So, picture this. It’s the middle of July in southern Florida. Hot, sticky, miserable southern Florida. I had just spent the daily quota of 10 minutes outside for a friend’s wedding ceremony, and was relaxing in the A/C enjoying the appetizers set out until the happy couple returned from getting their pictures taken.
It was then that my boyfriend recognized a longtime friend sitting out in the middle of hell’s heatwave having a smoke, and decided to introduce me. This friend was none other than best-selling author William Forstchen. Knowing that I myself write, the boyfriend thought introducing me to Bill would be a fantastic idea, as we could discuss not just writing but getting published. Despite not being a writer himself, the boyfriend seemed to understand the importance of making good contacts in the writing world. So, trying not to quiver in fear, I decided to brave the sauna once again to meet this man who’d made his way into the publishing field.
It began with “This is my girlfriend Lindsay.” and ended with airplanes. My boyfriend is training to be a pilot at Embry-Riddle and spent the entire conversation after introducing me discussing flight. I sat at the table, feeling more than a little sorry for myself, and praying for another ice age while I half-way listened to their discussion of solos and tail-draggers.
I was more than a little frustrated by this, as I had thought I was risking heat-stroke to talk writing with an expert. Instead I was just suffering because I was too proud to get up and leave in the middle of their discussion. Needless to say I may have sulked a little the rest of the evening.
My mood didn’t improve much when I found we’d be giving Bill a ride home either. I managed to stuff myself into the back of my boyfriend’s cobra, and spent the drive once again listening to the boys talking about planes. Finally, I drifted off.
It was in the midst of my sleep induced coma that I heard an exclamation of something like “Oh, I didn’t know you were a writer. What is your book about?”. My mind stumbled awkwardly into wakefulness as I realized that the question was being directed towards me, and that Bill was the one asking.
I muttered something stupid like “Uhhh…” and tried to remember where I was and if I had been drooling. Bill’s next line to me was something like “From here to the house, tell me what your book is about.”
I could have killed my boyfriend at this point for bringing it all up. I almost would have preferred airplanes, as at least I wasn’t required to be conscious for that. The gears in my head were rusty with sleep and churned painfully slow.
Yeah, not the best pitch. Definitely not.
However, Bill was not deterred, and kept pressing until I gave him a very rough, very embarrassed speech on what exactly my book was about.
My fear at being asked to pitch my book while my brain was in zombie mode helped to wake me up a little, and I realized that the opportunity I had been waiting for had arrived. So I plodded into a conversation with this best-selling author, and tried to pretend I knew what I was talking about. Which I didn’t. Not really.
Bill picked up on one thing out of our conversation that I had not mentioned out loud, and that was that I was suffering from the rejection blues. Indeed they had hit me without my knowing. It wasn’t until he pointed it out, that I realized I had stopped querying and writing since the rejections had been flooding in. This is where my earlier suffering finally paid off.
He told me to keep writing. He told me not to give up. “I know plenty of people who’ve written one book, and have never been published,” he said, “but I don’t know anyone who’s written four books and never been published.” No matter what, he encouraged me to keep writing and putting myself out there.
Even when confronted with “I have ideas for several stories, but I don’t know where to start.” He asked why I had to pick one. Why not just write all of them.
He offered other bits of advice as well, in fighting off the rejection blues, and increasing my chances with getting traditionally published.
It hits everyone. The ones who are not published are those who gave in to it, those of us who are published just kept on pushing. If you are not already doing so, stay current with what the major publishing houses are releasing each month in the overall realm of Fantasy and also general fiction that might have a fantasy twist to it. When I was in your situation I would hit the local book store every week or two just to see what was new, which house published what, etc. Build a check list of the top dozen publishers who accept “blind submissions” I chose Del Rey because at the time they were the number one publisher and sent my book there first. . .and they purchased it, and with the mere reply that they were interested in publishing I immediately had an agent.
I was afraid, but I took his advice, and started working on my next book, all the while still occasionally sending out queries for my original novel. I’m debating seeing the book self-published instead, but haven’t made up my mind yet 100%. I’d like to be traditionally published in the future, and I’m worried I could have a hard time getting a publishing company to pick up a self-published book.
In the end, he encouraged me to keep on pushing forward. He may not have had the magic answer for getting published instantly, but his advice was good, and true to his experiences (and to what I’ve heard from other people).
Lindsay, the number one advice though after “keep on pushing it out there” is start your next book now. Not a sequel, but something entirely different. In fact publishers like to see diversity of skill and it opens more potential markets. I’ve written high fantasy, SF, alternate history, traditional history, technological subjects, even some humor. If you don’t hit in one market you can in another. DON’T EVER GIVE UP AND KEEP BELIEVING IN YOURSELF IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL.