The Path to Publication

When I began writing my first novel in 1996, I really did not think I would ever be published. But it was a cathartic experience, and it was something I needed to do to prove to myself that I could write a novel.

I started researching my second book in 1999. After about ten years of rewriting, polishing and collecting rejections, Cowgirl Dreams was published. I’m not telling you this to discourage you, but to encourage you.

That first attempt has yet to be published, and I am so glad it was not then. I did the best I could, but in going back and doing the rewrites (it will be the fourth in my series), I find I’ve learned so much about the craft of writing.

I met both of my publishers at writing conferences hosted by Women Writing the West. Since Cowgirl Dreams was based on my rodeo-riding grandmother, I thought that might be the best place to look, and it was. The first two books in my series were published.

At another WWW conference, where attendees can set up appointments with agents, editors and publishers, I pitched the idea of writing a series of magazine articles about the old-time rodeo cowgirls of Montana. As I was leaving, one of the other editors in the room jumped up from her table and caught me at the door. “I couldn’t help overhearing your pitch,” she said. “Make an appointment with me.”

I did, and Globe-Pequot Press offered me a contract to write a non-fiction book. When my first publisher closed down, I asked if GPP was interested in my third novel. They were and also picked up the first two books to be republished with new covers and new editing.

Dare to Dream was launched this week, the newest novel in the “Dreams” trilogy. The non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! will come out in September.

My message to aspiring authors is this: do not be in a hurry to get that first book published. Have patience, study and practice the craft of writing, get feedback from critique groups or partners, and get it professionally edited (especially if you are self-publishing). You do not want a book out that is riddled with errors and flaws.


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Herfirst novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.


Kathleen Moulton said...

Heidi, I love reading your posts. You have a very thoughtful, thorough way of writing.

The 10 years before your book was published is not discouraging. It confirms the fact that some of the best things in life take time to mature. Once that is truth is understood and accepted, writers can get down to business and make it happen.

Magdalena Ball said...

I enjoyed reading about your path to publication, Heidi, and your advice is sound too. My first novel took 10 years to publication too. Tenacity is all part of what makes a professional writer.

Heidiwriter said...

Thank you for your kind comments, Kathleen and Magdalena. I've heard many times that it took a writer 10 years to get published. So many of us are in a rush to see our book in print though, and we don't polish it to the highest shine possible before we hit the "publish" button.

Unknown said...

What an excellent reminder that working hard and attending writing conferences, maybe especially the WWW conference,(i.e. tenacity and being at the right place/right time) can result in even greater success. Good job, and thank you for sharing your path.

Heidiwriter said...

Thanks, Rae Ellen. Art does take time! And perseverance!

Kaye Spencer said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts regarding 'the road to publication'. My road took some 25 years and many, many revisions. When the time came to seriously consider publishing, I took the plunge into the land of digital publishing when e-Books weren't considered "really being published". 0_o It's been all up hill since. As Winston Churchill said: Never, Never, Never Give Up!

Heidiwriter said...

I applaud you for sticking with it. And I agree with Winston! Thank you.

Karen Cioffi said...

Heidi, another great post. Thanks for sharing your path to publication - it is encouraging. I always remember Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 144 times. And, 4 Hour Work Week was rejected 20 times before getting a contract.

It really is all about learning the craft of writing and perseverance.

Heidiwriter said...

It certainly is, Karen. When I started sending out my fiction, I decided I would try to collect 100 rejections because I'd heard that some big-name authors had received that many. Fortunately I didn't meet my goal, but it helped take the sting out of the rejections and I could say that it was one step closer to that "yes!"

elysabeth said...

Great post, Heidi. I can say my road to publication was a lot less than that but at this point, it has come to a stand still for a bit (life got in the way and now that I'm no longer dealing with my demons, I can back to it). Congrats on the non-fiction book coming; that's pretty awesome that your previously published book was picked up for the series along with the ones still to come.

Perseverance is such an important thing in this career. You are going far. E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Finally Home (A Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery)

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great advice Heidi. Writers need to take time and develop their craft.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Tenacity is defiitely and important word here. If I count the first thought I had about my novel to the time I saw it in print--well, it took several decades. But once started---well....revisions. Rewrites. Edits. Classes. And all well worth it!

Active vs. Passive Writing: Energize Your Prose!

 by Suzanne Lieurance Ever feel like your stories and articles are a bit slow-paced and wordy?   If so, that’s probably because you’re using...