Today I’m pleased to welcome Rita Arens, author of THE OBVIOUS GAME. Her contemporary, realistic young adult novel set in small town Iowa in 1990 releases tomorrow (February 7th). This “moving, sometimes heart-breaking story about one girl’s attempt to control the uncontrollable” is available NOW on Amazon.
You might know Rita Arens from her position of senior editor of BlogHer.com or as the blogger behind Surrender, Dorothy. She edited the award-winning parenting anthology SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK (Chicago Review Press, 2008). THE OBVIOUS GAME is her first young adult novel. She is at work on her second. She lives with her husband and daughter in Kansas City.
Rita graciously (and bravely) agreed to answer some questions about her path to publication. As an aspiring novelist myself, I find the real stories of those who have succeeded both reassuring and inspiring. It’s an arduous journey; writers face challenges and heartbreak at every bend. But the payoff, the thrill of seeing your words in print, the honor of touching others with your story, is worth the struggle. Rita’s journey, by the numbers:
I want to preface this by saying I really debated sharing these numbers, because I always assume I’m the only one who has as much rejection as I have had. However, as I was going through this experience, a New York Times bestselling author shared her numbers with me, and they were way higher than I thought they would be, so I hope this helps aspiring writers to not give up. Don’t forget that agents and editors love books, but they also have to eat, so their decisions are business decisions, not decisions entirely of the heart. Listen to what they say if they offer specific feedback about your book and don’t get defensive. Revise, revise, revise, and just keep moving forward. Always have the ms out to someone. I would send out three queries a week, and I researched the agents before I queried. It’s a ton of work, but you have to be willing to do the research or it’s a pointless venture.
By the Numbers
# of agents queried — 192
# of partials/fulls requested and passes/rejections– 41 requests/109 rejections
# of months between landing an agent and your pub date — 13
# of Godiva bars devoured/glasses of wine drunk/miles run (or whatever your stress coping ‘drug’ of choice may be) during your pub journey — I burned off a lot of bottles of wine in three years.
#1 surprise on your path to publication — How much other authors propped me up and were willing to take a minute to offer encouragement when I needed it. Authors are awesome people.
#1 piece of advice for aspiring novelists — As evidenced by my numbers above, don’t give up and don’t stop revising. I started sending out my ms before it was ready. I mean, I thought it was ready, but it wasn’t. I probably could’ve halved the number of agents who rejected my full manuscripts had I gotten more beta readers’ feedback and made my revisions before I sent it out.
This was my first novel, and thus I’m not beating myself up too hard for learning that lesson the hard way, but I can’t emphasize enough enlisting beta readers and revising before sending out the manuscript. Every time I got a rejection with any sort of specificity, I revised to course-correct. The novel now looks very, very different from the novel I sent to the first agent on my list.
In other news, my agent didn’t sell THE OBVIOUS GAME, I did. He’s a fabulous agent and got me in front of many Big Six publishers, but in the end I went indie. There are many indie presses that will look at unagented submissions. I hope to give my agent my next novel to sell in less time than it took me to get this one together!
Make sure to check out my full review of THE OBVIOUS GAME later this week.