When I sent Give the Lady a Ride out on the publication trail, I knew–at least in my head–that getting published is difficult. I knew to expect rejection, and boy, were my expectations met. I did get published, though, after treading water for months in a sea of Nos. In fact, Cat Lady has already received its first rejection, but judging from the letter, it had more to do with timing than anything else. I have since discovered that if I’d submitted a month earlier, I would’ve had a better shot. This particular agent had just accepted two new clients to add to her current work load, and I guess adding a third was just a bit too much.
Thanks to Jane Friedman, though, I’m not too discouraged. In her article “Revising Your Path to Publication” (Writer’s Digest, July/August 2011), she listed “Signs You’re Getting Closer to Publication,” and I hit pretty good on the signs:
* You start receiving personalized, “encouraging” rejections.
Actually, that started happening about midway with Ride, after I got rejected by Oak Tara. The publisher wrote a wonderful letter, telling me precisely what was wrong with my manuscript, and after licking my wounds for a little while, I fixed it according to her suggestions. Afterwards, all the rejections were personalized and encouraging–but still rejections.
* Agents or editors reject the manuscript you submitted, but ask you to send your next work. (They can see you’re on the verge of producing something great).
That happened twice last year. So, of course, Cat Lady is heading out to those agents first. It may not be a fit for them, but we’ll never know if I don’t try.
* Your mentor (or published author friend) tells you to contact his agent, without you asking for a referral.
That happened with Cat Lady–in fact, the agent recommended is the one I was too late for. But I tell you, my author friend’s reaction to Cat Lady was both a wonderful surprise and a huge boost. She wrote several emails praising the book and suggested only one change, which took all of a half a page to do. Maybe her reaction is why I’m nervous about sending Cat Lady out. Not everyone will get it or will endure the writing liberties I took. So far, veteran writers love it, newbies fuss because I’ve “broken the rules.” Oops. Well, rules are made to be broken. We’ll see how many hand-slaps I get over time.
* An agent or editor proactively contacts you because she spotted your quality writing somewhere online or in print.
Nope. That one hasn’t happened. I did have an agent who I met in Indianapolis in 2010 contact me a couple of times wondering if Cat Lady was finished. (Yep, the manuscript is in his office awaiting a verdict as I write this).
* You’ve outgrown the people in your critique group and need to find more sophisticated critique partners.
Actually, a few of us have broken from the pack together. Each of my critters excel in something different from the other, and they’re all vital to me. The only reason I went outside the group with Cat Lady is because they already knew the twists and turns. If my new author friend is willing, though, she’ll be a terrific addition to an already stellar group.
* Looking back, you understand why your work was rejected, and see that it deserved rejection. You probably even feel embarrassed by earlier work.
Give the Lady a Ride is my second completed novel, so to be able to say it’s published by a royalty-paying house is an honor, regardless of how small the house is. My first novel, Shattered Crystal, seriously deserved the rejections it got. It’s beyond repair, and has been deleted from every existing computer I’ve ever owned, and the printed copy is dry-rotting in a drawer. My second novel attempt, Petting Wet Cats, only a quarter finished, is also dry-rotting. There’s no point trying to revive it.
You may be wondering why I’m looking at these signs, since I’m already published. Surely book two will be a shoe-in, right?
In the longrun, just being published isn’t my goal. I’m hoping for a major house. Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, B&H. That’s what I want, and since The Cat Lady’s Secret doesn’t reach the word count–again–I may miss my goal–again. If so, I’ll go back to the drawing board and try again. Cat Lady may wind up at a small house, but I still want to strive for my goal.
Does that make sense?
Anyway, how are you doing according to Friedman’s list? How close to getting published are you? What are your publication goals?