have an amazing talent for writing or playing music. Mostly this is a wish on my part, since I'm one of those musicians who works very, very hard just to be average. But natural talent like that doesn't happen often. Most of us have to work really hard to get what we want. And when it comes to writing, I've worked very hard.
I haven't maybe worked very steadily. There are whole years where I didn't touch my writing. But when I sit down to work, it's to WORK. Writing the story is the easy part, my friends. Polishing it, editing it, marketing it, that's work! And it's work a writer MUST DO!
Writing is a subjective sport, sort of like figure skating. Sometimes you submit to an agent or an editor who, quite frankly, is really not interested in your epic tale of love during the H1N1 epidemic. Sometimes you pitch to an agent who has already sat through thirty pitches about a heroine who has a talent for cooking, and you just happen be the last in a far too long line. But sometimes, sometimes my friends you pitch and idea to an agent or an editor who WANTS your epic novel about love in the time of the H1N1 epidemic, or who was really looking for a culinary heroine.
You got a rejection? Whoop de do! I'm a member of the Mad City Romance Writers. We applaud anyone who gets a rejection. We love rejections! Rejections mean you're working, and remember, rule number one...HARD WORK!
Don't let a rejection scare you. Don't let sixty rejections scare you! I cannot tell you how many times "Lies" has been rejected. So what? Every rejection made it a stronger story. And now, it's entered into the Amazon contest and this time I think I'll do better than the quarterfinals.
Did "Dream" get rejected? You betcha! I think about a dozen times. Once at the very conference where I actually wound up selling it! Did that stop me? No! Rejections, critiques, comments, all serve to make the story better. Suck it up Buttercup! Writing isn't for the faint of heart! You want love and sweetness and puppies? Write a children's book about love and sweetness and puppies...and then don't submit it to anyone because the kid's books world is almost as harsh as the romance world.
4) Blind luck.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I sold "Dream" based on a conversation I had with Rhonda Penders at a chocolate fountain at the WisRWA conference back in 2008. If I hadn't met her, if she hadn't been really looking for authors at that conference, if we hadn't had such a detailed conversation while dipping cookies into cascading chocolate, "Dream" would be just that...a dream.
Or maybe it wasn't blind luck. Maybe it was a melding of rules 1-3. I worked hard. My timing was good, and I was fearless enough to talk to Rhonda.
Still, a little luck doesn't hurt!
In the end, there is really no magic to getting published. Approach it as you would a job, or a career. Work hard, be persistent, and get educated about how to get published. Join a writers' group. Talk to other writers. Enter a contest. And, of course, submit, submit, submit!
You might even want to invest in one of those "How to get published" books. (I love the "Writer's Market" for fiction, and Debra Dixon's "Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Also, Stephen King's "On Writing" is my writing BIBLE!)