When I first started writing, I never really considered getting published. It was a distant possibility, as far away as the stars in the sky. I didn't think of the odds stacked up against me. If I had, I wouldn't have been able to write. It's too discouraging. The minute you tell people you want to be a writer, they are really eager to share how hard it is to be published. It's tremendously encouraging <- that was sarcasm (Seriously - it's like going to a baby shower and listening to every woman in the room recount their most horrifying birthing ordeals in front of the terrified new mom). In order to keep writing, I let ideas turn into scenes. Characters demanded to go through their trials. Stories haunted me until I sat down and started typing.
All the Pretty Bones is not the first book I have written, but it was the first time I had this feeling that I was on to something. People would ask me what it was about and lean forward when I gave a quick two to three line description. Their reaction made me think, "Wow. Other people might want to read this!" When it was finished, I shared it with my beta readers (special thanks to Z.D. Gladstone, Stephanie, and Christy for their tremendous insight). Once the major issues they raised were addressed, I decided to pitch at a writing conference I was already scheduled to attend.
I am a very analytical person who loves to be prepared. Deciding anything on a whim, particularly pitching a novel, is very stressful. In the week leading up to the conference, I crammed by researching agent posted recommendations for pitches and queries (Writers Digest has a fabulous list of successful query letters posted by agents). There were so many things to learn! It was the first time looking at my book as a product instead of this organic thing that shot forth from my brain. By the time I sat in front of an editor, I had convinced myself that I was as prepared as possible, but my odds were low. After stumbling across agent after agent expressing their vampire fatigue, my odds became downright improbable.
Imagine my surprise when my first meeting went well.
I met with an editor representative of Booktrope, a small publishing company based in Seattle. She was kind and easy to talk to. I'm sure she could sense my nerves, but with her encouraging smile, it was easy to jump straight into my pitch. When she leaned forward and started asking questions with a grin on her face, I had hope. When she said, "This is very marketable and I really hope we hear from you," I almost did cartwheels on the way out the door. I was so excited I was shaking and I don't think I slept for four days (that actually turned out to be an issue with hyperthyroidism, but it all worked out). I still had to get through a sample chapter review, and then my manuscript was submitted to a team of readers to give me a thumbs up or down. For some reason, I had a really good feeling - and it ended in a contract.
What I have learned about the publishing process and author expectations pre- and post-publication could fill several blog posts, and there is still so much to learn! It has been an amazing experience, and Booktrope has been fabulous.
Writers get beat up on the road to being published. I don't think I'm the only author out there that came out on the other side with a deficit in confidence, and I had it pretty easy. I've seen the pain that comes with rejected queries and pitches that end badly. Please keep trying. The difference between a successful author and a retired writer is perseverance. Good luck, and keep writing.
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