I thought back to my days as an in-house editor. We’d seen a non-fiction proposal from Ms. Writer and thought it was a bit raw, yet had terrific potential. Our editorial team decided to take a risk on her.
A few months later, Ms. Writer delivered her manuscript. I was the editor on the project, and unfortunately my first impression upon reading it was, “Uh-oh.” I tried working with it, but the work that needed to be done to make it publishable was too much for me with my full load of authors, so I ended up passing the project to a freelance editor. Eventually the editor came back to me with the distressing news: she felt the manuscript was simply too far from being “ready for prime time” and Ms. Writer wasn’t yet a skilled enough writer to accomplish the changes the book needed. Bottom line: we had to cancel the book. We were contractually allowed to do this; Ms. Writer had failed to deliver an “acceptable” manuscript. We had also gone above the call of duty in trying to salvage it.
Heartbreak all around; we didn’t like the situation and neither did the author. But Ms. Writer decided it was for the best. She was going to devote herself to learning the craft of writing as well as continuing to build her platform. We wished her well and sent her on her way.
Four years later: I’d just started agenting, and lo and behold, I got an email from Ms. Writer, who was shopping for an agent. She’d come a long way in four years, and was now ready for publication. Her platform was incredible; her writing had improved by leaps and bounds. She was also speaking with other agents, and eventually she ended up going with my friend mentioned above, Ms. Agent.
Ten months after that, Ms. Agent sold Ms. Writer’s book to a major publishing company. So, as far as I can tell, at least six years had passed between her first submission of a proposal to a publisher, and her getting this book deal.
Everything in its time, right?
Don’t underestimate the importance of having all the pieces in place. Your writing skill, your platform, and all the undefinable things in your life that spell your personal readiness (or lack thereof).
I want to encourage you… if it’s taking longer that you’d hoped, that’s normal. Take stock, be honest in your self-assessment, and keep moving forward.
Q4U: Do you have a story that involves publishing and timing? Tell us.
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.