Well, it’s finally happened.
I’m very pleased to announce that my agent has sold one of my urban fantasies, Master of None, and an unwritten sequel, to Pocket Books, for publication beginning in spring 2010.
*insert much cheering and jumping and blowing of horns here*
Did I say ‘very pleased’? I meant completely ecstatic!
My fellow bloggers here know how much "fun" I’ve had getting to this point. It’s a long, long story. Over at Dear Author, one of the regular blogs I read, they have a feature called “My First Sale,” where every Friday they share first-sale stories from writers of all levels – debut to midlist to bestseller. I’d like to share my story here with you.
I started writing seriously a little over ten years ago. No, that’s not a typo. My first novel was a (cheesy, badly written) romance, and I wrote it all in the space of three weeks, in a notebook, while caring for three toddlers: my son and my two nephews. Of course, I thought it was brilliant, and so I searched for a publisher right after I finished typing the manuscript (with no editing whatsoever).
The first publisher I sent it to loved it! But back then, the internet was not as wide-reaching or informative as it is now, and few writers had heard of an emerging technology called POD (print-on-demand), and I thought it was perfectly normal to pay a few hundred dollars to get a book published. Eventually, I learned it wasn’t.
I also learned that what I’d written was absolute dreck. I abandoned that one, and wrote another romance novel – also cheesy, not quite as badly written, but still unpublishable. I discovered that romance was not my genre. So I switched to thrillers, and started what would eventually become a series.
While trying to get my series published, I discovered that in the publishing world there are outright scams, and then there are subtler elements that can gently be termed "inept." I must have fallen for all of them. I signed with publishers that were still POD and industry-impaired, but because they didn’t charge anything, I assumed they were legit. They weren’t. I’d heard writers had a better shot with new, hungry agents. I got a "new" agent. She had a nervous breakdown and left agenting.
Fast forward several years and several hundred rejections. I’d finished four books in the thriller series, and pulled out an older, third attempt at romance that didn’t suck too much. I finished the manuscript and sent it off to a reputable e-press without much hope. They accepted! It was my first taste of real publishing. My editor there was wonderfully brutal, and my writing craft improved because of her (if you’re reading this: thank you, Karen!).
I needed more. I’d read some novels in a new-ish genre called ‘urban fantasy’, and decided I liked it quite a lot. Enough to try writing it myself. I started a story about evil angels and not-so-evil Nephilim (half angel, half human). I thought it was going well—until I sent my first page in to one of the infamous, wonderful Miss Snark’s blog contests.
She didn’t think it was going so well. And once I digested her insightful comments, I realized she was right.
I remained disheartened for a few weeks. Then, I scrapped what I had of the story and started over, with a new protagonist, new world rules and new motivations. I finished the manuscript in four months, and sent it out into the world. That was when I started getting multiple requests from agents for more material. Thrilled beyond belief, I ended up signing with the magnificent Cameron McClure, who works for my “dream” agency: the Donald Maass agency.
She was just as excited about this manuscript as I was. She sent it out on submission with high hopes. And then the responses started coming in: rejection, rejection, rejection. Too YA for the adult market. Too adult for YA. Wonderful writing, but don’t give up your day job. I couldn’t believe it. I had a real agent, a great agent, but the editors just weren’t going to bite.
I had choices. One: give up. Two: rewrite the manuscript into either adult or YA. Three: write yet another novel, and try again. I finally went with Option Three, though Option One really seemed tempting.
Another year and a half, and a new completed manuscript later: the novel has been out on submission for quite a while. It’s after the holiday season, the middle of winter, and I’m working three part-time jobs and treading water. One of them is at McDonalds. Last Thursday, I reported just before noon for a four-hour shift. While I’m putting my coat and purse in the crew room, the office phone rings. One of the managers says it’s for me.
No one ever calls me at work with good news. I pick up, and it’s my husband. He sounds . . . odd. He says, "You have to call your agent. Right now." I’m eating a jelly donut that one of my co-workers brought in, and my hands start shaking so bad that I smear it all over myself. We can’t make long-distance calls from the office phone, and I don’t own a cell phone, so I run out of the office with red jelly all over my hands, screaming, "A phone! I need a phone, right now!" The grill manager thinks I’m bleeding to death. There is a long moment of confusion before someone finally lends me a phone.
I call my agent. I don’t hear much beyond "two-book deal with Pocket Books". I’m shaking and crying, and I call my husband back and shout something unintelligible, which he miraculously understands. Then I wash the jelly off my hands, and proceed to spend the next four hours making double cheeseburgers. But I don’t care. I can’t stop smiling.
I still can’t. I finally made it. And no matter what happens from here on, I will always be grateful for this.