I've been working on becoming a "professional" writer for a long time. The workshop I started, Dreaming In Ink, turns 13 this month (which is an amazing milestone to me all on its own), and I was aiming for publication years before that. I spent a chunk of that time trying to figure out how I write (versus how other people told me I should write), but even discounting that, I've been aiming for the stars for a long time. In that time, I've watched writers give up or decide the traditional route was too much work or not for them and choose self-publishing instead. For a small portion of these writers, self-publishing was definitely the way to go, for others, it felt more like just didn't want to wait for that golden ring. Meanwhile, Assassin's has been on the market-go-round for 4 1/2 years (recently pulled for revisions and probable self-publishing) and Charms for 2. They've pretty much hit all the agents they can, but still I push.
When I decided to "go pro," I knew it was going to take awhile. I didn't imagine it would take this long, but I was also aware that Assassin's had a strong chance of being a too traditional epic fantasy (I admit, I'm not much into the "edgy" or the "weird"; I don't read it, tend not to like it much when I do happen on it, so I don't write it) for traditional publishers. I was disappointed that small presses passed on it, but again, I'm aware of its "flaws" for most of these markets (traditional epic fantastic, highly descriptive, and highly poetic--the latter of which is being revamped a bit now). I'm still proud of it, but it's my first novel, and it was my learning novel for everything from writing to the submission process.
I did expect a better response to Charms, which theoretically I got: there were more requests, more positive feedback, and less form rejections, but it still hasn't found a home. It's just hitting the small press circuit, and I'd like to say it has a better chance than Assassin's, but if Assassin's and my short story submissions have taught me anything, it's that what YOU think has a bigger chance, isn't necessarily how it will be received. All you can do is keep hunting down markets that accept the genre you're sending out, do your research to make sure they're good to their authors, and keep submitting.
Thing is, I knew this would be a long haul kind of thing. I love to write, and I want to get my stories out there, and I'd really like the stars while I'm at it. I've always had the attitude that you can always go a step down, but going a step up can be a lot harder--traditional and pro markets tend to not want reprints. There is the rare book that started off self-pubbed that gets a traditional contract, but no one should count on their work getting the kind of attention that would make that happen. And I happen to be in a situation where I can devote time to my writing without too much sacrifice elsewhere: I have to be home with my son who can't be left alone and at most would be able to work maybe half time, so I might as well spend some of that time at home investing in my writing and reaching for my dreams.
And to be fair, I'm a bit of a perfectionist (okay, all of you who know me, you can stop laughing now). Whether traditional publishing or self-publishing, I want to do it RIGHT. Which means spending as long as necessary to make the manuscript right (with this new round to revamp the pov and poetic language, Assassin's is currently on version 10, and I imagine it'll get another round or two smoothing out the issues created by what I'm doing after this). And if I do self-publish Assassin's, that means finding an editor, paying for an artist, and doing as much as I can that a traditional house would do. Considering the amount of money those things will need, I have time to get the book ready.
And maybe I'll give it another submissions round when I'm done and be surprised. Who knows?
The one thing I do know is that being impatient might get my books "out there," but it won't necessarily help me reach my dreams. There's a stronger likelihood that I'll end up being published via small press and self-publishing, and I'm down with that. But I'm also okay with the long road, even if it's a bit longer than I thought it would be as long as I'm growing, learning, and, most of all, doing what I love to do.