The Devotion Quotient

How persistent or devoted are you to getting published? This business ebbs and flows. Some days you feel like you are on top of the world and other times it seems like all you are garnering is rejection slips. The mood can vary from day to day (or even hour to hour).

For more than twenty years, I’ve been involved in the writing and publishing business. It varies for me as well. Yet I persist because I’m devoted to this business—even if it is difficult and hard. The key is to keep working at it.

To gain some insight for this topic, I turned to one of my favorite how-to write books by Noah Lukeman called The First Five Pages, A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. Whether you have been multi-published or never published or some place in between, I recommend a thorough (and even repeat) reading of this book.  Lukeman is a New York literary agent and has learned a great deal from his experience and builds it into this book. In the Epilogue, he writes, “Getting published is hard these days, even for great writers, even for writers who have been published before. With the conglomeration of major publishers and the fear of the “midlist” book, many fine books will never make it into print.”

“Do not be discouraged. If you stay with it long and hard enough, you will inevitably get better at your craft, learn more about the publishing business, maybe get published in a small literary magazine—eventually find an agent. Maybe your first book won’t sell; maybe your second or third won’t ether. But if you can stand the rejection, if you can stubbornly stay with it year after year, you will make it into print. I know many writers who wrote several books—some over the course of thirty years—before they finally got their first book deal.”

“You must ask yourself how devoted you are to getting published. Yes, a lot of the publishing process is out of your control. You might, for instance, have just missed your big deal at a publishing house because a book similar to yours was bought the week before; or you might get a green light from every editor in the house and then get turned down at the last second because the editor in chief or publisher—or even a sales rep—personally didn’t like your book. But a lot of the process—a lot more than you think—is in your control, and this is where devotion comes into play…The ultimate message of this book, though is not that you should strive for publication, but that you should become devoted to the craft of writing, for its own sake.” (p. 195–197)

Where are you with the devotion quotient? Are you committed to constantly increasing your knowledge of the craft of writing? When it comes right down to it, it’s a matter of sending the right query letter or the right book proposal to the right editor at the right time. Yes, many different factors have to come together for you to get published—but you have to persist.

2 Responses to “The Devotion Quotient”

  1. Gina Holmes Says:

    Wise words, Terry. There have been days so full of gloom because something I wrote made it as far as a committee only to be cut at the last minute for whatever reason. That’s tough. Year after year, gets tiring. But, everytime I’ve wanted to give up because it seemed hopeless, God would send just enough encouragement to keep me going awhile longer.

    He may have called us to write, but sometimes he keeps us in the desert for years as he prepares us. Better to wait forty years and become the best writer we can be, then to have the first garbage we write be snapped up by something thousands will read. All in God time.

  2. C.J. Darlington Says:

    I needed to hear this, Terry. Sometimes it DOES become discouraging to wait, but I try to remind myself that an aspiring doctor does not enter medical school and expect to perform brain surgery the next week. This is an apprenticeship, and I am learning more every day. I’m committed.

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