Once I had that first batch of letters in the mail, I started writing another book. It’s a good thing I did, as I had no idea how long it would take for the responses to start coming in. Some of the replies took months, mainly those from publishers. But eventually they all responded and were, of course, all rejections. Well, what was I thinking?
But on the brighter side, I had completed another book by the time all of my initial queries had been answered. And some of the rejections were actually pretty heartening. A few editors requested sample chapters (generally the first three chapters) before passing on my book and often wrote personal letters indicating why they were not interested. Later on, a few editors from major houses actually requested complete manuscripts, the ultimate, especially for one working without an agent. So at least I knew that my queries, synopsis’ and sample chapters had made the cut, even if the deal did not materialize.
In January of 2000, one of my books (my fourth) was accepted by a small paperback publisher, one I had never heard of but had discovered in my growing collection of trusty writer’s manuals. By November of that same year, my book was available to order through most on-line booksellers and by order at most bookstores. Okay, so it wasn’t on shelves all over the country and I didn’t warrant a big write-up in the New York Times, but I was officially a published author. And I’d done it on my own, step by step, with patience and an ever-thickening skin as I brushed off stacks of rejection letters (but filed them away for tax purposes.)
As of this writing I’ve completed a total of ten novels, a second came out in August from this same small publisher and a third is due out in the summer of 2002. My dream to publish with one of the “majors” has not changed, but I’ve learned that the possibility of this happening is slim-unless perhaps one of my published books “makes it big” or at least shows respectable sales and garners some attention in the book world. Despite this fact, I feel that I have learned the up and downs of the process and achieved a degree of satisfaction, considering that I had never thought beyond writing that first book in 1998.
Now, writing is a part of my life, something that I try spend time at every day. I have a small collection of notes and letters from readers of my first two books, which I keep tucked inside of my original author copies. My parents are proud beyond description and I still feel a tiny thrill when I see my titles listed on Amazon.com or other sites on the Internet.
I outlined these steps in my letter of advice to that friend of a friend, stressing the need for patience and realistic expectations. Many more books are written each year than are accepted for publication, and even among those chosen, only a few achieve the kinds of sales that enable a writer to “write for a living.” I’ve experienced my share of disappointments throughout my brief career and adjusted my goals accordingly.
Maybe one day, one of my books will be picked up by the very person who can elevate my book sales with a simple nod of approval. If not, I’ll be satisfied with knowing that I accomplished a goal I had set as a teenager – which was simply to “write a book someday.” Having a book or two published, with my name on the cover, was not something I had dared to dream.