Breaking it Down Part 2

September 6, 2008

Here’s more of my journey mumbo jumbo…
When we last left our heroine, she’d begun her first real somewhat readable novel. (OK, switching to first person. Referencing myself in third person feels funny). I took my sweet time with this novel (SGH), working on the rough draft sporadically for a good year, largely because I had a baby and moved to AL. I also continued to send out a few picture books. My rejections became more personal. I went back and forth with a few editors, but the close calls never ended in a cigar. Which worked out well because I didn’t want a cigar, I wanted my books published.
Once the moving/baby dust settled, I spent the summer revising and finished SGH in early fall. I had a few friends read it, joined a new awesome crit group, and got more involved with my online communities.
I really researched agents this time and sent the query out little by little. My query yielded tons of requests. With a return like this, I was close to certain it was "just a matter of time" until I found that perfect fit. In a burst of optimism, I bought some expensive sparkling grape juice to have on hand when the call came.
I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
The grape juice turned to wine.
I developed a love/hate relationship with my email, which was continually hit with form rejections, enthusiastic requests, one line "not for me’s", well-thought out explanations of why it didn’t work (all conflicting), rejections starting with "I love this story" and ending with "but…", requests for more work,  requests for revisions (almost 3 months of back and forth emails with an agent that amounted to nada), requests to talk on the phone, requests to not call again (kidding!) and… silence. Silence.
I took a break from querying that winter to mope and compose emails to me my friend LIsa with titles like "What’s so bad about quitting?" She somehow remained my friend and always wrote something nice back. As encouragement, I read stories about authors who had clawed their way out of the submission wilderness. And I ate lots of Christmas junk.
Then I got an email from two different editors saying they were readers of my blog (people READ MY BLOG? What!!??) and liked my voice. Would I mind submitting some of my work? Gee. Huh. Sure.
I reassessed SGH. All I needed was one editor to connect with it. So I took what rang true from the rejections and sent out the revised manuscript. I opted to wait on querying some more. After all, I still had some aged fulls out and a very respected agent open to seeing a revision. Except, I found the blog of a brand-spanking new agent, Sarah Davies, on VerlaKay’s writing board. She was experienced in the biz, savvy and funny and had worked on books similar to mine. Ah, heck, what’s one more query?
But that wanting still snuck up on me. A twinge when I walked into a bookstore and saw all the published books. That longing when another window of opportunity closed. The despair when a big rejection came. I had a long talk with my husband about balance and attitude and endurance and going to bed just a little bit earlier :). I drank that bittersweet grape juice and let go of all the things I couldn’t control.
Meanwhile, I went back to work on a cute little story I’d abandoned some time back, Princess for Hire (started writing it "for fun" while querying Practice Novel). Working on this was entirely different from SGH. SGH was an emotional journey, while Princess was a rolicking, riotous romp. And although the business side of me knew it was the more marketable of the two and would be a great thing to send those agents who said they’d look at something else, I wrote it for me. I wanted to explore all the crazy plot options and character quirks that came with a high concept idea.The more I wrote, the bigger the world became. And when I shared bits with others, they laughed.
I got a call in February from one of the requesting editors. She loved SGH and had shared it in house and wanted to revise it with me so she could take it to acquisitions, along with a little bit of Princess 4 Hire.  I explained the situation to the agent who’d wanted to see revisions and she asked for the still rough P4H. That same week, my inbox was hit with a rejection on a stale full which included a request to see this princess novel I’d mentioned, as well as a full request (both novels)  from Sarah. The other editor who’d contacted me via my blog wrote a sweet email to see how the princess story was going. Revision agent wrote me the day she started P4H to let me know how much she was liking it and to set up a phone call. All this for the story I almost didn’t write because I didn’t think it was serious enough. Turns out, people wanted funny. And my HS Spanish teacher told me being voted class clown was a bad sign of my future. Ay Carumba, Senora whatever-your-name was.
I accepted an offer of representation from Sarah. She left for Bologna to talk up my book while I finished my SGH revisions. In early April, my books went to acquisitions and…
got a "we’d like to see it later."
Somewhat devastating, as I really loved this editor, but not a complete no and I had an agent to cushion the blow. This ended the exclusive for this house, so Sarah and I decided the best course was to get Princess in top shape and shop that as my debut, leaving SGH for later.
She worked closely with me over the next two months on P4H revisions. On top of that, we included a three paragraph blurb for a sequel possibility (I wrote it as a stand alone, but realized there was more I could do with it if given the chance), then sent it out late May. Within two weeks, we had news that a few houses were interested. Sarah called from NY after a meeting with a publisher to let me know they’d be putting an offer in. I was going to be published. Wrote a post about that, so insert joyous, reflective moment here.
The next week, we got more offers and one or two requests for revisions. The week ended with a best-offer auction between two phenomenal houses. I accepted a three-book deal from Hyperion with UK rights going to Egmont a month later.
Whew. OK, so I skimmed a little at the end, but I’ve already covered that part. I sign my contract come Monday, and then the next part begins–from acceptance to published book. Look for reflective post on that in 2010.
Must pack. NY recap next week!