Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Holy Book Deal, Batman!

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.


s.w. vaughn said...

Forgot to apologize for the length of this post! Hope it's still readable. :-)

Kim Smith said...

This just started my waterworks all up again (my best Dwayne Brown voice) -- God bless you SW and I wish you all the best that the industry can give you. You are my shining star, and I cannot wait to get that AUTOGRAPHED copy in my hand. xxoox Kim

s.w. vaughn said...

Aww, Kim... (((HUGS)))

Thank you so much! I'm blessed to have such wonderful, supportive friends. I'd never have gotten here without them!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I wrote this to you in an email, but wanted to share my sentiments publicly ;o)
Tears of joy are running down my face. Literally. It's been so long, soooo long. And nobody deserves this more than you, my friend. Your writing is on par with all the best - including Mr. King - and I've known that for as long as I've known you, dear Sonya. Remember when I said someday they'd be handing out little toys at MacDonalds with your movie (yes, movie) characters on them? Like Kung Fu Panda, but instead - the genie (djinn) and thief. Your thief will be the most sympathized and celebrated thief of all time - and everyone will love him - love to relate to him, love to imagine his adventures. You know, aside from this being one of the most satisfying and glorious moments in MY life, (I know, crazy, but true), you've shown us that with perserverence that comes from an unshakable inner strength - great perserverence - it CAN BE DONE. What a testimony to courage and tenacity. I'm still crying tears of joy. I can't stop. I'm so happy for you, dear friend.

s.w. vaughn said...

Aaron... thank you. I can't thank you enough for everything. You know what I mean. :-)

Happy Meal toys! How fun would THAT be? LOL

Karen Duvall said...

Congratulations! Your story sounds so much like mine it's like we're twins, except that I don't have the book deal. Not yet, but I'm ever hopeful my fab agent will hit it out of the park for me. So is this through the new Juno/Pocket co-publishing arrangement? Just curious cuz my agent will be submitting to them soon.

JenWriter said...


Kasey Mackenzie said...

Awww, I loved reading this. It brought back the joy of getting my own first book deal just a few months ago. Congratulations, and wishing you many sales!

Rose Pressey said...


Adele said...


s.w. vaughn said...

Thanks so much, everyone!

Karen, good luck with your submissions! This is, as far as I know, straight through Pocket, but I've heard good things about the Juno/Pocket deal. :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...


Joyce said...

This was wonderful. I'm still a beginner and pretty new at this. It reminded me about when I had my first novel published as an ebook, and while there are no million dollar sales YET, it remains a huge moment in my life and encouraged me to continue to keep writing and always keep trying.

I think it's fantastic what you've accomplished, and I congratulate you and wish you continued success. Joyce

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

That is terrific news, S.W. Congratulations. Long time coming, eh. Enjoy.

Warren Adler said...

Wonderful news! Congratulations!

Helen said...

Hi! Just popped over from Absolute Write to say congratulations, and to thank you for posting this very inspiring bit of news. Well done!

JKB said...

I popped over too, you made me cry. It gives me hope in my own submissions process, and I'm *so* happy for you.

*waves flags and dances*

s.w. vaughn said...

Thank you so much, guys! I'm so happy to be able to share something positive, and I hope that no one who is struggling right now with the added gloom of the economy will give up.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Big huge congratulations.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story!
I think I remember that post to Miss Snark (really!). We all learned so much from her.

s.w. vaughn said...

Thanks, Lucy! Wow - that's awesome that you remember the post! Oh, how I love Miss Snark. She's truly one-of-a-kind.

(For anyone who hasn't seen it, her blog archives are here: http://misssnark.blogspot.com/ - completely worth spending a few hours reading. She has excellent advice for writers.)

Marta Stephens said...

I'm so sorry to be late jumping in with my congrats to you. If your journey isn't a testiment to the sacrifice, dedication, and rewards writing has in store of serious writers, I don't know what does. I'm trilled beyond words for you. CONGRATS!!

s.w. vaughn said...

No worries, Marta - it's totally understandable. (((hugs)))

And thank you! :-)