by Pam Binder
My path to being a
published author of four novels with Pocket Books, a division of
Simon and Schuster, and a novella in a New York Times Bestselling
anthology, took a lot of twists and turns along the way.
Writers are told
the chances of being published are about the same as winning the
lottery. After all, these people say, no one is reading anymore,
the editors in New York will only read agented manuscripts, they
continue, and agents are easier to get than an editor.
It’s a good thing I
made a point of never paying attention to negative ramblings. They
are a waste of energy and time. Time I could spend writing,
networking, promoting, and improving my craft. The first novel I
wrote was a Young Adult. The editor I sent it to wrote me a
handwritten letter, wanting a minor change and asking if she could
meet me for lunch at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. I
interpreted this as her disliking the whole project, so I hid from
her the entire time. Fortunately I got smarter.
I took a class at
the University of Washington extension, taught at the time by the
owner of a small press. To my surprise she offered to publish my
book, The Inscription. By this time I’d been a regular
attendee at the PNWA conferences and was learning the business side
of writing. I knew I needed an agent to take me to the next level.
There are many ways of acquiring an
agent; my way is to get to know them as a person first.
I’d been volunteering at the agent and editor desk and was having
lunch with about six people. Not once did I pitch my book.
The agent sitting next to me asked me for a copy of my novel.
I thought she was just being nice,
because of all the work I’d done. In any case, she took it on
the plane back to New York, read it over the weekend and called me
on Monday saying she wanted to represent me. We
worked successfully together for many years, but as she moved into
nonfiction, I knew it was time for a change. I used the same
strategies I’d used before in selecting an agent. I made a point of
getting to know them. At a conference, an agent I’d heard great
things about commented that she and a few fellow editors would like
someone to take them on a tour of Seattle. Guess who volunteered for
is a lot like writer’s block. We’ve all experienced it from time to
time. The trick is to realize they both stand in our way of
achieving our dreams.
Pam Binder is the President of
the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.