by Pam Binder
My path to being a published author of four novels with Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, and a novella in a New York Times Bestselling anthology, took a lot of twists and turns along the way.
Writers are told the chances of being published are about the same as winning the lottery. After all, these people say, no one is reading anymore, the editors in New York will only read agented manuscripts, they continue, and agents are easier to get than an editor.
It’s a good thing I made a point of never paying attention to negative ramblings. They are a waste of energy and time. Time I could spend writing, networking, promoting, and improving my craft. The first novel I wrote was a Young Adult. The editor I sent it to wrote me a handwritten letter, wanting a minor change and asking if she could meet me for lunch at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. I interpreted this as her disliking the whole project, so I hid from her the entire time. Fortunately I got smarter.
I took a class at the University of Washington extension, taught at the time by the owner of a small press. To my surprise she offered to publish my book, The Inscription. By this time I’d been a regular attendee at the PNWA conferences and was learning the business side of writing. I knew I needed an agent to take me to the next level.
There are many ways of acquiring an agent; my way is to get to know them as a person first. I’d been volunteering at the agent and editor desk and was having lunch with about six people. Not once did I pitch my book. The agent sitting next to me asked me for a copy of my novel. I thought she was just being nice, because of all the work I’d done.
In any case, she took it on the plane back to New York, read it over the weekend and called me on Monday saying she wanted to represent me. We worked successfully together for many years, but as she moved into nonfiction, I knew it was time for a change. I used the same strategies I’d used before in selecting an agent. I made a point of getting to know them. At a conference, an agent I’d heard great things about commented that she and a few fellow editors would like someone to take them on a tour of Seattle. Guess who volunteered for the job?
Getting discouraged is a lot like writer’s block. We’ve all experienced it from time to time. The trick is to realize they both stand in our way of achieving our dreams.
Believe in yourself.
Pam Binder is the President of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.