This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I had been writing for four years, trying to get published, submitting to agents and publishers alike without ever getting a yes. The worst thing was I didn’t know whether I was getting rejected because they didn’t have time to read my work (believe me it happens), I was getting rejected because my cover letter or synopsis wasn’t good enough and they hadn’t even read my story (believe me this happens too) or my work was rubbish. I didn’t know whether I was a million miles away or really close. Almost every one of my rejections were standard rejections, a thanks but no thanks.
Last year, I won the Sunlounger competition to have my short story published in an anthology with already successful published authors. This was an amazing boost for me, finally someone had looked at my work and decided it was good enough to be published. This was the confidence lift I needed to continue fighting for my stories. It also put me in touch with a lot of people, authors, book bloggers, readers, people who became my friends. After a lot of chatting with authors, and after I was still getting rejected from publishers and agents, despite my Sunlounger win, I decided to self-publish my YA fantasy adventure book The Sentinel. The response to it was tremendous, people loved it and as I was starting to give up all hope of ever being traditionally published, this gave me the boost to try again, one last time.One of my stories, The Guestbook, a story told through the messages left in the guestbook of a holiday cottage, had caused the most interest from agents and publishers when I had submitted it earlier last year, so when a competition came up I entered it into it.
Months passed. Nothing. I knew the winner was going to be announced on November 4 so when the day came I was a tiny bit nervous. I presumed though that if I had won I would have heard by then.
I was at work that day and there was nothing by lunch time so that was that. When I left school that afternoon, there were two missed calls on my phone. Probably sales calls, nothing interesting. As I programmed my satnav to take me back to the office, an email popped through telling me I had won the Carina Valentines competition, that they loved my book and it was to be published on Valentine’s Day. I literally stared at this email in disbelief. It was a joke, it had to be. I get tons of emails telling me I had won cars, millions of pounds, a new TV, this was no different right? But it was from Carina, the competition publishers and no one knew I had entered.
After reading it through several times, I replied. Lucy wanted to chat to me about it over the phone but I wasn’t going to sit in a school car park and talk to her, I needed to do this at home. I sent off a quick email saying I would be home in half an hour, and drove home as quickly (and as safely) as I could.
Not long after I arrived home, Lucy called. Carina loved my book so much and they were beyond excited to publish it. Instead of offering me a one book deal, which was the prize, they offered me a three book deal. My heart was pounding in my ears throughout the whole conversation. I was invited along to an awards evening where the winner was to be officially announced. She spoke about my contract, the cover, what was to happen next, I barely heard any of it. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for. It had taken four years but I had finally arrived. I was to be a published author.
I got off the phone and was desperate to tell my parents, but they were on holiday in Cuba. I sent them a quick email telling them I had news and they needed to phone me. Then I rattled off a load of texts to all my friends. They were delighted for me. They knew how long and how hard I had worked for this and how important it was for me. I finally got through to my parents and there was lots of screaming and shouting across the Atlantic.
The next few months passed in a blur of panic, self-doubt, and worry but on Valentine’s Day this year my little book The Guestbook was published. A week later and it hit number 5 in the UK chart and a few weeks after that it hit 27 in the US chart. The reviews were amazing, people loved it too. It was an incredible feeling.
Back when I was trying to get published, I knew that I just had to find the right person that would fall in love with my work and believe in it, that writing is a subjective business and what some people hated other people would love. If I had taken to heart all the rejections and given up, I never would have seen my book published. I know it’s terribly clichéd but if you have a dream then never let it go, believe in yourself and others will too.
Holly's latest novel, One Hundred Proposals, is out now.