From A to Z … The path to publishing.
I love these stories – hearing about how people get their first novel published. Simply because every story is different – some are Homer epicesque (like Jay Asher waiting twelve years to get Thirteen Reasons Why out there), some are Dorthy Parker short-storyesque (like Stephenie Meyer and her famous dream, synopsis, and mega-dollar deal within six months). (Personally, the “shorter” ones depress the hell out of me because it’s way to Fairy Tale Land for my taste. And, quite honestly, one in a million.)
But considering Freeze Frame was one in 195,000 in 2008 (yep, 19 books are published each HOUR in the states, 70% of which sell fewer than five-hundred copies), I wanted to share with you my ABCs of “How I Got Published.” (This does not count the years 2000 – 2004 when I first started writing “seriously”, for magazines, short story pieces, 'how-to books' etc.)
And before beginning, I’m going to tell you the three elements I think have to do with getting a book on the shelves: Determination (ie hard work hard work hard work), vocation (some people call this talent but talent tends to throw people off these kinds of careers. Like ANY career, you've gotta have an interest that goes deeper than so-so), and Luck. (Yep, that’s the kicker. I don’t really think anybody gets to this point without the third (some call it timing – same diff).
A. June 2004: I got an idea for a novel (after having written drivel for many years and two horrific novels).
B. June 2004 – October 2005: I wrote that third novel (hoping for better results than the previous two not fully knowing HOW bad the previous two really were). This took me a little over a year.
C. October 2005 –I live in Colombia so doing ANY kind or form of snail mail is extremely expensive, not to mention totally unreliable. And the business is very traditional/snail-mail. So I decided I needed an agent.
D. I researched agents. Thanks to the Verla Kay Blueboards I didn’t have to start from scratch. I researched every agent named on the Blueboards (what they represented, how their sales went, what they were looking for etc.)
E. Then I wrote a stellar query letter. This may sound like I’m bragging, but I’m not. If my query had not been stellar – flawless – with a good hook– I would never have landed an amazing agent. Period. (That said – digression here – I’ve been reading that lately there are lots of query clinics and agents are kind of glossing over the letter and going straight to the pages of the novel.)
F. November 2005: I came up with a list and started from the top, sending out query letters for my first really really bad novel.
G. January 2006: After revising Freeze Frame, I decided I should query agents for it because I wasn’t having much luck with The Chosen (A historical fiction novel about how the Incas sacrificed children to the Gods). I got a lot of requests to read pages of The Chosen, but nobody was biting. (I could go on and on about why not. Bottom line: It’s really quite bad. Good concept. Bad writing.)
H. February 2006: After researching a whole new slew of agents – two different genres (The Chosen was historical fiction; Freeze Frame is contemporary), I came up with a new list.
I. April 2006: I got the call. Stephen Barbara, after reading my query, asked me to send off the manuscript. I withdrew my queries from the other agents I had approached and sent my manuscript off. I signed with Stephen that very same week. (Many people ask how many agents I queried before Stephen with Freeze Frame. I had a LOT of luck on this one. He was in my first chunk of agents – so there were perhaps four or five other queries out there. I don’t remember. That’s NOT the norm. I know people who have gone through one hundred before getting their agent.)
J. April 2006: Stephen sent off Freeze Frame to a first round of editors. And we got lots of the same comments back, over and again. “Kyle is not likable. The writing isn’t strong enough.” Etc. One was interested in a revision, so I worked on a revision for a particular editorial assistant (thank you for your thoughts, even though you don’t know who you are, because that was a KEY step to getting here!) Based on these comments, Stephen sent my novel to Jill Santopolo (then at Laura Geringer Books, HarperCollins Children).
K. September 2006: Jill wrote Stephen with just some ideas about how she’d like to see the novel changed before taking it to Laura and acquisitions. Stephen sent me the letter, I LOVED her ideas. (As you might have gathered, I’ve been so so privileged and fortunate to work with Jill). And though my novel was under consideration somewhere else, I wanted to go ahead and make those changes because I knew it would make it better.
L. September 2006: Sent novel changes to Jill. The other house passed (uh-oh). Jill liked what I had done to follow her editorial ideas. (This is REALLY important. Great if you can write. WAY BETTER if you can revise and work with an editor. That’s KEY.)
M. October 2006: Met Jill and Stephen (Which was a treat!) Jill and Laura Geringer are on board to get this novel to acquisitions. Jill comes up with a profit/loss packet about me, the novel, other novels with similar themes etc. to present to acquisitions and sets a date to go to acquisitions. November 1st.
N. November 1, 2006: HarperCollins makes an offer, things were negotiated, and I got my first book deal.
O. – Y. (Revisions, revisions, revisions, revisions, copy editing, ARCs out, more revisions – THANK YOU, JILL FOR YOUR PATIENCE – cover – THANK YOU CARLA WEIS FOR THE BEAUTIFUL COVER – first reviews, sales reps, publicity, marketing, and a whole slew of things that go on behind the scenes for which I’m incredibly grateful as well as ignorant, I’m sure …)
Z. October 7, 2008 – Freeze Frame hits the shelves.
So that’s how it happened with me. Share your stories. And for those of you who don’t have a story yet, I hope you will one day. So hang on because it’s a great ride!