There are so many factors that play into getting published:
Writing your novel.
Editing your novel.
Letting other people read and critique your novel.
Querying your novel.
Finding an agent.
Finding an editor.
Selling your novel.
Editing your novel again.
Rereading your novel.
Hating your novel.
Loving your novel.
Hating it again.
Falling back in love with your novel.
Getting excited that your novel's pre-sale links are up.
Getting reviews from real readers.
Your book going on sale officially.
Sharing your story with others.
Enjoying the glow of being a first-time author!
Writing another book.
But if I could tell an aspiring author one thing that matters most about the entire publishing process, whether she is choosing traditional or self-publishing, it's have PATIENCE.
This industry takes A LOT of patience. But it's totally worth it. The first time you see your book cover. The first time you see buy links. The first time you get a review--someone other than your mom or sister actually READ your freaking book! It's exciting.
But it can feel like a roller coaster too. There are MANY times I told my husband I was going to give up. I wasn't sure I was good enough. I wasn't sure I had anything important enough that anyone would want to read. I wasn't sure I could do it.
I read a ton of stories from other authors who talked about their road to publication. How the road was bumpy. Some had hills, while others had pot holes, flat tires, and natural disasters to contend with. Hearing their stories gave me hope. I realized it's not meant to be easy. It's not meant to be quick.
I had to earn it.
So if you're interested, or you need a boost of confidence like I did, below is my story of how I got published.
I started writing seriously around the summer of 2010. I was pregnant with my first son and something happened to my brain. I'd always had a creative side, but it was amplified by a million while I was pregnant. All I knew what that I had characters talking to me (got worried for awhile that I had actual voices in my head) and they had to be heard. So I started writing. I listened to what they had to say about their struggles, their family, and their secrets. And I found that I really loved learning about them. And I especially loved using the things they told against them. I purposely put them in funny situations just to see how they would react.
But during that same time, since I was writing for my own enjoyment, I also realized that my stories didn't have a lot of structure. So I joined some writing groups and took online writing classes to learn about plotting.
And the entire time I was in the "learning" stage, I was dying. I didn't want to take the time to slow down and learn. I just wanted to get words down! I wanted to be published NOW! Which would explain why a lot of my early works had small bright spots, but as a complete novel they lacked depth and substance.
I'd joined Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers, and found critique partners that were far more talented than me. But instead of backing away from their skill, I tried to leverage it. I asked questions. I listened to their advice. I read their work. And I started to see a difference in my own writing.
After about a year and a half, I had finally completed what I would call my first REAL novel. I felt more confident that it had three dimensional characters, it had the semblance of a plot, it had suspense, humor, and my voice. I feel like the last is the most important piece. Finding your voice as an author will help you more than anything. It's you. It's how you phrase things. No one can take that from you.
So once I'd found my voice and my style of writing, and had a viable completed manuscript, I started querying agents. Also around the same time, I entered contests. RWA has a lot of great local chapter contests where you can submit the opening pages of your MS, and if you final, those pages can be viewed by judges, who are agents and editors in your genre. I focused a lot of my time on contests. I had a good number of requests for partials and fulls, and it really helped to boost my confidence. But it also helped me to see that I was on the right path. My writing was up to par. My hook was garnering interest. I was onto something.
I started to become more active on Twitter, attempting to network with other writers and experts in the industry. That's when I came across #PitchMadness. It's a contest that Brenda Drake hosts with a slew of other really awesome authors and bloggers. I can't say enough about Brenda and her peeps. Holy cow. They go the extra mile for non-pubbed authors and really help give exposure to our work that I honestly feel we normally wouldn't get. It was a fantastic experience. I have to give major props to Summer Heacock, who is SUPER GIRL! She supported my pitch from day one.
If you're interested in reading my pitch, click here. That contest was in September of 2013. Three years after I started writing for real. Like I said, patience. I received a great number of requests from agents from that one pitch. It took two additional months to allow the agents to read through the partial or full they'd requested. I spent that time updating the MS based on their comments/wishes. Then November 2013 (Thanksgiving evening, actually) I received an email from my agent, saying that she'd like to represent me. I couldn't believe it. After three long years of blood, sweat and words, I had landed an agent!
But the story doesn't end there, folks. After I signed with her, we spent the next few months cleaning up the MS and making sure it shined. Then by January 2014, we had put my MS out on submission.
This is where the most patience comes into play. This part of the process can feel like it takes FOREVER. For me, it was an entire year. I signed with Entangled Publishing in January 2015. Five years after I'd started writing. And two years after I entered the querying/contest world.
I continued to write to pass the time, honing my craft and working on stretching my abilities as an author. By January 2016, my editor and I were knee-deep in edits for my debut novel. And I'm happy to say that on Monday May 23, 2016, my novel, ON HER SIX, will officially be published!
Six years. It took me six full years of learning, trying, succeeding, failing, loving, hating, and learning some more before I was able to make it happen. I'll be a published author!!
I know it might have taken much quicker for some authors, or much longer for others. To that I say CONGRATULATIONS. You didn't give up. You held onto your dream, and that's what matters. It's so easy to doubt yourself. To say that it isn't worth it.
But it is. Hold onto that feeling you get every time you sit down at the computer. Hold onto that feeling you get when you laugh/cry/love something your characters say or do. Hold onto it.
It's worth it.