Posted by: annemartinfletcher | October 22, 2009

Getting a First Book Published—Rewrites or Setbacks?

My life in the military prepared me well for the “hurry up and wait” aspect of being a writer.  I make a conscious effort to change this to “take the time to get it right and then wait.”

Waiting is the operative word.  I thought I had my book proposal and agent query ready to mail months ago.  Then I waited six weeks to hear back from a famous and very busy friend about an endorsement, before sending the query to my top choice of an agent. About the time I heard back from this friend, I made contact with another friend I hadn’t seen for nine years.  My second friend is an editor for an international journal and a client of the agent I want.  When he volunteered to read the sample chapters of my manuscript, I put my query on hold and eagerly sent him the chapters.  Unfortunately, he is also a very busy person.  I waited another four weeks.

It’s a good thing I waited.  While I had hoped he would recommend me to his agent, instead he sent me a valuable critique—the kind that made me pause and wonder why I hadn’t already thought of organizing my chapters that way.  Even though I have been helped by several readers and editors, my friend’s fresh and professional assessment of my work pointed out needed improvements to my manuscript.

Being human, I sighed and thought about querying his agent anyway.  The suggestions, however, rang too true to ignore.  I am lucky to hear them, for free, from a professional editor who knows the agent I plan to query.  So I am back to the word processor for the umpteenth rewrite (I stopped counting at thirty).  “This is NOT a setback,” I tell the voice whining in my head.

Instead, this proves, once again, that writing is hard work.  Unpublished authors often complain about how difficult it is to find an agent.  My belief is that the difficulty comes in preparing a wonderful product (the manuscript), a viable business plan (the book proposal), and finding the appropriate customer (the agent who specializes in this type of manuscript).  Does this approach sound different from just querying every listing in a book of literary agents?

Once I improve my chapters, I will be crossing my fingers that I become the first choice of the agent who is my first choice.  Stay tuned and find out what happens.


  1. As far as I can tell, writing a book is a process that takes the fallow times. I hated the rewrites that came up over Thread Magic constantly, but the book changed of it’s own accord during that time. I wish I could say I got wiser or smarter or more able. Instead, the book grew. It was turned down by 14 publishing companies before it happened, one of which finally published it.

    I don’t often write fiction, but I think that would happen there as well. I guess what I’m saying is that the process, the wait, the weight of it, is all something that makes diamonds in time.

  2. Ellen, than you for sharing your own experience with me. I turned to your blog on “Art out of the box” (ties in neatly with my motto–“Live, play, and dream out of the box”), and especially enjoyed this post of yours:
    I hope my readers will take a look at it, too.

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