The Long Game by Tessa Gratton
When I think about the idea of turning from a writer into an author, the difference seems to be writing professionally – that is, getting paid for it, and making writing into a career.
I’ve been a writer since I was ten years old and wrote my first short story that stole heavily from Star Wars and Robin McKinley’s THE HERO AND THE CROWN. Though I dabbled in publishing in high school when I sent my 175,000 word epic fantasy to a poor, poor editor at Tor without any query or agent (don’t do that), it wasn’t until I left grad school in 2005 that I began to think of the potential career I wanted to build as a published author. I had great ideas! I loved writing! I blogged even, and enjoying interacting with fellow readers online! I could do it! Be a real, live, published author.
But because I’d gone to graduate school for two years and failed to graduate – mostly because of a combination of directionlessness and ego and bad mentoring – I was very aware that I needed to have a definitive goal and a timeline. Writing is hard and takes a lot of time, and I needed an end point in order to motivate myself and also call it quits someday to get a Real Job if it wasn’t working out. I talked with my partner we gave me five years to have a crappy part-time job and focus on being published.
So I wrote a book. I revised it. I did quite a bit of research this time and queried twelve agents I thought were the top of their game. Because of a great query letter, I got 75% requests. Because of a not-so-great manuscript, I got no offers.
Instead of sending my book out to more agents and pushing forward with it, I thought: what do I really want? What is my goal? To publish this book or to publish well? And the answer was:
I want to be published now, but also five and ten and twenty-five and forty years from now.
I wanted a CAREER.
This is when I realized I was playing THE LONG GAME.
So I wrote a new book. I did more research about agents, publishing, and my genre. I worked hard to find amazing critique partners. I queried 10 agents I knew were at the top of their games. Again, I got 75% request rate, and 0 offers. My book wasn’t ready.
I wrote another book. I rewrote it.
I sent it to one agent who all my research and experience had singled out, and two weeks later, she offered to represent me. Six months after that (after a lot of revision and several hard rejections) we sold my debut novel BLOOD MAGIC at auction to Random House Children’s Books. It was the foundation of my current (and future, I hope) career.
I don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d kept pushing with that first book I queried. Maybe it would have sold eventually, and I’d be an adult fantasy writer. Maybe I’d still have written Blood Magic, or still found my way to the United States of Asgard. But I might have also wasted a lot of time. I definitely would not have sold well enough to quit my day job and spend the last 3 years focusing all my energy on building this career.
When I make decisions about my writing and my publishing, I ask myself “What will probably be best for Tessa-5-years-from-now?” “Where do I want to be in 5 years and how will this choice affect that?” "How can I grow from what I've already built?"
Sometimes the answer is about my integrity and what I don’t want to regret. Sometimes that answer is about sending thank-you notes to copy editors. Sometimes it means turning things down or working my ass off for an opportunity.
And even though I gave up on my first and second books I queried, I’m using those ideas again now in new books – in writing, nothing is wasted if you pay attention and use your head and heart.
You need both for the long game.
About The Author
She’s neither now, but magic and monsters are still her favorite things.
Born in Okinawa, Japan, while her Dad was on duty with the US Navy, Tessa moved around throughout her childhood and traveled even more. She’s lived in Japan, California, Kansas, and England, and visited 4 continents.
After graduating from the University of Kansas in 2003 with a degree in Gender Studies, she went on to graduate school for a Master’s in the same. Halfway through, she ditched the program in favor of the blood, violence, and drama of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic epic poetry and to focus on her writing. Tessa doesn’t have a graduate degree, but she did translate her own version of Beowulf!
Despite having traveled all over the world, she settled in Kansas where the sunsets are all in Technicolor, with her partner, two cats, and a mutant mutt named Grendel.
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About The Book
Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.
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