While pruning my roses the other day, I found myself pondering publishing. (This isn’t as strange as you may think, and not only because I’m odd.)
Traditional publishing is a lot like pruning roses.
Roses require pruning in spring, after the dormant period, when the canes start sending out the buds that form the new year’s branches. The buds start small, just little red nubs, but they quickly grow into branches if given a chance.
The problem is, a rosebush doesn’t have the strength to let every bud grow to a branch. Someone has to prune the canes directly above the strongest buds, so the rose will put its energy into helping the right ones grow. The gardener’s job is choosing which buds look strongest – choosing which buds deserve a chance.
You can see where this is heading.
A publishing house, like a rose bush, lacks the resources to publish every “bud.” Editors have to choose the strongest and most promising projects, the ones that have the best chance of selling many copies.
But, like a gardener with a rose, a publishing house’s choices often come down to a judgment call. Many buds look the same, or similar, and sometimes the ones that look strong at the start don’t make the strongest branches after all. Still, a gardener can’t wait to see which branches will grow before pruning them – and publishers can’t take a chance on every book they see.
And yet, I see cause for encouragement, not despair. (And a note: I thought so even before I had an agent and a publishing deal.)
Because there’s something I can do to help my chances. I can be a strong bud – and you can too.
Write the very best novel you can. Edit and polish – revise until it shines. Don’t query the first draft, or the second, or even the third. Don’t go after a contract until you’re the strongest, healthiest bud you can possibly be.
And if that doesn’t work, go back into your “cane” and write another book. Like the rose, about a year later you’ll find yourself ready to try once more – but with stronger skills and a better book. You’ll be a stronger bud.
Some books and authors get picked on the very first try. Others need more time to learn and grow.
Whatever your situation, don’t give up.
Keep writing. Keep learning.
Be strong, bud.
You’ll get your chance in time.