How To Sell A Book by Sarah Ruiz

Pictured: My notebook from creative writing class in high school.

How to sell a book.

2000-2009: Write a story about a kid farting. It amuses your 4th grade teacher. Write weird stuff in MS and HS, including some angsty poetry. Get a teacher who critiques your work and teaches you revision.

2009-2013: Start a writing club in college with your BFF. Write a bad novel about a psychic teen named Cayce Edgar (lol). Take a fiction writing class and become the prof’s TA. Convince him to advise a fiction honors thesis, even though you aren’t a cw major. It almost doesn’t get approved. Work harder on it than you ever worked on anything in your life.

2015: Apply to 1 MFA program. Get waitlisted.

2016: Work on your app stories for NCSU’s MFA program every morning at 5 am. Get accepted on April 1st while on a plane. (It’s not a joke. Also you’re pregnant and have a toddler.)

2016-2018 Start your MFA 7 months pregnant. Be bummed your water doesn’t break in class. Write a novel.

Dec 2018: Query novel. Miraculously spend less than a month in the query trenches. Assume sub will be easy (lol).

March 2019: Go on sub. Revise book with an editor, but the book never sells.

Aug-Nov 2019: It’s okay. You were already working on the next thing. Send your agent the first 80 pages. She gently/accurately tells you it’s not great. Agree and freak out for 2 days. Read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. An old idea pops into your head. Write the first draft in 70 days.

Feb 2020: Send horrible 2nd draft to your agent. She sees potential but gives GIANT feedback. Gut it and revise for 3.5 months.

May 2020: Agent loves it. Give your dream editor (the one who liked the first book) an exclusive.

June 2020: Commence the longest two weeks of your life. Expect rejection every day. Oh wait! The editor makes an offer. Cry, roll on the floor, drink champagne. (Not simultaneously.)

The point: Getting published is hard. Everyone’s path is different. I had a LOT of failures along the way (and expect plenty more), but each was a step forward, not back.

–Sarah Ruiz, author of forthcoming LOVE, LISTS, AND FANCY SHIPS

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