The Ultimate Lesson

With all of the negative talk about the future of book publishing and what is going to happen to reading and writing, I was reminded this week of a lesson I learned early on: Never give up!

So often during the course of our work, we get discouraged.  Publishers don’t see the proposals or manuscripts the way we do, Authors are depressed when we can’t sell their work right away and we become exhausted by rejection.  Indeed, when I first started out as an agent I would take this rejection quite personally.  Then I had a chat with myself and realized that if I continued to do that, I might as well find another career.

Over the years, I have had my fair share of rejection, but I have also experienced many instances where, after trying and trying to sell something I believed in and refusing to give up, I’ve ultimately succeeded and seen the book I sold become a huge success.  Some examples:  The Simplify Your Life series, In Memory’s Kitchen, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

This week I sold a novel I had shown to over 40 publishers.  I believed in this novel and in its author and I decided I simply wouldn’t give up; the author continued to encourage me to keep going and I did.  Finally, last Thursday afternoon we had our offer and we completed our deal on Friday.  The novel will be published next April.

Once again, my confidence in the value of persistence was renewed.  I’d love to hear your stories of grit and perseverance.

12 Responses to The Ultimate Lesson

  1. I don’t have that happy ending yet, but reading your story of perseverance has been a nice shot in the arm. I’m still in the query trenches and have experienced my fair share of rejection so far, but it’s stories like yours that help me get up each day and send out yet another query. Maybe one of those requests will actually lead to something. I won’t be giving up anytime soon.

  2. I have followed your blogs for a long time. They are intelligent and insightful and I enjoy them. I just wish I could write a novel that you would be willing to represent. Being an unknown, that’s hard to do.

  3. josin says:

    Congrats to you and your author on the sale. After hearing so many things about books not selling and people losing their agents for the same, it’s nice to see an instance where, even after what seems like a large number of rejections, that you kept going because you believed in the novel.

  4. Tracy Jorgensen says:

    Well, I haven’t been published yet, but I do have a story of perseverance that might be encouraging to someone.

    When I started my novel, I was pregnant with my first son. We had saved up enough to cover the expenses that our student insurance could not. We planned on a normal birth, which is not what we got. My son got stuck on the way out. They turned to an emergency c-section, worried the cord might be wrapped around his throat. It was not, but he had a hole in his lung. He was taken to the NICU and I went home with no baby. Two weeks later, he came home. A month later, I went back into the hospital with extra complication from the birth.

    My son is now a healthy and happy little boy, but the expenses of his birth were beyond what we planned. Even with insurance and additional help, we were buried in debt. My novel was put on the back burner as we worked to pay off out debts. That was three years ago. Once our situation was stable, I was able to get out my laptop and set aside time each day to work on the book. Now, I’ve finished it, and I’m very excited about even that accomplishment. Considering all the time and drama between start and finish, I rejoice that I did that much. Getting an agent or publisher in the future will be an enhancement of that accomplishment. I want to encourage other writer’s to recognize the magnitude of their own perseverance when they simply finish! So many people set out to write a novel, and never get to the end.

    There are plenty of others with stories like mine, both related to writing and not, where persistence brought success. Let’s keep at it fellow authors!

    • Michael G-G says:

      What a great story, Tracy. Thanks for sharing it. I’m glad your son is doing so well after an unexpectedly difficult start. (I am also a parent of a NICU grad., now 14!)

  5. Thanks for that post, Jane.

    Wow, Tracy, you went through tough times. I’m glad you all are stable.

    In 2009 I signed with a new agent at a top agency. She shopped my comedic mystery to mystery and commercial women’s fiction editors. Who all rejected it. June, 2010 I was in the middle of a re-write to send it to romance editors when I discovered, via an internet site, that my agent was no longer at the agency. Because my ms hadn’t sold yet, the agency let me go as well.

    Heartbroken, I called a friend. She gave my ms to an Indie Publisher. He loved it and I went the Indie route. Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys was published in Nov. 2010. It’s doing great on e-books. Not so great in paper, as there is no distribution.

    I’m now writing the sequel to Cupcakes, as well as a completely un-related YA romance thriller. I’ll be seeking agent representation again in the near future.

    I think you just have to persevere. That’s all you can really do.


  6. Michael G-G says:

    Thanks for what I’m going to call a timely “Monday Motivation,” Jane. Perseverance is everything, in this industry as well as in life. After a setback this morning, I decided I could choose to wallow in self-pity, or see it as a sign to roll up my sleeves yet further (practically a muscle shirt now) and work even harder. Your post seems to be a karmic smile that I made the right choice.

  7. Lisa Marie says:

    Pamela, I love your story, and I’m so glad that you found a way to let your voice be heard. ☺

    I’ll be honest. At first I approached self-published novels with reticence. I simply didn’t have time to find the gold among the pyrite. However, the past three books I’ve purchased have been eBooks published by the author. And they are much better than any of the hardcopies languishing on my nightstand. The authors had similar stories as yours – they were agented at one time or came close to landing a deal but didn’t. My tastes are far more eclectic that those of the mainstream, so I have problems finding legacy-published books that pique my interest.

    Right now, I’m getting a lot of “Really like it; don’t think I can sell it, though.” This is extremely helpful information for me. I put a pause on the query route as of this week. I have one more partial to get out – I must make good on my word – after which I’m considering a new strategy entirely. ☺

    • Thanks Lisa Marie. Yes, it’s been quite a journey. Good luck with yours.


      Pamela DuMond

      If anyone on this thread would like to FB me, please be my guest. I don’t bite. I’m even friends with Jacqueline Carey.

  8. Gina Black says:

    I love stories where persistence pays off. And, BTW, I love the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I use it ALL THE TIME. In fact, we’re just finishing off some rosemary bread I made using the basic recipe and throwing in the herb. Yummmmmy.

  9. Antonia Lewandowski says:

    Jane, your example of perseverance hits the target for me, and I believe in the power of just taking the next little step, one after another. When I was writing my dissertation, I got to the point where I knew my project was going in circles. I had insomnia. Up nights, I worked at my desk, but without success. My dog would come and lay his head in my lap, as if knowing my distress. On morning at about 2 AM, I realized that I might not finish, might not get my degree, might see all the time and tuition go down the drain. The realization was clear as a bell and I went to bed with that thought. The next morning, though, I picked up the papers I had thrown in the waste basket and made big wall charts of my project. I lay them all over the floor and walked around them for a day, trying to link one idea to another. That’s how I finished my dissertation and graduated. The memory is visceral and has never left me. So I tell that story to my writing students also. Like you, I believe in perseverance. Thank you for the encouragement.

  10. Julie Nilson says:

    I recently read this quote, by Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” That’s what I thought of when I read this post!

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