Last Christmas, I got one of the best presents EVER: a fabulous agent (full story here) . And this Christmas, I got yet another awesome present: an offer from Skyhorse Press to publish my book!! Never have I been more thankful for an agent than through the contract-signing process! Legalese is not something I’m proficient in, but Writers House had it all covered, with little to no stress to me.
Once all the legalese had been sorted out, I got to sign the contract, and the deal announcement was made! Seeing the little blurb written up on Publishers Marketplace was seriously a dream come true:
Jessica Leake’s debut ARCANA, in which a bold, half-Sylvan debutante in Edwardian London must hide her abilities not only from potential suitors — and the man she loves — but an ancient brotherhood who feeds on this rare type of magic, to Nicole Frail and Constance Renfrow for Talos Press, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2014, by Brianne Johnson at Writers House (World English).
It’s been slowly sinking in that the Word document I have saved on my computer (and like, five other places ;)) is about to become a book…an actual book I can hold in my hands. This is surreal, and daunting, and thrilling, and about a million other things all at once. But, as other published writers warn you all over the Internet, the road to publishing was long…long, anxiety-provoking, and sometimes torturous, but so worth it in the end!
I thought I’d write up a post on what that journey entailed for me, especially since the moment my MS went on submission, I was desperate to find out more about the publishing process. With any luck, this will give other writers hope! It may take awhile, you may even begin to despair it won’t happen at all, but there IS light at the end of the tunnel!
Okay, so I’ll admit it. After revising my MS with my fabulous agent and getting it all ready to go out to the editors, I had grandiose fantasies. I pictured an immediate positive response–multiple offers! No, an auction! Everyone fighting over this story I had created.
Not in any way representative of an ACTUAL book auction…
I had never allowed myself to hope so much while querying, but I just let my mind have total freedom to imagine any ridiculous scenario it contrived when on submission. This pretty much only succeeded in making me neurotically obsessed with checking my email.
But, to some extent, it came true. There was a positive response from editors. The first time I received validation from someone other than my agent that the work was good, I felt, well…validated. Okay, so maybe I hadn’t tricked my agent into thinking my MS was The One! It was only the beginning of Round One, but almost all the editors expressed interest.
SO exciting, right?? Well, that was until I started to learn more about the submission process.
See that one editor liking it is only a tiny, tiny piece of what has to happen to get an offer from a big house. Every submission process is different, but in general, that One Enthusiastic Editor has to get reads from others in his/her department. If they agree with the One Enthusiastic Editor that the MS really might be a good fit, then they have to bring it before a board. If the board all agrees, then they have to bring it before the publisher.
Once it began to sink in just how many people had to be on board with liking my story, I started to Get Worried. I’m a writer, so I’m super skilled at Getting Worried. Luckily for me, my fabulous agent hadn’t lost hope! She kept track of all the reasons why the editors ultimately passed on Round One, and the consensus seemed to be that the fantasy needed to be built up. So we got to work.
With Round Two, there were more close calls, more interest, but ultimately we struck out. At this point, the thick skin I had developed during my two years of querying kicked in. I mentally put the MS that had gotten me my agent aside and began work on a Shiny New Idea. This is what I had always done while querying: if I was left staring at a pile of rejections, then I accepted it wasn’t the right MS and got to work on something that would be. And I did the same thing with the publishing submission process.
But, of course, I forgot to figure in the extreme genius and persistence of my agent (have you seen my agent? Because she’s awesome. Read all about her here and follow her here). Even though I had given up, she hadn’t! She had thought about it, and since everyone who actually read the story seemed to love it, she pinpointed a particular issue in the pitch to be the problem. Because when the editors sat down to their board meetings, they pretty much got immediately shot down. And as querying writers, aren’t we familiar with this? Ever try to get a vampire story published? Or YA paranormal anything?
It wasn’t even that big of a change, but as soon as I made it, we got immediate interest. Of course I was so jaded at this point that I was barely excited, but then shortly after the expressions of interest came the actual offers! And just as I knew my agent was the perfect fit for me, the same was true of the Skyhorse editors. They talked about more revisions (which I was totally on-board with…at this point in the game, a writer HAS to expect to do a ridiculous number of edits. This is natural, and more than that, every agent and editor you come into contact with is going to screen you for how much of a diva you are about edits–we writers HAVE to be willing to revise. This is a GOOD thing), but all their suggestions were things that would enhance the story.
So if you are a writer who is just starting your publishing journey, or even well on the way, know that it may take longer than you hoped (because we all want to be one of those lucky writers whose work gets an offer a week after being on submission!), but like the querying process, persistence (and patience) pays off!