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03 November 2008 @ 10:08 am
Overnight success  
So that headline is totally a joke! While I'm thrilled beyond words to have broken into the ranks of to-be-published authors, my honest first reaction to the news was, "it's about time!" Not about time that somebody recognized my mad, awesome talent, because I'm still working on my craft and developing whatever talent I have, and I would never delude myself that I was some underappreciated genius waiting to be discovered, but about time because... well, it simply took a long time to get to this point!

Often when we read about an author getting a book deal, we assume they made it quickly and easily. Even if we know deep down that it isn't true, we can still feel discouraged about our own journey because we don't know the details of how the other person got where they are. In hopes that it gives another aspiring author hope and encouragement, I'm going to post my timeline, from when I started writing novels to the day I got "The Big Call." A more-experienced friend once told me it takes an average of 8 years to get published, and what do you know? That's what it took for me.

Here are the details!

2000: I'm working as a newspaper reporter, and starting to feel as if a part of my soul is dying. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed newspaper work and may end up doing it again someday, but I felt a real hunger to work on something that was all my own - something not assigned by an editor and due by close of business, something that had nothing to do with city council meetings or traffic fatalities, something created completely by ME! I sit down one night and start banging out my first novel.

2001 - 2004: I noodle around on that first novel, and slowly (sometimes I think way TOO slowly) realize that it sucks. Big time. This is a shove-it-in-the-back-of-a-drawer-forever book if ever there was one. But while I'm writing that crappy novel, I'm learning how to write a better one. In between bouts of trying to make that first novel something that doesn't suck so badly, I write a very rough draft/outline of RIVAL.

Mid- 2004: My daughter is born, and I feel a renewed drive to write something that DOESN'T suck. I have a good feeling about RIVAL, so I set a daily goal for myself of 500 words or an hour of revision each night after she goes to bed.

Late 2005: I finish RIVAL and start querying agents.

Early 2006: I actually land the first agent I ever queried and assume I've got it made - publishing success is right around the corner!  RIVAL goes out to a couple of houses, and then I wait. And wait. In the meantime, I start writing a new book. After a couple of months, my agent tells me she doesn't think RIVAL is going to be my debut novel and encourages me to focus on the new one.

October 2006: I decide my agent and I aren't a good match and terminate the contract. No juicy fireworks there, I just had a feeling I needed to move on. I focus on finishing the new novel because I've sort of given up on RIVAL, too, and figure it'll be easier to snag a new agent with a fresh new ms.

April 2007: I finish the new book and start looking for a new agent.

September 2007: I sign with Holly, who *loves* the new book, and I love how enthusiastic she is! She sends that book out and it gets a lot of interest - one major house even tells us they're going to offer, only to have the book shot down in committee at the last minute. This round doesn't net an offer. I'm disappointed but not crushed because I can see ways to fix what seems to be holding everyone back from going all the way with the new book. In the meantime, Holly decides to send out RIVAL, which I've since revised.

November 2007: We hear from Erica at Harper that she loves the story and my writing. Would I be willing to do some revisions before she takes it to committee? I say sure, because I totally agree with her suggestions for how to make the story better.

January 2008: I turn in my first round of revisions on RIVAL

Spring 2008 (I can't remember the actual month): Erica writes back that while she likes what I did, her committee had some concerns about key aspects of the story. Would I be willing to do another re-write? Again, I think her comments are spot-on, so I forge ahead with a new revision.

August 2008: I turn in my revision, and then wait. By this point, I'm afraid to get my hopes up - I sort of figure I'll be slogging along into infinity.

October 2008: Here's a melodramatic story--my husband takes my daughter out of town so I can spend some time working on an entirely *new* book in peace. I go to my local bookstore to write and while I'm there, I peruse the YA shelves, looking for a new book to buy. And I just can't do it. I can't look at all those other books. I can't think about whether I'll ever see my book up there with them. All I want to do is cry. I'm just so tired of working and waiting. I'm not ready to give up--nowhere close to it. But I am mentally and emotionally exhausted. I go home and bawl for a couple of hours.

Two days later, Holly calls to tell me we have an offer on RIVAL. I sort of bawl some more. I ask her if she's sure it's real this time. She laughs and says yes. But I'm afraid to really believe it until the deal report goes up at Publisher's Marketplace. Sometimes I STILL don't believe it. But the best part about this is knowing that all that time and work wasn't a waste. As aspiring authors, we hear people say that persistence counts and it's easy to think, "yeah right - for everybody else, and not for me." Well, for *this* writer, it turned out to be true. And for everybody out there who's ready to start bawling in a bookstore, I can't tell you WHEN, but if you keep working and trying to improve and don't give up, the chances are good that it will happen for you, too! 

Diary of a Writer and Concert Addictmandymorgan on November 3rd, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
What an inspiring story! :)
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:21 am (UTC)
Thanks! I hope it gives people some hope! :-)
cathschaffstump: substancecathschaffstump on November 3rd, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
You are so right. It really is a matter of sending things out and putting in the time.

sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)
Yep! Plus a little bit of Fate deciding it's done toying with this particular set of emotions...
Jackiefabulousfrock on November 3rd, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
It's funny...it seems like everybody has that moment right before it all happens--the moment where you're frustrating and sobbing and exhausted. In my case, it was the agent search, since the offer came so fast over that--I was just alternating between bitchy and weepy for weeks before I got the agent offer.
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
You do have to sort of get to that on-your-knees moment, huh? Like my mom says, "the women in this family always have to freak out before anything good happens..."
Debra Garfinkledlgarfinkle on November 3rd, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your story. You so deserved the book deal! Good for you!
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
Thank you!!
Tammi Sauertamarak on November 3rd, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
Great post. Thanks for sharing your story--especially the melo part! :)
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
I'm all about sharing the melodrama! I'm sure the workers at J-Beth were all, "did you see that skeezed out pregnant lady blubbering over in YA? What a weirdo..."
Lisa Schroeder, Author for Kids and Teens: YAY!!!lisa_schroeder on November 3rd, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
I know too well that bookstore breakdown. :)

So glad you stuck to it and that it happened for you!!!!

sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Ah, you've had a bookstore breakdown, too? Now I don't feel so alone...
lindajsingletonlindajsingleton on November 3rd, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
Amazing story of perserverence!!! I've found from my own experiences that usually right when I'm at the "want to cry, I'm so frustrated" point, a few days later good new arrives. It's like sensing that someone out there is talking about you. Good luck with your writing!! And it's good you wrote down your writing progress. Be sure to write down all the details of this first sale -- it will be the #1 question you're ever asked, and while other sales will be exciting, nothing will ever "rival" the excitement of a first sale.
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
Great ideas! And you're right - good news often does follow those times when you feel like you've just about had it!
jennifer_d_g: pic#66038246jennifer_d_g on November 3rd, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
What a great story. I am so happy for you!
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks!
brian_ohio on November 3rd, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
That's it? It was that easy? I can't believe it! I don't know why everyone in the world isn't published. Sheez!

I hope... *sniffling* I hope I can... *weeping* I can hold out until... *crying badly* hold out until my book... *keyboard shorts out from tears*
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
That's the ticket! Break down in tears, preferably in a public place. The publishing gods look kindly on those who weep in the YA aisle...
Anne Marie Paceannemariepace on November 3rd, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing the whole story at once, honey! You are a perseverance champion!
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
As are you! I can't wait to read your story one of these days...
robinellenrobinellen on November 3rd, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing this, Sarah -- I'm definitely at the point where I'm wondering if there's any place to go from here. I still don't know...if my current books out there don't get me an offer, it might be the end for me, and it's discouraging! But it's still great to hear about others who actually make their journey to published author -- truly wonderful!
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
Oh, I hate to hear/read the discouragement in those words. If you really feel like it's time to stop, then only you can decide, but that one additional project or submission could be The One!
(no subject) - robinellen on November 4th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
L.K. Madigan: U2 yaylkmadigan on November 3rd, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)

Great story!

sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)

Aw, shucks.
Newport2Newport: dancing fairynewport2newport on November 3rd, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
I love stories with a happy ending, especially when I'm so fond of the main character. :)
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
I'm hoping for a happy ending for you someday soon, too!
Mindi Scottmindiscott on November 3rd, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm so happy for you!

This part really resonates for me: it's easy to think, "yeah right - for everybody else, and not for me." Well, for *this* writer, it turned out to be true.

sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
A few weeks ago, I was totally thinking that. Everybody tells you not to give up, and you think, "but I'm probably the exception to the rule." I soooo understand that feeling...
kellyrfinemankellyrfineman on November 3rd, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
Eight years. Good to know. It's been just about six years for me now (plus or minus - I can't really recall), and not long ago, I was starting to feel that it had been too long, and maybe I should hang it up. Good to know I'm not there yet.
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
I would have kept trying even if it took ten years. Six isn't too long! Something awesome could happen in year seven, or year eight...
Jody Feldmanjodyfeldman on November 3rd, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
I love hearing stories like yours. And I'm so glad you wrote it, not just for us ... but for yourself. You'll be so glad you did. Trust me. Congrats!
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad to share, and it *is* nice to have a record of all this...
(Deleted comment)
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
Oh, thanks. I can't wait!
Sarah: heart handsrusalkatrix on November 4th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
I love stories with a happy ending. :D
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
Me too! :D
Sheela Chari: me!sheela_chari on November 4th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful, Sarah - wonderful that it all worked out and you are the on happy ending side of things. I really hope we get to share more of our publishing journey as we, uh, journey forward. :-)
Sheela Charisheela_chari on November 4th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
Re: yay
And I'm sorry I mispelled your name. No 'h'!
Re: yay - sbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: yay - sbennettwealer on November 4th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
beedeeceebeedeecee on November 4th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
what a fabulous post. i enjoyed reading about your road to publication and thank you for posting it!

and i can completely relate to wanting something of your "own" published, as i was a magazine editor for the past few years (and now work as a writer at an investment banking firm, where my work isn't even really "published").
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 5th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
Oh, cool! Isn't it funny how you can feel glad that you're making a living doing something you love, and still feel a little empty when you aren't also working on something you created all your own?
dustydustybinx on November 5th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Congratulations and continued success.
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 5th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
ext_132540 on November 8th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the inspiration
Thank you for sharing your story! My head knows that I've got all the right ingredients in the mix--hard work, perseverance, growing through crit groups, conferences, and workshops--but sometimes my heart doubts there's hope! You story speaks to my heart :), and I plan to come back to this post next time I'm having a tears-in-the-bookstore moment. ~Cheryl
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 8th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the inspiration
Oh, I'm glad I could help! Believe me, I know *that* feeling - it's especially dark because there's no way of knowing when you'll break through. HUGS!
ext_127688 on November 20th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
I'm coming a little late to the party, but I did want to leave my congrats! Holly is my agent too and she's fabulous! I truly can't say enough good things about her. She stuck with me during my crazy (and long) submission process too and I can't imagine having another agent!

Your books looks awesome!

Maureen Lipinski
sbennettwealersbennettwealer on November 20th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks so much!! We should have a "we love Holly" party.

So did she sell your book, too? I know your name is familiar - tell me more about it!
(no subject) - ext_127688 on November 21st, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on February 5th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sbennettwealer on February 6th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)