Monday, September 12, 2011

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins Here

Jenny Milchman is my guest this week. Her debut novel will be out soon. Very exciting!
Recently I received an offer on my debut novel. It took eleven years.
That seems to me a pretty big number (although since receiving the offer, a startling number of other writers have poked their heads up to say, “Took me nine years,” and, “Ten for me,” or, “Twelve,” so perhaps my figure isn’t as high as all that).
Here are some other numbers associated with my publication journey.
I had three agents. I wrote eight novels, four of which were considered submission-ready, by me and/or my agent. Fifteen editors wanted to make offers on one or more of those novels. (All were turned down by their editorial boards, some sooner, some later in the process).
During the time I was writing, revising, querying, and on submission, I began reaching out to authors whose work I admired. (One of them became crucial to my finally getting an offer, but that’s another story). I still remember Jennifer Egan, author of THE KEEP and others, saying in an email: “Hang in there. In my experience when you start getting almost-offers, the real deal is close.”
She was right, although the two years that followed might be stretching the definition of close a bit.
Publishing time is like geologic time. It’s glacial. Even after receiving my offer, 18 months will pass before my book comes out.
While I was trying to break in, I learned about alternative routes to publication, along with the traditional one I was following. While I was trying to break in, the world changed, and getting your book out there became possible in a whole other way.
I teach writing, and when students ask me about the best way to get their books out there, I say there is no best way.
Independent publishing has many advantages—including the fact that an indie author gets to skip that eighteen month delay before her book comes out—and also the nine-ten-eleven years that often come before. Things like control over design, and a near-infinite amount of time to build your audience and try and get a title to take off are two other advantages.
Traditional publishing has its own list of ‘pros’, some of which are only becoming clear to me as I get deeper into the process. The brilliant mind of my editor, who is responsible for some of the best books being released today, is something I never would’ve anticipated. (I would’ve called my book done; she sees what it can be, if I can only rise to her vision). The plans the house has for the book—and its ability to enact those plans—is an advantage for which I also wasn’t prepared.
When students ask me for a prediction about the future of publishing, I tell them that no one can be sure. Some pundits have us never reading a paper book again, others have the indie pipelines hopelessly clogged. I have hope that both dire fates will be averted.
I think that there are pros and cons to both types of publishing, and that the wonder of the e-volution is that it’s opened up a wealth of possibilities that never existed before. If one of those possibilities is right for you as an author, then that’s the path to take.
Or maybe indie publishing will be right for you at one particular time. One particular book. Perhaps another book of yours down the line will be better off traditionally published.
On the other hand, if a traditional publishing deal is your dream, it’s wonderful that this option exists. It’s wonderful that a goal eleven years in the making can come to fruition for those who wish to pursue it.
Where does the journey of a thousand miles begin? These days, it’s wherever you choose to set your foot down.
About Jenny:
Jenny Milchman is a literary suspense writer whose debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, will be published by Ballantine in early 2013. Her short fiction has appeared on Amazon bestseller lists, and another story is forthcoming in an anthology called ADIRONDACK MYSTERIES II. Jenny teaches classes on polishing, pitching, and publishing your work for New York Writers Workshop. She co-hosts the series Writing Matters, which draws speakers from both coasts to events held at a local independent bookstore. Last year she founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which was celebrated in 30 states, Canada, England, and this year spread to Australia. Jenny welcomes authors in the Made It Moments forum on her blog. Please look for her at http://jennymilchman.com

22 comments:

Earl Staggs said...

Jenny, you have a delightful and positive outlook on everything. As a result, life cannot refuse you success. . .even though it takes a while. Best wishes for continued success.

Jenny Milchman said...

Earl, what a lovely thing to say. I thank you. And I'm glad to see you here at Ellis'--I always enjoy reading your thoughtful posts.

Thank you, Ellis, for having me to your blog!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Jenny,
Loved your post. I admire your perseverance. Sounds like you have a wonderful editor. I look forward to reading your novel.

Jenny said...

Nice post, Jenny, with both sides of the publishing coin very well presented. I agree, there is no best way. I always refer back to one of my favorite quotes to keep me going whenever the process seems tough: the path to success is littered with the bodies of those who gave up.

Donnell said...

Jenny, I was thrilled to hear about Cover of Snow. Your dedication and perseverance are so inspirational. Love that you have such an open mind, even when you have accepted a Traditional publishing contract. I'm going to be first in line to buy your books. Well done. It's not just you who's anxious for 2013 to get here. Waving madly ;)

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Nice post Jenny. Thank you Ellis for hosting her. I totally want a foot in both camps. Who knows? Mysterious Galaxy is opening a SECOND bookstore tomorrow in So Cal. in Redondo Beach. So I'd say bookstores are far from dead.

jenny milchman said...

It's so great to see you all here! I feel like I am in a warm circle of friends. Ellis has a great blog. Marilyn and Donnell, I've learned a great deal from reading your work--and posts about how you go about your work--I think having so much time to see different writers "make it" in so many ways, before I even had a glimmer of success, is what convinced me that there is no single right path. It's inspiring to know that if one brick wall doesn't crack, there are others to bang our heads on until we break through :) Jenny, I'd love to learn more about your path. I've just caught glimpses here and there. Pam, I have the same both-feet-in hope for you that you have--and what good news about the bookstore! Thanks for sharing that.

Gary Hoover said...

Great info! Not only for those just starting out, but for those who have been at it a while.

jenny milchman said...

Hi Gary! Man, haven't we *all* been at it for a while?? ;) Thanks for coming by and finding Ellis' blog. Ellis, Gary writes some mean guest posts and has had some great adventures in this writing life, if you are lookin' to add to the roster :)

JLB Creatives said...

Hey Jenny - what a wonderful post. I'm so thrilled to have found authors such as yourself who are willing to take the time and share their experiences so other upcoming authors can see what the writing world is all about, and hopefully in time, become a made it moment;-) You truly are an inspiration to me and my newly found career. Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences...they're golden!

T. Denise Robinson said...

Great post, Jenny. I can't wait to read your book and I'm honored to call you my friend. I know exactly what you mean when it comes to waiting and waiting. I got 19 rejections on my middle grade novel before I found an Indie who was willing to take a chance on me and my book. No matter how long it takes, it's worth the wait and I wish you nothing but the best.

Niamh Clune said...

Hi jenny...really love your post. And I love the title of your new book. Wish you all the best with it!

jenny milchman said...

Ack, those rejections, Trin. The only thing we can say for them is we ALL go through them.

Thank you for your kind words, Niamh. I was very happy to hear that the publisher also likes my title--I should've mentioned that as another difference between indie and traditional :)

Creatives, what nice words! I can't wait for you to contribute a Made It Moment. One thing the forum has taught me is that Moments happen all along the way, at different points. So get in touch any time you feel that 'yesss!!' It will come, I promise, whether the right scene, the right book, or the right publisher--or all of the above :)

Connie J Jasperson said...

I think that you are right - that there will be a common ground where books will still exist and indie authors will still be able to market their books. This is the beginning of the big change, and of course there are fears on both sides.

jenny milchman said...

Excellently put, Connie. May fears give way to triumph--and more great books!

Alison said...

I am really looking forward to Cover of Snow! Having met Jenny, I can add that she is just as delightful in person as she is here in this column.

There are wonderful insights here - thanks so much for the interview!

SapphireSavvy said...

This is so stirring. I shared the link too. I just find it inspiring that you kept fighting and finally got the success you deserve!

historywriter said...

Getting published IS a long slog. It can be discouraging as you wade through the rejection letters or come soooo close to only have it fall apart.

Learning to celebrate your writing life as you work toward your goals is a must. The first time I had an article published I was on high heaven and since collected those emails and letters of acceptance. Now with the choices in publishing novels, a writer can write and both query in the traditional way and put their work (edited, of course)out to the reading public.

So happy for you, Jenny. And everyone else, stay the course.

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

Jenny, I'm very impressed by your journey. YOu know I started writing my novel 20 years ago and finished the first draft then. I didn't have time to type it up until 2007. I have a few near-hits but got rejected anyway. Finally I found FIBP. The rest is history. I'm looking forward to reading your book and meeting you in NYC soon.

Polly said...

Your story is inspirational, Jenny. You're an example of never giving up, and many times that's all it takes. Best of luck with your debut.

Ellis Vidler said...

Jenny, you're a delightful guest, and your story and persistence are inspiring. I'll be looking for Cover of Snow as soon as it's released. Best of luck with it!

Jean Henry Mead said...

After reading Lunch Reads, I look forward to Cover of Snow. The publishing process for new novelists is a painfully long one, but worth the wait if you're with the right publisher. However, many of my fellow veterans of the process have decided to go the indie route. After ten royalty publishers over the years, I've decided to join them. I love the freedom of controlling nearly every aspect of the publishing process.