The (Publishing) SecretPosted: February 2, 2014
This is a guest post by Mary Elizabeth Summer, YA author.
As an aspiring writer, I always wanted authors who had battled their way into the temple of traditional publishing and come back out the other side to tell me what the secret formula was, what diamond of creative wisdom they wrenched from the stone jaws of the mummy’s tomb. I wanted a guaranteed, proven path from point A to point Z so that I could unlock the same treasures.
Having now gone in myself and come out knowing that the more I learn, the more I find I don’t know, I can honestly tell you that the secret to unlocking traditional publishing is this:
There is no secret.
It’s not about who you know. It’s not about your age or experience. It’s not about how long you’ve been fighting to get there. It’s not about your platform. It’s not about the market. It’s not about the numbers. It’s not about the words, even. It’s not about any one particular thing. There are as many exceptions as there are rules.
For example, I got my dream agent through a query contest at Cupid’s Literary Connection. I actually hardly queried at all. But my editorial submission process was fairly normal. It took months of anxious nail chewing and several rejections before I got my book deal. On the other hand, one of my friends took many agonizing months getting an agent to turn around and sell her book in less than a month on submission. Another one of my friends got a book deal through an e-book first imprint without any agent help at all. Every story is different.
But even as I write this, I realize I’m lying to you. There is one thing all of us have in common:
We don’t give up.
Even when we get there and discover that the treasure is going to take an enormous amount of work to haul out. We still get discouraged, we still rejected, we still worry that we’re not good enough, not committed enough, not savvy enough to navigate the capricious market. We get scathing reviews, we get passed up for awards, we get bad news, and we still have to paste on a smile when our well-meaning friends ask us how it’s going.
But we don’t give up. So maybe that’s the secret. Sheer stubborn will power to make the dream come true. Hold onto that, and no matter what your path, you’ll get there.
Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce”. She lives in Portland Oregon with her partner, their daughter, and their evil overlor—er, cat. TRUST ME, I’M LYING is her debut novel. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr