Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Getting the Call with KD Proctor

i'm happy to share with you today a success story from last year's Sun versus Snow. If this doesn't get you in the mood to enter next month, nothing will!

Remember when you were a senior in high school and you did those questionnaires talking about "Where I'll be in 10 years"?  Here's what I put down (photo is from my high school's newspaper ALL those years ago--we won't get into the fact they spelled my name wrong...)

If you can't read it, it says:  In 10 years I hope to be working for NASA as an astronaut, hopefully Commander.  I wouldn't be living in (hometown).  I would live in Houston, TX.  It's closer to my job.  I wouldn't be married or have children.  It's too soon out of college.

Nowhere on that little blurb does it say anything about being a published author.  I was so determined to be an astronaut that I attended a school with a top notch aviation and aerospace program.  But in college, you learn a lot about yourself.  For me, I discovered that quick recall and split second decision making was NOT my jam.  Which kind of makes being in a space shuttle a little unrealistic.  I changed my major so many times my advisor was sick of seeing me and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences knew me by my first name.  When I took my first English Literature class and got to express myself through writing, I was hooked and English is what I finally declared as my major.  

My mom's response:  So...what are you going to do for a job?

As always, mom knew best.  Unlike my fellow English majors I had no desire to write a novel or be an editor or anything related to English at all.   I was drawn to student leadership and ultimately I went into Student Affairs and College Student Personnel—working full time on a college campus, where I still work today (yes, my mom is happy I'm using my Master's degree).

In my full time job, I work a lot with online learning. I was looking over tools faculty could use in online courses when I came across Wattpad.  I had no idea this platform existed.  It was incredible!  And that led to an evening where I fell down the Wattpad rabbit hole reading stories by amazingly talented people.  A spark was lit.  I wondered what I would write if I had the chance?  And that's when the ball got rolling. Two years, four manuscripts, and countless CP and beta reads later, I had a manuscript that was query ready and I got the nerve to enter Sun vs. Snow in January 2016.  I went into it with a completely open mind.  When I hit “send” and got confirmation I made the first 200, I remember telling my husband that night at dinner, “Whatever happens, happens.”

It happened.
I got in.

When the list was announced on Super Bowl Sunday, I remember screaming so loud I freaked out the dog.  I had also entered a football pool at work, so my husband thought I had won money (side note:  I did win that, too! Ha!).  I said, “NO!  I got into the pitch contest!” and I made him read the website to make sure my book was listed.  I couldn’t believe it!

I hit the mentor jackpot with Laura Heffernan.  She was so encouraging and positive.  So much so that a few days before our pitches went live for Sun vs. Snow, another pitch contest was happening on Twitter—PitMatch.  The idea was authors and editors were going to do what they could to “match” pitching authors with agents and editors to generate interest in our manuscripts. She encouraged me to enter PitMatch.  

Between PitMatch and Sun vs. Snow I was approached by several editors and agents.  After researching each, I sent the requested material to those I felt comfortable with and waited for the results to come back. Within a few days, most had asked for more chapters or full manuscripts—which was incredibly encouraging. 

It sounds very "fairy tale" like, doesn't it?  First contest you enter, you get picked and it's generating a good buzz!  

Needless to say, the clock struck midnight and my carriage turned back into a pumpkin because the rejections started rolling in.  Surprisingly,  I wasn't upset. At all.  I looked at every rejection as a way to improve.  Thankfully the agents were all so incredibly nice and very encouraging.  But there was a reoccurring theme popping up in almost every single rejection: your voice/plot/character development/writing skills are fantastic….but selling New Adult manuscripts is really hard. 

Many of the agents shared that they were looking to see if my manuscript could be voiced “up” (to adult/women’s fiction) or “down” (to young adult).  And every agent said doing so would hurt the story because my voice was so strong.  But I still continued to query, entering another twitter pitch contest and again, the response was high.  

With queries circling about, I was surprised to see an offer in my box publish my manuscript with a small, independent publisher. 

I panicked.
I had forgotten that I submitted to an editor, too.

I sent Laura (my Sun vs Snow mentor) an e-mail telling her what happened because I realized that I “double queried” which is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED.  The rule of thumb is that you should query editors or agents—not both at the same time.  I was horrified that I made such a rookie mistake!  She talked me through the pros and cons and said not to worry because it happens.  She also encouraged me to reach out to agents who did still have my manuscript and tell them of the offer.  The publisher, Bookfish Books, was more than accommodating to give me the time I needed to check in with agents before accepting their offer.

Agents were kind enough to move me up in their queue, but in the end, they passed on representation. 

With the agent decisions now off the table, I actually felt like Lady Justice with her scales, weighing the pros and cons.  On one side,I loved this age category.  I loved my story and felt it in my heart that it was THE story that would get me published.  On the other side, agents are telling me that the category is hard to sell and when you make a living off selling books, that can make representation hard.  Same was true with writer friends who were also querying or were out on submission as they, too, were being told the same thing about New Adult books.  But then you see small publishers like Bookfish Books, Entangled and Carina accepting the challenge, publishing New Adult books and doing well with it.  

I had to ask myself, "Do you trust your gut that bypassing an agent and going with an editor is a good idea? Or did you jump the gun and are taking the first offer because it's there?"

In the end I knew the answer...I was trusting my gut.  I wouldn't have queried to Bookfish Books if I didn't believe in what they did.  In the end, with all of the knowledge I gained, and the support of those around me, I was excited to accept the offer from Bookfish Books.  Many raise an eyebrow to small publishers—we've heard the horror stories.  All I can say to that is do your research and dig DEEP, not being afraid to ask questions.  Everyone I talked to at Bookfish Books has been incredibly pleased with their experience.  And to date, so am I.  The support I’ve gotten has been well above expectations and I couldn't be happier.

My debut novel, MEET ME UNDER THE STARS (formerly titled IF YOU'RE EVER IN TOWN), is a New Adult Contemporary romance and comes out in July 2017.  In July 2016 it was selected as the winner for the 2016 YARWA Rosemary Award in the New Adult category.  

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Michelle for asking me to share my story! I am forever grateful for you and Amy and your continued efforts to give back to the writing community. Here's to a great 2017!