Against All Odds

By Susan Mary Malone

Breaking into Traditional publishing has always been tough. Always. In this day of instant publishing, sometimes we forget that in days of yore, a writer could struggle for years, decades to finally sell that manuscript and become a real book author. Indeed, if that ever happened at all. This road has always been long and perilous, with the vast majority of writers dropping by the wayside, later if not sooner. Monsters and gargoyles and trolls block every single turn, both internally and externally. But then, grasping for the brass ring has humbled the greatest of us to our knees.

And, nothing has changed, really. Although the technology and the business model and all of that have taken off in directions unforeseen when I began in this business, getting Traditionally published is similarly difficult today as it always has been. More so, yes. Due to sinking print sales and burgeoning self-pubbed books, the Traditional market has shrunk some. Lists are tighter. Competition more fierce. As a book editor buddy of mine at a major house is fond of saying, “We’re only publishing existing authors—and preferably if they’re dead.” He says this with a straight face too. And their sales numbers bear it out.

Yet and still, folks are getting Traditionally published every day. So, how do they do it?

Hard work, fortitude, and persistence. Is it that simple? Yes.

The hard-work part comes in up front. It’s tough to write well. It’s really tough. The vast sea of self-pubbed work out there is actually pretty awful. I get complaints from readers every single day: “I can’t find anything decent to read.” And while this has been the case for some time now (don’t get me started on the Bestseller’s List), it’s a million times worse now. Literally. As I’m fond of saying: “Writing really IS rocket science.” And this hard work never ends—you must keep growing and learning and improving as a writer. Mastering book development is a life-long process. And don’t be afraid to use book editing services from a novel editor.

If you don’t have fortitude, you won’t have the persistence to keep at it. I know so, so many writers with talent who finally quit, unable to bear the soul-wrenching rejection time after time, year after year. Yes, humbling. But we all know fifty stories about famous authors who wallpapered their offices with rejections. It really does, in the end, just take one “yes.”

I began working as a developmental editor with a new novelist a few years ago, Randy Mitchell, who self-published his novel, Sons in the Clouds. Randy wanted a Traditional contract, but decided to get the book out there, promote it, and see where it went. First he honed his craft, revising and revising. Once the book came out, he’s been relentless, persistent, unbowed by the pressure. Well, okay, so perhaps it has bothered him, but not one time has he whined or complained—he just keeps digging in. He got on top of social-media, and kept banging away. And lo and behold, his novel sold to a Traditional house, and will be published in 2013! Great job, Randy!

About ten years ago, I began working with a talented young man (he was just a kid at the time. Okay, so he’s still just a kid to me, at 30!). Kevin Porter had written a good YA novel, and had worked and worked to learn the craft. We never got that one sold, but Kevin kept writing. He wrote a Mid-Grade novel, which is indeed beautifully done. Unfortunately, it has no vampires or werewolves in it. Which of course made his battle a steep uphill one. Did that bother Kevin? All I can say is he never whined or complained. He kept querying and kept sending and built up a social media presence with his blog at The Examiner. And also in 2013, his wonderful Mid-Grade novel, Missing, is being published by a Traditional house. Great job, Kevin!

Did it take ten tons of work for both of these talented writers to get published? You bet’cha. Did they succeed, seemingly against all odds? Oh, lordy yes. But the point is, they did it. Never, ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done. You have two great guys right here who say it can.

About Susan Mary Malone

Susan Mary Malone has worked as a freelance editor since 1993, with a BS in Political Science and minors in English and Journalism. Her client list includes NY Times Bestsellers, Essence Bestsellers and books featured in Publishers Weekly. She is also an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction herself. She participates as a speaker in literary conferences such as the Harriett Austin Writer’s Conference (at the University of Georgia), the Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference, the SouthWest Writer’s Conference, and the East Texas Writer’s Guild, among others. She will be presenting at the upcoming Lexicon Writer’s Conference in July, 2012. Her full biography and featured list of published authors can be viewed at http://www.maloneeditorial.com.