First, this has been a whirlwind week of announcements for me, between my book deal and being accepted into the 2014-2015 Debutante Ball class. As weeks go, it's a pretty damn good one. Here's the official proclamation from Publisher's Marketplace. Isn't it pretty?
It seems that every other day, another writer is telling the tale of their whirlwind path to the bookstore. She sent out one query. She had ten agent offers. Her book sold at auction after being on sub for five days. She debuted on the NYT's Bestseller List. Stephen King wants to know about her writing process. Oprah babysits her kids so she can work on her second book.
I'm here to tell you, dear reader, that those are the exceptions. They are the Cinderella stories of the publishing world. The fantasy. Yes, they happen, but not often and probably not to you. Let's be honest. For most authors, the path to publication is long, painful, and paved with rejection.
And that's okay. In fact, it might even be a good thing.
I set before you Exhibit A - me.
I signed with my excellent agent, Rachel Ekstrom, last year. If you're interested in such things, here's that story. The short version: it took a long time. During that process, I met a lot of writer friends, I overhauled my manuscript multiple times, and I learned how the publishing industry worked. Had my manuscript sold quickly, I might not have met those friends, or studied my craft, or followed the industry so closely.
Once Rachel and I went on submission, I was optimistic we'd quickly find the perfect publisher. But weeks went by, then months. Then the rejections appeared. Note: Rejections while on submission are some of the kindest "no, thank yous" you'll ever see, but they sting like a motherfucker. As time went on, hope dwindled. I admit it, I started doubting my little story would find a publisher. But Rachel kept believing and kept trying.
But here's the lesson, dear reader, publishing isn't just about writing the best story you can and throwing it out there. A lot comes down to persistence and timing. While publishing is a (frequently harsh) business, it's also based on passion. Agents and editors need to have passion for the stories and authors they work with. They are your first cheerleaders, your connection to the people who make decisions, and your Yodas when you need guidance. These people share your vision. They are as unique as your story and sometimes, it takes a little while to find them. In my case, it took about ten months.
In my tale, Rachel and Kate Dresser (Editor Extraordinaire) were having a conversation unrelated to my book. Kate mentioned she had read my manuscript while at a different publishing house and hadn't forgotten it. Rachel let her know it was still available and the rest, as they say, is history. We didn't give up on my book and now The Coincidence of Coconut Cake has the perfect editor at Gallery. From our first conversation, Kate has made it clear that she believes in my story.
This process takes times. Believe in your writing, but continue to make it better. Accept and even embrace that you'll face a lot of rejections. Those rejections aren't because your writing is awful and you're a hack, but because you haven't found the right match. For me, I couldn't imagine a more perfect imprint or a more enthusiastic editor. It's everything I wanted and more. And that, dear reader, was well worth the wait.