Wednesday, August 6, 2008

With a Little Bit of Luck by Dorothy Howell

Would you rather be lucky or good?

That’s a question often posed, and with good reason. Does it take a big chunk of good luck to sell your manuscript? Or is good writing all you need?

Occasionally, we hear about the debut author whose book garners critical acclaim, movie rights, foreign sales, and a multi-million dollar advance. And if you’re lucky enough to be that author, I say, “Good for you!”

My journey was different. I wrote my first book having never been to a writing class, conference or workshop. I’d never heard the words “point of view,” or “character development.” I thought an outline required the “A, B, C” format.

My first book, an historical romance, sold rather quickly. Honestly, for the longest time I thought the editor had simply made a mistake. She’d meant to phone a different writer with the news that her manuscript had been accepted for publication, but had dialed my number in error. I always thought I was “lucky” to sell that first book.

But my luck didn’t last long. Over the next seven years I wrote several more manuscripts, while working full time, caring for two children, and managing life with an Air Force husband who was usually away on duty. They were turned down by every agent and editor who could draw a breath.

So with no more luck coming my way, there was nothing left to do but improve my writing skills. If I was going to get published again it would have to be the old fashioned way – with a well written, interesting story. Thus began my long journey of learning to write, learning the industry, learning to put together the kind of story I’d done the first time quite by accident. I made a conscious effort to develop a plot that would make the reader keep reading. I settled on a treasure hunt.

At a writers conference in San Diego an editor from Berkley Publishing read the first few pages of my manuscript at a critique session and asked to see the rest. Within a few weeks she bought it. Anna’s Treasure was released in 1995. I acquired an agent and eventually signed with Harlequin Silhouette where I’ve sold 23 romances under the pen name Judith Stacy.

When I decided to try my hand at writing mystery I was fortunate – lucky – that an agent loved HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE and got it in front of the right editor at a time when he was looking for just that sort of project. Luck certainly played a part in the sale, but my experience publishing 23 books in 20 years helped too.

To me, the secret to publishing success is to keep trying and keep learning.

And hope that luck is on your side.

Find out more about Dorothy and her books right here!