The first time I took to the computer to write a book, or to attempt to write a book, I’d quit teaching. I was so disturbed by what I’d witnessed in public schools I started reading voraciously about education. That research, along with my personal experience, ignited a fire that never went out.
Though I didn’t know it then, I had become a writer.
Sadly, I never finished that book. My marriage at the time had taken a nosedive, and my head just wasn’t in it. By the time I took to the computer again, I was remarried and pregnant with my first child. I was 31. This time the book was about the needs of children and how these needs conflict with adult desires. I titled my book The Work of Motherhood.
Finding a home for the book was exhausting. I had no connections and no experience with book publishing other than a temporary spot as an editor of educational guidebooks. Moreover, the book was controversial. So with my infant daughter in tow, I walked into a Barnes & Noble and sat down with The Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents.
After learning how to approach an agent (hint: a query letter—to the right agent, or one who specializes in the material you write), I submitted at least thirty queries. All but one said thanks, but no thanks. The one agent who said yes—I’ll never forget her name: Amy—had a personal stake in the issue. Newly married, she was expecting a baby and loved the message in the book.
Amy submitted my manuscript to at least 40 publishers, from the top tier to the bottom. Almost immediately we got interest from Harper Collins, but they ultimately rejected it when their in-house publicist said I didn’t have enough of a platform, or ready-built audience.
That was as close as I came to a sale.
So I went back to Barnes & Noble, sat down for an entire afternoon with The Writer’s Guide (sans baby) and read through the descriptions of every publisher in the United States until I found the one whose mission statement matched my book’s message to a T. It said something to the effect of, “Looking for writers who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.” And their areas of interest included family and the culture. Bingo.
I asked my agent to submit my proposal, and within days I got a phone call from the editor telling me he “loved” my book and wanted to publish it.
It would be another eight years before I would write another book. Once my children were both in school, I wanted to write a book that was essentially a giant letter to young women about all the things the culture doesn’t tell them about sex, marriage, work, and motherhood. Once again, I went though a series of agents (my last one, ironically, quit her job to stay home) until I found the right one. Unfortunately, she too was unable to find my book a home.
So, back to the drawing board. I began networking like crazy—attending events with like-minded folks—and eventually found a new agent.
Shockingly, my new agent couldn’t find a publisher either (yes: three agents, no sales). It was I who learned of a publisher I thought might be interested and asked my agent to submit my proposal. She did, and they took it.
As it happens, that publisher turned out to be corrupt, and I am now happily at home with my third and final publisher, Post Hill Books, whom I cannot say enough about and whom I highly recommend.
I hope by this point my message is clear: Do not, under any circumstances, let other people dictate your future. If you have something to say, if you have something to sell, if you have something you believe in and want to tell the world, never stop trying.
Some people think I must be super smart since I’ve now authored five books. They’re wrong; I’m no different from anyone else. But whatever I lack in intellect I more than make up for with an abundance of grit. Grit is simply passion and perseverance for long-term, meaningful goals. It’s the ability to persist with whatever you feel strongly about and to keep going when you face obstacles.
Never let a “no” stop you from doing what you love to do. If you believe in your product or your message, it is imperative that you ignore the naysayers. You know it better than anyone.
So go out and prove it.