- Kristen R. Lee
Why I Didn't Quit Writing, and Why You Shouldn't Either
It feels funny being on the other side of this post. Only a few years ago, I was reading every source on How to Get an Agent, Journey to Publication and How I Got Signed blog there was. Now it’s my turn, and it’s still shocking to me. Everyone’s path is different, but here’s how mines played out. In 2017, I’d just graduated from undergrad and was thrusted back into the world with a degree I didn’t know how to use and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. One day when I was at my new temp job, it hit me: I know how to write. Granted I only used to write embarrassing fanfiction and I hadn’t written anything in years. But one day, something changed. I saw a promotion for THUG by Angie Thomas, which I thought was the dopest thing ever since she’s a Black woman from Jackson MS, and about an hour away from Memphis, where I’m from. Anyway, I began to write. In November 2017, I’d finished my first draft. I didn’t know what to do next. If it even was a next step. Fun fact: I submitted the first draft of RRFTDF to a contest without getting it beta read, proofread or without even formatting it right (yikes). That’s when I took to the good ole internet. Shoutout to Goodreads message board and all the betas I found on there. I began to query in February 2018. The first month, I submitted a horrible query letter for a critic on some board (whew, I got dragged). Then, I took to the internet again for query letter help (which is hard, my friends—honestly shoutout to everyone in the writing community for nurturing me). I sent 5 cold queries out before I submitted to Author Mentor Match and Revpit for the first time in April and June 2018. I didn’t get in to either, but I did get some lovely feedback from some wonderful people which was used to edit my book. Fast forward a few months, some cold queries and no bites, I was back in the contest circle again, this time Pitch Wars. I received requests and even some lovely words from the wonderful Kim Johnson (go buy This is my America y’all) but once again no bites! Then, the most crushing thing happened. An agent who’d had my book for 6 months emailed me, saying, “I’ve sat on this so long because it was a close call but...” y’all know the rest. At this point, I was shooketh. I questioned if my book was any good. I wanted to give up. Everything was telling me to just move on, and I do for a minute. I stopped querying and editing. It was like I had done all I could. I didn’t know what’s wrong with my book and I wasn’t even worried about fixing it. In February 2019, I got an email about AMM round 6. I wasn’t going to submit at first, but I’m glad I did. I got in, and Jess nurtured my book like it was her own baby. Together, we created a beautiful book, and I will forever credit her as being the driving force to me getting published. After editing with Jess, we decided to get our feet wet with Pitmad. I still remember her text saying, “If nothing happens, then we can just cold query.” Well something happened alright. My pitches got so many responses it was like I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. However, even though I had tons of interest from that, funny enough, I didn’t end up signing with an agent who liked my pitmad tweet. Once again, the amazing Jess hooked me up with the amazing Nic Stone who connected me with the amazing Molly O’Neill. I knew in my heart from the beginning that Molly was the person who was going to champion my book. That phone call with her just felt right. I signed with her in the beginning of October. We did one or two editing passes, and then I was on sub after New Year’s 2020. SELL THIS BABY. Y’all. My acquisition process was the wildest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ll do it by bullet points. January 1 - Molly submits to agent January 10- We have editor interests January 31 - The book is sold The process as you can see was short, but Molly walked me through the entire thing. Honestly, I’m honored to have gone through the process with her. Even the rejections didn’t hit as hard because I knew what was happening at all times. After I sold my book, I felt on top of the world. My hard work paid off, and, my friends, it was hard. As you can see, it didn’t happen overnight, and the main takeaway from this is—don’t give up! Don’t speak negativity over your work, and I know it’s hard not to sometimes. But if you think bad things enough, you start to believe them. A quick story: At the beginning of my journey I submitted pages to a popular author for critique. Her critique was that she thought I'd have a hard time placing my novel with an agent because of the voice.
Fast Forward: The voice in my novel is the main thing I'm complimented on.
Your book will find its place.
Required Reading is the first novel I ever wrote and I'm glad she's resonated with a lot of people thus far. There are so many Savannahs in the world I want them to be able to see themselves in literature.
Remember that your journey, is yours alone. No one else’s. One day, you will be on the other side of a blog like this. Even if that doesn’t happen the way you envisioned, you’re still a writer. Your work still matters. Hang in there, Kris Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman stats Cold Queries: 28
Full requests: 5
Pitmad Queries: 8 (I took the time to vet the agents I liked and chose those 8)
Full requests: 4
Offers (agent): 4
Offers (editor): 4
I can't wait for you all to meet Savannah and her clique. Add my little book baby to your goodreads shelf!