Today's inspiring Guest Post is from the fabulous Shelley Moore Thomas over at StoryQueen's StoryCastle
What it all comes down to is luck, I think. Luck is very powerful. That being said, I think it is possible to make your own luck.
When we finally broke down and bought a computer in late 1992, I figured I would start sending manuscripts out. (How writers managed before computers, I have no idea!) I had about six manuscripts that I decided to send, to different houses because simultaneous submissions were a big fat no-no. I bought my copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market so I could see who published what (and learned what a cover letter should look like). I chose editors to send stuff to based on nothing scientific...oohh, I really like her name! And started sending stuff out.
I received rejections, of course, all manner of rejections.
Dear Ms. Thomas....whoa! Wait a minute!! Someone took the time to type my name??? Yahoo!
Okay, seriously, the tiny victories were sweet.
Then one day, on the simplest of my manuscripts, I got a letter asking to hold it for a bit, from the FIRST publisher I sent it to. Next came a letter asking to publish it. I was thrilled! The book was Putting the World to Sleep which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1995. There was only one change of one word in the manuscript, so not a lot of editing.
You would think I had it made. I sure did. Heck, I'd had my picture book published!!! By the first editor that saw it!!! I am awesome!!!
However, more likely I was lucky. I made that luck by not giving up, by being professional, and by not giving up. (Yes, I said that twice.) I thought Houghton Mifflin would be swarming all over my next stuff, my other stuff, my whatever!! But, after sitting on some stuff for a year and a half, they did not buy it. I was, at the time, crushed. I should not have been. Folks, this is the way it is. In order to publish a book, it must be the right book in the right hands at the right time. The magic three. I was lucky the first time. I had to make my own luck on the next eight books.
In terms of the rule of three, things are changing. I cannot get my books into as many hands (searching for the right ones) because fewer and fewer editors will look at unagented material. And, though I have nothing against agents, I have not yet engaged one. It is probably time to try and do so. Especially since I am trying my hand at longer pieces now.