Monday, February 07, 2011

Untangling the Waiting

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children, a Golden Retriever, and a Maltese Menace. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Her novels include Dead Reckoning, a spy thriller and her Discarded Heroes series, which include released titles: Nightshade and Digitalis. Ronie has received recognition for her books in the 9 months since her debut on the market. Dead Reckoning was shortlisted for the INSPY Awards, and Nightshade received a Lime Award from the Christian Manifesto for 2010 Best Fiction.

Ronie can be found at or

or on Twitter (roniekendig).

When things aren’t going as we want them to, we have a tendency to step in and try to force events, people, and things into our timeline. Often, we end up making life hard on ourselves. This is especially true in the publishing world. I’ve seen authors who bide their time, some for 10-15 years before they are published. Others who allow their itch to turn into full-blown poison ivy and they douse themselves in impatience.

I have my first rejection letter dated October 2003. I’d been working toward publication for a year or two prior to that, but it took me a while to work up my courage and send that first submission.

I did not sign with my dream agent for another 4-plus years. There I was a naïve author, thinking, “Ah, there. I’ve made it. Now I’ll get published and off we go.” Um, no. The book that induced my agent to represent me? It never sold. I signed my first book contract 18 months later on another novel.

So, I get it. Publishing can be incredibly frustrating. Knowing what I went through, I’d like to help some of you who are on that leg of the journey. Let’s look at some things you can do to establish yourself as a “serious” author, while waiting for that agent or publishing house.

First, in this digital age, it’s important to establish an online presence. We all have very busy lives. Some writers are single but have full-time jobs. Some are moms who possibly have a job outside or inside the home. There are authors like me who have several children and homeschool. Some are actively involved in ministries or charities. If you let “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” be an excuse for not establishing an online presence, then you might not be ready for publication after all because you have to engage your readers.

Here are a few simple but manageable ways to establish a presence:

  • Facebook – The collective groan was heard, but seriously, this social media outlet is a dominating force right now. Set up a profile and get to know some other people and authors. But!! The Caveat here is that we don’t want to see a gazillion points about your book, how fantastic a writer you are. We do, however, want to see how writing is interspersed within your life, your daily goings-on. People want to get to know people.
  • Blog/website – I intentionally used a slash there for one incredible reason. I discovered (okay, yes I might be a bit slow in this arena) that if you use Blogger (no, I’m not endorsing them and neither is NovelJourney), through the ADD PAGES feature you can actually create additional pages on your blog. That means, essentially, you can get it to function much like a website. This is almost like cheating because you can find amazing templates that reflect either your personality or your brand, and use that as your site. Or if you'd like to have both a blog and a website, great. Be sure they are professional and clean.
  • Volunteer – Please don’t hyperventilate. We’re all busy, but there are small ways we can all show that we’re ready and willing to give back to the writing community. Volunteer to judge a contest. Sign up at conferences to help with registration or putting packets together. The point is participating in the community you are hoping one day will take a risk on you, publish your book and support/encourage you.

Second, maintain a teachable heart. There is always something to learn. Jeff Gerke in his book The Art & Craft of Writing likens it to phases of life—when you start out, you're basically a "child," you have loads to learn and a lot to learn, you're getting the basics down. Then in your you probably have a manuscript complete but aren’t published, and adulthood is when you've met with some success, you've learned what works for you and your writing, and what doesn't. Yet...there is always something to learn. Colleen Coble is an award-winning, bestselling author—and she constantly reads crafts books and looks for ways to improve her craft. We should all mimic her example!

A third suggestion might prove a smidge touchy, but...mind your manners. editors, agents, publishers are more aware of what’s going on “out here” in the pool of aspiring authors than you might think. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen writers get frustrated and end up lashing out at the very system/people they were trying to get to publish their work. Granted, they aren’t like Big Brother, breathing down our necks, but they do have eyes/ears.

Are these guarantees with this? I wish. Having a magic formula of X+Y=publication would make all of our lives much simpler. But it just doesn’t work that way. The point here is to get yourself known in the industry before you are thrust into it with a book that you’ll be expected to market and help with sales. I had a fairly decent online presence when my first book released in March 2010, but it still proved arduous. But I clearly remember my publisher mentioning that I had a good online presence, so she had confidence that I could do a good job.

For all of you who are still seeking that first contract or even between contracts, I encourage you to stay strong, hone your craft, and press on. My agent once told me the only writers who fail to get published are those who quit. Don’t quit. Your voice needs to be heard!

Do you have tips for the waiting process? Share them with us!


Keli Gwyn said...

Great tips, Ronie. I've seen several lists like this, but yours is the first I can recall that includes volunteering. I'm a firm believer in paying it forward and have met many wonderful people in the process of supporting other writers.

Lori Benton said...

My tip: See the blessings in this season before publication, when you can spend all the time you need on your projects. Keep writing. Finish a novel and write another, and if there's time, another. I've been writing with intentions to be published one day for most of the past 20 years. I've had a lot of time to come to see the beauty of this extended season. To reach that place of knowing that even if it lasts another twenty years, I love the writing/creating process and it is, by itself, a huge source of satisfaction and fulfillment. Publishing would be another type of fulfillment, but it comes at a cost, the most obvious of which is time. However much you have to devote to writing now, it will be less after publication. I don't know this by experience, just from watching others experience it. So cherish that time while you have it.

Ane Mulligan said...

As always, a great post, Ronie. Never giving up is the best advice of all. I won't. :)

Ronie Kendig said...

Thanks, Keli. I think volunteering is so important and develops a right attitude.

Lori - GREAT advice. You're so right. What you do on the front end, helps in the long run.

Thanks, Ane! Don't you dare give up, friend. You are entirely too talented and God has a plan!! *mwah*

Lynn Dean said...

I've begun to appreciate the difference in a manuscript that's "good enough" and a book that will resonate in memory. Sorta like the difference between the sandwich I grabbed for lunch (which was good, I'll grant you) and Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house. Waiting on God's time to be published may give a writer time to mature--to produce a story that God uses to move hearts.