I’ve been looking for a topic to blog about and, coincidentally, I’ve gotten a few emails lately asking me about how I found my publisher, how the process works, how long did it take me to get published, etc. (Also, a couple of you suggested this as a topic when I asked–thank you for that. I’m terrible at figuring out post topics!)
So, here we go…
Wait. Before I start this, I have to say that this is just MY experience. Yours may be totally different. Just as there is no one way to write a book (tip of the hat to Ally Carter for that Twitter phrase), there is also no one way to publication. (The negatives in that sentence make my brain hurt, but I think you know what I mean.)
What’s interesting to me is that if you look just at my YA experience, it all seems to have happened rather quickly. I wrote The Ghost and the Goth (which is the original title, by the way. I got to keep it!) from February to May in 2007. It was the first young adult novel I’d ever written, but I’d gotten back into reading YA several years before and LOVED how it had changed from when I was that age. (Such variety and freshness and truth-telling in these stories, so exciting!)
As some of you probably know, I have a sister who is thirteen years younger than me. She was graduating from high school in the spring of 2007. I really wanted to write about this YA idea I had about a bitchy dead girl ghost and the outcast guy who can see her, but I was scared to because it was so far outside of what I’d been writing. My motivation, then, became I knew how much my sister enjoyed reading YA and wouldn’t it be fun to give this story to her? Also, maybe if, as I went along writing it, I felt it was holding up well enough, I would try to get it published.
I had a blast writing G&G. Just had so much fun with it. And that was a wonderful lesson to gain from writing this book. I’d never realized it could be that much fun. I actually experienced moments of glee while writing. (This should have been a big clue to me that maybe I’d found what I should have been writing all along.)
Though it wasn’t without its hardships as well. I got about 3/4 of the way through the story and stopped because I didn’t know how to finish it. I’d opened up doors and story threads that I didn’t know how to close off. That is something I continue to struggle with as a writer. I love creating the problems, letting my characters make a mess of things, digging themselves in deeper, sometimes too much so. I get too many things going on at once and then they can’t get out…or the path to getting out is so convoluted, it can’t be followed. I’m still working on getting better at that! 🙂
At any rate, I had other writing projects going on at the moment, so G&G got shuffled to the side, temporarily.
I HAD to finish revisions to G&G in about a month or month and a half in early 2008, when a request for a full manuscript came in from the wonderful literary agent who would become MY wonderful literary agent, Laura Bradford. Uh, yeah. Don’t do what I did and query on a project that isn’t quite finished because then you have that awful “quick, hurry up and get it done, but wait, don’t screw it up because this is a big opportunity” pressure that I experienced. I lived on Dr. Pepper and Reeses’ Peanut Butter eggs for quick sugar and caffeine highs to keep pushing those revisions forward. I was, at the time, working full-time in an office and writing at night…and in the morning…and over lunch.
Laura signed me in April 2008, and we had an offer from Hyperion at the end of June 2008. Amazingly fast! Also, I got the most awesome, spectacularly fun, and brilliant editor–Christian Trimmer–in the deal. Yea!
So…just a little over a year from the first word written to having a contract. Fast and simple, right?
That would be a very big fat NO, actually.
See, I’d been writing pretty steadily since graduating from college. I’d started my first book back in 1998 and finished in 2000. That book will be one that never ever sees the light of day, but it taught me a lot. I wrote my second book in 2001 and then struggled with revisions for TWO years because I knew something was wrong with it, but I didn’t know what. The trouble was that everything I’d learned about writing, I’d learned from a couple of creative writing classes and reading lots and lots of books. Both of those are an excellent start for a writing education but definitely not enough. Not even close.
I started researching writing: other people’s techniques, what worked for them, what didn’t. I stumbled across Christopher Vogler’s screenwriting book, “The Writer’s Journey,” which provided the equivalent of a light bulb over my head.
I revised my book and started querying agents in 2003. Lots and lots of rejection followed. I eventually found a small, independent press that was willing to publish my book, the first in a series. Hurrah! They were lovely people, just starting up their own press, and I would be their first release.
It was all smashing and wonderful…for about a year. Then, my publisher contacted me and let me know that the financials just weren’t there for them to continue in this business. I was disappointed (crushed, actually), but understood. They had been very good to me and I had no complaints about the way I’d been treated, which is not always the case in situations like these.
So, then I had to start the querying process all over again. This time, though, I had the advantage of having learned a lot from my first go-around. I’d attended the Romantic Times Booklovers convention, met agents and other authors, and best of all, my mentor and friend, Linnea Sinclair. (She deserves a blog post entirely devoted to who she is, the amazing inspiration and help she has been, and how grateful I am, but the short version is I could not have done this without her. Truly.)
Despite my experience and best efforts, I still, however, could not find representation with an agent. I eventually landed at a supportive independent press willing to take on my previously published book, its sequel, and a new mystery I’d written that I LOVED.
I’m debating with myself now, writing and erasing lines, about how to continue this post. I could finish it as simply as, “And then I started writing G&G, and the rest is history,” but that’s not quite true. If I’m being honest, I’m worried I’m going to get flak for the following paragraphs, but oh, hell, it’s my story and I think you should have the truth as I see it. 🙂
The truth is, I wanted to have an agent. I wanted to see my book on the shelves in Borders and Barnes and Noble. I wanted, more than anything, to be a full-time writer. But it is very difficult (though not impossible, as there are examples of those who have done so) to accomplish those last two goals without a larger, NY-based publisher. Larger companies have a wider reach, the means and systems in place for better distribution. And I wanted that for G&G…if it was at all possible.
When I finished G&G, I could have stayed within the small press/independent publishing realm. I had the contacts, the comfort level and the confidence to do so. But I had to choose between the safety of what I knew and the risk of going after what I really wanted. There was absolutely nothing wrong with staying put, except that it wasn’t what I really wanted.
So, I took a chance. I started querying again, getting rejected AGAIN…and what do you know? This time, it worked. I found an agent who loved the book I’d written, and my book found a home with the amazing people at Hyperion.
And all of this happened approximately TEN YEARS after I’d started writing with the intent to be published. (Note: Remember what I said. This is just how it worked for me. Nothing says it will take anyone else this long!)
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that writing, like many, many other things, is often more about persistence than anything else. There are always going to be ups and downs, highs and lows, amazing accomplishments and obstacles that you think you’re never going to get past. But refusing to give up, pushing yourself to keep going and keep learning, and holding tight to your dream–that’s the really important stuff.
So, that’s my publishing story. 🙂 I know I’m throwing around lots of terms (literary agents, querying, etc.) Let me know if you have questions.