Saturday, May 16, 2009

Never, Ever Give Up

Today's blog is about a life lesson I learned.

Back when the earth was still being formed, I sold my first book, a category contemporary romance, to Kensington Publishing. Wonderful, yes, but let's back up a step or two to the months preceding that glorious milestone.

I had done fairly well in a series of writing contests sponsored by RWA. In addition, I had secured the support of an agent who was new to the market, but energetic and positive with just the right combination of aggressiveness and charm. Best of all? She loved my work. Her name was Kelly St. Clair – a lawyer who moved from private practice to literary representation because she loved romance.

I kept writing and Kelly began a full court press, submitting my manuscripts everywhere. We came close. Over and over and over again I kept hearing wonderful feedback...but never the magic five words: 'We want to buy it.'

After nearly a year, with an ever growing stack of 'no thank you' notes from publishing houses far and wide, I lost confidence. In fact, I went into writer's remission, uninspired and incredibly sad that a dream I'd held for decades was doomed to go unfulfilled. I needed to go to work full time because college money needed to be raised for our kids. Writing time was easy to push aside, since to my mind, it wasn't taking me anywhere. I began to think that perhaps God was trying to send me a message about my writing and I was refusing to receive it.

Meanwhile, as I stopped writing and stepped up my outside work life, Kelly kept on top of the market and new developments. And I received yet another rejection. I was ready to call it quits - and told Kelly as much in a very heartfelt, almost apologetic letter. She had been a such a tremendous advocate, and by that point, I felt like I was wasting her time.

She wrote back promptly – and with an equally heartfelt reply urged me to keep going, affirming a talent she saw, but I no longer believed in. She concluded by saying how much she was looking forward to seeing me at the upcoming RWA national conference.

I had nearly canceled my registration, but her note had me deciding to stick with it. It would be my swan song – and at least I'd get a chance to thank her directly for all she had done.

Enter the blessing of timing.

At the conference I checked in at the registration desk and who did I find standing two people away from me? My agent. Kelly had heard me give my name and came up to me immediately and gave me a hug. That was our first face to face communication. She was bubbling with excitement.

She pulled me to a seating area of the hotel lobby, not far from one of the dozen or so conference rooms lining the hallway. She told me Kensington was looking for publication ready manuscripts for their new “Precious Gem” line of contemporary romances, and she'd been keeping an eye out for Senior Editor Kate Duffy to get further information about the line...and tell her about me.

We couldn't get over the timing of our lobby meeting.

But that's not the end of the story. We chatted, and she continued to encourage me – and told me not to give up, and that she was determined on my behalf. What a gift. When I had given up, without my even really knowing about it, she had continued to push forward. Her confidence ran deep, and was authenticated by her actions.

A few minutes into our chat, Kelly stopped talking abruptly and started to smile, looking at a spot behind me. Kate Duffy was leaving one of the conference rooms, headed right for us.

We introduced ourselves, and Kelly mentioned I had written a book that might fit the Gem guidelines. Kate was delighted to hear about it – and we chatted a bit further, then Kate left. A short, sweet, perfect meeting.

Less than a month later I sold book number one. A month after that? Book number two.

Moral of the story? Timing and perseverance.

I've always told my kids: Never, ever give up. If the call is on your heart, follow it, and overcome the obstacles. Surround yourself with people who will support, encourage and uplift you. I'm thankful every day they've seen that axiom vindicated.

A growing, young family sent Kelly back to part-time private law practice a year or so later so she's no longer an agent – but I owe her so much more than her 15% cut will ever reward. I've gone on to sell two more books and have high hopes for two more.

My wish and prayer is for just such benefits for you, no matter what your dream. What have you faced? What have you overcome to get where you are? I'd love to hear your story!


  1. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing that. After a multitude of rejections, when it seems your writing career is going backward instead of forward, it's easy to lose confidence in yourself. To keep writing and submitting at that point is extremely difficult and I appreciate your encouragement.

  2. Marianne--I started writing late, compared to most authors.Still, I work at it as I did teaching, mothering, etc.My mantra is "Never Lay Up."--taken from the mouth of Tiger Woods (I'm a golfer-I will write a blog about this soon--my second one of all time. My blog was just born last week. His quote means, always go for the green.that's me--never give up, even though I might turn out like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup, where as a washed-up pro, got into the Open championship, and had shot to win on the last hole, if he'd only laid up, chipped over and putted twice. But no, he went for the green--18 times. And lost. But his spirit did not die. He waited for the next time. Celia Yeary

  3. Hey Marianne! Love the page!

    I guess I started a little behind the times too. I know some who've published mulitple times by the time they reach 30. I got my first contract a little over a couple weeks ago with the Wild Rose Press. It's sorta heady to think that someone really likes what I wrote considering I went about the submission process the wrong way around for so long. I thought you found an agent first. NO! Then I thought you needed to simply send the best thing you wrote. Not quite. The best I had needed a serious overhaul with a crit partner and then still more work on my own to reach the point where an editor would look at it. But I got lucky I believe. But I'll put that long story on my blog. Take a moment and come over to read it!



  4. Wow, great story. Congratulations. I love to hear stories like that as I journey through another manuscript and get ready to submit it to agents. :)

  5. Great story! I truly believe a lot of would-be writers never make it because they just give up too soon. I came to writing late in life, after my boys had all started school, although I'd dabbled in writing since I was in grade school. But once I did get serious about it, it took years before I learned what I needed to know to write a publishable book and more years to find a publisher for that book. And now, the contracts just keep coming. I have five releases this year, two full-length novels and three short stories. I'm so glad I stuck it out.

  6. Ladies, thank you all so much for your visit to my blog and your wonderful feedback. I'm enjoying it immensely. God knows there are so many opportunities in our writing, and in our lives, to just toss our frustrations to the wind and say "ENOUGH!" I'm delighted to be in the company of others who have beaten that negativity down and kept on fighting.

  7. I've been writing for a long time and while I'd been published in short story length, it seemed I just couldn't sell a book length work. Twenty-four years ago, I did manage to sell one but it never came out due to publisher changes. Three years ago I finally sold that novel again to an epublisher. The book came out and had a nice but short run, and then the publisher went belly up. Last year, the same book was bought by The Wild Rose Press and just this month was released by their new house, White Rose Publishing both as an ebook and in print. Finally! So it's true, you never ever want to give up. You want to believe it will happen and someday it will.

    Lucy Kubash

  8. Marianne,

    Thank you for your encouragement. I got a late start also. I've journaled, written poems, stories, kept a diary since I was a child. But never submitted anything until a few years ago. Two essays were published in a local magazine. That spurred me on.

    That's how I met my critique partner Nelda. She was one of the editor's for the local magazine and saw potential in me. On January 1, 2004, I began a book. Nelda read and critiqued the first 7 chapters. We called it off for the summer, then never got back together. Without her nudge, I laid the MS aside, then took a grueling job at a seed factory. Long hours and no energy resulted in adding only 3 chapters to my MS over the next 2 years. Then in July 2006 I gave myself a birthday present. I quit work to finish the book. In 4 1/2 months on November 4, 2006, after adding 12 more chapters, I wrote THE END.

    It took a while to edit, revise, find a publisher, edit, revise,.....You know what I mean. But a couple months ago, "Journey To Forgiveness" released. Since then I've had 7 book signings and one more to go. I have to start booking some more!

    To respond to your comment of being at the right place at the right time....This has been some week! We went to a gospel singing of a well-known group (at our church). The wives of one of the singers does promos for singers in Nashville, and also writes childrens books. She's with Harvest House. We talked a long time and exchanged personal info.

    Then last night at a book signing at a local elementary school, I met a young woman who works for agents and has ties with Tyndale, and other major publishing houses. I got her contact info. Didn't sell many books, but hey!

    Lastly, today I did a signing at a local library. It was cloudy, stormy, hardly anyone showed up. I sold three books. But, one of them was to a lady who works at a local radio station. She wants to do an interview with me. So, hey... you may not always make money at these events, but the contacts may make it well worth your time.

    What is my advice? Hang in there! God can cause the right people to cross your path if you hang with Him.

  9. It seems that a lot of us started late. I'm about to throw in the towel - it all seems pointless right now - but maybe I'm just supposed to stop for now - and pick it up again later. Love sharing the stories.

  10. Lucy, what a great story of sticking to it! Thanks for visiting! I'm so glad for your success with Wild Rose/White Rose. I want to sell to White Rose very much, and that's what I'm working on at the moment with two WIPs that are Christian/Inspirational. LOVE writing about issues of faith, and God's love in the context of a great romance!! I wish you all the very best!!!

  11. Okay, Laurean, could the timing and the idea of God putting the right people in the right place at the right time be any more true than in your case?? How cool!! I'm excited for you -- so keep me posted! Thanks for visiting! :-)

  12. Hi, Kathy!! -- and plesae don't give up!!! Take a break if needs be, (Lord knows I've taken a few in my writing "Tenure") - but my thinking is, you'll find your way back. You nailed the crux of the whole thing when you said you "Love telling the stories." That's the proverbial bottom line, and it never seems to completely disappear. Keep writing for the joy of it! :-)

  13. Marianne,

    Loved, loved, loved your post. I'm rooting for your White Rose contracts.

    Blessings, Teri

    Teri Wilson ~ romancing the pet lover's soul

  14. Aw, Teri - THANK YOU. I appreciate your kindness! You are one very special ROSE!!! :-)

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  16. Good for you for never giving up. We're so glad you didn't.

    Success in this business is a little bit talent, a little bit good timing, and a lot a bit perseverance. :)

    Good luck with your White Rose career. I know you'll do great.


  17. Marianne!



  18. so very true. and so happy for you!
    great blog! i'm following you now. you should pop over/follow mine. i have all things books...
    nice seeing you.

  19. Marianne. I have tears of joy in my eyes. Here I was, almost about to mull in my own pool of rejection when you commented on a fb status I'd posted, declaring my rejection. You suggested I read this blog. And I thank you. Dearly. Not only am I thrilled you were able to stay on the road, but I am thrilled you blogged about your ups and downs of getting your first book published. With Kensington no less.