My Journey to Being a Published Author
By Kim Boykin
Writing for me has never been a problem; I produced three novels in a span of three years and then two more a few years later. But trying to get published is like trying to solve the Rubik’s cube in 5.5 seconds. It seems impossible, but it’s not.
Most everyone will tell you, to be traditionally published, the first and most important step is finding an agent. While I love my agent, I disagree.
After I finished The Wisdom of Hair fourteen years ago, I signed with Jane Jordan Browne. Jane and I had a lot in common, she was kind of like an older me, and I loved her. And then, after the first round of submissions, she died.
Jane had cancer and didn’t know it. My heart was broken because I liked her so much, and she was a great person, but also because I felt like she was my shot at getting published. Jane told me not to worry; she’d told her partner to sell my work, but I knew the reality of the agent/writer relationship.
Unfortunately, the agent I inherited didn’t care much for Southern fiction. For two years, I held out hope she’d sell my work, but in the end, I had a frank conversation with her assistant and asked if the agent was every going to sell my books. When the answer was a very kind, “no,” I divorced my inherited agent and floundered. For eleven years.
I’m horrible at rejection, so I submitted to agents on and off, but got nowhere. Out of total desperation, I asked myself, “Who buys books?” The answer was obvious; I was pitching to the wrong people. Immediately, I looked online and found Michael Neff’s NY Pitch Conference. A four-day crash course in honing a pitch and then pitching to four editors, who do buy books. Turned out, I was one of the darlings of the conference with three out of four editors requesting the manuscript. Still I knew I needed an agent.
Nobody likes to write query letters, but the first paragraph of mine basically said, “I have three editors reading my manuscript and I’m looking for representation.” I sent out 167 e queries. By the end of the week, I had 60 agents reading the script, and 20 reading the whole script. I ended up with 3 offers; then I got to send out rejection letters.
And the icing on the cake? When I met Leis Pederson, I liked her a lot and hoped she’d buy my book. In the end, or, I guess I should say the beginning, Leis picked me and we’ve been a team for The Wisdom of Hair and, my new novel, Palmetto Moon.
There are a lot of reasons not to pursue traditional publication. Unless you’re lucky enough to get a huge advance, you’ll work your butt off marketing and selling your own book. And some authors who get those big advances will tell you they kill themselves trying to sell their books. But, for me, to have gone through all this and come out on the other side with two novels with the Penguin stamp of approval? It was worth it.
Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.
Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.
As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.
Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.
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