[This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author.com on February 26, 2018]
All roads to the finding an agent and the dream of publishing led through the Conference.
I’d planned, scraped together the money to fly to Nashville (which was significant from Australia, and required some divine help to pull together!) and cleared the calendar. I had to recover from a 12-hour jet lag in a day-and-a-half, but I was going to make it work.
I had no publisher, no agent and no profile. I was going along as a Genesis finalist – which helped with visibility – but I needed to work hard to make sure I made the most of it. At the Conference I took every opportunity to grab every conversation and lead I could. I speed-dated a handful of agents and publishers, grabbed snatched pitches while waiting for sessions, and trotted out my elevator pitch that I’d practiced for 13 hours in the air, in between turbulence and in-flight catering.
As I sat in Nashville International Airport on my way home, I was buoyed that there were requests for my manuscript. I was on the right road to being published. I now had a map to follow with the roads clearly marked – four agents were interested, as well as a publisher. One of those roads would lead me to the Holy Grail of seeing my book on the shelf. Surely.
When I got back home, I emailed one agent, who politely turned down my manuscript while suggesting I write another. So I embarked on manuscript number two.
Two more agents said no. The other agent just didn’t get back to me.
Then a thought loomed large: how was I going to get published if all the roads to get there were slowly blocked off?
The initial agent – who thought I could write but thought a different story would suit – then turned that story down. Another road closed.
Then the publisher, my final avenue, got back to me. They liked the story and were ready to make a decision on it, when other business conditions shut the whole conversation down. They declined.
So how do you get to a destination without a road to get there? I felt like I’d already been on a massive journey (which technically I had), but hadn’t left the driveway.
Sometimes the best road isn’t on the map (and I’m not just talking about Apple Maps). You see, I’d worked hard in Nashville to map out my journey to my destination, but I also did something else. Something that I thought was just something small that wouldn’t lead anywhere particularly. Something almost insignificant.
I’d sent a Facebook message after the Conference. My manuscript didn’t win a Genesis Award, and as I was sitting there at the Gala, shrugging off the uncomfortable heavy cloak of the loser, James L Rubart made a speech that I really needed to hear at the time. He talked about not being validated through our writing or by winning awards, but that we were validated anyway.
So after the Conference, I shot off a message to Jim, thanking him for his words and not really expecting an answer. After all, I’m an unknown Aussie flying back across the globe crammed into cattle class and he’s an award-winning, best-selling author.
But Jim did respond, and he asked me a question for which I’ll be forever grateful. He asked “How are things now?” That question lead to a conversation, which opened a discussion about mentoring and I’ve been working with him since.
We’ve talked about platform and publishing, and he provided invaluable knowledge – and contacts. Another road opened up. One that wasn’t on my map.
I approached another batch of agents with Jim’s belief and backing with now not one, but two manuscripts. Several months later, one of those agents—Steve Laube—asked to represent me and now I have the privilege of working with him. He’s now on the road with me.
This road didn’t appear on my map and the journey didn’t go as I planned, that’s for sure. But instead of sitting back and saying “oh well, it was meant to be,” what’s the lesson here?
I think of it this way: every little thing counts. I wouldn’t have worked with Jim had I not sent him that message, and Jim’s endorsement of me to agents wouldn’t have happened either.
And sometimes the road to get you somewhere doesn’t appear on your map, instead opening up in ways you could never imagine.