I have some seriously amazing news to report! I got a two book deal with Harper Collins Voyager Impulse! My first book will be published in May of 2016! Some of you may have already heard me squealing ecstatically on Facebook or Twitter, but I thought I’d post the whole story of how the book deal happened here.
I met my now editor at the pitch sessions at RWA Nationals in NYC. The Nationals pitch sessions feel a bit like speed dating the publishing industry – there are about fifty literary agents and editors at little tables throughout the room, and you’ve got eight minutes or so to convince them how spectacular your book is. I had been told, as a Nationals newbie, that almost no one ever sells a book at one of these big pitch sessions (although, my gut told me that couldn’t be true, else why would agents and editors take whole days out of their busy schedule to hear the nervous pitches of dozens of would-be authors?) But I entered honestly just hoping to practice talking to real live publishing professionals, without stammering, sweating, rambling, or generally sounding like a dork! Practicing pitching makes perfect, I thought?
When I took a seat across the table from a young editorial assistant at Harper Collins, however, her warm, delightful personality instantly quelled my jitters, and I found myself discussing my manuscripts with relative ease. It turned out that my first novel, the manuscript I least expected to be able to sell, was the one that piqued her interest. She asked me to send it to her, which I did. (I later heard the statistic that 90% of writers who get asked by an agent or editor to send them their manuscript never actually send it out – as crazy as that sounds! Um, the first step to getting published is actually sending out your manuscript!)
Months went by. I heard nothing. I took the silence to mean no, as silence generally means. I kept sending my manuscripts out elsewhere, and largely forgot about that submission.
And then one day I got an email from the editor I’d pitched. She said she loved the manuscript, and asked if I’d be willing to make some revisions? Once I stopped ecstatically squealing, I wrote her back, saying I’d be happy to make whatever revisions she’d advise – I actually love getting feedback on my manuscript. (I know some writers feel attached to a certain version of their story, but I’ve never been one of those writers. I’m willing to change anything and everything, if an editor or critique partner makes a convincing case it’ll make the story better.)
And then I got an email back: she was offering me a two book deal – my first novel, and a sequel! – with Harper Collins Voyager Impulse, a new ‘digital first’ imprint for sci-fi/ fantasy!
Reader, I will never forget it – I saw the email on my phone as I was leaving work, and almost fainted in the middle of the New York City sidewalk – I was clutching my chest and hyperventilating, ‘omg, omg, omg!’ as passersby stared at me curiously, and I felt like I was about to explode with joy.
As amateur writers, we often set all our sights on getting published, looking at that milestone as the end of the road, when in reality it’s only the beginning. After getting ‘the call’ (or the email!) the real work begins. I realized quickly that I needed professional guidance – I knew I didn’t fully understand the terms of the offer (the business side of writing can be a steep learning curve) and would really benefit from the advice of literary agent. I was advised by veteran writer friends that when I wrote back to the editor, I should convey my gratitude and enthusiasm of course, but NOT formally accept the offer, and instead ask for time to secure representation (because once you accept the offer, you can’t negotiate the terms)
Offer in hand, I contacted the top ten agents from my Excel spreadsheet of agents who represent Fantasy. It was a close decision, but in the end, Jennifer Udden from Donald Maass won the contest! As we moved into contract negotiation, I found out just how much I needed her expertise. As a newbie writer, I was so thrilled to be getting published that I would have said yes to just about anything – and without Jen’s intervention, I could have made some very costly mistakes!
Now the real work begins – I am contracted to finish writing the manuscript for Book 2, by May of 2016! It’s the tightest deadline I’ve ever had in my life – but tasks fill the time available, right? It’s a bit intimidating, but so exciting! I’m hoping to use the fuel of NaNoWriMo to bang out a first draft! (stay tuned!)
I suppose the ‘moral’ of this tale, is to keep taking action in the direction of your dreams, because you just never know…. you never know which one of your stories will take wing, which one of your submissions will bear fruit, which day will be the day you get the email!
I just feel incredibly blessed, and grateful – and excited for the next phase of the journey!