In early September 2019 I was completing revisions and bracing myself to query a new manuscript for the third time. I was anxious and full of dread, because after two unsuccessful querying experiences, I knew that within a few months, I might have to trunk this manuscript as well, and the thought made me utterly miserable.
If you had told me then, or at any point before, that I would be grateful–SO grateful– that my previous manuscripts hadn’t received any offers of representation, I might have thrown my laptop at you.
And yet, I never would have written that book if those two hadn’t failed.
And if you’d told me last spring I’d be glad I missed all my self-imposed deadlines and it was a good thing I wasn’t ready to query earlier in the year, I would have screamed.
And yet. The agent I signed with, who couldn’t be more perfect for me, wasn’t an agent before that September. She was an editor. An editor who would have loved to get my manuscript, but might never have seen it. I might have queried and received a dozen “I don’t know if I can sell this,” rejections, only to trunk yet another manuscript, never knowing that editor was out there all along.
If I’d decided not to query and to enter PitchWars again, I might have waited months, eventually ended up in her inbox, and maybe she would have still found it and loved it and things would have ended up the same, but 6 months later. I’ll never know. What I do know is that a million variables all fell into place just right to get me where I ended up.
If they haven’t yet, for you, that doesn’t mean they won’t.
I drafted this post a few months ago, and never got around to posting it. Since then, the world has changed in more ways than I can count.
I finished my final agent revision in the early weeks of a global pandemic, and as my wonderful agent prepared to take it out on submission, New York City, the publishing hub of the world, shut down. Big Five houses announced layoffs, bookstores closed, and experts fretted about whether the pandemic and imminent recession might mean the end of books forever.
Once again, I worried that my timing was atrocious, that the book I’d worked so hard on would fly off to editors like a baby bird leaping out of the nest and into a hurricane.
No one could focus.
Everyone on twitter, including editors, lamenting how difficult it was to do anything, especially read.
My book was doomed. At best, I figured it would linger in inboxes for months or years. At worst, it would vanish into publishing purgatory, never to be heard from again.
While I coaxed my anxious brain into reading anything by pulling out Red, White, and Royal Blue, my happiest read of 2019 and the only book I could focus on while my brain buzzed with anxiety, the editor of that book discovered mine in her inbox.
A week after my book went on sub, she was reading it. And about a week after that, I had an offer in hand.
From the editor of RWARB. Who’d studied Italian (a major element in my book) and loved the banter (my favorite thing from RWARB) and who said that she, too, was struggling to read during the chaos, but she hadn’t been able to put my story down.
Somehow, the world’s worst timing turned into the golden unicorn of submission experiences.
What’s my point? My point is there are a million factors at play when it comes to getting a book from idea to bookshelf, and most of them are impossible for you, the writer, to control. Timing is one of those. Even if you plan and prepare and you think your timing is perfect, the world might still laugh in your face. Your job is to write the book, make it the best you can, and try to let go of the rest.
But. Speaking of timing… PITCHWARS APPROACHES
If you’re an un-agented writer (with a completed manuscript) hoping for a career in traditional publishing, you should definitely go to www.pitchwars.org to check out the 2020 schedule and details!