To say I’ve been looking forward to writing this post is a bit of an understatement. I’ve hinted at having some exciting news for the last few months and guys, you have no idea how horrible I am at keeping secrets. I mean, I’m really, really bad at it. In fact, I may have actually leaked the news a bit prematurely on Facebook but give a girl living through a pandemic a break, okay?!?
In case you’ve missed it somehow, here’s my news: I’m getting published!!!
Oh yeah, and I have a literary agent, too. Literally two of my biggest dreams have come true all in a relatively short amount of time. And now that I’ve officially signed the book contract, I can share the details.
For nearly nine years, I’ve been writing with the intent of getting a book traditionally published some day. The first year was fairly frustrating and only resulted in about 1/3 of a book being written (and rewritten and rewritten). The next year, I came up with another idea and began what would become a three-year journey to complete my first book (The Traveler), which I still adore in so many ways.
Just finishing that book felt like a monumental accomplishment and you better believe I queried the crap out of it. I’ve told this story before, but the very first agent I queried requested the full manuscript, leading me to believe that this whole traditional publication thing wasn’t so difficult for a super talented writer like me (ha ha ha!). Boy, was I wrong. Querying The Traveler resulted in a few full and partial requests and a buttload of rejections (which I plan to focus on in another blog post soon).
Sure, I was hurt by those rejections, but I was also undeterred; I wrote a second book (The Evolution of Evie, my only middle grade book, incidentally). This book garnered more interest from agents, but again, didn’t get picked up. So I wrote a third book (Seeking Sara Sterling), which didn’t get nearly as much interest as the previous book, leading me to wonder if my writing was getting worse instead of better. However, one thing that these first three books had in common is that I didn’t have a fully formed idea for the story when I began writing them. I was winging it (or pantsing it), so to speak.
I remember the day I came up with my fourth book idea well: in the summer of 2017, I was brush hogging one of our horse pastures and brainstormed the premise for what I would eventually call The Bug Collector’s Bucket List. Though my original idea had to change a little once I began doing research, the basis of the story remained and I would go on to create two teenage female characters who were cousins at odds with each other due to a longstanding feud between their mothers. When the girls’ quirky, insect-collecting grandfather passed away, he left them a surprisingly large inheritance with one stipulation: they must first complete his unfulfilled bucket list. Interestingly enough, this would be the first book that didn’t feature horses (my main writing wheelhouse) as an important part of the book, but it felt like it was time for me to move in a different direction.
This fourth book is the book now set to be published through Running Press Kids, an imprint of Hachette, next summer, although it is now titled NOT OUR SUMMER!!!
And now for the nitty gritty of how this happened exactly. It’s probably not your typical publication story . . .
So late last summer/early fall, I was winding down on querying this book. I’d had more full requests and interest from agents in this one than any of my previous books, but I still hadn’t gotten my “yes”. In the mean time, I’d written a fifth book (Romeo and the Scarlett Letter) and was focusing on this one more and more, but in September of 2019, I decided to participate in #Pitmad (a Twitter pitch contest) once more with The Bug Collector’s Bucket List. I’ve been participating in #Pitmad for some time now, and though I usually get a few agent or editor likes, it obviously hadn’t resulted in anything yet. But this particular time, I ended up getting two agent likes, plus an editor like on my pitches. I queried the agents and wasn’t planning on querying the editor (it’s usually suggested that you get an agent first and that had been my goal all along), but my writing friend, Cindy, messaged me and asked how #Pitmad had gone that day and when I told her about the editor interest, she got very excited, telling me this editor was from an imprint of one of the “Big 5” publishers. I hadn’t gotten around to researching the editor yet, but I thought, “okay, what could it hurt to query the editor too?”
My expectations weren’t all that high, considering I’d been querying and getting rejections for nearly 4 years now, but I went ahead and queried the editor. Then I went about my business, working on my fifth book again.
One day in late October, I received a rejection from the last agent who still had the full manuscript of Bug Collector and I remember thinking, “Okay, it’s time to move on for good. I won’t query this book any more.” But not even a few hours later, I received another email from the Running Press editor (Britny Brooks-Perilli) saying she loved the first 50 pages of my book and wanted to read the full manuscript. I honestly didn’t want to get my hopes up; after all, I’d been through this time and time again. But something about her email also left me wondering if maybe this time, something was different. She really did seem excited about my idea and also seemed to like my writing style. You don’t get many compliments during the querying process, so when you do get them, it’s difficult not to get excited. But again, I went about my regular business and continued editing my fifth book.
In December 2019, I was driving my daughter home from the orthodontist and happened to see an email pop up on my phone while I was at a stoplight. My heart skipped a beat when I noticed it was from Britny, but I prepared myself for a letdown. Only this time, it wasn’t a letdown at all. Instead, she said she loved the entire book and thought it would make a great addition to their kids’ list! I couldn’t believe it. Of course, it still had to get through the next stages of getting accepted–which is being approved by an acquisitions team and finally, the publisher itself. I told myself it still might not work out and tried not to get too excited, but let’s face it, when you get to this point after such a long journey, that’s pretty much impossible.
December 20th, 2019 will forever go down as one of the best days of my life. I had just finished up a several week sub assignment in an elementary school music class and had taken the day off so I could pack and get things squared away for our animals since we were leaving for my in-laws’ house in Colorado the next day. That afternoon, I received an email that was pretty much the best thing ever: an offer on my book. Screaming and dancing around the house may or may not have ensued. 🙂 I then called my husband at the fire station, my parents, my best friend, and my in-laws to share the news. I also messaged friends from my local writing group. What an amazing feeling it was to finally get to this point. Britny asked if I had an agent yet and I told her I didn’t, but the more I read about contract negotiations, the more I really wanted to get one, even after the offer had been made. The problem now was that the holidays were fast-approaching and it’s a well-known fact that much of the publishing industry closes down during this part of the year.
I decided to go on one last querying spree though, hoping things would work out. I let any agent who hadn’t responded to my queries from the past few months know about the publishing offer, and I proceeded to query several new ones that I thought I’d like to work with. Much to my surprise, I ended up getting around five full requests during this time period, quickly followed by two offers of representation. I was thrilled! When I spoke to Janna Bonikowski from the Knight Agency, there was an immediate connection though. I knew she was the agent for me, and I signed with her in early January.
The book contract negotiations soon began but then, as I’m sure you’re all aware, COVID hit the in mid-March, bringing the country and much of the world to a standstill. I worried that my publishing offer would fall through before I had a chance to sign, but I was soon reassured that things were still proceeding, but behind schedule. I actually completed my first round of book edits before signing the contract, but on May 12th, I was finally able to sign and make everything official. Announcing my book to the social media world on the 13th will also be a day I’ll remember for a long time to come. I’ve been connecting with the writing community on Twitter for a number of years now, and it was so nice to see their excitement and support.
Whew! I think this is the longest blog post I’ve written on here, but that’s my publication story. I share it, not to brag, but because I’m dang proud to have made it this far. I also share it to show other writers that you can do it, too. It just takes persistence and maybe a bit of serendipity (which I believe is bound to happen if you work long and hard enough). If you really want to be published, don’t give up! I never dreamed I’d get a publishing offer first and then an agent, but I’m so happy that’s how it worked out.
And I absolutely cannot wait to share NOT OUR SUMMER with the world next summer!