Here’s a surprising turn of events, this week’s Getting the Call post is my own story. I started this series of posts at a low point in my journey. It was a time when the rejection letters piled up, and I needed a jolt of inspiration. Perhaps, somehow, I hoped reading about others’ success might rub off or maybe reveal a clue to a hidden secret. They were intended to lift my spirits and the spirits of other people, not that I believed other people would ever come to this blog. But you did.
When I started querying my first manuscript I had no clue. I didn’t know the rules of writing, of how to write a query letter, or of what made a good story. To give you some idea of the awfulness, the manuscript, an epic fantasy, was 167,000 words. My cheeks heat up just thinking of everything I did wrong. It was a flop, a disaster. I began doing research by reading agent blogs. I got help on my letter from other writers. The results didn’t improve. I ended up with three requests out of somewhere around seventy letters sent. All three were swiftly followed by rejection and, in one case, even worse news. The agent with my partial had passed away. I felt terrible.
I did the unthinkable; I shelved my baby. You read the words of other writers about how they trunked their first manuscript, but I never thought it would happen to me. It did. By now I knew Heartsouls would never work in its current state. It lacked conflict, and the characters ran wild instead of adhering to the plot. There wasn’t a nice clean stand alone ending. It needed a total rewrite. Instead I started a new story.
In this second story, another epic fantasy, I did everything right or so I thought. I kept to the plot. I understood query letters, or at least the idea of how they should work. I didn’t rush off to query my first draft. To my eternal good fortune, I found Agent Query Connect where other writers with a clue share their experience. I took advantage of the critiquing marathon for Speculative Fiction writers to improve my skill at editing and get some feedback on Kindar’s Cure. I collected a double handful of beta readers and spent months editing before sending out a query letter. Guess what happened? Kindar got three requests. Oh, it did get personalized comments. In fact, it got more of these than requests. ‘I love your concept, but …’ There was always a ‘but’.
All my research and careful preparation and I got the exactly same number of requests. Three became a taboo number. I was cursed. Those rejections kept coming in and they hurt big time. Even I noticed that I didn’t laugh or joke as much as I used to. The revise and resubmit Kindar got came back another ‘no thanks, not for me, but good luck with finding someone else to represent you’. Then the third and last full came back as a form rejection. No words of advice, just a form rejection. A few weeks later that agent left the business. Oh, God, it was happening again!
But this time there was a difference. I knew Kindar was a good story. I knew it was well written. Give up? Heck no!
I began to submit straight to publishers. And hey, a lot of them didn’t want query letters. Right away I got a request for a full. My kids thought I was nuts, running around the house in a victory lap at seven in the morning. I got other requests mixed among the rejections. My numbers were higher. I ran a percent of requests to submissions over twenty percent. Partials went to fulls overnight in one case. Still the rejections overshadowed everything else. And guess what? The requests became stuck at three. There it was again. The number of doom. Time went by and I immersed myself in my work in progress, refusing to think about Kindar.
In June a different publisher opened their submissions. Low and behold, I got another request. I did it! I passed the cursed number three to become four!
I didn’t lose the habit of checking my email like a junkie. One Sunday night, pretty late, I gave my mail one last look. The first publisher to request, Divertir, showed up in the inbox along with some more innocent letters. Crap. Do I open it first and get the bad new over, or do I save it for last and hope a little longer? I opened it first. It was short. Ah, rejection for sure. They’d been awfully busy but they wanted to let me know they’d like to publish Kindar’s Cure. What? I read it again. Then again. It kept saying the same thing! There was no victory lap. I sat there in total shock. ‘Uh, husband, they say they want to publish.” Husband wasn’t impressed. He took bad new harder than I did; he wouldn’t allow himself to get excited anymore. I don’t think he’ll believe it until the book is in his hands.
Several weeks later, I find that I’m agreeing with my husband. This good news didn’t happen to me. But it did! Divertir gave me a tentative release date and everything. I have an editor. Me, an editor. It doesn’t seem real. In fact, to be perfectly truthful, it’s been a little scary. It’s a leap whether it’s signing with an agent or accepting a publisher. You’re signing over something you created and putting it in strange hands.
The connections I made through this blog series were invaluable. I followed Terri Bruce’s and other writer’s advice before signing. I had the contract looked over by a friend who knows his stuff. I asked lots of questions. I think Divertir will be a good fit for me. They are a small place, but that makes me comfortable. They listen to what their authors think and work with the authors to make their visions came to life. I won’t get lost in a crowd there.
I used to think getting an agent or publisher was the ultimate goal, the end all. Getting the Call would be the happy ending to the story. It’s much more. It’s a new beginning to a whole other story.