Not Letting Your Work Go Unread
by P.J. Hoover
I’m not sure about the rest of you, but when I dreamed of my publishing career, it was simple. Something along the lines of (1) write book; (2) find agent; (3) sell book for a gazillion dollars. Three easy steps. I’d do my part, being step (1), and the splendor of my writing would do the rest.
Okay, so it didn’t quite work out that way. Sure, I wrote a book I love (being THE EMERALD TABLET), and I queried this book. And I was thrilled when I sold the book as part of a trilogy to a small press. I poured myself into revisions, learned a ton about the process and the publishing world in general, and ended up with three books I loved. Seriously. I love them. (And for those curious, the books are THE EMERALD TABLET, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, and THE NECROPOLIS.) Every time I pick them up and start reading them or when I think of fun elements I used in the book, I get a happy smile on my face. My middle grade trilogy holds an amazing special place in my heart. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I’m still proud of it and thrilled to share it with the world.
After writing the third book in my series (THE NECROPOLIS), I wrote another book and managed to snag one of the very best agents in the business. Laura Rennert was at the very top of my list of preferred agents, so to say I was over the moon when she offered representation would be putting it mildly. How cool to know she supported me and my work. And as excited as she was about my new middle grade story, I was sure it would sell in a day.
Yeah, you guessed right. It didn’t. Looking back on this submission period, I realize the piece was just not revised enough to go out on sub. I believed in the story and I loved the writing, but once I’d collected a fair number of rejections and started thinking about revisions again, I was shocked by how much had to change. It was so obvious in hindsight. And I was willing to change it. Because, when it comes right down to it, I love revisions, especially when I have strong direction.
But I put the middle grade piece on hold, because in my spare time, I decided to venture into the young adult market. I had been reading tons of young adult stories, and I loved the thrill and intensity that was present in so many of these novels. My young adult story (SOLSTICE) flew out of my mind and into the computer. It flowed faster than any writing has every flowed for me before. And I took advantage of this crazy period and wrote my butt off.
I had a first draft in just over two weeks. Wow. This was super fast because it normally takes me two or three months to crank out a first draft. Still, I knew the story needed lots of revision, and with the help of Laura, I spent the next couple years revising. I was willing to try anything and see what worked, and in the end, I found myself with a story I couldn’t wait to share with the world.
SOLSTICE got a fantastic response from publishers, and it even went to acquisitions. I was sure I was going to get an offer. My agent was sure. The world was sure. And then the offer fell through. Yeah, I was discouraged. I’d worked so hard on it, and I hated the thought of letting it just sit on a shelf somewhere and fester. So I revised again and my agent and I thought about our submission strategy. We were planning to send it back out.
But then…she brought up the idea of independently publishing the novel. She told me what she viewed as the pros and cons, and then she left the decision in my hands. I decided to go for it. Because I truly can’t see more of a crime in our writing world than letting work that we’ve worked long and hard on sit somewhere unread and die. I’d put everything into SOLSTICE, and I wanted to share it with the world. The timing felt right to get it out now, and my agent agreed.
So now, in addition to my middle grade trilogy, I have SOLSTICE out in the world. People are reading it. People are talking about it. People are telling me they love it. Did I ever imagine this is the path I was going to take? Heck no (refer to the three steps in the beginning of the guest post for my visions). Do I regret it? No way. In addition to people reading SOLSTICE, my mind is now free, and I can move on. I can work on new stories and invest my emotional energy there. It’s a great place to be.