Please welcome NANCY S. THOMPSON!
Two-and-a-half years ago, I experienced a moment of profound inspiration. The result was my first book, THE MISTAKEN. I didn’t actually think I could complete a full-length novel, but I did, and when I was done, I had to figure out what I wanted next. Yeah sure, it was a great accomplishment, but still, did I want this to be only for me, or did I want more? Turns out, I wanted more.
So I started researching what it took to get published in today’s marketplace. At that time, I was too naive to know how daunting a task that really was, so I soldered on, one step at a time. I placed a message on Nathan Bransford’s forums, looking for a critique partner, and, once I found a few, started revising, a never-ending process. Then I began to research how to write a query letter, another eternal but necessary chore.
While investigating all this publishing stuff, I kept reading about the concept of a platform and how aspiring authors need one in order to be heard and someday market themselves. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but one site suggested I start my own blog. That made me laugh. Who would ever want to read what I had to say?
Well, not many, at first, obviously, after all, nobody knew me, but that was easy enough to change, though it took some time. So I started my blog, which, at the time, I called A Writer’s Journey, and through it I met, followed, and discussed the issues I was interested in with other people just like me, assorted aspiring writers and a few published authors. Turns out, we had a lot in common, and, for the most part, these folks knew a lot more than I did about writing and publishing. So I met their friends and their friends’ friends, and so on. I surrounded myself with a nice circle of writers who were all at various points along the way.
But I still had to do the work, make my manuscript sing. No small task, let me tell you. And I had to write a kickass query. I think I had probably twenty-five in all. They evolved as I received rejections, entered contests, and received feedback. All those rejections and lost contests were difficult to handle, but I learned something each and every time, and the experience toughened my skin, which, as any writer worth his or her salts will tell you, is absolutely imperative.
So by that time, it became more about tenacity and persistence. I’d heard that it can sometimes take years to land an agent or a book deal. And if that’s what it took, I would do it, because in the end, what did I have to lose? Well, nothing, really, except maybe some self-confidence and pride. But that was usually only temporary. And because I tend to analyze what works and what doesn’t, I decided to change things up a bit and query a new start-up publisher directly. I had good results from that and eventually got my deal.
It’s not perfect. I don’t have the perks of the Big Six or their imprints, but I did get published. And that’s what I really wanted. Now I have work on the marketing. Everyone says authors have to do most of this on their own, and they’re right. And while I find it daunting since I know nothing about marketing, I’ll do whatever it takes. It’s just another step in a journey in which I had no practical experience. So this part is no different from any other, really.
There is no magic button or shortcut, no easy way about it. Writing is difficult and publishing more so. It takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication. And there’s not a great deal of payoff financially. You can’t be in the business for money or you’ll be sorely disappointed. But there are other payoffs, other ways in which to feel satisfied. Most of that comes from the writing itself. The people you meet along the way, the things you learn, the way it changes you, well, those are the unexpected benefits and are equally gratifying.