Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How One Woman Tweeted her Way to Publishing Success

 
LUCY BURDETTE: One of our good friends at Jungle Red, Peg Cochran, has had an amazing run of good luck. Her first book, ALLERGIC TO DEATH, was published last week. And her second book, MURDER UNMENTIONABLE, written as Meg London will be out in September.

Except it isn't really good luck, it's INCREDIBLE persistence. And we invited Peg/Meg to share her story...we know you'll find it inspirational!


PEG COCHRAN: Does everyone remember Hester Prynne?  She was the character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter who had to wear an “A” for adultery pinned to her dress.  There have been times during this writing journey that I have felt like Hester.  Only instead of an “A,” I’ve felt like I’ve had a big “R” burned into my forehead.  “R” for rejection. 
During one two-year period I kept track of all my rejections. I was circulating three manuscripts—two cozies and one young adult.  During that time I received FOUR HUNDRED rejections.  Not because I was hopelessly untalented, but because I hadn’t yet been in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. 
I was lucky enough to join an internet chapter of Sisters in Crime—the Guppies.  Through the Guppies I learned a lot and made a lot of cyber friends.  One of them emailed me to tell me that her agent at BookEnds had been contacted by Berkley Prime Crime.  They were looking for an author to write a mystery series from a story line created by one of their editors.  My friend forwarded my contact info and I was invited to “audition” for the opportunity to write the Sweet Nothings Lingerie Series.  I wrote, rewrote and rewrote the first three chapters, and the agent submitted them to the editor.  And, believe it or not, I was chosen to be the author of the series.  One downside?  I had to use a pen name because Berkley would own the series, the concept and the author’s name.  So I became “Meg London” and got to work on finishing the first book.
Meanwhile, I had the cozy mystery I’d been circulating to agents sitting on my computer along with a hankering to see a book come out with my own name on it.  My manuscript was food oriented, and since I had been stalking, er, following, my editor’s tweets, I knew she was definitely interested in cooking and recipes.  One day I tweeted that I’d made a lovely low calorie fish dish.  She tweeted back asking for the recipe.  I sent the recipe, and, gathering up all my courage, mentioned I just happened to have this foodie cozy and would she be interested in reading it.  She said to send it along. I was floored when a couple of weeks later my agent called to tell me that I was going to be multi-published!  Allergic to Death came out on August 7 and Murder Unmentionable, written under my pen name, debuts on September 4.
How did I cope with all that rejection up till I became an overnight success (yeah, right)?  Here are a couple of things that might work for you.
Wine.  You can drown your sorrows, but also celebrate the smallest success.  The agent put your name on the rejection letter.   Score!  She spelled it right.  Score again!
Whine.  To your friends, family, the person next to you on the bus.  You’ll quickly discover they don’t understand at all.  That’s when it’s helpful to have some writer buddies who do understand.   I’ve found some wonderful on-line groups and a few local groups who have helped share my pain and celebrate my success.
Write.  Write some more.  The more queries you have out there, the more manuscripts you’re working on, the less painful the rejections will be because you’ll always have another iron in the fire.
Wait.  This business requires incredible patience.  Even the “overnight” successes weren’t.  They worked hard and long to get where they are.  As a friend said, “don’t quit five minutes before a miracle.”  That “yes” might be just around the corner.  Meanwhile, hone your craft and learn all you can.  And above all—enjoy yourself!
 THANKS PEG! JRW--Peg will be stopping in today to answer your comments and questions.

58 comments:

Ramona said...

I love your four W's! And the Guppies are great inspiration and support.

Nice to see you here enjoying your success, Peg. If you were a knight, you could be dubbed Peg the Persistent.

Edith Maxwell said...

Congratulations, Peg/Meg! You're having a bundle of success.

How are you coping with the simultaneous two-name thing? I'm in the same boat, as you might know, and am not having much success getting Likes over at my Tace Baker facebook page, for example. I'm linking my two names as often as I can. Do you tweet and post under both identities? How are you handling promotion for Meg London?

Thanks for any tips, and I can't wait to read the books.

Loralee said...

Peg, I'm so darned proud of you and your exciting debut. I'm reading Allergic to Death right now and loving it. Murder Unmentionable is pre-ordered. Cyber-toasting your success until I can do it in person.

Karen in Ohio said...

Success, yay! Also love the four W's.

My way of dealing with the rejections from publishers was the same way I dealt with them when I sold insurance (where you get a LOT of rejections): if they didn't yell "NO!" and slam down the phone, or tell me I was an incompetent boob, all was good.

Maybe that's lowering the bar a bit too much, but you have to keep your self-esteem, and you just don't know what is going on at the other end of the phone/email/Tweet. Their favorite brother could be their agent/favorite place to put this year's new ms budget, or they could be having a very bad day right that minute. It's best not to take it personally, right?

Patricia Kiyono said...

Great advice, Peg! Hope I get to meet you some time at a GRRWG meeting. I'm enjoying your Confession is Murder.

Lucy Burdette said...

Karen in Ohio, such excellent advice! Do not take rejection personally unless rejector tells you you're an incompetent boob!

Julia said...

Peg - Inspirational AND sound advice. I sometimes get the feeling a lot of self-publication these days is driven by the author's feeling that finishing a manuscript = must be in print within the next six months. (Not knocking self-publication. I think it's fine for writers who truly understand all the pros and cons, but we all see a lot of new writers who turn to it without even trying to be professionally published.)

Cheryl said...

We thank you for not giving up five minutes before you found success. Enjoying Allergic to Death. Congratulations to another successful Guppy!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yay, Peg! I loved reading your story...and I am just so happy for you! And wow...talk about success!

SO--looking back now, and looking forward. How do you think about your writing life?

And the not giving up five minutes before a miracle is SO profound. I'm going to print that out and put on my bulletin board.

(And did I say--HURRAY!)

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi Peg,congrats on your success. And, what great advice. How would you like to do an interview for my National Crime Fiction column? If so, contact me via Twitter @vistawriter or FB.

Darlene Ryan said...

I know writers are supposed to steer away from cliches, but Peg's success couldn't be happening to a nicer person.

Peg I'm wearing my boa and dancing in celebration!

Hallie Ephron said...

It's so great to hear your story, Peg, of FOLLOWING tweets to get ahead. So smart.

Laughed at the analogy to the Scarlet Letter -- Sounds like it's worked out better for you than it did for Hester Prynne!

The Cat Bastet said...

Congratulations, Peg! I pre-ordered Allergic to Death for my Kindle and it's next on my to-read list. I've been looking forward to it since I first heard about it!

Cathy AJ

Krista said...

I'm dancing with Darlene! What a thrill it is to see Peg published! I hope those 400 rejections give other people hope. It's a long road to publication but it happens!

~ Krista

Peg Cochran said...

Ramona, I love that! Peg the Persistent. If I knew how to needlepoint, I'd make myself a pillow with that on it!

Peg Cochran said...

Edith, so far I'm having the same difficulties you are. I have a separate website and Facebook page for Meg and Peg, and I try to post on both. I also look for opportunities to make people aware of the fact that I'm the same person.

Avery Aames a.k.a. Daryl Wood Gerber said...

WINE, whine, write, wait. Love this, Peg. Congrats on your success. Persistence is so key as you and I both know.

Loved Allergic to Death.

Avery/Daryl
AveryAames.com

Peg Cochran said...

Loralee, thanks! Loralee has been a great supporter and we occasionally manage to have a three hour lunch at Olive Garden and plan murder and mayhem together!

Peg Cochran said...

Karen, you're absolutely right. There is NOTHING personal about the rejections. It's a business. Plus they are not rejecting YOU as a person, just that particular manuscript.

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Patricia. HOpe to make another GRRW meeting soon! We moved and then my husband had a quintuple bypass. Sometimes your writing life ends up taking a backseat despite your best intentions.

Peg Cochran said...

Julia, I just read an interview with Sue Grafton where she said much the same thing. I did self-publish two manuscripts after getting my Penguin contracts, but they'd both been repped and edited by agents and just didn't sell. I still believed in them so I self-published. But I have about half a dozen manuscripts that will never see the light of day!

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Cheryl. Glad you're enjoying the book. So many Guppies have become published--it's a great support group!

p said...

Hank, I LOVE the writing life although there are a lot of things I didn't know about (copy edits for one!) But even the less fun parts are fun because I have wanted this literally since I first learned to read. And the "five minutes" quote comes from a fellow Guppy!

Kaye George said...

Peg, you now have a scarlet P for Published! I'm so proud of you, as the Guppy president, and--most importantly--as your friend and writing buddy. It's a HUGE thrill to see your success. ALLERGIC TO DEATH is on my TBR stack!

Peg Cochran said...

Terry, I will be in touch! Thanks for the opportunity!

Peg Cochran said...

Aw, shucks, Darlene. Takes one to know one as we used to say. LOL.

Peg Cochran said...

Hallie, yes, I think I like my "R" better than Hester's "A!"

Peg Cochran said...

Cathy, I do hope you enjoy it!

Peg Cochran said...

Krista, Avery and Kaye...you guys kept me going when it was *really* tempting to quit and watch TV instead! And Krista, this one's for you as they say!

Jungle Red Writers said...

Peg/Meg,

Your story is so inspiring! Would you be sure to tweet it today? Reds will do the same! Thanks so much for joining us and telling your story. Best of luck with BOTH books.

Will Reds see you at Bouchercon Cleveland? You won't miss us as we'll be the ones sporting red & black leopard print silk scarves!
XOR

Leslie Budewitz said...

The Guppy kickline is in full fin for Peg! She even won the coveted title "Guppy Princess of Rejection" in 2010, proving the power of persistence! Congratulations!!!

Deb said...

Hi Peg/Meg! Big cheers to you for persistence, and I love the four Ws.

And I certainly admire your double life--I'm a Gemini and I find it hard enough being one person:-)

400 rejections! What an inspiring story. I'm speaking to a writer's group tonight and will have to share.

Meg said...

I wish I could go to Bouchercon. Especially since I love a nice leopard print accessory!

Leslie, thanks for the support. And YOU are the one who came up with "don't stop five minutes before a miracle!"

Kylie Frost said...

400 rejections - thanks for sharing that. I'll keep going!! Congratuations on all your success.

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Deb. You are one of my favorite writers and guesting on this blog with so much talent is awesome!

Leslie Budewitz said...

I said that?! Wow! It's true! And friends, Peg more than returns every favor -- she is the fairy godmother of my first cozy, which is going to the publisher today!

(The captcha numbers today are nearly impossible. Whaddup?)

Peg Cochran said...

Don't give up, Kylie! If you quit then you *know* you won't get there!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Peg, congratulations on all your well-deserved and hard-earned success! Don't you love the "overnight success" bit? I was asked to talk to a writer's conference about it and titled the talk, "My 30-Year Overnight Success."

And I love the four Ws--wine, whine, write, wait! No one could have said it better. It's so true that persistence is the key. We're always five minutes away from a miracle. We just never know which five minutes it will be.

Julia, I too see many writers who don't want to deal with rejection head straight for self-publishing. I think that's a mistake. Nothing against self-pub, but it's not right for everyone, especially not right for folks who just don't want to have to rewrite the book one more time or who want instant gratification. It requires either having a lot of skills, such as top-flight editing/copyediting/proofreading or paying someone else for them--or putting out an inferior product. Too many wind up doing the last and harming their careers long-term when they do. I hate to see that happen.

Peg Cochran said...

Linda, you are so right. I can't tell you how many times (because I lost track!) I rewrote the first three chapters that got me my first contract. And then after the agent had me rewrite them a gazillion times...the editor had her revisions, too! Someone said writing is rewriting, and they weren't kidding!

Leslie, you're right about the Captcha things today. They're brutal!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Love this post, Peg. Your four W's are right on. May yu have many, many sales.

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Marilyn!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, Pt, I agree...even the "not fun" parts are fun. My husband asked me last night whether I was "annoyed" to make tweaks suggested by editors--and I said no,I LOVE it. It makes the real story appear.I always think--yes! That's what I meant! It just took a good editor to uncover it.

I mean--I took an editor to uncover it. Not "just" took. :-)

Jan Brogan said...

What a great story! Thanks for sharing!


I loved the Scarlett Letter analogy and applaud your persistence and optimism!


Marianne in Maine said...

Peg,
I am so impressed! I can't imagine taking all those rejections and keeping my sanity.

I've never written anything for publication but I can't imagine I could keep going after being rejected. I've run for elections and I know how nervous I get when the future is in others' hands. It's hard to stand up again when you've been defeated (or rejected.) Brava to you! And your books are on my list now.

And thank you to all the authors who haven't given up. You give us your work to enjoy and we readers are very grateful!

Peg Cochran said...

Ha, ha, Hank! At the end of each manuscript I do a word search for "just" and generally when I'm done, I've lost a couple of pages!

Peg Cochran said...

Marianne, if you want something badly enough, and being a published writer is the only thing I've ever really wanted (okay, aside from being a prima ballerina but that idea died out pretty early), you have no choice but to keep on. Plus I have no other hobbies other than cooking...

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Jan. Being a guest today was my pleasure.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yup. NO exaggeration--in my current manuscript, I took out "just" 327 times.

Gina Fava said...

Thanks, Peg! Inspiring advice. Congratulations on your success--you deserve it.
"Five minutes from a miracle"--words of hope for us all.

Lisa Alber said...

What an inspiring story! I've been avoiding Twitter, but you just may have convinced me to give it a try. One thing you wrote struck me: being at the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. Given that, I try not to take my hundreds-strong rejection rate to heart.

So...now that you're on the other side--self-promoting, how does it feel? Anything special you've learned?

Peg Cochran said...

Lisa, what I've learned is that while writing a book may be an art, publishing is a business. They're in it to make money--yes, they take pride in producing good books, but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line! It's critical to approach your writing career in a professional manner.

I've also learned that I like to write better than self-promote! LOL. But both are very important. I've also learned you need to keep an eye on the market. Wasn't there a famous hockey player who said he doesn't skate to where the ball is, but where it's going to be? Publishing is a little like that. No one knows what the next big thing is, but you can usually tell which genres are in their death throes. Note what's selling (an ocassional month's subscription to Publishers Marketplace is well worth it) and you may get a glimmer of the next big thing and be able to jump on the band wagon before it's pulled out.

Peg Cochran said...

Gina, stay inspired! And keep writing!

Marie said...

Congratulations, Peg.
I know that more miracles are just around the corner for you!!

Lucy Burdette said...

Peg, thank you for being here today--now go sit next to your hub with a glass of wine and put your feet up...and imagine us all lifting our glasses to toast you!!

ps Hank, why is it that "just" is so appealing. sigh. I guess I better search too...

Peg Cochran said...

Lucy, thanks for having me today! I feel quite honored to be in such esteemed company.

Oh, and in my hockey analogy above, yes, I do realize they play with a PUCK and not a ball. Must have been a brain seizure or something! And the hockey player's name was Wayne Gretzky. As I recall, he was not only a fabulous player but hot enough to melt the ice!

Reine said...

Peg, so sorry to be late... what a terrific story! Thank you for the inspiration and good advice. I have now adopted the 4 Ws.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

YOu know Peg, i keep thinking about this. It was wonderful of you to tweet and all, very wise. But none of this would have happened if you hadn't been a good writer!

xoxo

Reine said...

Hank, you say such cogent things. xo