Recently, a thread in an online writer’s community popped up, asking why folks sent query letters to so many agents.
Is it because they had that many “dream” agents?
Why not send to just one or two top choices?
And, really, how long does it take?
Answers flew in—achingly honest and reminiscent of everyone’s distant and not-at-all-distant publishing journeys. I thought back to how long it took me…
The answer? It depends on when you start counting. But here it is in all of its glory— the official timeline of how long it took me to find an agent, sell my book, and get published:
My published-too-young book: In my twenties, I co-wrote a nonfiction book (under my former—married—name, Randy Meyers Wolfson) Couples With Children. Co-author Virginia DeLuca and I, in our work with pregnant and post-partum women, saw that suddenly shaky marriages were of more concern than diapers. And we wanted to write. We bought How to Get Happily Published by Judith Applebaum, wrote a proposal and a sample chapter, sent it off and shortly thereafter had a contract.
Soon after, I got divorced. In between raising kids, badly-chosen men, working in human services by day, and bartending by night, I co-wrote Novels 1 & 2 with Ginny: Two mysteries. We got an agent. We thought we had a series. We didn’t sell either book.
Moving on, still submerged in bad men and fantasy, I wrote Novel 3, which should have been titled, The Book That Helped Me Pretend I Wasn’t Screwing Up My Life By Mythologizing It.
No agent. No sale.
Novel 4: Fast forward through raising children and sending them to college, through creating a Homemade MFA and meeting a good man. I dove in. I joined a writer’s group. I finished. I got an agent. As soon as she put the out for submission, I began writing.
Novel 5: Showed it to said agent. She liked it so much that she replaced the now-limping and ten-times rejected Novel 4 with newly minted Novel 5. In the meantime, I began writing again.
Novel 6: Showed a bit to same agent. She loved it. She said, “Keep going!”
Soon after, my agent turned her attention to a different genre, and it seemed right for us to part ways.
Six months later I signed with new agent. She read my latest novel. She edited my novel. I revised my novel. She sold my novel in eight days.
So how long did it take to sell my debut novel? It’s measured in much more than years. But since I know you came here looking answers, I’ll tell you: 20 years, six novels, and three agents.
And now—making up for lost time—I just turned in novel 4 and am halfway through writing novel 5.
Randy Susan Meyers will be leading a One-day Workshop, Building a Novel with Good Bones, at Writers in Progress on September 9! More information here…