Women’s Fiction Author Kelly Simmons Talks about her Journey to Publication

One day I watched the Backspace Conference Video from the Women’s Fiction Panel in May 2011.  I didn’t attend the conference, but knew that Kelly Simmons, Jael McHenry and Keith Cronin were sitting on this panel.  I had to see it!  (You can see it too if you’re a Backspace member!) I already knew Jael and Keith — and when I *met* Kelly Simmons I immediately tried to snag her for the blog.  Kelly has a straightforward and encouraging manner that is sure to hit home with writers who’ve been “at it” a while as well as those who are just getting started.

Please welcome Kelly to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Women’s Fiction Author Kelly Simmons Talks about her  Journey to Publication

At a speaking engagement not long ago, I gave a humorous-but-harrowing talk about my 15 year struggle to get published.  That is not a typo.  I didn’t say five.  Or ten.  (And okay, not twenty. That would have required me starting in approximately eighth grade.)

This has to have set some sort of world record for self inflicted punishment, like the dude who laid on a bed of nails for 100 days (piece of cake) or the woman who swam across the Pacific Ocean (please, how long could that have possibly taken?)  Most writers are absolutely aghast when they hear this high number; who wants to hear this discouraging tale?

Who wants to hear about That Horrible First Year, when my famous high-powered-agent-who-also-repped-Pat Conroy paged me at work and told me he’d sold my first novel, then paged me a week later to tell me the house had rescinded their offer?   Who has ever heard of such an awful thing happening?  Who could ever forgive that publisher?

Who wants to hear about Horrible Year Seven, when my second famous-high-powered-agent-who-also-repped-Michael-Chabon asked me to write concepts and chapters to her specifications so she could approve the whole book along the way, only to reject the final manuscript she had approved every single freaking chapter of?  Who does this happen to?  Well, um, not Michael Chabon, that’s for damned sure.

Finally, at this event, someone raised their hand and asked the question everyone now asks:  If self pubbing an eBook had been an option, would you have gone that route?

And the answer is:  I don’t know. I missed them by the skin of my teeth, being published in 2008.  But in my case, I’m glad it happened the way it did.  Because I have benefited so much by failing, by listening, by studying, by re-writing.  By being read by people who offered criticism with their praise, and edited by people who both infuriated me and forced me to be better.   People I would not have encountered had I self-published.

Fifteen years ago, I had many talents as a writer.  I know this in my heart. But I also know that  today, I have many, many more.

When I teach, students often ask if they “should” self pub or not.  And this what I tell them.  If you are looking for closure, self publish.  If you are looking for recognition, or achievement, don’t.

At some point you may need one more than the other, and you’ll know what to do.

Good luck to all you intrepid writers.   And you know what I’m going to say next.

Keep. At.  It.

Kelly Simmons is the author of two Simon & Schuster novels:  STANDING STILL, and THE BIRD HOUSE.   Visit her website at www.bykellysimmons.com or follow her on twitter: @kellysimmons.


6 thoughts on “Women’s Fiction Author Kelly Simmons Talks about her Journey to Publication

  1. Loved your tale, Kelly. Sounds familiar. I also thought your advice great. (notice I didn’t use the ‘was’ verb–see, I’ve learned a couple lessons over my years, too.)

    I also loved the last three sentences. I’m a fan of one-word ones, too.


  2. Persistence turned out to be the key to learning. I love how you see it this way. Your experiences sound particularly difficult to me yet you see them positively, I love that. This is a hopeful story I think, one that every writer or every anything should probably hear.


  3. Thank you, thank you thank you, Kelly. For offering a glimpse at the long road. One I believe I’m in competition for. Thank you for admitting you learned so much from failure. Failure is the best teacher, which is why I love to quote Beckett, “Try again, Fail again, fail better.” You are an inspiration. The Bird House has just moved to the top of my to-be-read-pile. Thanks for sharing.


  4. I just love this blog, because I have learned about so many wonderful authors. Kelly, you are now on that list. This is a great piece. I admire your perseverance, and your attitude and sense of humor as you reflect on the long, hard road to publication. I especially love that you wrote, “I have benefited so much by failing, by listening, by studying, by re-writing.” That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? In writing and in life. Thanks for sharing your story.


  5. Wow, Kelly… You have such a wonderful attitude despite the trials you have undergone. I’m so glad you kept at it, and love your advice about why to self-publish vs. take the traditional route. I think you’re right; with every negative or difficult experience set before us, we are forced to grown and learn – if only we keep our minds open to that growth. Thanks so much for sharing your harrowing, yet somehow uplifting, tale.


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