Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Patience: Encouragement From an Agent

Several days ago, I came across this blog post by the lovely Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary.  For obvious reasons, I found it deeply encouraging (because, yanno, WAITING).

Seriously.  Take a few minutes to read it.  Those of you who have been around here for awhile know that I am the poster child of The Long Journey That Still Hasn't Brought Me Somewhere Quantifiable (or something like that).  I'm not giving up, and neither should you, regardless of what stage you're at.

(Unless, of course, you've determined that it actually IS time to give up.  But that's a different story.)

The "overnight success" stories are the ones that burn our ears and whisper to us that the cards are stacked against us.  And yes, sometimes a first query round DOES produce an agent.  And sometimes a first round of submissions DOES produce a book sale in five weeks.

But that's not the norm.

Go read Sarah's blog post, and then come back here and tell me what you think.  Honestly, this is a must-read for ANY author currently on submission, and any serious writer in general.

And thank you, Sarah, for being a voice of encouragement to those who are determinedly seeking the traditional route to publication.  Today you are our champion!


  1. Great post that once again illustrates how you must be doing this, first and foremost, because you enjoy it and the words cry to get out.

    I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, and I am always struck by the similarities between them and writers, since both are trying to bring a product to market. For the most part, "successful" entrepreneurs have failed their way there -- their first, or second or even third ventures didn't succeed, either, but these were all vital learning experiences that moved them closer to their goals.

    And, guess what -- most entrepreneurs say their motivation isn't the promise of a big pay day, it's the fact that they are doing something they love to do.

  2. Great post (and great agent!) :)

    Some of the reader comments on Sarah's post reflect our industry climate; a few people did not see her post as a tale in preserverence, but that the author had wasted six years when she could have been making money by self-publishing.

    As Sarah pointed out in a comment on the blog, every writer's career is different. I'm tied in to Romance Writers of America and self-publishing is transforming that organization. Indie pub romance is doing very well, and now that a number of big names have stepped out (most were traditionally pubbed first and have a backlist) this is opening the door for new writers to see self-publishing success. It's awesome, inspiring, and exciting.

    For me, writing YA, the ebook market is not as robust as some other genres. Maybe in 2-4 years it will be. I personally want my books in schools and libraries. I have specific things I'm looking for in a career and do not feel equipped to run a self-pub business right out the gate as a debut author. Those are all personal decisions each writer needs to make for themselves.

    It's a good point too that often the first book shopped around to publishers does not get picked up. It doesn't mean its the end for that book, but usually with subsequent books, writing improves.

    Anyway, I didn't mean for this to go traditional vs. indie. RWA has shown me it's not an either/or, it's options and the best thing you can do is educate yourself on the options so you know where to focus your energy.

  3. This post by Sarah offers a great balance to the daily announcements of all those shiny new book deals we can torture ourselves with. Some of those book deals happened overnight, some happened to previously published authors or experts in other fields who already bring an attractive platform to their project, and some of those deals have been hard-fought and are the fruits of much patience. Here's to patience and eventual fruit, and here's to encouragements like this that keep us going while we work out way through the doldrums. Thanks for the link!

  4. Thank you for the inspiration. This is needed and appreciated!

  5. Ah, encouragement! How I need you!!

    (Great comments above, too.)

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  7. My stats are not that different from Jennifer's. I started to write my first novel in 2005. I sent my first query in February of 2008. By the time I got my first agent, I had sent 400 queries for three books and it was May of 2010. In retrospect, I know that the first of these two books were not good enough.

    The book that got me my first agent got lovely feedback but did not sell. Neither did the next one. During this time, I wrote a few other books that my agent didn't like or that I didn't like/didn't finish. The third book that went on submission did not sell initially. Then I decided to take a break from writing and left my agent. I took some time to re-write that book and revise another I had written during that time. A few months later, I signed with another agent and a few months after that, the revised version of the third book sold. When this book comes out, it will be 5 years from when I got my first agent and 10 years after I started to write my first book. Does this mean traditional publishing is slow? Sometimes. But it also means that this is how long it took me to write a book that would sell. That's why they tell you to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. No one can tell you how many years it will take to create a book that will sell, but they can tell you one thing: you will never sell one if you stop trying.

    1. Well said Holly. Cheers to your perseverance!

    2. Holly, that's immensely encouraging. So was the reading, Authoress! Thank you.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I agree with some of the commenters on Sarah's blog that reading about Jennifer's experience is both encouraging in some ways and discouraging in others.

    And it's interesting to note that in 2009 YA contemporary was very hard to sell, but from what I've seen, by 2013 -- just four years later -- it had become the hottest commodity and just what all the agents are looking for. So that shows how quickly the trends can swing back and forth, which is certainly reason to hold onto a novel and be patient if it's just not the right time for it.

    But I have to admit that it frustrates me to hear people say something won't sell because it's 'too quiet', since I think many of my favorite books would fit that description, and it makes me wonder how many books that I would really love to read don't get published. :(

  9. It's inspiring and a bit of a reality check to read about Sarah and Jennifer's journey. Every success was met by a detour or a road block, and yet they kept pushing on. And their hard earned success is a testament to how they didn't give up. I respect that so much and I'm so glad they shared their journey with us. I know it's something I needed to hear as I move forward in the next step of my writing career.

  10. Wonderful inspiration to KEEP WRITING! Thank you and have a GREAT day!

  11. As always, thanks for sharing. The article from Sarah LaPolla was AMAZINGLY inspirational. I truthfully laughed OUT LOUD when I read: "May 2013: I decide Jennifer hasn't had enough drama and leave Curtis Brown for a new agency."

    Oh that Sarah is a hoot!

    Jennifer's story is proof that persistence can pay off! I'm anxiously waiting to add my own name to the list of success, along with my writerly friends. Which also means, I'm patiently waiting for the unveiling of Miss Authoress:-)

    Oh...and KUDOS to Holly!!! Way to go woman!!!