I sold almost exactly ten years from the day I sent my first completed manuscript to an editor. I will admit, though, I did a lot of submit and wait, then stick the rejected ms back to revise and send it out again literally years later. Had I actually kept after it, I probably would have sold sooner. My former agent had my manuscript for THIRTEEN months before offering representation. Yes, you read that correctly. L It should have set off warning bells, but I was pathetically needy--but that's another story.
The year before I sold my first book, I had a phone call from an editor at Harlequin. I was testing Halloween candy and mentally composing my RWA resignation letter--I'd decided it was time to stop beating my head against publishing's door and face facts--when the phone rang. The woman on the other end asked to speak to me and said her name. I wracked my brain. . .the name sounded familiar. Then she said "From Harlequin." I choked on my peppermint patty! After I'd calmed down she told me how much she loved my book and how perfect it was for their humor line--which had announced its demise about two weeks after I submitted my book, so this confused me--then she said, alas, the line is no more and that she'd even gone to the powers that be to get a humor line reinstated with my book. But, of course, they said no. I laughed and said "Of course! That's the story of my life!" She asked for anything else I might have--but make sure it's not too funny because they no longer publish humor. Sigh. But it gave me a glimmer of hope. Maybe I didn't really suck at writing. And those bumps didn't look all that bad on my head. *g*
Unfortunately, before I could find and "de-humor" a suitable book for Harlequin, my mother began going downhill and required a lot of my time before she finally passed away a few months later. For literally months I couldn't even touch my computer or go into my office. I realized I was fortunate to still be unpublished--I would have missed deadlines, I'm sure.
Then, that spring, I decided to do one more agent search. I told my husband I was going to contact the agent who had held onto my stuff for 13 months and ask for it back--obviously, she was not interested or else I'd have heard from her. I wanted to start with a clean slate. One more shot and if it didn't happen, I was quitting. This time, for sure. As I sat composing an email message to ask for my stuff back, a message popped up from her asking if my book was still available. I wanted to say "what do you care?" but, remember, I was needy. I said yes, and she called to offer representation and less than 3 weeks later, I had my first contract. Even though we have since parted ways, a part of me will always be grateful to her for helping me get my foot in the door. I just wish my parents would have lived long enough to see it happen.