DanGlassPhoto114~ By Lisa Dyson

Fifteen years.

That’s how long it took me to sell a manuscript to a publisher. Fifteen years of constantly writing, learning craft, submitting, and getting rejected.

I entered contests for fifteen years. I was even a runner-up in Harlequin’s Epic Romance contest for their Everlasting line. I got to work with an editor! She passed my complete manuscript to the Senior Editor and I thought this was it. I’d finally sell. The Senior Editor called me, but not to buy my manuscript. Harlequin was discontinuing the line. She was very sorry, but not as sorry as I was.

Fifteen years.

I attended workshops, read books–both craft and genre. I attended my local chapter’s Retreat every year and the National RWA conference as often as I could justify the expense. I became a PRO shortly after the program began and I joined every email loop available.

I pitched to agents and editors. They usually invited me to submit and I always followed through.

Fifteen years. What more could I do?

I did my share of volunteering in my local chapter as both treasurer and president, making writing friends and contacts along the way. I joined a wonderful critique group and they have always been my biggest supporters.

After my first rejection many years ago, I talked my husband into taking my writing expenses off our taxes. Three years went by and I hadn’t sold. Five years. He was pretty nervous, but I kept good records to prove I was actively pursuing publishing. I was never into this for the money, but I knew that someday I’d make some and the IRS would be happy.

Fifteen years. What was I doing wrong?

Turns out, I was doing everything I could possibly do. My time to sell had yet to arrive. A writer friend asked me recently, “What was the last thing you learned right before you sold?” I didn’t have an answer. Several weeks later, I finally knew what I wanted to tell her. It wasn’t the last thing I learned. I knew how to write a book. Finding the right editor who loved my work was what I needed.

So why am I rehashing everything you’re probably also doing? Because my message is to not stop doing all this. Don’t give up. If you seek publication, if you crave the validation I required, if you can’t physically stop writing down the stories in your head, then don’t ever give up. That editor or agent who loves your writing might be the next one you submit to.

I tried. When I started getting form rejections after coming so close to selling, I thought maybe I was taking the wrong path. The characters in my head said otherwise.

So the day finally arrived and I got “the call” last September 20. After waiting those fifteen long years, I was very calm as I spoke to the sweet woman who would become my editor. I listened carefully and took notes on the contract details. As soon as I hung up, I sat in a daze. I couldn’t believe my long wait was finally over. I checked caller ID to make sure I hadn’t dreamt it.

Turns out I did dream it. Oh, I really did sell and A PERFECT HOMECOMING is a June 2014 release from Harlequin Superromance®. But being a published author has always been my dream, so following that dream and never giving up was what finally made it come true.

Not until after I sold did I realize that one of the reasons I continued to pursue publication was because of all the people I told over the years. All the family, friends, and casual acquaintances that always asked if I’d sold. I had no problem telling them about my current project, but how would I have ever been able to tell them that I gave up on my dream?

I’ve since sold two more Superromances to Harlequin and I couldn’t be prouder of my accomplishments.

So if you begin to have doubts that you’ll never see your dream come to fruition, just remember the words on the needlepoint pillow my critique partner passed to me and I have since passed on to another unpublished writer:

Never, never, never give up. (Winston Churchill)

Lisa Dyson has wanted to create stories ever since she got an “A” on a writing prompt in fifth grade. She devoured the Nancy Drew series for both the mystery and the relationship between Nancy and Ned. So it’s no surprise that her stories revolve around romantic relationships.

Lisa grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and now lives outside Washington, DC, with her husband and their rescue dog. When she’s not writing, reading, or spending time with family, she enjoys travel, volunteer work, and rooting for her favorite sports teams.

Her website is www.lisadyson.com and you can contact her at lisa@lisadyson.com.

30 thoughts on “I NEVER GAVE UP”

  1. I always say publishing isn’t for weenies. It takes a crap-load of courage to continue fighting and holding on to your dreams. I’m so glad you stuck it out, Lisa, and I wish you many happy years of publication!

  2. Lisa,

    Thank you for this post. I so needed to read this today. After another week of rejections, your post kicked my butt out of moping around and back in the seat to query some more.

    1. I’m so glad I could help, although you should take the credit for receiving the message I was trying to impart and using it to move forward. I hope your next query is read by that special person who is just waiting to read your manuscript!

  3. Binnie Syril Braunstein

    Lisa –

    First – mega congrats on sticking with it and garnering your first sale!

    My very first story began with 5 words on a bus on the way to work. It eventually became a short story, which after many re-writes, was accepted by Woman’s World. Meanwhile, I worked on another story which I turned into a book. The second story (The Color of Love) turned out to be my first published book. But the first story I started, from the germ of those first 5 words, took me 10 years to turn into a publishable book. Those 5 words represented the book of my heart. When my editor offered to buy it (in a Baltimore hotel ballroom, with 300+ people listening to Nora Roberts’ fabulous talk), my heart almost stopped. My (former) agent, Linda Hayes, smiled at me like a cat near the cream bowl, and said, “Aren’t you glad I got you an invitation to this evening’s event?” Oh, yes, I was glad! (The second book is Out of the Darkness. So to all authors looking daggers at your computer screens, I can only urge, “Never give up. Never surrender.” (Quote from the Move Galaxy Quest)
    Binnie Syril Braunstein

  4. Congratulations Lisa! Great blog post, and even greater heart! I just gave you a shout out on my newsletter for being an inspiring fellow writer. Can’t wait to read A Perfect Homecoming, but know it won’t be any more perfect than reading about your success! XXX

  5. Lisa, I think it’s important that you have shared your tale of persistence with other authors. I wrote for a dozen years before publication, and since then there have been wild ups and downs in my career. The book you think is a sure thing to sell, turns out not to be. The long shot finds a publisher in the blink of an eye. Or nothing at all sells for two or more years. New authors near to hear stories like yours to give them courage to keep on working their craft until the time is right for them. Kathryn (aka Mary Hart Perry)

    1. Thanks, Kathryn! I agree that trying to figure out what story will sell is definitely a crapshoot! 🙂 I’ve started so many projects and gotten excited about them, only to have them rejected. I appreciate your encouragement!

  6. What a great post, Lisa. Like you, I wanted the validation, not just from a reader, but from a publisher, that my work was good enough to be published. I think it’s important for an author just starting out. After my editor and I finished the first book, then I got validation from the readers, which is a great feeling. Nine books later, and that first book that I labored over for so many years, is still my best seller.

  7. Congratulations, Lisa!!! This is such well deserved news! I can’t wait to read your book!!!!

    It took me twelve years to sell my first book. Like you, I simply couldn’t stop writing, no matter how many rejections I got. I just couldn’t give up the dream. Looking back on it, I have to admit that all those rejections over the years made me learn and grow as a writer. I thought my early work was brilliant, but it wasn’t, of course. My journey was a long one, like yours, but absolutely worth it in the end!!!

    Celebrate big!

  8. Hi Lisa 🙂 I can but add my congratulations and thanks for sharing this to the list of comments 🙂 I love when you said that after you’d gotten the call, you checked to see if you’d dreamt it and absolutely, you had because it was your dream! Literally coming true. Imagine how many pens you are keeping to the paper by sharing this. 🙂
    I’d like to share a little quote that I kept on my desk until I sold. “All the wrong ones have to say no so that the right one can eventually say yes.”
    Cheers to you Lisa! I truly look forward to reading your book 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing your fantastic call story with us! It took me ten years, but I just recently sold as well.

    Mr. Churchill was right, Never, never, never give up!

    Crossing fingers for Many, many, many sales!! 🙂

  10. What a wonderful story, Lisa! And you have multiple sales, too. I worked so hard to sell my romantic mystery, but no go. Like you, just not the right person. I went to writing my favorite-romantic comedy-and sold lots of short stories. One day, I happened on a pitch, did so, talked to the publisher at a convention, and was given an offer. I can’t wait until September for my baby to come out.

    So I completely understand where you are coming from, like so many of us do. Thank you for sharing!

  11. LOVE THIS!!! I’m so excited for you and I can’t wait to buy your book!

    It took me 12 years to get the “call” and sometimes I still don’t believe it’s true!

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