Isn't that such a pretty picture? A nice, calming place where I would love to spend a day. Unfortunately, the road to publication isn't as beautiful. Worth it? Yes. But it's not simple or paved. There are a lot of bumps, turns pot holes and large, gaping drop-offs along the way. LOL. Here is my story. And I apologize now, because it's LONG.
I will start by saying I've always loved to write. I won my first writing contest in elementary school, but it didn't feel like something I could ever really have. I grew up and got a job at the hospital. Still that writing bug was always in the background. For fun I took a home course on writing, but didn't do much with it. I had bills to pay.
Nine years ago, hubby and I had a baby. We moved to Southern California and I went from knowing everyone in my small community to knowing no one. I went from working to being a stay at home mom. It was lonely and that's when I started to read again. I fell in love and it helped the loneliness. It helped me feel like I had friends. That's when the urge to write hit me again, but what did I know about writing??
I started with a short story. I wrote it and loved it, but it was only about 8,000 words. Nothing special. I realized then that I had no idea what to do with it. Thank you internet because I started to research. I joined writing sites. I learned about Romance Writers of America and I saved money to join. My local chapter was a critique group so I joined that AND I looked up critique groups online. I did both and I wrote another short story, this one about 15k. In those groups I learned so much. Learned about POV and "head hopping". I researched the publishing process and how it worked.
Then I found a local writing class. A Romance Writers of America member taught it and I took the class and learned so much more. It was hard and I had to find babysitting, but it was important to me, so I did it. I looked at agents and editors of the books I read so I could get an idea of who I would like to work with. I kept notebooks of information. I got a couple short stories published with small press e-publishers. they never really went anywhere, but I learned how to submit to publishers from that.
Then, I realized I wanted more. I wanted that dream that I had when I won that first writing contest in elementary school. I wanted to walk into bookstores and SEE my book. I wanted to hold it in my hand so I did more research. What is a good word count? I didn't want to go too long or too short.
Then I wrote that first novel, an adult contemporary romance. And I edited it. And sent it to my critique partners and changed, tweaked and got so excited because I HAD THIS AMAZING BOOK AND EVERYONE WOULD WANT IT. I looked up my previous research on agents. I sent out a bunch of queries. One told me it needed to be 80k so I added 10k more. I queried her again as well as tons of other agents. I got ONE partial request, which ended in a form rejection.
But this was my dream and I would keep going!
I fell in love with YA and decided to try my hand at that. I wrote the book. Sent to my critique partners. Edited. Tweaked and then got excited because I HAD THIS AMAZING BOOK AND EVERYONE WOULD WANT IT. Again, I got ONE request for a partial that ended in a form rejection. I heard of this site called Inkpop where Harper Collins was looking for the next big YA thing. THAT WAS ME! So I uploaded some of my book. Spent months on the site critiquing other works and having critiques done on mine in the hopes I would get to the top five. Then HC would read it and it would be great because I HAD THIS AMAZING BOOK AND EVERYONE WOULD WANT IT. I'd made changes and listened to the people who critiqued it on Inkpop and I made it to the top five (with Wendy Higgins who is now one of my best friends). HC read it and...they didn't want it. BUT, they gave me some great feedback. Stuff I learned from and I used that in my next YA, which I wrote and had readers and all of that again. This time, I wanted more though. I joined Absolute Writer Watercooler and I met Kelley York and she taught me so much. I did MORE revisions than I had before with my old readers and wrote a million query letters and changed and perfected it and I queried agents and I got a lot of requests for fulls and partials. I was so excited because that meant someone would want it, right? I finally did it!!! But...they all ended in rejection. GOOD rejection though. Some where personalized and gave me more to learn from and some said to send them my next book and though I'd sent over 100 queries and no one wanted it, I felt okay about where I was.
That's when I wrote Sebastian. Dear, sweet Sebastian. This HAD to be the book right? It was unique because it was from the male POV and not a lot of YA's were. I went through the whole critique, revision beta reading, researching querying thing again. And I got a decent amount of requests for full and partial manuscripts...but none of them wanted it. None. "Sebastian isn't likable. Girls won't relate to his POV. Male POV is a hard sell". I was devastated, but still I didn't even think about quitting. And I queried more agents (I'm not joking when I say all together I probably have 300 rejections for all my books. LOL). And then...I had a bite. A new agent with an established agency who wanted me. She told me from the beginning she didn't think WHAT A BOY WANTS would sell, but she believed in my writing. She had faith in another book YA I'd written. She took me as a client. Put that book as well as What a Boy Wants on submission to major publishing houses (at different times). This was my chance!!! Wrong. No one wanted them.
And then she left agenting and I was almost starting over again! But, the head of the agency took me as a client. I wrote MEASURING UP. Did the whole critique, revise thing. Sent it to my agent. He gave more revisions and they were great. I learned more from him! I was lucky because I learned so much from everyone I came across. He put MEASURING UP on submission and I KNEW this had to sell. I deserved it! I worked hard. I paid my dues. I learned my craft. I dealt with rejection. In the meantime I wrote Dizzy with Jolene Perry and that went on sub too.
And more rejection from both books. No editors wanted them. The feedback was wonderful and they loved the story and Annabel's voice, but they worried about it competing in the hardback market, so the answer was no. So I wrote FREEING CARTER.... and my agent hated it. I left the agency and that's when I almost quit. I'd been through TWO agents. Maybe this wasn't for me. Maybe I didn't have it in me. Could I deal with more rejection? My heart ached. My confidence shattered.
But I kept going. I started over with the querying. I tried to get another agent for Carter and no one wanted it. The writing was strong, but could it compete? Would girls want the male POV? Again... I was crushed. But this was my dream. I HAD to keep going so I wrote my adult book, LUCKY BREAK. I took what they told me and worked on writing a book that could compete. One that was high concept. Jolene and I wrote another book together, MISPLACED (Now OUT OF PLAY). And I self-published Sebastian.
Self-publishing Sebastian, along with writing LUCKY BREAK and MISPLACED were the best decisions I could have made for myself. Sebastian did well and I went on to self-publish multiple books. Some readers DID like my male point of view, and people could relate to Annabel. Around the same time, Entangled Publishing offered on LUCKY BREAK. And then on MISPLACED. Now I had not only wonderful readers who read my books, which was what I wanted so much, but I also had a publisher who believed in me. They liked the male POV in MISPLACED and they gave me a three book contract for the adult.
As you know I moved to write NA next and came out with CHARADE. I received and offer from Jane Dystel and I feel so lucky to have her as my agent. MISPLACED will be out later this year. I have two adult books out and one on the way and I also just signed a contract with Grand Central Publishing for two books, (FACADE, woot woot!).
And I feel blessed. Blessed because of that journey. Appreciative of all of the rejection I got because they were learning experiences. They gave me thick skin. Because they taught me about writing and publishing. Thankful because I know that I have the ability to NOT GIVE UP. To go for my dreams even if they don't happen right away.
I am so very lucky.
I want to add one more thing. Those agents who rejected those first couple books were so right! They weren't ready. I had NO business querying them. They weren't ready to query, much less to be out in the world. At the time, I didn't see that, but now I do.