Many years ago, when I set out on this journey to become a published author, I believed I would’ve made it by now. I believed I would write and write and write until I was good enough to be published. I believed if I sent enough queries and attended enough pitches, I would find that one person who believed in me. I believed I could work really hard, do everything right, and I would be rewarded for it.
I was wrong.
I’ve come REALLY close. I mean, so close that I could smell the paper of my freshly printed contract. I’ve made it through multiple rounds of editors and multiple layers of agents, just to be turned down after months (years) of being in limbo. And you know what they’re all saying? It’s not that I need to rewrite. It’s not that I have terrible grammar. It’s not that my story has no plot.
It’s that I don’t fit.
To the literary folks, I’m too commercial. To the commercial folks, I’m too literary. I have too many viewpoints to sell as debut. I’m a fantastic writer, but I’m too similar to someone on their list. My voice is a little too quiet for some lines, too loud for others. My stories are too dark and heavy for some publishers, or too light hearted for the subject matter.
Seriously. These are a sample of the rejections I’ve gotten. And while it hurts to hear these things, at the same time I completely understand. They aren’t wrong, and I do not begrudge any of these folks for any of these rejections. They need to find the one that fits perfectly with them, just as I need to find the place I fit perfectly.
Only…what if that place doesn’t exist? This is the question I began asking myself mid last year.
I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve heard it before. Hell, I’ve said it before. Jenna P, keep looking! You are SO close!! Well, I can assure you that I have queried or pitched every agent that has represented women’s fiction over the past fifteen years. I know this because a super nice small press e-book editor who gave me a super nice, “You don’t fit with us, but you need an agent because this is going to sell with a bigger house!” was kind enough to take a look at my long list of queried agents, and HE told me it was the most comprehensive list he’d ever seen. In fact, I may have pitched a few that were deceased (kidding! I did my research!). But in all seriousness, last time I checked I had queried/pitched over 200 agents and/or editors, had 13 partial requests, and had 14 full requests. And that’s just on my current manuscript; that doesn’t count the other two I’ve shopped around.
Trust me, I’ve reached to the ends of the earth on this one.
I know what you’re thinking now too. Jenna P, write another one! And I am, slowly but surely. And maybe I will send this one out for a round of shopping when it’s finished. But here’s the thing – I’ve been at this for over eight years. I’m ready. Not the I don’t want to wait anymore kinda ready, the nice and ripe kinda ready. And after pitching 3 manuscripts that don’t fit, I honestly don’t think I can change the fourth one to fit. It’s not in me. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to add more romance or mystery to make it more “commercial,” but it’s just not my cup of tea. I’ve tried to cut from 4 to 2 POV’s, but I don’t like how the story drags. I’ve tried to make my voice less literary or make my story more commercial, but that’s like changing out my skin. I was totally losing touch with why I love to write. It wasn’t fun anymore. I had stripped away every single piece of me that set me apart from every other writer out there, and I couldn’t let that happen.
This is who I am. This is how I write.
That’s when I had to have a heart to heart with myself (and my husband, and my friends, and just about anyone out there who would listen). The same questions kept coming up. Why am I writing? What do I want out of this? Is it to sell a million copies? Is it to pay the bills? If you can’t write when you write their way, is there a point in this anyway?
The answer to all of the above is no.
Don’t get me wrong, it would certainly be nice to sell a million copies and let my husband be a stay at home dad. But those aren’t the reasons I write. I write because I love the written word. I write because I love constructing my thoughts and feelings into beautiful stories. I write because I want to share those stories with the world, and maybe (just maybe) help someone to see a different perspective in life.
I write because it’s the only thing I’ve ever done that I truly feel like I was made to do.
That’s why I write. My motivation, if you will. My goal is still to be a published author and maybe make a little bit of money at it, even if it’s just enough for a weekend trip to the mountains once a year to write some more. And you all already know that a goal without motivation is pointless.
I know what you’re thinking now – Jenna P, you can’t have your cake and eat it to. You’re right. I can’t. At least taking a traditional path and following rules I don’t want to follow. I need to find a way to break the rules and still get to where I want to be. I need to find a place where I can be literary/commercial, commercial/literary, multi-pov’ed, dark, heavy, funny, AND be a published author. I need to find a way to beat this unbeatable conflict that is sitting before me.
See what I did there?
That is why I’ve decided to pursue self-publishing. Because I BELIEVE with every part of my body and soul, that I can be who I am AND get to where I want to be.
Look for my first release, THE RULES OF HALF, this fall. Until then I’ll be sharing everything I learn about this process with all of you in my new self-publishing series. Stop back frequently to check out the next phase of my journey!
Who makes it happen? YOU make it happen!