~ By Lisa Dyson
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.