Sorry... no, really... this is a serious blog post. *puts on serious hat*
So, while we were down in Utah, I had an interesting experience. My mother-in-law (henceforth referred to as MIL) loves an ice cream shop that uses liquid nitrogen to make its ice cream. You sit and watch as your ingredient choices turn from cream to ice cream right in front of you. It is pretty cool. Anyway, the owner of the shop and my MIL have gotten to know each other and the owner wrote and self-published a contemporary romance, so my MIL thought we might like chatting about publishing. It was a really interesting conversation and it left me with two thoughts rattling around in my brain.
One of the first things to come up was that I have an agent, and this other author said, sounding defeated, "Oh, I tried querying. I queried 38 times!" I responded, "I queried 131 times, and I emailed back and forth with my agent for eight months before she signed me." I said it as nice as I could, but... the reality is that most writers who sign... don't sign with the first dozen agents they query. I won't say that not all do, but I could tell from this author's voice that she thought she'd failed when 38 queries didn't net an offer of representation. She was shocked and said, "Maybe I should try querying again." I won't say that traditional publishing is the way for everyone, but it just killed me to hear someone assume that they couldn't get an agent after less than 50 queries.
If you get no response, then, at the very least, you need to work on your query, but I've used dozens of different queries for the same books and some queries generated more interest than others. Sometimes, you need the right tone and so on.... Also, I researched agents thoroughly... like really thoroughly. There was about an hour of work behind each and every one of my queries. BTW, if you've never heard the story of how I got an agent, I'm going to cheat and send you to my QT story: http://www.querytracker.net/success/wendy_sparrow.php
The second interesting thing I took from that discussion happened when she asked if I was published. I immediately said, "No, I'm not published yet. My agent is submitting a novel right now." My husband jumped in and said, "Yes, you are! You've had two short stories published this year!" It reminded me of how lucky I've been to have a really strong support group--who'll jump in and remind me of my success when I forget. There has been a lot of times when I've wanted to walk away from this whole thing. Trying to get published is not all fun and games... it sooooo isn't. It's a lot of waiting and stressing and thinking you suck. My husband has always supported me in whatever I wanted to do. Whenever I show an aptitude for something, he's jumped in my corner... even when it's been expensive. (She says while typing on the laptop her husband insisted she buy when she first started writing.)
I don't know what the other author took from that conversation. Success can be measured in a lot of different ways. I have an agent. She has a published book. I won't say either of us is more successful than the other. I don't think any single path as a writer can be duplicated or mimicked to find success.
On the other hand, if I've learned nothing from my experience--things happen sometimes in their own time. And the experiences I've had while waiting my turn were invaluable. It takes time to learn to write well... time and practice. Sometimes, it takes time to get an agent or a publisher or whatever your goal is... time and often luck or fate or divine intervention--depending on your beliefs. There are aspects of success which are outside of your control so the best you can do is to keep doing. Honestly, I believe that.
So these are my Monday thoughts on the publishing world... and now I really need to finish that revision.