Hello, The Thrill Begins readers! Thank you for stopping by to read. If you leave a comment, you will be entered to win a copy of my Kindle short story "The Very Old Man", which has been an Amazon bestseller in mystery anthologies.
Today I wanted to talk to you about my journey to publication—which took one day...and then another eleven years.
If I had known how long it would be, I might have stopped before I even got started. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. After all, I’d wanted to be a writer since before I could write.
Family lore has me dictating bedtime stories as a sleepy two year old to my mother.
At first it didn’t seem like it would take me very long at all. In fact, it even seemed like I might be one of those instant wonders! After all, I received not one but two offers from agents, one at an illustrious NYC agency, the other greener, but hungry and passionate, just months after I began querying.
Now I could sit back and wait for my novel to sell, right?
Questions like that call for only one answer: Wrong.
What I learned was that even the wisest, most experienced, and devoted agent doesn’t sell every project she or he takes on. (What percentage do they sell? I think this is a secret more closely guarded than whether women of a certain age have had work done).
I also learned that my writing—despite having a spark, a certain something, that attracted agents—had a long, long way to go.
It wasn’t just work on craft that enabled me finally to sell, although that must’ve been part of it, for surely I improved over the course of eight (count ’em) novels.
But other things came into play, and I’m listing three tips here, in case one or more is helpful to other emerging writers walking (sometimes plodding) along this road.
1. Pursue what I call para-writing activities. In my case, I began a literary series with events taking place at a local bookstore. I got to know writers, and I got to know booksellers, and many of these people became interested in my journey. It may not have helped me sell any faster, but it sure made the trip less lonely.
2. Join writing organizations that embrace emerging as well as published writers. I write literary suspense, and can recommend three that seemed to work particularly well. One is Mystery Writers of America, another is Backspace, and the third, of course, is International Thriller Writers. While you may have to have a contract or offer in hand to take advantage of some of these groups’ benefits, all offer conferences and events that are open to everyone. Which brings me to—
3. Attend writing conferences. You will learn from the panel discussions. You will commune (and sometimes commiserate) with other writers who are trying to get published. And you will meet authors who can give you faith that a) it will really happen and b) may even be able to help you. Some authors are kind enough to read a few pages of your work, offer his or her agent’s name, or simply tell you how they got their first break.
How did I finally get published? All of the above.
I attended a conference that led me to my third (and ultimately successful) agent. I had grown the writing series enough that I had editors’ names to give my agent. (Sometimes people don’t realize—certainly I didn’t eleven years ago—what a partnership the agent/author relationship is). And finally, I got to know a favorite, much admired author who ultimately agreed to read my unpublished manuscript, and in the end all but put it in her editor’s hands.
It may not be clear, when you’re taking that very first step, how your book—or even which book—will ultimately sell. But I can tell you that if you just keep walking, it will.
Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey. She is the founder of the literary series Writing Matters, which draws authors and publishing professionals from both coasts to standing room only events at a local independent bookstore. In 2010 she created Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, a holiday that went viral across the web, enlisting booksellers in 30 states, two Canadian provinces, and England. Jenny is the author of the short story "The Very Old Man", an Amazon bestseller in mystery anthologies. Another short story will be published in 2012 in a book called Adirondack Mysteries II. Her novel, a literary thriller called COVER OF SNOW, is forthcoming from Ballantine.
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