Here is the very definition of publishing isn't easy. That more heartbreak and worry goes on after the agent call. When my close friend Laura Heffernan got her good news after all her struggles, I couldn't have felt more joyful. The road goes ever on, my friends, but sometimes you win. Enjoy!
In 2014, I was chosen as a contestant for Michelle’s Query Kombat team. I made it through the agent round, then took a beating in Round 2. Less than a month later, I had an agent. More importantly, I became good friends and CPs with the author I was matched against in Round 1. In 2015, I was asked back to the contest as a judge, and now I’m hosting. My CP and I have book deals with the same editor. How’s that for a Query Kombat success story?
A lot of people have these amazing submission stories about how it flew by, or they got an offer basically overnight, or got multiple offers in a matter of weeks, sold at auction - this is not one of those stories. My story took a L-O-N-G time.
In the beginning, submission was really easy. My husband had recently gotten a new job, and we’d already been working with a realtor, so I started scheduling a few extra viewings to keep my mind off things, and then - BAM! We found our dream house. A whirlwind of activity followed, and next thing I knew, my book had been on sub two months and I barely felt a thing. (I want to be very clear that this house-buying was not related to going on sub. It was just a bit of lucky timing. Don’t go buy a house the minute your agent sends out your manuscript, assuming you’ll get a six-figure advance to pay for it.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t just keep buying new houses, and submission takes longer than about 2-3 months. Much longer, in fact. It hit me one day when I looked at the calendar after unpacking, saw how long I’d been on submission, and realized we hadn’t heard a peep from any of the editors who had it yet. Friends who’d gone out after me had contracts already, why weren’t we getting responses? In early 2015, my agent stepped down and I transferred within the agency. My new agent and I wound up doing another round of edits, and so my manuscript wasn’t even out at all for several months before the second round started. But at that point, I already had the emotional state of someone on sub for 8 months.
People always said to try not to think about it, and I knew from experience that was true, but the longer it went on–and the more friends I saw getting contracts–the more difficult that became. I hit a point where I was basically thinking about submission all the time. And I WAS busy: I mentored, hosted, or read slush in every contest I could find (in some contests, I did more than one of those things). I wound up doing Nestpitch and PitchSlam at the same time (this was confusing and not a good idea). I accepted an internship, reading an average of 2 manuscripts a week on top of everything else. All while writing and CPing and going to the gym 3-5 times a week and having a full time job and spending time with my husband sometimes. And I STILL THOUGHT ABOUT SUB EVERY WAKING SECOND.
There was this running commentary in the back of my mind, at all times, narrating what would happen if I got The Call at that very moment. It was like having the MoviePhone guy in my head. (I’m old. Do people remember the MoviePhone guy?)
• "It was an ordinary day. I'd just gone to the gym and, for some reason, I'd forgotten to turn my phone back on after...."
• "In a world where every second counts...."
• "There I was, at the bank, when the robbers came in. They waved guns, forcing everyone to the ground. The other customers and I looked around, nervously. Would police save us? Or were we all doomed? And at that moment, my phone rang…."
People say to work on something new while you wait. That’s good advice, to a point. However, I write fast. Publishing moves slowly. Before my first manuscript even went out on submission, I’d finished a second. A year after my book initially went out, I had four more written and polished manuscripts, a fifth rough draft I chose not to edit, and a sixth manuscript started that I had very little motivation to work on. When someone told me to write something new, I wanted to scream at them. Sometimes, I did. (Sorry. Sort of.)
In January 2016, my agent agreed that a later manuscript was nearly ready to go. So, we agreed to stop sending the first manuscript to new editors and get the second prepared for submission. I was devastated, but at some point, you have to cut your losses and move on. So, I gave myself some time to mourn, and then I refocused my energy on the second manuscript.
….and then, almost a month after we decided to move on, before the second book had gone out, I got an email from my agent that we’d gotten an offer on the first manuscript. The one I’d completely given up on and cried about. I double checked the date, but it wasn’t April 1. And then I jumped up and down and screamed a lot. And then I replied to my agent, and she said she wanted to set up a call to talk to an editor about some revisions to see if we were on the same page. It’s good that we talked via online chat, because honestly, I had to go back and read that conversation like 11 times to be sure it really happened. But it did! Seventeen months after the first submission was sent, after multiple submissions by two different agents, I had an offer of publication from an editor I’d been really hoping to work with.
I’m ecstatic to announce that REALITY STAR will be published by Kensington’s Lyrical Press in March 2017, with two sequels to follow.
Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off: REALITY STAR, the first book in the REALITY STAR series, is coming from Kensington’s Lyrical Press in March 2017. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary.