Recently, I signed a contract with Penguin Random House for my science fiction novel, INHERITANCE (tentative title). I managed this without an agent. Honestly, I've only had a few semi-pro short fiction sales thus far, never cracking into the professional markets. That's not for lack of effort. I've written scores of short stories and eight novels so far, with all the work and headache familiar to us writers. This particular novel was written back in 2011. I was unemployed at the time. I wrote it as fast as I could, unsure if I'd get another chance to get so much work done.
I revised the novel several times, and with the help of excellent readers, honed it into the manuscript that Penguin accepted. Six major drafts altogether. I never thought anyone would want it (the last draft was 128K) but I remained on the lookout for someone who'd take it. I searched the hashtag #MSWL on Twitter, and scanned for those seeking a space opera novel. Penguin turned up, so I submitted the manuscript through the criteria listed on their website.
Months passed, and I figured they'd rejected it and moved on. To my surprise, they expressed interest, and, after reviewing the full manuscript, accepted it for publication.
I don't have any special, secret advice as to how I did this. Trust me, I'd contacted a few agents before trying Penguin directly. I got discouraged, like so many others. Writing and publishing isn't for the impatient or thin-skinned. No matter how I felt, I never stopped believing in myself. There’s no magic button. You have to write and read as often as you can, just like all those advice books say. You have to put your work out there and not care if you get rejected. I'm not unique. If I can do this, others can. Never give up. Ever. Every word you write, every character that takes a piece of your heart, demands that you respect them. You must regard yourself as a professional, regardless of sales. If you don't, neither will a publisher.
I hope this inspires others that are depressed, frustrated, or burned out. That's going to happen to every writer. It’s happened to me numerous times. The key is to forge on, no matter what. Like Kivita, the heroine of my novel, we have to keep reaching inside of ourselves if we ever hope to see the stars.