I do not remember a time when I didn’t want to be a published writer. From the time I was a child, all I wanted to do was to entertain readers with my stories. Even while pursuing a degree in journalism, I knew I wanted to write fiction — especially the romance stories I’d enjoyed for so long.
I found the courage to submit my first book to a publisher when I was in my mid-twenties. I’ve joked since that the manuscript was returned in the next day’s mail, along with a rejection letter. The rejection letter didn’t even have my name on it. Just, “Dear author.” Ouch.
I still had a lot to learn about writing for publication. So, I wrote and submitted another book. And received another form letter rejection.
Through hard experience, I’ve learned since that rejection is very much a part of this business. It takes a thick skin to deal with that, and with revisions, and with critics — but for those of us with the writing addiction, those drawbacks can’t deter us. I had to keep trying.
Back then, I didn’t know any other writers, and there was no internet to connect me with support groups and professional organizations. So, I went to the library and started teaching myself as much as I could learn about the business. I learned how to write a query letter, how to request “tip sheets” from the publishers regarding their submission requirements, how to target my writing toward specific lines (I didn’t even know that each line had required word counts). And, because I’ve never been very good at marketing myself, I decided I needed an agent.
I selected Denise Marcil in New York after reading an article she had written for aspiring writers. She sounded like someone I would like. I mailed her a query letter, telling her about the latest story I’d written and asking her to represent me. She saw something promising in my writing, and she agreed to sign me. I was so naive then that I had no idea how hard it is to get an agent, how atypical it was for me to sign with the first one I contacted. I was very lucky that she happened to be a reputable and well-respected professional; there are many unscrupulous and less than competent “agents” out there trying to cash in on the big dreams of others.
Denise and I began our partnership in June of 1985. We’ve been together ever since — another rarity in this business in which most authors work with several agents during their careers. Denise taught me so much about the publishing business. I know she was exasperated at times with my total lack of education about the industry. She suggested I join a writers’ group, which led to my becoming a member of a local club and Romance Writers of America, both of which led to friendships I maintain to this day. And she was the one who called me to tell me of my first sale to Harlequin in 1986.
My agent has been my advocate, my adviser, my sounding board — and most of all, my friend. We’ve seen each other rarely during our long association, but we’ve talked often and easily. She celebrates every sale with me. She sent flowers after the birth of my son in 1988, and helped rearrange all my deadlines when my daughter was in ICU in 2000. She fought for me when I was plagiarized. She grieved with me when I lost my mother.
It’s been an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey. I’m very lucky to have had her on my side. I hope we celebrate many more milestones together.
Enter to win!
There have been no entries as of yet in this month’s contest. Is everyone waiting until the end of the month to enter? I’ll draw the winner on August 1 — and if you’re the only entry, you’ll be guaranteed to win! So click the “Enter to Win” tab above for directions on how to submit your name.