If anything can be said about the craft of writing and building a career in the field, it’s that what eventually brings success is not so much talent as persistence. All the talent in the world will get you nowhere if you hide it away in a drawer or under the bed. Even when everything looks dark, the rejections flood in, no one knows your name, you have to persist. Drag yourself up by the hoodie, get yourself to those conferences where editors and agents wait for the right books, and tell them about yours. That’s why they are there. But when nothing comes of it, you go out again and do it again.
For the past three years or more I’ve hit a dry hole, with the exception of one book which I sent to a publisher I knew would print it. That book has gone on to win a literary award, of which I’m very proud. On the heels of that award has come one contract, another in negotiations, and another very distinct possibility. All because I persisted, kept writing, kept coming up with new ideas.
Here’s a for-instance. At a recent conference in San Antonio, where I just happened to be to receive my award, a late announcement just as the conference opened, told us that a publisher from a brand new publishing company would take appointments for pitches. She wanted to look at books with a western theme. Well, I took a break and went to my room, stretched out on the bed and thought about that. I’d already signed up for one appointment to pitch a book I’d tried to sell for several years. Had little hope for it. Without a clue, I signed up to see her. I could come up with something.
Then after about thirty minutes of meditating, I realized I had something. I’d been involved in writing several columns about the US Marshal Museum. Only recently had it been decided that it would be built in Ft. Smith, about 40 miles south of me. So I’d told them I would write an article and try to get it out there in western magazines before the museum opened. So, I jotted down a few notes, went back to the conference and when the time came pitched my idea for a book about some of the marshals and deputies who served Judge Isaac Parker during his stay in Ft. Smith. We could tie it in to the museum and its projected opening.
She was excited about the idea, said her company would definitely be interested in a book such as that. She would like to talk to someone on the board and try to tie the release to the opening. We shook hands and I came home confident that she would get in touch soon. She did, and asked for a formal query, which I mailed. Now, all I need to do is get her in touch with a board member.
So of course, I wait.
Meanwhile, the other pitch, which I really didn’t think had gone over that well, has turned into a contract. It’s amazing how many times one has to go through all this before something clicks.
What I’m trying to tell you is, don’t give up. My most favorite of sayings was given to me by a good friend who began his writing career the same time I began mine. Dusty Richards, author of 91 westerns as of this date, told me once, “The road to success is littered with quitters,” and he’s right. Quitters can’t and won’t succeed. So grab your day, your star, your destiny, whatever it is that works for you and hang on tight. All you have to do is persist.