We here at the Deb Ball are very committed to helping out other debut authors, and like to provide a venue for them to help get the word out about their novels. But we’re also huge supporters of the many talented writers who haven’t gotten the chance yet to get their books out there. Joanne Levy is one such author. A talented, witty, and dedicate writer who has won plenty of contests and landed not one but two agents over the years, she has worked assiduously to sell her manuscripts, and despite more than her share of frustrations and rejections, she epitomizes the “never give up” spirit that defines the successful author. We’re only too happy to give her a chance to have her say today, fittingly, as this is the week where we draw back the publishing curtain to give you a little view from the shadows. Welcome, Joanne!
First thing, let me say thank you to all the Debs for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I think I might be the only guest who hasn’t sold/been published, which makes me extra delighted and very honored to be here! I’ve also never blogged before, so please be gentle on this blogging virgin!
Some of you may know my backstory, but for those of you who don’t, here’s the abridged version. I’ve been writing seriously, with the intent of becoming published, for about seven years. I’m on my second agent and have just started my 13th project (this includes a few ‘drawer books’). I won in my category in the 2007 RWA Chicklit Chapter’s Get Your Stiletto in the Door Contest and also finalled in the 2007 Backspace Conference Scholarship Competition. But still no sales. Don’t ask why – I have no idea what the publishing industry has against me.
Anyway, this week’s theme of Publishing Perception vs. Publishing Reality hits close to home, since I have learned SO MUCH over the past seven years. A few of the many things I have learned are below.
Publishing Perception: Writing is the hard part.
Publishing Reality: Although I will never say writing is easy, in my own experience (shared by many others – try reading the comments trail on agent blogs) getting an agent and editor (and then promoting the crap out of your work once you get over those hurdles) are much harder in today’s world. The industry is very tight and competition is so fierce that it’s become an enormous bottleneck of aspiring writers trying to get published. The business part of writing for publication forces most writers to become savvy businesspeople and expert salespeople.
Publishing Perception: Write a good book and you’ll get published.
Publishing Reality: While I think you need to start with a good book, publishing trends are hugely fickle and timing can work for or against you. In other words, so much of all of this is beyond the control of the author. This has been tough for me, a notorious control freak, to swallow.
Publishing Perception: All authors are rich and bring in huge advances.
Publishing Reality: Most authors still have day jobs, because they HAVE to, either for the income, the benefits or both. Most authors are barely scraping by and many use their entire (often paltry) advances to promote their books. This would scare me a lot if I was in it for the money, which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am not. Seven years with zero pay does not a lucrative job make.
Publishing Perception: Once you have an agent, you’re as good as published.
Publishing Reality: Nope. This was a huge one for me. After it took almost two years to find my first agent, I thought I was in. I really thought it was just a matter of time before I got THE CALL from my agent saying we had an offer (or – gasp, dare I hope for several offers?). I was wrong. Two books didn’t sell. Then after I parted ways with that agent and got a new one, another book didn’t sell. For those of you keeping track – that’s three books on submission, three books not selling.
Publishing Perception: It’s glamorous to be an author.
Publishing Reality: My Snoopy pajamas are not glamorous. Neither is the imprint of a keyboard on my forehead.
Publishing Perception: (well more of a personal one, really) I can stop writing at any time.
Publishing Reality: I can’t. Sometimes I feel like I should, especially when it feels like I’m asking to be rejected over and over and over. But I can’t. I keep on writing. There was one day I remember vividly that I got a particularly harsh rejection, but then found myself at my keyboard, writing through my tears. WTF is that about? Even I look back and think I must be crazy.
Or a writer.
41 Replies to “Welcome Guest Author Joanne Levy”
Ack! Joanne! For some reason it was not set to allow comments–I never change that but for some reason it was set for that. Hoping you haven’t lost your fan base! My bad–very sorry ’bout that.
Anyhow, so glad you could come visit today and you know we’re all rooting for ya!
I’m a fan and I’m here!! Welcome Joanne!! Great post and I’m so impressed with your knowledge base. I knew almost NONE of that until fairly recently. My only advice is that you not let it discourage you IN ANY WAY since you are obviously A WRITER and always will be and it’s only a matter of time.
Joanne, I wish I could come up with something clever and inspiring to say, but…I can’t. Sadly, the rejection never stops–even when you’re multi-published. It’s a tough, soul-sucking business, that’s for sure. All any of us can do is keep writing the best books we can…
Jenny – no worries – most my fan base is still driving home from a trip to NY. 😉 (In case there was any confusion, I’m talking about you, Mom).
Gail – thanks! I have real peeps!
Bev, I know you feel it too – we’re all in this together. I maintain that it’s the support of other writers (and most excellent friends and family members) that keeps many of us plugging along.
Good Luck Joanne!
I know how talented you are. I look forward to having you sign my book one day!
Joanne! I am so inspired by your work/writing ethic! People with that kind of drive deserve to succeed. Please keep me posted about any other blogging that you do – your writing is so refreshingly honest and real. Keep it up! Beth MacLellan
Joanne, I know your work ethic, talent and amazing ability to multi-task and I have no doubt that The Call will come. Every one of us here is rooting for you. And when it comes, unlike many debutantes, you’ll be informed about how things work and ready to go!
Wanna tell us about what you’re working on now?
I think that’s a great summary of what writers have to go through. I know great things will happen for you soon. I am very proud of all the hard work and dedication you put into your writing. Remember that you always have my 200% support in your career. I am looking forward to being a kept man after your career takes off.
Thanks, Naomi – I will absolutely sign a book for you!
Beth, thanks so much for your nice comments!
Danielle – thank you so much! I just finished up a paranormal YA novel called “Small Medium at Large” about a teen who gets struck by lightning and is suddenly able to hear dead people. I’m hoping to get this one on submission soon (excerpt is on my website if anyone is interested). My latest project, which is still in the very early stages, is a departure for me. Although it is still YA, it’s more edgy and will be quite a bit more gritty than my other books; it’s a story about a teen who comes from a wealthy family who suddenly loses her father, the family’s breadwinner. Due to several unfortunate events, the girl and her mother end up homeless and living in their car. This one is a story about survival, strength and the undying human spirit. I’m loving writing it so far, even though it is so different from my other more humerous ‘angst-lite’ projects.
Thanks for asking!
Great post, Joanne!
Your persistence will pay off, I just know it.
And – uh – who says Snoopy PJs aren’t glamorous?
(Or generic pink penguin PJs, in my case?)
Great post, Joanne.
I knew that not everyone sold right after they got an agent, but never thought it’d happen to me… Sigh. We’ll get there.
Joanne, reading your post reinforces just how lucky I am to have my debut novel coming out next month. What you say about the perception and reality of the publishing business is very true and hard for those outside the writing community to believe. My your fourth book be the charm. May your positive obsession with story inspire others and pay off for you. I’m sending your link to others.
Joanne, I admire your persistence. A lot of this business seems to be about luck too. It’s not just enough to write a great book. You have to have an agent with the right contacts who happens to put your book in the hands of someone who just happens to be looking for that type of book at that time. It’s the perfect storm. Best of luck and don’t give up.
I don’t think it’s possible to go through this business and not occasionally consider quitting, but getting back to work even through the tears means you’re going to be a success sooner or later, because you’re too determined not to.
And I will be proud to line up to have you sign your books for me. 🙂
Joanne, you need to blog more. Add a blog to your website. Do it today. From what Danielle tells me about your ability to write quickly, you’ll have time to tend to a blog and write as well. The blogosphere needs more Joanne!
It’s your lucky year. By my estimation, it takes eight years for a very good writer to become an author.
Laurie Notaro attempted to get her nf book published for 7 years (eventually self-publishing it) before agent Jenny Bent found it and sold it. Laurie’s book, THE IDIOT GIRL’s ACTION ADVENTURE CLUB became a NYT bestseller.
Bradley Trevor Greive spent eight years (with 90 rejections) to get his book THE BLUE DAY BOOK published. It shot to the top of the NYT list, with another 9 or so bestsellers to follow.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of publishing stories that end or begin this way.
My own publishing story seems a bit easy and cinderella-ish, but I spent almost eight years as an advertising copywriter, polishing my skills as I was tortured by more senior writers, working on brilliant essays (also called “ads”) on exciting topics such as golf spikes, ATM preferences and HOV lanes.
Some authors work out their eight years on the drawer manuscripts while holding down a full time job that pays the bills. Some work in journalism, advertising, law or publicity.
Woody Allen is quoted as saying 80% of success is showing up.
Keep showing up.
You’re a wonderfully talented writer, and your turn is coming.
Jo, we love you!!! Your latest two projects sound PHENOMENAL. Talent, perseverance, and luck–you’ve got the first two in spades…as for the luck thing? It’s only a matter of time. It took me nine years to get to this point, and I still have my day job, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Like Lisa said, your turn is coming…I can’t wait to hear the news about your call! 🙂 We are going to celebrate like nobody’s business.
(Also, I second Michael’s suggestion about blogging!!)
Great post. You WILL get there. I can’t wait to hear what happens with your new (and fabulous) book!
Well, your best fan is here (still on our way from NY).Joanne you are a very talented and focused writer, and the publishers out there are missing out,butI know that one will come out of hiding and as soon as that happens I am ready for the BIG SIGNING party. Never give in we all know it will happen anyday now just keep writing we are 200 per cent behind you.
Wow, I go for lunch and come back to SO MUCH LOVE!
Mr. Deke – I always know you’re behind me 200% – you are my rock and my inspiration. I can’t wait to be able to make you a kept man. Golf every day, I promise!
Amy – I am crashing your hotel in NY to go see those pjs! Thanks for your constant support!
Maureen – we WILL get there. Dammit!
Julie, thanks so much – I look forward to reading Stalking Susan soon! Good luck on your launch (although you have so much buzz going, you won’t need it).
Lynn – Perfect storm – you’re so right. I love this analogy!
Heather – thanks for visiting – you can bud to the front of the line!
Michael (the Opressor?) – thanks for your nice words – something to consider…
Lisa, thanks for the reminder we’re not alone in our struggles. Although I hate knowing other people have to, it is comforting to know I’m not the only one.
Jess, thanks so much! I’ve never been one for the luck thing, but yeah, I figure if I stick around long enough, something will land.
Mandy, thanks for dropping by. I can’t wait to celebrate with you on your imminent good news!
And Mom, thanks for dropping by – Thank goodness for Blackberrys! Don’t be surprised if you are asked to make kugel for my big book launch party in the future. Thanks to you and Dad, (who’s probably trying on shoes in the outlet mall right now) for everything.
I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Joanne my entire life and I can still remember the day she joined our family!
One thing I know about you J is that your dedication and perseverance is second to none. You are an inspiration to everyone who knows you. I’ve enjoyed everything you have written and I know you will achieve the success you so richly deserve.
Please keep up the hard work.
Excellent post. You’ve hit these truths spot on. Especially the part about writing because you have to write. Anyone who’s in it for the ‘fame’, ‘glamor’ or ‘money’ is in the wrong business.
Keep on keeping on! It only takes ONE editor to recognize the genius of your work. S/he’s out there. : )
Joanne, I am rooting for you! As I wept and laughed right along with your post, I also realized all over again how much I love writing. Writers write not for fame or fortune but because it a passion, a love that connects our minds, hearts and soul. I so often think through my fingers and I would have no other way. Yes, I dream of being published but rejection can not end my absolute love affair with writing. I will buy multiple copies of your book when it hits the shelves. 🙂
I know you will be published one day and I can’t wait! Your writing always keeps me turning the pages and laughing out loud. I am always here for you and you will always have my support. By the way, don’t knock the snoopy pj’s I have the same ones.
Joanne, I hope you had a great day at The Ball. It was lovely to have you hear and so nice to see so many family and friends popping by. (Yay, Marcia for paying attention to Joanne’s blog-commenting tutorial!)
So, did you find it kind of addictive?
Mike – thanks for coming out. Nothing like a sweet older brother to get a girl tearing up! (Jenny, where are your brother horror stories?)
Gerb – thanks for dropping by – I so appreciate your encouragement!
Thanks Karen – only other writers totally get it and I know you do! (and thank you for your offer to buy multiple copies – any editors out there tonight? I have bona fide PRE-PUB Sales!)
Shel, aw shucks, thanks. I know you’re always there, and those Snoopy pjs rock, don’t they?
Danielle – I did have a great day, even though it was kind of spent obsessively checking for new posts. Perhaps a little addictive, but then with so many AWESOME people coming out to root for me and add their comments, how could it NOT be???
p.s. Marcia would have been here even if she’d had to call Bill Gates to have him give her a personal tutorial – I have little doubt.
Great post. I love your honesty and insight. Your two new works sounds wonderful. I bet you’ll get The Call very soon. I will also be in line to buy your books!
Fabulous post! Don’t forget to send me an invite to that big signing party when it happens. I bet it will be soon, and I don’t want to miss it. The same goes for you too, Maureen! 🙂
Oh I love the image of you in your Snoopy jammies and the imprint of the keyboard on your forehead. I can’t wait to celebrate with you when you become an “over night success.”
I love your writing and look forward to being able to read the rest of your stuff in published form! find you eminently readable. Just hope you remember your scrabble buddy when you are big and famous!
All the best,
Gail – you won’t need an invite to my big singing party, you’ll hear me yelling from the rooftops (of course, it helps that you’re only about 20 blocks away).
Eileen, thanks. Don’t you love that whole overnight success concept?!
Andrea, thanks for stopping by! And you’re not just a scrabble buddy, you’re FAMILY (which means you are obligated to buy more copies when the books come out).
I feel like such a bride here – I haven’t had a day that was so all about me since my wedding day, almost 10 years ago. This debutante thing ROCKS! Thanks again, everyone!
Just to clarify – I’m not having a singing party, but someday will have a signing party. God, you SO don’t want me to have a singing party! This is what I get for posting at 6:15 am, pre coffee.
Great post. You’re doing all the right things…I have no doubt it’s just a matter of timing at this point and I agree, your current projects sound great!
What a great post, Joanne. Your persistence inspires me. I know this will happen for you!
I love your mom!
“Publishing Perception: All authors are rich and bring in huge advances.” What, you don’t? 😉 This is SO true though, and it permeates almost every type of writing.
As one of your lucky beta-readers, I can say with absolute confidence that you’ll be published sooner rather than later. And I’ll still be at your book signings handing out cookies to the people standing in line waiting to meet you.
Oh, and I second the “you need to be blogging” motion!
I did not want to identify myself as family (though I guess the name is a dead giveaway….) but not only will i buy copies of your book, I will have you sign them and have a book club meeting!
Pam – thanks for the nice words.
Liz – thanks for coming by. Mom is quite lovable!
Carrie – thank you for coming out and your unfailing confidence in my work. I appreciate the support and will take you up on your offer to hand out cookies at signings!
Andrea- thanks again. I know the Levy clan will be behind me!
Wow, thanks again everyone!
This was great to read from Joanne! I know how hard Joanne’s worked, since before she got her first agent and I also know she will have to success stories to share one day–by the way, she already IS a success because SHE HASN’T GIVEN UP!!! What an inspiration to us all!
Joanne, your Saturday post made our Saturday one of the biggest Saturdays on the deb site. So you’re already drawing in the crowds!!!
Joanne, your persistence will pay off. I read one of your books and loved it, and so will a publisher. And you’re right, this isn’t an industry for the faint-hearted. Great post!
Ack – I missed a few people! Steph, thanks so much for dropping by. Don’t you sometimes feel like we’ve been around long enough that they just have to give us a deal?
Gail – YAY! my pimping worked!
Monica, thanks for your nice words – I so appreciate my beta readers! Your lips to God’s ears (eyes?)
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