Marsha Davis asked me to share a guest post that I contributed to Women on Writing in June. Here it is, Marsha. I hope it is helpful!
Just a week prior, I had received agent rejection letter/email number twenty-six. I had just told my husband that it was time for me to move on to the next project. While rejection always stings, I’d come to accept it on some level, and to make the most of it. Taking the time to understand what didn’t work in each of my books that weren’t published was probably more important than knowing what did work. I also truly believed that if I stuck with it, eventually I would be ready for publication. This is all part of the process, became my mantra. Good things come to those who wait – right?
My persistence and faith paid off. I signed a contract with St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books in 2010, and I’m now working on the fourth book in the mystery series. After I signed the publishing contract, finding an agent was easy. I even had several producers contact me about movie rights. And, I couldn’t help thinking: I’m the same writer I was last year when I couldn’t get beyond a generic email response from an agent on overload! With that said, I’ll share my best piece of advice for those who have a manuscript bookstore-ready.
Investigate writing contests. I was searching for a good mystery conference when I came across Wordharvest, a well-respected writing conference that takes place each November in New Mexico. The conference also sponsors the “Tony Hillerman Award for Best First Mystery.” The award includes a publishing contract with St. Martins and a $10,000 advance. When I won the award for my book, The Territory, I receive far more than the publishing contract. I received the support and publicity that comes with a high-profile award.
The beauty of entering a contest is that it narrows the field. Research the internet to find a contest that fits your genre. You’re not sending a generic one page letter hoping someone will connect – you’ll be sending your novel to a genre-specific contest which will get you a guaranteed read by an expert in the industry. But do your homework. Read other books that have won the prize to better understand what the judges are looking for. And, make sure to follow contest guidelines to the letter. Polish your manuscript and send it along. You may get the best phone call of your life!