I’m like the woman who can’t get pregnant.
She made the mistake of opening her big mouth and telling everybody that this was her year—the year she’d have a baby.
But months and months later, she still hasn’t conceived.
She’s won’t go on Facebook lest she spot a friend’s ultrasound photo or a birth announcement. There are baby carriages everywhere she turns.
Yup—we’re two peas in a pod—that baby babbler and me.
The only difference is I’m attempting to birth a book.
If you’d suggested to me last year that I wouldn’t have a book contract for my novel, What The Valley Knows, by now I would not have believed you.
Landing a bona fide New York literary agent felt like a major victory after writing my novel for six years, after receiving a Master’s Degree (MFA) in Creative Writing, after completing a post-graduate semester to rewrite the novel, after attending several writers’ workshops, after successfully participating in the New York Pitch Conference, after a first round of querying agents, after another deep revision of the book, after the building of my writer’s website, after starting my blog, after blogging for 52 weeks every Sunday, after having my blog syndicated on larger sites, and so on.
After all this I was sure a book deal was around the corner.
I was wrong.
My book has been on submission for fifteen months! In literary lingo, on submission means that my agent is submitting my book to editors at a publishing houses and those editors are reviewing it and determining if their house wants to publish the book.
When I first met my agent, I asked her the time frame for this whole on submission process. With a little smirk, she said, “It can take a while.”
In my non-writing life, I’m a real estate agent. In the realty world long means 48 hours. Deals happen quickly.
Apparently, this is not the case in the writing universe.
Heather, where can I buy your book?
Heather, would you like to sell your book at our authors’ event?
Heather, why don’t you just self-publish it?
No, no, no. I’m not pregnant yet!
I sound like a whiner. I’ve learned that there’s an entire writing sub-category devoted to the complaints of unpublished writers—the Cry Baby Genre—and I’m close to gaining membership. Getting published is hard; I’ve heard it time and time again.
But I never imagined it would be this difficult.
I read a lot. My undergraduate degree is in Literary Studies. I know what sucks and what doesn’t suck.
My book doesn’t suck.
But a lot of sucky books get deals.
How does this happen?
It’s the great mystery of the publishing world.
My novel has gotten super close to a publishing deal. I have emails from editors affirming beautiful things about it and then still saying, “pass” or “revise and resubmit.”
I think part of the issue is that my book doesn’t fit neatly into one category. It’s a little out of the box in that it’s both Young Adult and Women’s Fiction. It’s told from three points of view, two teenagers’ and one adult’s.
The adult is named Ann. And the YA editors want her out. The irony is that my teenage beta readers love Ann, saying she’s their favorite character.
William Faulkner said that you have to kill your darlings. Kill those characters you love. Maybe I need to dig a grave and bury Ann. And I’m willing to do it. I will put her on the chopping board and knock her clear into oblivion.
All art is subjective.
A little voice keeps telling me that there will be an editor out there in the publishing ether who will want to roll the dice on Ann—an editor who has the same sensibilities as my loyal and loving blog readers (truly, guys, your comments, shares and warm emails keep me going!). An editor who believes readers cross genre boundaries and that this cross-pollination is the key to selling a ton of books.
Still sometimes I wonder, how I will know when to quit?
When does it’s taking too long turn into a pipe dream?
When do people start to whisper behind my back, “Oh, that’s Heather, the crazy writer woman. She’s been trying to publish a book for the last twenty-seven years.”
Many wise publishing experts insist that first books don’t sell. More experienced writers tell me to write another book. Like it’s no big deal. I can only hope that I live to be 105 at this rate.
It’s said that the craft is long and life is short.
I’m willing to do the work. I can’t quit now because more than any other reason MY KIDS ARE WATCHING. They’ve grown up with this damn book.
So in an effort to complete my second book and to make any modifications that What The Valley Knows needs to secure a publishing contract and in anticipation of the busy spring real estate market (I really do need to sell some houses!), I will be curtailing my new blogs to the first Sunday of the month through the spring.
For now, I’m almost pregnant.
I might end up the oldest woman to ever conceive.
Better late than never.
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Update as of 5/1/2017: After 520 days on submission, What The Valley Knows, found its publishing home! I am thrilled to announce that my book baby will be born January 25, 2018 thanks to publisher Black Rose Writing.
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There are three rules for writing a novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
—W. Somerset Maugham
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The days are dark and cold and call for a hearty soup. We had ham for New Year’s Day and I used the leftovers for Chef John’s incredible Ham & Potato Soup (2 batches). My kids loved it! Click Here for recipe and video tutorial.