A Foot in the Door: Lessons Learned

In the last couple of posts I've shared the stages my book proposal is going through at a publishing house. So far my proposal has passed through the Editor and Editorial Committee. It still has to go into Publication Board, which will be brutal.

If my proposal survives Publication Board, then I'll be a step closer to publication. If not, then my agent will have to start sending it to other publishing houses.

Whatever happens, I've gained some valuable insights from my first experience getting my foot inside the traditional publishing door.

  • Be flexible: The editor asked if I'd be open to writing a different third book than I'd originally planned. Although we all have our babies, the projects we love and labor over, I've learned that we can't get too attached. We have to remain open to new ideas and directions in our writing.
  • Trust the experts: I don't understand the narrowness of market, the saleability of certain books, or the obstacles new authors face as they try to develop a readership. I have my opinions about what I think would be good for my books. But since I'm inexperienced, shouldn't I trust those whose blood pulses with the knowledge of the market?
  • Stay humble: I've had to realize again and again, just how new I am. Like a recently hired employee, I have to start at the bottom. I have to work hard, have a teachable spirit, and respect the authors, agents, and editors who are further along.
  • Grow in patience: I'm reminded that the writing life is synonymous with waiting. We wait for critiques, contest results, answers to queries, acceptance from agents/editors. Then once we have an agent/editor we wait for emails, phone calls, news on book proposals, editors to read our work, and committees to make decisions. The waiting is endless, which leads to my last point.
  • Keep on writing: I've learned that I'm able to wait much easier if I move on to my next book and keep myself busy doing what I love--writing. Once we send off our work and it's out of our hands, then the best thing we can do for ourselves is start the next project and take pride in making it even better than the previous one.
I did a series of posts a while back comparing publishing to a set of doors. (Click here to read more.) The traditional publishing door is incredibly difficult for new writers to get through. I may have my foot in the door, but I'm not inside yet. I figure if I can keep on doing all of the above, than maybe, eventually, the door will open a little wider.

What do you think? Do new authors have a right to make demands on agents and editors? Or do you think we should earn the right?


  1. I think we can always "demand" a certain level of professionalism, but beyond that, I can't think of anything else we authors are "entitled" to...

  2. Jody, I wholeheartedly agree with your approach and humble attitude. I know you will do fine and that door will open wide some day soon. You are so good to all of us to share with us the whole process. Thank you!

  3. Definitely earn the right, if ever. Great five points, Jody. You are so wise!

  4. I think we should sit an listen instead of speak our minds. It seems it would get us further. We can demand respect and a professional atmosphere...but I think that's about it. Although I'm not one for demanding things anyways.

  5. Oh I LOVE this!

    I have always and will always buck the concept of "entitlement" which says, "I'm a writer and wrote and awesome book so bow down and worship me and conceed to my demands."

    I believe, especially as new writers, God calls us to have a spirit of humility and be teachable, exactly as you've noted! Obviously we can have opinions, and we should feel free to ask questions and offer our opinions where able, because... well... they might be good! Fresh eyes are a good thing sometimes! BUT, not at the expense of making yourself look overbearing.

    You are doing a GREAT job Jody!

    I've set aside my second two books of my series for exactly the reason you pointed out. Several have noted that a publisher has requested a future book to go a different direction.... and where as I REALLY like my idea and have a good start, I don't want to *finish* the book then be asked to completely rewrite.

    So instead of finishing the sequels I'm starting a new book, which is SO much fun!

    Good luck on your contract phase! Keep us updated (twitter works GREAT for that... LOL) and I'll be praying!!!

  6. People may have new ideas to contribute to the process, but you're right. At this point it's like being a new employee. Ask questions and learn from others. You'll get your chance at valuable input later.

  7. We have so much to learn, as evidenced by your recent posts. Thanks for bringing us into the process with you. I think as writers, we should give and expect professionalism above all else, at all times. It is indicative of a respect for the craft and the people involved. But to make demands? No, the whole process seems more collaborative, and if the communication is honest and professional, it seems relevant needs would be considered.

  8. Dear Jody:
    I'd say you are one wise woman, and humble.
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Hopefully we can learn from you as you step through each door.
    Just keep your eyes on Jesus and His great and wonderful love for you. Let your goal be to make him smile, and He will honor you.
    Audience of ONE

  9. Thanks for sharing your insights, Jody! To somebody who is further along, I covet them. :)

  10. I love your points! So good and so true. I don't think we should demand anything, but I do think it's okay to have expectations. Even though we're new, we're still valuable. It's a balance and I think everything rests on mutual respect. :-)

  11. Earn the right...and that applies not just for new authors.

    I loved your last point. Am still hunched in waiting writing has enabled me to remain patient and hopeful.
    Have a blessed weekend, Jody!
    ~ Wendy

  12. This post is so encouraging!

    "remain open to new ideas and directions" : Oh how i needed to hear this for so many areas of my life, not just writing.

    "work hard, have a teachable spirit" : Sometimes it's so hard to admit that we need to change. I have a trusted writing friend to whom I give all my books and she is always honest with her editing. There have been times when my first reaction has been defense, but I have grown to realize that if my reader has a problem than can be corrected (and it is a legit issue that needs to be addressed), I need to listen to my reader. Isn't that who we're writing for?

    "I've learned that I'm able to wait much easier if I move on to my next book and keep myself busy doing what I love--writing" : Boy did I need to hear this! I tend to finish a story and then stare at it, knowing the dreaded query comes next. I freeze! But it's inevitable; I MUST query if I want the hope of my story seeing the light of day.

    Keep moving, keep writing. Keep doing what you love. Such wonderful advice! Thank you for your wisdom and best of luck to you in this second committee step!

    Happy weekend,

  13. To answer your question at the very end, it needs to be earned. And with all the things you mentioned, humility is the most important to me. If I can hang on to that, I think the rest will fall naturally.

  14. Like everyone else, I think we have to pay our dues and listen to what the experts tell us. Some may fast-track in the industry, but most have to make the trek the hard way.

    So, with the editor suggesting a different third book, are you writing something different or going ahead with your original plan?

  15. Hi Jody -

    I view the book publication process as a joint effort. As a member of the team, being a diva is not in the job description. While I don't believe in being a doormat, cooperation is essential.

    Hopefully, when I get my foot in the door, my writing and my attitude will find a welcome.

    Susan :)

  16. Sherrinda, I'm following the editor's suggestion for the time being and writing something different, which is actually not so different for me after all. It's a book I started researching/plotting LONG ago before my writing hiatus. I'm excited about picking it back up and have been working on re-plotting and strengthening it. I've even started writing chapter one! Thanks for asking!!

  17. I love being able to read and follow your journey. It's so great that you share each step with us. Your pointers are wonderful, especially the one about continuing writing while waiting. It does help so much.

  18. Jody,

    I just have to say I love the "teachable spirit" bit. I honestly believe we should be open in this way until we are lowered into the ground for our final goodbye. Being open to continued learning, staying in humility, is what we are called to do, and of course, giving to others what has been given to us in our learning. Have a nice weekend and enjoy the living part!

  19. I don't know about "demands", but it's certainly okay to ask questions and to challenge status quo in a knowledgeable fashion. I agree that we need to be "teachable" but writers who've taken the time to do their homework and to network with other writers shouldn't assume they simply have to sign on the dotted line without discussion. Of course, the more "teachable" one is, the more that person earns the right and respect to engage in these discussions.

    It's all about attitude, and you have a wonderful one, which will make your success that much sweeter.

  20. No, I don't think we have any right to make demands. We can always take our precious babies somewhere else if we don't like what they want, or we can respect the experts and go on. If what they want is way out of our interest level, there is always blogging.

  21. Your post has me humming the America Rock cartoon..."I'm Just a Bill." (Tell me you know what I'm talking about, and I'm not THAT old!) Writing a book is kind of like getting a law passed, so many steps and places it can stall.

    I pray you make it through the next big hurdle.

    Your lessons learned are filled with wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Friday!

  22. I think being coachable is one of the greatest attributes a new writer can have.

  23. Gotta pay our dues just like in every other industry.

    Looks like things are going well with the agent, so congrats!

  24. part of me feels we should earn everything: agent, editor, publisher, etc. but we also need to educate ourselves to know what to expect. that's why i like your blog so're giving inside info on YOUR experience...which is invaluable (although i realize that everyone has their own story). so thanks again.

  25. What a lovely attitude you have! I agree, we have to earn everyting and we should be grateful. Of course, I also think we should be confident.

  26. Great attitude, Jody! So glad that this third book is so inspiring for you.

  27. I'd trust the experts unless said experts start to give me advice that goes against anything I've ever hear or read.

    Lynnette Labelle

  28. Wow, some great lessons. thanks for sharing!

    I'd agree that there's a balance between trusting your instincts and trusting others. They may be experts, but ulitmately you have to feel like you have some say over your work. I bet that is a place for patience, pondering, consideration and communication.

  29. I think you're doing great! My three points are:

    1. Listen more than you talk.

    2. Have an attitude of gratitude.

    3. Learn, learn, learn from the pros and trust them to know their business.

  30. I think you make some great, valuable points. Finding an agent and then a publishing house is like marketing yourself. It's proving to them that you can be a team player. And even once that's accomplished, you have to prove yourself to your readers all over again. Keeping a humble attitude, listening from those who know better and being flexible all help you accomplish this.

  31. Thanks for stopping by my Newbie world. :) I'm excited you found me. Your posts are filled with GREAT info. Congrats on getting through the first door! You're way ahead of me so I can't offer much insight but I did enjoy hearing about your process.

  32. Wise advice. I do think it's a shame that the industry has evolved so far away from its core members (the writers) that the those members often don't really even understand the industry. It's a failing I'm trying to overcome in my own writing life.

  33. It's interesting to hear someone else's take on "the process". Thanks for sharing yours. I've always felt that as newbies it's not our place to make demands. Instead we need to listen, question, evaluate and learn while maintaining some confidence in our own instincts.

    Good luck at this next stage. I hope the news will be good.

    Careann/Carol Garvin


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