Friday, January 23, 2009

Wow! That's a really long time

I have no idea how to get published in under twelve years. Now, plenty of authors do sell their first books in a much shorter time than that. In fact, every published author I know did it in less than twelve. But that’s how long it took me…and I’m glad it happened just as it did.

No, I’m serious!!!

Next weekend, I’m giving a speech to my biggest audience yet at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New York. The title of my speech? How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…or Less! I admit, the title is misleading because of what follows the ellipses. But I can’t imagine anyone trying to sell their first book attending a speech called How to Sell a Book in Twelve Years…But No Less!

To organize my speech, I created a timeline of the twists and turns I’ve taken on my journey. And lucky for me, over those dozen years, I hardly threw anything out. Not only did that packrat quality help me remember what went on in each of those twelve years, but it gave me some cool stuff to show in my Powerpoint presentation.

For example, I recently dug up my very first non-rejection from an editor. It was by no means as exciting as a full-on acceptance would’ve been, but it was not a rejection and that’s all that mattered. An editor at Houghton Mifflin had simply returned the postcard I submitted with my picturebook manuscript, replying that she needed some more time to think about it. Maybe it’s hard to imagine why that was so exciting, but I remember very well the avalanche of hope that non-rejection gave me after a string of nothing but hardcore rejections.


I ended up revising The Chalkboard Drawings three times for that editor. In time, she rejected it. But with each round of revisions, the manuscript got better and I became a better writer. So I assumed, if not that particular manuscript, something else would get picked up in no time at all!

That was 1998.

I had seven more years to go.

But each year that passed, if you want to put a silver lining on it (and I do), gave me more and more fodder for next weekend’s speech!

16 comments:

Thao said...

Good luck with your speech Jay, I wish I could be there to listen to you.

And it's so random but are you working on any stories? I can't get enough of Th1rteen R3aasons Why, seriously!

Anonymous said...

As a newer barely published writer (my work has been in one small circ. magazine so far), I wish I could be there to hear your talk. The road to publication and the road to better writing are learning experiences. Every scrap of encouragement counts. I love that you kept that postcard and congratulations on your book! Best of luck at SCBWI N.Y.

Lisa said...

Wish I was there to hear your speech! I'm hoping you'll be in LA with Eve and Robin (maybe giving another workshop?)

Best of luck!! :)

Lisa Yee said...

I have to miss the conference this year, but good luck. I know you'll do great! Just wear one of your gala costumes and you'll be the talk of the town.

Flemmily said...

Okay, so now I'm really excited because I WILL be there to hear your speech next week.

I'm a newbie to the SCBWI, and I originally picked up Thirteen Reasons Why because I saw your name on the speaker list.

Needless to say, I bought it, loved it, and read it non-stop through the night (which, in retrospect, was the perfect thing to do.)

So, I for one am very much looking forward to your talk.

Gregory K. said...

Speaking of taking a long time... Happy New Year!

And I also wish I was gonna be there to hear you speak. But I must say I'm thrilled that you're talking on the big stage, my friend. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy....

Sarah Beth Durst said...

Good luck with your speech, Jay! Any chance you'll be posting it online after the conference? I'd love to read it.

Best,
Sarah

Jay Asher said...

Sarah, I'm hoping the speech goes well, in which case I'd love to get invited to present it at other conferences. So for now, I'll probably just post bits-n-pieces on this blog.

But if the speech bombs? Sure, I'll post the whole thing!!!

And Thao...yep. I'm working on one now.

Thanks for the good wishes, everyone!

CPhodges said...

Looking forward to hearing your speech. I'll be there!

Anonymous said...

I'll be there! It's my very first conference. I'm excited that you will be there too.

EEEEEE!

Danette V.

Bill Cochran said...

I look forward to hearing the speech Jay. Booked a trip there just a couple weeks ago. Maybe I'll see you there.
Bill (from lunch at SCBWI LA)...

Kristin said...

I will be there so I can't wait to hear it in person :) Will you be signing books while you're there?

Jay Asher said...

Okay, here's the plan. All of you who read my blog and will also be at the speech, pay close attention and if you can tell I'm going for a laugh, and yet no one's laughing...laugh!!! Even when something's not funny, if a few people laugh, other people will join in.

That'll help a lot. Thanks! (I just found out a few editors from Razorbill will be there, so I'm freaking out a little bit right now.)

And yes, I can't wait to sign books!

Lee Wind said...

That's awesome, Jay. I'm sure you'll be great!
Know that you've got a big cheering squad in this virtual world thingy, too!
Namaste,
Lee

debbie duncan said...

So . . . as everyone who heard Jay today knows, he ROCKED. Not just that, he inspired 1055 children's book writers and illustrators, who laughed, sighed, took notes and clapped wildly at his inspirational story. "Never give up!" he told us. And then he offered to present the first Stubborn Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Award -- a trophy! -- to the one of us who had worked the longest to get our book published. I hesitated putting my hand up until my seat-mate, who had heard me tell my group yesterday that I had started my novel 40 years ago, told me I should. I am THRILLED to be the recipient of Jay's generous, kind, thoughtful and inspirational award. I have admired his work from the sidelines and hope to follow his footsteps. I feel I am on my way. Many thanks!

shorty411 said...

Jay, you were awesome! I tried laughing at the appropriate moments, but you didn't even need it. I feel like Pat the Beaver was possibly my favorite and am really itching to see the rest of it. What does that say about me and my taste? :) Anyway, just wanted to say it was awesome and accomplished what you wanted because I was inspired :)