This story makes my nerves tingle! It's just super exciting. I'm so happy for Margaret! She more than deserves this. Margaret Fortune is also a member of the AQC Speculative Fiction group. I suspect it is her home away from home too. When I'm having trouble with a query letter, Margaret is the woman to see! She has super, genius writing powers!
I signed with my agent, Lindsay Ribar of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, in September 2013, and in October we went on submission with my YA sci-fi novel Nova.
Now from the get-go, we decided to try and sell it as a series. While I’d originally intended Nova to be a standalone, when I’d finally finished, the ending clearly begged a sequel. So I’d brainstormed on it back while querying and ended up with an arc for a five-book series. My agent was very enthusiastic when I told her about the series and asked me to write up a couple pages explaining how the series would work, and giving a short 4-5 line blurb for each book. I also provided a longer synopsis for the second book. So armed with Nova, the synopsis for book two, and the series summary, we went on submission.
Well, I bore up well for the first few months, but by 2014 I was starting to get antsy. So I was excited when we finally had some real interest at the end of February. Unfortunately, while the editor loved it, the acquisitions team ended up shooting it down as they felt it skewed too far to the “hard” end of the sci-fi spectrum. Even though the book was YA sci-fi, my agent decided to try targeting some Adult SF imprints that had an interest in crossovers. She continued submitting, but as the months passed, I started to think Nova might not sell. So I worked on edits for my WIP and started planning the next. Then at the end of June, I woke to find an email from my agent with the subject line “A small nibble on NOVA.”
In it, Lindsay told me she had gotten an email from Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books with only one line, saying the book was terrific. She said she’d be touching base with Betsy sometime that week, but not to get too hopeful yet, as Betsy hadn’t mentioned making an offer. Also, she reminded me, DAW publishes mostly on the adult side, so it would be an interesting home for the book.
I was more nervous than excited at that point. I figured I was in for another long, drawn-out period of waiting: My agent would touch base with the editor later in the week, then eventually she’d set up a call for me with the editor so we could see if we were on the same page regarding revisions, and assuming the call went well, it would then go to acquisitions. A month later, I would know my fate. I figured it would be exactly like my previous experience with an editor back in February. So when I got a call a couple hours later, I didn’t answer it.
I had the day off, so I was hanging out at home by myself when the phone rang. Now, I’m a bit old school and like to use my answering machine to screen callers, so I usually wait for someone to leave a message before answering. In fact, I didn’t even bother to get up, assuming it was just a telemarketer or some other undesirable, which is who it would usually be at that time of day. So I was only half-listening to the voice on the machine when suddenly the words “…your agent at Sanford J. Greenburger” penetrated my brain.
“Oh my God, that’s my agency!”
Realizing it was my agent, I almost killed myself jumping up from the couch and running for the phone. I managed to grab it before my agent hung up, and that’s when I found out—Betsy Wollheim at DAW had made a preempt offer for Nova. And not only that, but she was ready to buy the entire series along with it. That’s Nova plus four more books I hadn’t even written yet!
I was absolutely floored. I had gone from nothing to a five-book deal in less than a day. I could not believe it. Somewhere in my euphoria-induced haze, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if some big, bad acquisitions team could come in and overrule this editor and rain on my parade. So I asked my agent, and she said—
“Um, this is Betsy Wollheim, the president of DAW. So, no—no one can overrule her.”
Still, when the deal hit publisher’s marketplace a few days later, I printed out the announcement and carried it around in my purse for an embarrassingly long time, just to reassure myself it wasn’t a dream. I remember a friend of mine suggested framing it. And my response was, “Well, that would make it a little awkward to carry around in my purse all the time, now wouldn’t it?”
All told, it was a long nine months on submission, but the outcome was worth the wait. Now all I have to do is write four more books!
Bio: Margaret Fortune began writing in first grade, when her short story “The Numbers’ Birthday Party” made a huge splash at her elementary school. A year later, her family moved to Wisconsin, where they owned and operated an independent bookstore for over a decade.
She has a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota - Morris, and has worked in a variety of jobs including payroll, customer service, and one very memorable summer at an amusement park. Her first book, Nova, is forthcoming from DAW Books in June 2015.
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