Lessons from the Giants

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.19.24 PMI started writing when my son was eleven months old. He graduates from Junior High this coming May. I wrote my first book in under a year, at least I count it as my first book, because the other two before it weren’t fit to be coasters for the coffee table. So I wrote this book, met with a popular rock band for the research and secured an agent within three months of sending it out.

I got a call from her one day telling me that a publisher in England had heard about this book through the grapevine and called my agent asking for it. They called her. This was unheard of I was told. A month later a producer asked to see it. He wanted to make a it into a movie of the week.

Through this experience, I learned that there are two types of people in the writing industry.

I belong to an online writing loop where pubbed and unpubbed work side by side answering each others questions. There was one women who was indeed, just one of us. She had participated in our discussions and been there just like the rest of us.

And then she sold her first book. A few months later I wrote her and asked her a question just like I had done with her a dozen times before, and she with me. This time the curt reply came with an ending sentence telling me that there were other people on the loop I could have gone to without bothering her. I never bought her book. Neither did anyone else in our critique group.

So what happened to my career? I mailed off the revisions my agent had asked for in January. When I hadn’t heard back by June, I finally called.

I was told that my agent had died that previous February and nobody had thought to notify me. To this day, I still do not know the specifics. My book was returned with a no thank you. I was released from the contract. No one ever knew what happened to the English publisher and the movie producer disappeared without a trace.

In one phone call I went from the cutting edge, being told that my book was so damn unusual that it would create a new sub-genre, back to square one. That was seven years ago.

And that is where the lessons began.

Not how to put a sentence together or how to submit in proper format. All that was in books. What I learned came from people.

The kind of person who glances down at your names tag at a conference, sees that there is no marking designating your masterpiece and their eyes wonder the second before they excuse themselves to go sit at the agent/editor table. I attended a conference with an someone I knew. We weren’t best friends, but we had spent some time together. When I hadn’t seen her the whole three days and finally ran into her, I asked her about it. “I don’t come here to socialize,” I was told. “I’m here to meet the people that will get my book on the shelf and that’s it.” I wasn’t one of the important people, not worth the time. At least not to her.

I met a particular multi-published author who shall remain nameless who was so important to herself she dismissed me with the wave of her hand while I was standing at her signing table.

And then I met the real people. The true giants.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing. When I mentioned I was a newbie writer, she stopped the line for two minutes, crossed her arms over her chest with the most sincere smile and asked me how it was going.

Dean Koontz. When I didn’t feel as if I could go on with all the rejection letters, he sent me a personal note telling me ”For fifteen years most of my friends and virtually all of my relatives thought I was a bum … hang in there.” He even spelt my name right.

And Clive Cussler? I had been reading him since I was fifteen years old. He was the reason I got into writing in the first place. It’s why I write action romance. So what did he tell me when I finally, after eighteen years, met him at a book signing? “Send me a copy of your manuscript. I would like to take a look at it.”

These are my teachers.

These are the people that are not so impressed with themselves or their work that they will turn their backs on the person with the plain badge. They care. They remember.

I had a drink with an editor from a publishing house recently and we were talking about how hard it is break in to the business. When I recounted my history, she smiled sadly and said she was sorry.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’m not.

I almost had the instant success. I was almost one of the rare that sold their first book.

And if that had happened, where would my ego had ended up? What table would I have been sitting at and with whom would I talk to at the conference?

My lack of success in the writing industry, at least by some standards, put in the right places at the right time and showed me the people I want to mimic. The real giants. Not because they have sold more books or make more money or put their books in the top ten of the New York Best Seller List. They are giants because they cared enough to look back and see where they used to be.

It appears that my big break is a hair breath away. I have people who want to read my work. People with the clout to make the difference. We’ll see. I’ve been close before and have learned not to get too excited.

yingyangWhat goes around comes around. Karma. Ying and Yang. Two sides to every coin. With every action there is an opposite action. It doesn’t matter how you say it, it all means the same thing.

What we put out in the world will be what we get back. In my writing, as well as in my life, I want my second side to reflect my first. And it’s not going to be determined by how many books I have on the shelf or who I sat next to at that luncheon. It’s going to come from how I treated the person who has just finished her first draft of her first book and the person who just opened his forty-seventh rejection.

So whether or not my book sells and the deals start pouring in, don’t look for me at that front table by the podium. Look for me in the back with the real people, the people with the plain badges who realize the struggle and the reward go hand in hand.


Award-winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings strength she learned from the discipline to her heroines. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction.

Follow her at

Twitter: JaxJacoby

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© 2015 Jacqui Jacoby, Body Count Productions, Inc.

17 responses to “Lessons from the Giants”

  1. There are so many “greats” as well as “real people” 😉 who pay it forward and inspire me. I wouldn’t be here without their help.

    And the beauty of the journey is in the struggle! (Unfortunately. LOL)

    • Anne, it was tough at times, always realizing I was standing on the wrong side of the street when I needed the south bound bus, but you learn to adapt. If you are lucky, you learn to thrive.

  2. Vivi Andrews says:

    I love hearing that the “giants” remember to be lovely human beings as well. And yet no matter how lovely they are, I am still a blithering idiot fangirl whenever I speak to one of my idols. 🙂

  3. Kathy Crouch says:

    That’s a great story Jacqui. I have felt the same way before. I asked a well published author at a chapter meeting to read over my work in progress. I had no idea who she was. It was my second meeting to the chapter. They were doing a critique and I was anxious to have the work read and to learn. She came across as rude and hostile. I was shocked.

  4. First, you’re to be commended for hanging in there when everything fell apart. Second, I’m with you about the awareness of karma in this business. I am one who will probably always be near the back because I choose to write sweet romance, but I do everything I can to reach out to others and be available to questions.

  5. Thank you Linda. But to be truthful, what else was I going to do? The kids were smaller (now grown) and I would have ended up talking to myself in front of blank wall. Hanging in there was the only option.

  6. Rita Henuber says:

    Lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great post, Jacqui. It might not seem like it, but publishing is a VERY small business. One of the things I love about RWA is that MOST writers help other writers. That’s what our Ruby blog is all about.

  8. jbrayweber says:

    Wow. To get such wisdom from giants FIRST HAND is awesome! I think I’d break down in tears if Koontz or Cussler had reached out to me.

    Wonderful post, Jacqui!


  9. I contacted them by mail. Well Koontz. He responded. We exchanged letters for a brief time. Cussler I met at a book signing and he took an interest when I told him I had begun writing because of Dirk Pitt (oh I wanted to marry Dirk though that bedroom door sure spun). Then Clive and I wrote a few more times. I contacted him again three years ago and one week later, was another letter. I really like these guys,

  10. Jacqui,

    Clive Cussler is one of my giants, too. In fact he’s the reason I started to write fiction. I did some research for him when I was a nautical archaeologist & then wrote a paper for an academic press about the research. He called up and asked if I had ever written fiction, because I had a flare for historic narrative. And so I began. 🙂

    And it’s a great lesson in generosity for all of us. 🙂

    Cheers, EE

  11. Liz Talley says:

    Lovely post, Jacqui! I know how you feel. It’s so hard to feel like you’re constantly knocking at the door and people are looking out the curtain and not answering. Writers can be notoriously cliquish. But some are not. Some are gracious, showing incredible kindness and humility. Isn’t it nice to find them?


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