Getting published: finding your own path and going at your own pace

Hello gentle reader,

In 2010, I wrote a Sci-Fi novel and I sent it to my former English teacher with a question: “Is this good enough to be published?” Incredibly – given the poor quality of my Masterpiece – she didn’t say “NO WAY”. Instead she told me: “If you work hard and you really want this, I don’t see why not.”

So I embarked on my very own publishing journey, full of hopes and dreams. I chose the traditional route, because it was what felt like the best way for me and my stories. It still feels that way, actually.

 

Soon enough, I found other writers on the same path: people writing a manuscript, or people with a manuscript looking for an agent. I read their blog, followed them on Twitter, made a lot of writerly friends with whom I could share the aforementioned hopes and dreams.

I wrote another novel (a YA High Fantasy), found beta readers and Critique Partners, and after a year I queried it.

It turned out finding an agent who loved my manuscript was even harder than predicted.

At the end of 2012, I made the decision to shelve my YA High Fantasy and to start working on another story.

I began writing a YA Victorian Fantasy.

In the meantime, I started noticing the writing community around me had changed.

Some simply quit and disappeared, sometimes with one last blog post explaining their decision, sometimes without a whisper.

Some got an agent and later on a publishing deal, leaving the shore of unpublished writers for the land of authors.

Others got a publishing deal with a small press or an independent publisher, and saw their book come out within 9 months or a year.

And a staggering, STAGGERING number decided to self-publish.

Now, I’m not criticising the last two publishing paths in the slightest. I just know one thing: those publishing options aren’t for me. Self-publishing is way more work than I can handle, and dealing with a publisher (whatever its size) means I need an agent to tell me what (not) to do.

Three years on, and I now find myself rather lonely on my publishing road.

Out of all the writers I met online or in person in the past 3 years, many, many of them now have a book out or a soon-to-be-published book.

And I’m still walking on the path, with my manuscript in hand and my hopes and dreams with me, forever convinced I will find the right agent and traditional publisher in the end.

And it struck me the other day that maybe I’m not as alone as I think in this situation.

When you spend a lot of time around the writing community, it sometimes feels like EVERYONE you know now has an agent and/or a book out.

But it’s not true. We just hear more about those who have exciting news than about those who are STILL looking for an agent after three years.

So if you’re one of those lonely writers without news for the world, remember this:

–          Going at your own pace is fine. What matters is getting where you want.

–          Don’t give up on your traditional publishing dream because it’s slow to come true.

–          Don’t give up, period.

–          Write the best book you can, and do your best, always. Someone will notice in the end.

–          Enjoy the journey without worrying about what others accomplish. One day, you will accomplish those things too.

And never stop writing.

Querying, making sense of rejections and finding the right agent

Hello gentle reader,

September is just around the corner, and for some of you it might mean a new step in your writing endeavours: the querying process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume you’ve done your homework, finished and polished your manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines. You’ve read all the success stories about writers who got multiple offers one week after sending out their query and signed with an agent within 3 months. So you send out a batch of queries and you start drafting your “How I got my agent” blog post while refreshing your inbox. You’re ready for the offers of representation to roll in.

Except instead, rejections start piling up.

And you have no idea where things have gone wrong.

So here is a little 4-stage guide to help you make sense of those rejections and hopefully help you on your way to finding your perfect agent match.

Stage 1

The problem: You’re getting form rejections, with one or two random partial requests thrown in to keep you guessing.

The diagnostic: At this stage, it’s likely the issue lies with your query letter. “But,” you’ll say, “my letter follows the guidelines and doesn’t even mention Harry Potter!” Fair enough. But to compete with the hundreds of query letters that land each month in the literary agent’s inbox, your letter has to stand out and be stellar.

The solution: Revise your query letter. Post it on forums like Agent Query Connect, Absolute Write or WriteOnCon. Enter contests and giveaways offering a query letter critique. Revise again. Re-draft until your letter is concise, clear, eye-catching and true to your story. Writing an outstanding query letter might take 20 or 30 drafts, but if it gets your manuscript requested, who’s counting?

Stage 2

The problem: You’re getting partial requests, which turn into rejections with a personal comment from the agent.

The diagnostic: There’s something wrong with your first 50 pages. Whether it’s pace, characterization or plot holes, hopefully you’re getting the same feedback at least a couple times.

The solution: Revise your manuscript. Work with your Critique Partners to fix your manuscript’s issues. Once your revisions are done, send your story to beta readers who haven’t read it before and listen to their feedback. Enter contests and giveaways to win a manuscript critique from an editor, an author or even better, an agent.

Stage 3

The problem: You’re getting full requests, which turn into rejections with detailed feedback or a Revise and Resubmit (R&R) request.

The diagnostic: There’s something wrong with your manuscript, and agents highlight what it is.

The solution: Again, revise, get feedback, revise again, and resend.

Stage 4

The problem: You’re getting requests left and right, which all turn into “I like it but I’ll pass” rejections (aka the “not for me but best of luck with it” rejection, aka the “not the right fit for me at the moment” rejection, aka the “I didn’t fall in love with it” rejection).

The diagnostic: It’s the hardest one, because there’s nothing wrong with your query letter or your manuscript. Nothing the agents are telling you about anyways.

The solution: KEEP QUERYING. You’re so close to your goal, the next agent you’ll contact might be the one falling in love with your story. And this is the one agent you want, the best possible match, the one who will wholly believe in your manuscript’s potential.

So tell me: which stage of the querying process are you at now? Do you have any questions I didn’t answer in this post? Or any advice for other querying writers? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Querying a book during the summer: a few tips

Hello gentle reader,

Yesterday on Twitter the very talented Heather Marie ‏(@xHeatherxMariex) and DahliaAdler ‏(@MissDahlELama) had a discussion on whether or not it was a good idea to query a book during the summer. You can read it here if you’re interested (and you should also follow these two amazing ladies!).

I’ve often heard it’s better to forget querying from mid-June to mid-August, and this was Heather’s opinion: her point was that when agents and editors are out-of-office for various reasons, writers are less likely to get replies and they should therefore wait until September to contact them.

But what if your manuscript is ready now? Aren’t you wasting precious time if you wait two months to query it? As Heather pointed out at the end of the Twitter conversation: the decision to query –or not query – during the summer is up to you in the end.

As some of you may know, I made the decision to start querying Lily In The Shadows at the end of June. So here are my tips to make the most of the querying process during the summer.

1) Make sure your manuscript is completed and polished.

This is true whatever the season you choose to query it. Ask yourself if you could spend these summer months making your story the best it can be. My friend Kate is doing this right now. She badly wanted to query her book this summer, but she realised it was best to polish it first, and query it in the fall.

2) Follow agents on Twitter

It is likely agents will mention on Twitter when they are out of their office this summer. When they do, make a note of it: it will save you the anxious wait for a reply during this time.

3) Enter online contests

Some agents are still here, and some of them are generous enough to make requests during online contests. This month 3 contests are in full swing: Like A Virgin, Christmas In July, PitchMas. And there are more to come!

4) Attend conferences

Many agents won’t be in their office this summer because they will be attending writers’ conferences. Go and meet them there! And if you can’t attend a conference, make a note of the dates of the most important ones (in July: Romance Writers of America’s Annual Conference, San Diego Comic Con, Midwest Writer Workshop, etc.).

That’s it for my tips to query during the summer! Do you have other ideas to make the most of the querying process in July-August? Make sure to leave me your thoughts and questions below!

2012 : My Writing Year In Retrospect

Hello gentle reader,

I have been writing for 15 years but to me 2012 was the year I became a writer. Here is how it happened…

January: I am sitting on top of a pile of unpublished manuscripts in a castle in England, when my friends and family unwittingly suggest “Why don’t you try and get one of those published?” and I say, well, why not?

Downton Abbey - Dowager Countess

February: I read several books about getting published. I have a hunch this won’t be easy. I decide on focusing on my YA High Fantasy THE LAST QUEEN.

belle-and-gaston-beauty-and-the-beast

March: I start my blog. To my surprise, people other than my father follow it.

Sherlock-Watson

April: I attend the London Book Fair. I realise there are many would-be-published writers out there and this “get a book published” endeavour might not be as easy as I thought. I decide nothing can stop me now. I start the “A Round of Words in 80 Days” writing challenge.

Merlin-Morgana

May: I send a query to 3 agents, get 1 request, then a final rejection. I decide it’s time I take this vampire writing thing seriously.

jessica-true-blood

June: I join in JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month) and find out writing a book in a month is not for me. I decide this sort of challenge can’t be for everyone.

Angel-Ozon-Garai

July: I take part in the Hookers and Hangers Blogfest (hosted by Falling For Fiction) and I post the first and last lines of THE LAST QUEEN on my blog. I get good feedback as well as a record number of comments, and I connect with many awesome people.

despicable-me-agnes

August: 3 words: Write On Con. More critiques, more awesome people, more connections, more motivation.

shakespeare-in-love

September: my blog is 6 months old and for some reason it is taking off.

veronica-mars

October: with the help of some wonderful CPs and beta readers (especially Aimee L. Salter and Jessica Montgomery) I revise THE LAST QUEEN in depth. I have conversations with people about my MC Elian as if he were a real person. He thinks it’s odd too.

Pillars of the Earth - Eddie Redmayne

November: I start querying THE LAST QUEEN, for good this time. I send out ten queries and get a full request within one week.

Enchanted

December: everyone is on holidays, including the agents I queried. I am sitting in a castle in England and working on a new manuscript. I have writerly friends on Twitter, Facebook, There And Draft Again, and my blog. Life is good.

Gosford Park Elsie

That’s it for me in 2012! How was your year? Leave me a comment below and have a fun New Year’s Eve tonight!

See you next year…

Should you really be writing that YA High Fantasy novel?

Hello gentle reader,

Recently I have been researching agents as I am getting ready to query my YA High Fantasy novel The Last Queen. And when I check out literary agents’ websites to find out what genre they represent, I often find a note along those lines: “represents YA Fantasy, all subgenres, but no high fantasy please”. And I want to bang my head on my keyboard.

When asked why they don’t represent YA High Fantasy, literary agents will often give you one of these two answers:

–          The market for YA High Fantasy is very narrow: only a handful of readers buy those books.

–          The agent herself doesn’t read this genre.

The second answer is fair enough, and I wouldn’t want to be represented by an agent who doesn’t “get” my book anyway. But the first one? I beg to differ.

I went to check the Amazon’s Best-Seller List this morning. Not 6 months ago. THIS MORNING. And in the Top 100 Books for Teens, you find authors like: J.R.R. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Cinda Williams Chima, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini and Laini Taylor. Most of them appear twice in the list. All of them but one appear among the first 40 best-selling books.

Then I checked the new releases to see how the YA High fantasy books released in 2012 are ranked by Amazon (according to their sales). Here is what I found:

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (released October 2012): #318 in Books

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (released September 2012): #4,778 in Books

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (released August 2012): #6,184 in Books

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (released July 2012): #1,592 in Books

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (released June 2012): #4,436 in Books

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (released May 2012): #3,505 in Books

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (released April 2012): #10,834 in Books

NB: The books in bold are debut novels. All rankings are in Books (E-books sales are not taken into account).

You’ll notice that when the release date is further away, sales start to decrease. But even if we take this into consideration, I’d say these sales figures are quite impressive for a subgenre that’s supposedly dying. I’m especially interested in the ranking of debut novels such as Seraphina and Throne of Glass: these books sell really well considering their authors are unknown.

So is YA High Fantasy a subgenre that only a handful of readers buy? I don’t think so. Is shopping around a YA High Fantasy debut novel crazy? A little bit. But not crazier than shopping around a “regular” YA fantasy novel.

What do you think? Have you written a High Fantasy novel for Young Adults? Have you encountered agents who tell you you’ll never sell your book? Is YA High Fantasy dying, or is it the next big thing?

Feel free to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

ROW80 Check-In 10: Rae Carson’s success story

Hello gentle reader and fellow writers,

This week I have been hearing a lot about a British teenage writer who got a 6-figure book deal in less than 2 years. As dreamlike as these publishing stories are, I wanted to highlight another author’s story today.

Rae Carson is a YA High Fantasy author whose first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, came out in 2011. It was a nominee for the Andre Norton Award and the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. It was also an ALA (American Library Association) Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults honoree in 2012. The second book in The Fire and Thorns Trilogy, entitled The Crown of Embers, is coming out on September 18th 2012. Her third book, The Bitter Kingdom, will be published in 2013. In June 2012, she sold a new romantic fantasy trilogy set during the American gold rush to HarperCollins’s Greenwillow Books.

 

Rae’s journey into publishing is interesting because it was slow. She became serious about writing back in 2004, and it took her 7 years to get a book published. Along the way she sold a couple of short stories, wrote a first book which is still in her drawer, then in 2005 she wrote the first draft of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. She got an agent, and never sold the novel to a publisher. So she revised it and decided to go with another agent, who managed to sell the book within 24 hours. It took then another couple of years to have the book sitting on bookshelves in bookstores.

Here is what Rae says on her website:

I graduated college with a degree in Social Science–which qualified me to flip burgers–and a mound of education debt. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Well, that’s not true. I did know. I wanted to be a novelist. But that just wasn’t practical, and I had to come up with something else. I had to have a Plan B. So I tried bank tellering, secretarial work, customer service, inside sales, substitute teaching, data entry, logistics, and even machine shop-ing. I didn’t enjoy any of it.

In 2004, after quitting a very high paying job in a very toxic atmosphere, I decided to get serious about writing. It was the only thing I kept coming back to, the one thing that had held my interest over time and distance and lots of life change. So I joined the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror where I met my future best friends, my future husband, and my calling.

I spent the next few years happily writing awful stuff. During this time, I got to know C.C. Finlay online, and after going on three real-life dates, I moved from California to Ohio to marry him. The writing became a lot less awful, and eventually I sold my first novel to Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

Hindsight is easy, I know, and writing about the awkwardness of adolescence is way easier than living it. But I can say unequivocally that although growing up is hard, it’s totally worth it. It’s possible to become your better self. And dreams, no matter how impractical, are made to be pursued.”

So do you find this story inspirational? Do you believe the traditional route to publishing is too slow? Or does it guarantee great books from great authors for readers? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section!

You can find Rae Carson on Twitter and Facebook.

To write this post, I have used:

http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2012/07/rae-carson-amulet-of-power/

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/09/13/fire-and-thorns-author-rae-carson/

My ROW80 update for this week:

this week I have tried writing a short story AND revising my WIP The Last Queen. The reuslt is that I have a unfinished short story and I’m late in my revisions. So for the last week of this round, I need to focus on revisions.

How are you other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

Gearing Up To Get An Agent Blogfest – Meet and Greet

Hello gentle reader,

this month I am taking part in an exciting blogfest: Gearing Up To Get An Agent (aka GUTGAA) hosted by the amazing Deana Barnhart.

What is GUTGAA? you ask.

GUTGAA is a blogfest Deana Barnhart started last year “in the hopes that those of us striving to reach “agented” status could come together, polish those pitches and have fun at the same time.”

Today is the first day of this blogfest and it’s Meet and Greet time… If you want to join the fun and sign up for the blogfest, you can do so here. Then add a Meet and Greet post on your blog and you will have from today until Friday, Sept 7th to visit others’ blogs and get to know them. Have fun and visit as many as you can!

Questions for the Meet and Greet
Quick bio

I am a writer of YA High Fantasy novels. I live in an English castle, travel extensively, read voraciously, listen to music bands few people have heard of and watch too many movies to count. In case you are wondering, I also have a full-time job, so I mostly write at odd hours and drink a lot of tea. I am also a member of the British Fantasy Society.

Where do you write?
At home, at my desk in my living room. From my window I can see the castle’s park and the beautiful English countryside beyond. No need for a retreat for me!
Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My armchair. This is where I sit to read. And I read A LOT.
Favorite time to write?
Evenings.
Drink of choice while writing?
Tea!
When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I need music to write. I even wrote a blog post about my favourite writing music.
What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
I write epic fantasy. I have had my WIP in me FOREVER. I think I got the inspiration for it about ten years ago. I wanted to write a story with a strong female teenager as the main character. I also liked the idea of a fantasy land where humans were the lesser people. Finally I wanted to write a love story that would be as realistic as possible, although set in an imaginary land.
What’s your most valuable writing tip?

Write every day, and NEVER give up.

Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to comment below and I will definitely pay your blog a visit.

Also you can enter my 100 Followers Giveaway here and win YA books!

Finally, I would love to hear from you on Twitter if you wish to know me better.

ROW80 Check-In 7: What I learned at WriteOnCon

Hello gentle reader,

this week my writing schedule was completely thrown off, thanks to WriteOnCon.

On Friday I did a recap of the online writers conference WriteOnCon and today I thought I could go over a few things I learned during this crazy week. YA writer Aimee L. Salter already wrote a great blog post on this topic and I suggest you read it since she really made the most of the conference (she received six full manuscript requests and a direct referral to an editor!). I was less dedicated than her to fully take advantage of the conference (I only spent a few hours a day in front of the computer) but I did learn a few things worth sharing if you ever want to get published traditionally …

1)      Write an awesome book first.

Having a successful author platform and thousands of followers won’t do any good unless you have a great book to sell. Ultimately, agents and editors want an amazing book that will blow them away. The author platform and the followers will only be the “icing on the cake”.

2)       It’s a crowded world out there.

I read dozens of awesome queries on the WriteOnCon forums. These writers are going to get published, I have no doubt about it. And instead of being depressed by the prospect of having to “compete” with all those great writers, I found that reading their work on the forums  was motivating. Because now I know what agents getting my query will compare it with. I know I have to be as good as all those talented writers out there.

3)      A query has to make your book stand out.

Before WriteOnCon, my query was ok. I had sent it to 5 agents and got 2 partial requests. I hadn’t committed any of the Deadly Sins of Querying. My query was professional and brief. It included the agents’ names, the title of my MS, genre and word count, and a brief summary of the plot/main characters issues. But having an average query is not enough to get published. A query has to be outstanding. I learned that I had to make every word of my query count to make it unique and to really hook my reader.

4)      Don’t rush.

You should never send a query or a manuscript that is not ready and in the best possible shape. But getting your query/MS ready and in the best possible shape takes time. And it’s OK. Take a year to polish your MS. Take two! Revise, revise, revise. If your book is really unique and awesome, it will get published regardless of trends and external influences.

5)      Seek help and feedback.

I have said it before on this blog, but WriteOnCon confirmed my thoughts: you can’t do this alone. You cannot get your MS ready and awesome without people giving you feedback on it.

6)      Listen to the advice of professionals.

They are the ones who will read your query and hopefully buy your book and turn you into the next J.K. Rowling. Listen to what they have to say. Read their blogs, watch their vlogs and seek their advice. Be professional. They are.

7)      Trust your instinct.

A conference such as WriteOnCon is a great way to get advice. TONS of advice. And by the end of the day, you’ll notice contradictions. Don’t mention world-building in your query. Mention some elements of world building in your query. Don’t say you’re planning on writing a book series. Let people know you’ve devised your book as the first installment in a series. Don’t start your novel with a dream/prologue/MC running. It’s ok to start your novel with a dream/ prologue/MC running as long as it’s essential to the story. A YA novel shouldn’t be longer than 75K. No, 80K. No, 100K.  Actually 115K is ok in some cases. The next YA trend is edgy contemporary. No, it’s historical novels… You get the point. If you listen to everyone in the profession, you end up pulling your hair out.

So, at the end of the day, trust yourself. Make your book as awesome as possible and believe in it.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

To check out other fellow ROWers, click here.

WriteOnCon 2012 recap

Hello gentle reader,

you may have noticed that I have been very quiet on this blog since Monday: the reason for this is that I was attending an online writing conference called WriteOnCon.

According to its website, WriteOnCon “is a totally free, interactive online Writer’s Conference held annually during the summer. The first Conference, held August 10-12, 2010, had over 11,000 attendees. (…) WriteOnCon is not exclusive to kidlit writers. In order to stay organized, the curriculum is focused on Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult writers. However, much of the information provided applies to all writers, and many of the publishing professionals who participate cross over.”

This was my first year attending the conference and I have found it to be incredibly useful. The 2012 conference offered live professional panels, vlogs, blog posts, forum events, competitions, critiques and book prizes.

In case you missed it, it is not too late to access some of the most interesting content. I strongly recommend you check out:

– the Live Panel of Professionals (Tuesday) and Live Panel of Professionals (Wednesday): everything you need to know about the publishing world.

– the writing and revision tips: Tips for Starting a New Project, Hooks and Killer First Lines, What is Voice, and How do I Get it?, The Importance of Craft, Plotting with 3×5 cards,  Building Characters into Real People,  Elements of Writing, The Revision Checklist and “Back to Basic” Writing Tips.

– the tips on the querying process: Knowing When Your MS is Ready to Query and The Inside Scoop: Get Your Query Noticed.

– the discussions on genres: Differences between YA and MG, Middle Grade Rules, Picture Book Query Critiques.

– there are also many tips on social media: How to Get Started With Social Media: DON’T Do All The Things! and Blogging Basics

What I liked about the conference was that there were posts for beginners (like Reading like a Book Blogger which discussed the book bloggers’ pet peeves) and other posts for more experienced writers (like Choosing the Right Critique Partners).

My favourite post was World-building in Science Fiction and Fantasy by author Mindee Arnett, mostly because I write Epic Fantasy.

The last aspect of the conference that I loved was getting feedback on my query and some of my writing in the forum. My query is still up if you want to comment on it!

Did you take part in WriteOnCon? Did you find it useful? What did you enjoy most about it? Do comment and share your experience! I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Michelle Hodkin’s Secret to Getting Published

Michelle Hodkin is the author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, a YA paranormal novel and one of my favourite books. The second book in the Mara Dyer series, entitled The Evolution of Mara Dyer, is scheduled to be released on October 23d, 2012. Michelle Hodkin has an amazing blog, that I strongly recommend you check out.

Back in November 2010, Michelle published a post on her blog entitled My secret to getting published. It is an AWESOME and inspirational post, and I have decided to share it with you, would-be-published writers out there.

If you like it, do comment on Michelle’s blog and let her know on Twitter. She’s amazingly nice, so don’t be afraid. And buy The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, while you’re at it.

So, without further ado, here is Michelle’s secret to getting published:

“So! This past weekend, I got an email from a lovely woman the other day asking me to tell her my “secrets” to getting Simon & Schuster to publish my novel. I was SUPER surprised to get the email and super, super flattered! So I dove into my response with enthusiasm—I started writing back to her, and kept writing, and my response became very, very long. And I thought—well, I never expected anyone to email me asking this question, but maybe, since one person did, more people want to know? About my super magic secret to getting my beloved Simon & Schuster to publish THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER?
Well, do ya?
Okay, here it is: I worked hard. 
You thought I was going to tell you that I had no secrets, right? Well, gotcha! Because that’s my secret. Let me explain. When people talk to me about my book or the book deal or I’m confronted with the (very few) people I don’t know who have read it (no ARCs yet, so this number is small), I am very quick to brush off the compliments with a response about how lucky I was and am. You see, I am not the best taker of compliments, even though it makes me GLOW to hear good things. Like, there’s nothing that puts a smile on my face faster than hearing something nice about my book, or the fact that people care enough to want to read it. But when it’s time for me to respond? I’ll say it was the right place, right time, right agent, right editor, right book. And those things are all true to an extent; there are a bunch of folks who also work super hard on their novels and haven’t been published. Yet.
But I have a lot of faith, a lot of faith, that they will be.
Because you dedicated, aspiring authors are writing when your infants are napping and the dishes are done and the pets are fed and when the husband isn’t bothering you, in snatches of 5, 10, or however many minutes you get. You are writing on your thirty minute lunch break from the mentally exhausting day job. You are reading hundreds of industry blogs every day (my count was 115 industry, book, author, and writing blogs before publication, now I am nearing 200) to learn the difference between a problem query and a problem novel. You are reading dozens of novels, both in your genre and out of your genre, and you are reading with a critical eye to find out why these books work, not why they don’t. You are attending writers conferences, in person or online. You are on Twitter, not just chatting (which is valuable) but observing; watching what agents and editors say and following query and #kidlitchat and #yalitchat discussions, whether you agree with the tenor of those discussions or not.
And like me, you revise until your grey matter aches. You expose your words to public critique. You send your book out to beta readers you’ve found (through Twitter or Absolute Write or Verla Kay or maybe just your friends and family, who can be just as helpful) and discover that more important than getting critiques is knowing what crits to take and which to leave, and you have no idea, you really don’t, because you’re flying blind just like I was. But you do it and you do it again and eventually you find a rhythm; you figure out which of your readers excel at patching plot holes and which excel at consistency and which ones to go to when you just need to hear “OMFG THAT SCENE IS SO HOT,” which is just as important.
And all of this writing and reading about writing and revising and observing may mean that your number of watchable television shows dwindles from a meager eight to three to one, like it did for me. It may mean that after three or five or thirty rounds of revisions, you’ve only been able to tear yourself away from your laptop to watch seven movies in a year, like me. It may mean that the mountain of laundry has eaten your laundry room and is threatening to spill into the kitchen (guilty) or that your children are becoming jealous of your “imaginary friends.” You are working hard, and for no guaranteed payoff.  But that dedication, if you keep at it, will pay off. Maybe your first novel isn’t THE novel. Maybe it will be your eleventh novel that takes the publishing world by storm. Or maybe it will be your first—maybe you will have a dream that so consumes you that you have to write about it and the passion you feel for your story is so strong that readers can feel it, too. But either way? You will have worked hard. Because writing for publication isn’t easy. Not for me or for any of the writers I know and not even for the superstar writers out there. If you have been writing for 10 years you will face challenges and if you’ve been writing for ten months? You will face others.
So the only secret to getting published?
Keep at it.”