It was 2005 when I decided that I wanted to move my writing from a hobby into a career. Having penned so many stories that never saw the light of day, I thought I owed it to myself, and the family I spent so much time ignoring, to give it a shot.
When I first started out, I was so green that I didn’t even know what a synopsis was. And forget writing an effective query. My early query letters might as well be titled ‘Throw me in the slush pile’, which brings me to another thing I didn’t know. I had no idea what a slush pile was. I knew there were queries being rejected but it wasn’t until I entered the world of professional writing that I learned those passed over queries had a name and that name was the slush pile.
For all the things I didn’t know, there was one thing I did know. I knew I wanted to be a professional writer. I had dreams of publishing with a well-known publisher who would be so blown away by my awesome writing that I’d be offered a six figure deal. I imagined myself going into the now defunct Borders and seeing my books sitting proudly on the shelves. Hey, since it was my dream, I went for broke!
I knew I wanted to be a writer and I knew the business wasn’t an easy one to break into. I knew I stood a better chance at success if I found an agent to represent me. I had a story written and I knew I wanted to share it with the world. Chalk that up to the extent of things I knew all those years ago.
It wasn’t long into my endeavors that I learned everyone wants to be a writer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll tell someone I’m a writer and suddenly he either knows someone who’s trying to be a writer or he’s the one trying to break into the biz. With so many people trying to make their mark in the publishing industry, agents and editors are overwhelmed with query letters. This leads to many vague rejections. I still have a folder stuffed full of form letters declaring the project ‘isn’t right for us’.
Once in a while, I did get more personalized responses but few were an actual critique of my work. There is one that I can remember quite well. The agent told me that she really liked my writing style and I wrote characters that people could relate to and wanted to see succeed, but she couldn’t offer me a contract. The problem? My male and female leads were only twenty-two years old. They were too young for the novel to be considered a contemporary romance and far too old for the young adult genre. They just didn’t fit in anywhere.
I couldn’t believe this was one of the reasons my novel was being rejected. It felt like such a slap in the face. My talent was being recognized but my stories didn’t fit into the traditional market so no one was willing to take a chance on them because my characters weren’t the right age. I suppose I could have just changed their ages, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to showcase the struggles facing true young adults who are just breaking away from their parents’ nest. To do that, I struck out on my own.
Flash forward to 2012 and guess what happens. There is now a ‘hot, new’ genre in fiction’; the new adult genre. The characters are usually college aged and confronted with the issues that come with being on their own for the first time.
When I first learned about the new adult genre I was both bitter and vindicated. I think I remember saying something to the effect of ‘I had that idea seven years ago; everyone should have listened to me then.’ Ironically, I no longer write new adult books. Most of my novels are adult contemporary romance though I do pen the occasional young adult novel.
Two years later, new adult books are everywhere and all I can think every time I see one is ‘I thought of it first!’ Too bad I didn’t find an agent willing to take a gamble. I could have been a trendsetter. Oh well, at least I can say I was ahead of my time.