I wasn’t sure whether to write about this or not, but I thought sharing my story might make someone else in a similar situation feel like they have a choice. Because at first, I didn’t think I did.
I’ve entered my women’s fiction on the contest circuit for awhile (and have since pretty much retired it from that, because overexposure in that respect could be detrimental, IMO).
In one particular contest, I received several requests from agents. And one from a publisher. The publisher asked for pages, then a full. Then a few days later, they offered to publish my book.
Granted, they’re a small publisher, and the offer wasn’t out of this world. The first release would’ve been electronic, and printed copies would come if so many sales were made, but the two staff members who’d read pages, and the editor, wanted *me*. They wanted my work. The contract mentioned “future books”. HOLY COW. After all this time, someone saw something in it that said, “Yes, this should be published, and by us.” That felt like validation. That felt amazing.
But I never wanted to go direct to publishers. I’ve dreamt of having an agent relationship, of working alongside someone who *gets* what I write, and can help me shape it into the best possible presentation to send to publishers. Someone who will work with me throughout my career, explain contracts and legal mumbo-jumbo, who I can seek advice from, who has the experience that I simply don’t. Maybe I’ve spent too much time on Twitter, wistfully admiring repped authors’ gushing relationships with their agents, exchanging in-jokes and kitty photos. But honestly, I want someone who sees me as a professional, and will help me make that dream come true. Someone who knows what they’re doing. I don’t feel qualified to represent myself.
So I had to finally admit I had a choice. I had to choose whether to accept this contract. Would it be my only chance? Will an agent EVER love my manuscript enough to call me? What if it doesn’t happen with this manuscript? What if it doesn’t happen with *any*? If I say no to this publisher, will I blow my only chance?
I respect self-published authors because that’s a LOT of hard work – I recently went to a writer’s conference at Bloomsbury in London, and a self-published author/social media “expert” came in and explained how much she does to stay afloat. It’s not for me, I don’t think. My gut says so.
And my gut said no, to this publisher. That’s all it came down to. I accepted the risk that no one may ever give me another chance again, as long as I live. But I don’t believe that will happen–otherwise I wouldn’t still be here. I decided I believe in my work more than that.
It was really hard, especially when I replied to the editor’s offer within the 2-week timeframe. I responded after 1 week. She didn’t reply. 2 weeks went by, she still didn’t reply, so I emailed to ask if she received my response. She sent me an unpleasant answer, inferring I’d missed my chance and telling me I’d wasted her time when I said, “This was a very difficult decision, and I’m so grateful for your offer, but I’ve considered it carefully, and I’ve decided to decline.” I was TORN. Torn. And I told her so. I thanked her for her time. I was nearly in tears typing that heartfelt response to her offer. And in return, she was snippy and short. That’s what I got for going with my gut. But you can’t please all the people all the time.
I keep working, polishing, accepting feedback, working with CPs, and attending Writer’s Digest webinars. Most importantly, I keep listening to my gut. I think one day, I will get more than that, for going with it.
If you find yourself in a similar position, for what it’s worth, I hope you do the same – whether your gut says yes or no, whatever you feel deep down, you have to stick with. And once you do, don’t wonder “what if”. Just move forward.