The Long Voyage

I seem to be exposing all the things I did wrong in these posts.  I joke that I made every publishing mistake possible before seeing the first royalty statement for Sea Fare.  I’ll cover all of these in later posts, but I paid a scam artist to be my first agent (big mistake). I sent queries out with spelling mistakes (embarrassing mistake). I only skimmed the final editing copy and missed a glaring error (huge and costly mistake).  I laugh now and consider these all part of the learning curve, but one thing stands out as something I am still learning; how long it actually takes to get published.

Christine wrote earlier that she stresses an author must write a million words before “it” happens. Boyd Morrison was interviewed by The Kill Zone and said it took three years from the time of going to contract with an agent to seeing his first book in print.

And in an interesting survey on how first-time authors sold their first novel, Jim Chines notes that most of the authors surveyed took 9½ years to sell their first book.

For me, I was naive.  I thought it would be easy.

I wrote my first travel story eleven years ago and believed I was an author.  I had an idea for the rest of the book and started writing agents.  I didn’t actually have anything more than four pages written, and they were as polished as, I work on a yacht that sails around the world.  It is fun and exciting. You can see why I thought an agent would be riveted and instantly pick me up.  I thought my book, ingeniously entitled, Travels, would out sell A Year in Provence and be picked by a studio to be made into a movie.  I spent more time casting the lead rolls in my mind then actually writing.

Strangely, I did not get an agent that year, nor the year after.  But, what I did get was time to learn and work on my writing.  Since I didn’t have to jet off to lunch with Steven Speilberg to discuss the hurricane scenes, I began rewriting, adding dialogue, developing scenes and stretching my descriptions.  I wrote and rewrote, at least a dozen times.  Each time, I came at the piece with a little more knowledge and a better idea of where the project was headed.

I had the manuscript edited professionally and joined a writers group.  All the while, I kept sending out queries to agents—five at a time, every month.  The months sailed by and the rejections kept piling up.  No one was biting.

Seven years from when I sent my first query out, I started to see some progress.  First of all, I finally had enough chapters written to call my manuscript a completed work, but I also had my first request to see the first fifty pages.

I was elated.  I jumped around the galley doing a happy dance.  I printed off the request and mailed it that afternoon.  I celebrated by opening a bottle of wine and began planning how I would spend the advance.

Again nothing.  I went to writer’s conferences and kept rewriting.  It was getting so I was sick of reading and writing about my own life. A spattering of agents asked for more to read, but mainly I received letters stating,  “It’s a nice idea, but isn’t for us—good luck.”

But then, year eight rolled around and an agent asked to read the whole thing.  She loved it and sent a contract.  The process was in motion.  “Here we go,” I thought.  At that point, I actually began planning what I would say in interviews.  As the agent sent my book proposal to editors, I began on book two, convinced I would have a multi-book deal.  So, I wrote, and wrote, with no news from the agent.  Random House didn’t call.   Harper Collins stayed silent.  My agent suggested another rewrite, adding in recipes, and we waited.

Year nine came and I started looking into self-publishing options.  I had resigned myself to the fact that this just wasn’t going to happen. I signed up for Lulu and was in the process of formatting the file when I received an e-mail from my agent.  I had an offer from a small publisher who was just starting out.  Was I interested?

Was I?  Hell yeah!  This was it.  This time, I really was going to become an author.  And it happened…a year and a half later. Ten and a half years after my first written words, I held a copy of my book, Sea Fare, in my hands.

It was a slow voyage.  Just like setting sail.  You do not think, “I want to go to Tahiti,” and arrive there the next day.  It takes work, and time to get from point A to point B, on a boat or in publishing, but the voyage can be just as fun as the destination.

How far along are you in the voyage?  What has been the most exciting part of the trip?  The most disappointing?

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4 Responses to The Long Voyage

  1. Christine Kling says:

    Disappointments? I guess for me it was the belief that through hard work I could make myself a big success. After my books were published, I hit the road and drove all over several states doing signings, went to dozens of writer’s conferences, printed bookmarks, did mass mailings to bookstores, did radio and and a couple of TV appearances, spoke at every library I could get into, I went to the national librarians conventions and the regional booksellers conventions, etc. What has thrown me into a funk for the last few years is that I was given the best shot with the biggest publisher and I got four books out there that got reviewed in some major papers and never really got a bad review, and yet still with each book, I sold fewer books – until book four which went back up a little. It’s a tough business.

  2. John Urban says:

    Vicki, I enjoyed your post and I admire your perseverance. Those are great photos, too. I’m still trying to figure out how you captured the one of the sailboat.

    Christine, while break-out numbers may not come until your next book, know that you have many dedicated readers who enjoy the Seychelle Sullivan stories, myself included.

  3. admin says:

    I’ve gone through the same thing over the last 6 years Victoria. I’ve written 3 novels, had lots of agent rejections, and have even received some encouraging comments form agents. I now have a small publisher who read the first chapter and wants to see the entire novel but I’ve decided that I’m going to release the book myself as an e-book through Kindle and Smashwords. It was a hard decission but I think it will be for the best. I hope to get The Storm Killer out on Kindle by the end of the month for $2.99 and I will be posting about what it took to Publish on Kindle, selecting a cover, what I do to promote the book, and I will even be posting my monthly earnings statements so that others who are thinking about self publishing an e-book will be able to decide if it’s woth it to them or not.

    Mike Jastrzebski

  4. Victoria Allman says:

    John, I must confess, I bought the sailing photo. I wish I were that good a photographer.

    And, I agree with you, Christine’s Seychelle books are more meaningful to her readers than the numbers suggest.

    Good luck with your e-book Mike. It certainly looks like it may be the way of the future. I’ll be interested to see your progress. And, since your last posting encouraged me to buy a Kindle, I will download The Storm Killer as soon as it is available.

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