My Writing Journey (Part 2)

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

As I mentioned last week in Part 1 of my writing journey, it took me about a year to write my debut book, The Preacher’s Bride. I was only doing about 500 words a day at that point. When I finished, it was the summer of 2008—which seemed eons from when I’d been actively pursuing publication years before.

After spending several months editing the book, I decided it was time to dip my feet into the publishing waters again. I didn't know if I was ready for publication. If you remember from the previous post, I'd started garnering a little editorial interest with the last book I'd written before taking my seven-year hiatus.

But after my long break, I didn't know how I compared with other authors. And quite frankly, I wasn't sure if my writing skills were up to par.

I hemmed and hawed and finally decided it wouldn’t hurt to send my manuscript out to publishers and see what happened. So I turned on my handy internet and began researching publishers.

And boy was I in for a surprise. Times had changed drastically since I’d queried and submitted years before. I quickly learned that everything had gone electronic—that I wouldn’t need to print out my manuscript, rubberband it together, and figure out return postage. Instead I’d have to figure out the new email guidelines for sending queries and sample work.

I also learned that most publishers didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, that I would likely need to get an agent if I had any hope of getting into a bigger traditional publisher. And so, I began to compile a list of agents who represented inspirational fiction.

As I started reading blogs about the state of the publishing industry, I listened to other writers talk about how hard it was for debut authors to get into traditional publishing houses. The statistics were grim and depressing. And even my chances of finding an agent seemed somewhat bleak. But I decided it wouldn't hurt to put my toes in and test things out.

So I sent the queries out. My list was fairly small (approximately 12), since I'd narrowed it down to the top agents I thought could represent what I was writing.

Slowly the rejections trickled back in. The Preacher’s Bride was rejected by every agent I sent it to . . .

Except one.

Only one agent showed an interest, a fairly new agent, who at that time was still building her client list. She told me she liked my query and asked me to send her the entire manuscript. So I did. But I was still very na├»ve and checked my email several times a day, excited and yet nervous all at the same time. I didn’t realize what a slow process submitting could be.

One week passed in to two. And then three. And then four. Months passed. And I didn’t hear one word from the agent.

I was getting a first-hand learning experience in the hard-knocks of the modern publishing industry. I quickly realized it was as tough as everyone had said—and then some.

In the meantime, I decided I would keep writing. So that year, as The Preacher’s Bride continued to languish in the agent’s slush pile, I put my heart and soul into writing another book. I also used the year to immerse myself in the industry. I read publishing blogs, joined writing communities, and even started a blog of my own. I began to meet other writers online and gained a firm grip on the pulse of the publishing industry.

So how did I finally get my big break?

I entered the Genesis contest through ACFW in 2009 (a national contest for unpublished writers). And The Preacher’s Bride and the other manuscript I had just completed finaled. Once I received the exciting phone call about my final, I contacted the agent that had The Preacher’s Bride in her slush pile and updated her on the status.

Fortunately the final perked her attention and she pulled my manuscript from her slush pile where it had been sitting for months upon months. She read it and three days later called and offered me representation. Three months later I signed a contract with Bethany House publishers. And they offered me a three book deal.

Now in 2013, after finishing two contracts, we're in the thick of negotiations for a third book contract with Bethany House Publishers.

Moral of the story? Good things come in three's? *grin*

Okay, so the real moral? My trip to publication didn't happen overnight. I had pit stops along the way, detours, and a long uphill climb. But through it all, I never gave up my passion for writing. And no matter what the future may bring, I know I'll always love writing.

So what do you think of my journey to publication? Anything surprise you? And now tell me something about YOU! Have you ever had to wait a long time for something? What was it and how long did you have to wait?

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