Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Room by Emma Donoghue
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
What do these books have in common? They’re an author’s breakout book in the international mainstream media, but guess what–it wasn’t their debut.
Every breakout book has a story behind it and a labour of love from all people involved. It takes years to build a writing career. Years of developing the craft, years of working with critique partners, agents, and editors. It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself as a new writer thinking that every word on the page has to be perfect. But you know what–it’s all a step in the right direction. It’s all a step towards a long career in writing. Each word, chapter, and novel is a step in the path of your writing dreams. And when you start to stress that things aren’t going your way and the literary gods haven’t smiled upon you yet, just know that most authors work for years and years before publication, recognition and success come along.
Agents and editors support great writers, knowing their time will come. Agents sign authors for the long haul. We’re looking years ahead and investing in authors knowing that we might not sell their first book, or even their second. We know that we sign up an author for their visible talent and the talent we think we can grow and nurture. We aren’t going to drop you the second you feel insecurity, or if your first book doesn’t get picked up. Publishing is a relationship business and there would be no agents without authors. Agents and authors are a team that has to be on the same page at all times. So if you’re feeling down, talk to your agent about it.
You aren’t a failure if your first novel doesn’t sell. Failure is when you let critics get to you and you let their opinion of your work make you stop writing.
Editors keep buying books by authors they love. They’ll support you in house and fight for your marketing until one day your stock starts to rise and then they’ll say “they knew it all along”, they knew this author was going to breakout.
When the going gets tough and it looks like another novel might have to be put in the drawer you need:
- Belief in your talent
- To work on your craft
- An understanding the industry
- A good literary support system
- An agent that you trust and respect (and vice versa)
- To get working on your next project as soon as you can
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham