I started writing my first novel on January 1, 2015. I finished that book in June of 2015 and immediately started querying. No one but me had read it. No betas, critique partners, husbands (I only have one), dogs or friends. Somehow, I thought I had written a best seller and I would sell it immediately.
When no agents requested from my queries, I started googling “how to get an agent.” And read with horror how some writers took two, even three books before they signed with an agent. What? That wouldn’t happen to me! But alas, yes, it did.
I had no idea back then how difficult it was to sign with an agent. I hadn’t done my research, but once I did, I realized I had a LOT to learn. With help from blogs like The Debutante Ball, I learned the proper way to query and joined critique groups. I signed up for a workshop to learn how to write a pitch and started connecting with other writers on Twitter. Before then, I had no idea what Twitter was. Why would anyone care about my twits (yes, I thought that was what it was called).
Being in the query trenches is hard. For that first novel, I was all alone. I didn’t know a single person who was also a writer. I didn’t tell anyone that I had written a book. It felt like a shameful secret. I got five requests from agents but ultimately didn’t sign with one. So I buckled down and wrote a second book, learning from everything I’d researched online. That book did better, getting me fifteen requests. But again, no offers of representation.
I decided to stop writing. Because what was I doing, making no money from this, spending all this time and angst, only to be rejected again and again? But by then, I had started connecting with other writers on Twitter and in my critique groups. They all encouraged me not to give up. I decided to give it one last hurrah. I would do everything I could to make Book 3 the best that it could be, drawing from everything I’d learned in the past few years. If I was going to quit writing, I would go out with a bang.
And you know what? That third book got me my agent. You can read about How I Got My Agent from my website. The moral of my story is, if you really love to write and feel you have a story to tell, don’t give up. Keep an open mind, learn as much as you can and keep doing it. Because for me, that perseverance and a determination to get better is what kept me going through all the rejections and the years of seeing other people sign with agents and get book deals.
Everyone’s path to publication is different. Find other writers who understand and who will bolster you and keep you writing when you want to give up. Connect with writers who are ahead of you in the publication journey. But above all else, believe in yourself. A rejection isn’t a rejection of you as a writer. It only prepares you for all the ups and downs of publishing. And when you finally find the agent that says yes, or the editor who buys your book, you’ll be so glad you didn’t give up when the waiting got tough. I know I was.
Lyn Liao Butler
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