Thursday, June 27, 2013

Preparing for Publication Part 3: The Valuable Ladder

My first ever rejection letter was from the fabulous Steve Laube. The year after I'd finished my first book... I decided that the worst that could happen was that he would say, "Your writing is crappy. Your story stinks. Don't quit your day job."

Well... obviously, I got a rejection letter. It didn't say those things in those exact words, but it should have.

Because my writing was crappy.

And... well, I hope my story didn't stink, but it needed a TON of work.

I was nowhere near ready to quit my day job.

I remember the moment I received that rejection though. I seriously smiled. I had done it. Put myself out there, taken a leap of faith, as stupid as it was. Yes, I contributed to poor Steve's slush pile. Yes, I probably got an eye roll from the poor sap who had to read my junk. But I'd taken another bold step toward publication.

The first step being, of course, actually writing my book.

After I received his rejection, I rolled up my sleeves, joined ACFW as Steve's letter suggested, and started to work on my craft. I edited that book until I despised every single letter in it.

My next ladder rung?

ACFW conference. And what did super bold Krista do?

She booked an agent appointment with... you guessed it... Steve Laube.

Yeah, I rocked.

I remember walking into that room... my first inperson appointment EVER with an agent or editor.

And I wanted to puke. What had I been thinking? I am NOT bold. I am STUPID. Idiotic. I seriously must have inhaled some type of toxic chemical fume the day I signed up for this appointment because... yeah. This was just plain dumb.

But in I went anyway. I sat down at that table, shook Steve's hand as boldly as I could, and gave him my one sheet.

Yup, just like that. I was so nervous, I could barely eek out a word. Not really sure what I actually said... I think I went for the honesty-card and said something like, "I, uh, have never done this before. Here is my onesheet. You rejected it but I revised it." Then shoved said onesheet into his hands.

He looked at it, then asked for my first chapter. I rejoiced that I'd printed it and handed that over.

Then the most blessed thing happened.

Steve Laube... THE Steve Laube... laughed. Not like as in "This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen" kind of laugh. But in a "Hey, that's actually funny" kinda laugh.

My heart soared higher than the cliff I had been wanting to jump off moments before.

He read a few pages, then gave me some good pointers. I nodded and soaked in the information.

Then time was up, and I left.

Yeah, he didn't ask for anything. But I'd been bold. I'd gotten feedback. And my writing had made an agent laugh.

The "Bold" Alleycats...
doing Low Rider at 2012 ACFW...
I still vote that Ang wins as best lowrider!
For my first conference and a year into the whole writing thing, I was pretty thrilled.

And unbeknownst to me at the time, my rejection and boldy putting myself out there at a conference were not only steps on my ladder TO publication... but it was also preparing me for when I BECAME published.

Once your book is "out," you'll need to boldly (but smartly) market your book. You'll need to continue learning and getting better, you'll need to put yourself out there and not be so afraid of people that you can't put two sentences together in their presence. And rejection... you'll be having to deal with READER rejection, not just agent/editor rejection. And once a reader rejects you... your book is beyond the editing point!

Even though I'm now agented by the wonderful Rachelle Gardner and approaching the one-year anniversary of my debut novel releasing, I still struggle with being bold with my books and dealing with rejection, although not nearly as much as I would have if my prepublication journey hadn't given me much needed boldness training.

So those pains you feel when pre-published? The sting of yet another rejection? Those nervous rocks in your stomach that threaten to kill you when you approach that agent or editor at a conference? Start looking at them through different lenses. Not only are they necessary to GET published... they are good training for when you ARE published.

Discussion: What things on the ladder to publication are the hardest? Can you think of ways that your hardship can really be seen as training for later?


Jill Weatherholt said...

I love your honesty and humor in this post, Krista. I loved Sandwich With a Side of Romance! I'm anxiously awaiting for your next book.

The hardest thing for me is finding the time to do everything in my real life and my writing life. I have learned to manage my time better, although I'm still easily distracted. Great post, Krista!

Angie Dicken said...

Great post, Krista! And good to know boldness is key on either side of publishing!

Krista Phillips said...

Jill... time management is another great thing we "practice" pre-published because we will REALLY need to post-published!!!! I'm still a work-in-progress on that one too!

Krista Phillips said...

Angie... BE BOLD!!! :-) But I forgot to note... being stupid is NOT bold. (Pre my step into boldness with that first query to the Steve Laube agency, I sent two very "stupid" inquiries to an agent and an editor. I pray every day they don't remember that!!!!)

Angie Dicken said...

Haha! So, let me top you on that one...and one day I will mention it to the agent...I CALLED an agent on his cell to see if he got my proposal! Didn't realize it would be his number, thought I'd get a receptionist. This is back in the day when email was not the preferred avenue for proposal sending. HAHA!!!

Krista Phillips said...

I sent a cold email query to an agent and told her that "Karen Kingsbury had sent me" ... because her website and noted who her agent was and suggested getting an agent first.

In my defense... I put in the query "how" she had referred me... but still. it was not my finer moment.

I also started a query fax (yes, someone was actually asking for query FAXES) and started the letter with, "When I was a little girl..."

*hangs head in shame*

Jennifer Major said...

Great advice!!
I'm heading to ACFW this fall, but I'm taking a defibrillator, oxygen and a bucket of ice to each agent meeting.
Oh, and a gurney so my friends can get me out of there.
Oh and one of the verification words? HELP.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Loved this, Krista. Thanks for the honesty, and the chuckle. :) You're right, it takes boldness in being willing to put yourself out there. It's. Not. Easy. I was so nervous in my first agent and editor pitch sessions last year. I'm hoping this year I'm not quite as nervous. :) Before being agented, it feels like it's the necessary step, and like so much rides on those appointments. I'm learning I need to just relax and not worry about impressing the people I may get to meet with.

After I manage to stand up on the "agent" rung, it'll be interesting to see what God has to teach me for the rung above it. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh my goodness, you always bring a smile to my face. I am NOT all. EVER. :) Makes me wonder if I really have what it takes in this writing gig.

Ashley Clark said...

This is such a great post, Krista! I know I'm late commenting, but I just wanted to say how valuable I think this blog is. Rejection is SO hard. Thank you for sharing your story.

~cjoy said...

You just spoke to my heart and where it's headed....
I've recently finished my first book.
I'm going to the ACFW Conference in Sept.
I'm terrified of making my appts (and have not hit 'finalize' b/c I'm still selecting agent preferences).
I'm NOT bold.

But bless you, your attitude is what I strive for. May I be as bold and confident as you, happy for feedback no matter the outcome. That's how I hope to respond, anyway....