Sunday, July 01, 2012

Perseverance and “The Call”

Technically, “The Call” wasn’t a call, but an email! Nor was it my first offer. My first Call was in 2007 when I received an email offer to publish CHASING SHADOWS by the top eBook publisher of that time, when eBooks were in their infancy. CHASING SHADOWS was my first polished-for-publication novel, and you can imagine my excitement. It spurred me on to continue writing (after a particularly bad dry spell as I ended a chapter in my personal life) and to develop a career in writing. I had drafts of 2 novels to finish and a third one in process. But things didn’t go as planned…

“The Call” for WICKED PARADISE (my third novel) was just as exciting if not more so than the first one in 2007. It felt like my first. Why, you ask? Because I was at my wits end. Plus, I was ending a stressful and hectic 9-month period in my personal life (no, I didn’t pop out a baby!), and I desperately wanted my life, especially my writing life, to return to normal once again. Had I sat on my laurels waiting for an agent or publisher offer to fall in my lap? Heck, no. It had been four years since CHASING SHADOWS was released in April 2008, and over three years of looking for an agent on not one, but three books (which included two versions of one novel and three versions of WICKED PARADISE). I had a few close calls and 2 almost agent offers. Nothing panned out.

My agent search story is not unique. Agents have so few “slots” to fill for new authors. One popular agent receives over 35,000 query letters a year and only signs on a handful of new authors. Competition is tough. I recognized that. But I watched many of my peers get agent offers and book deals, and I kept wondering (yeah, okay, agonizing over) when my time would come. Even though I felt like giving up many times, I refused to let it beat me down. I had been published once, and I’d get there again.

The one thing that kept me going was the characters and worlds in my head. They refused to be ignored. Writing is in my blood. I knew I would find a home for one or all of my books. It was just a matter of time (or the proper alignment of the stars, sun, and moon!). I honed my craft with each book and each revision. I kept at it.

Flash forward to Fall of 2011. I decided it was time to query digital publishers with WICKED PARADISE. Although, I never lost sight of one day holding a print version of one of my books in my hand, digital books were here to stay. I’ve been reading eBooks since 2002 on various devices, and I crossed the divide this year where I actually prefer reading electronically to print.

Earlier this year, I heard about Crimson Romance, a new digital romance imprint of Adams Media, launching in June. They planned to digitize their releases first with print-on-demand to follow! I’d heard of Adams Media and its parent company F+W Media, Inc. (who owns Writers Digest), and both are well-respected, stable companies. I read in an interview with Jennifer Lawler, Crimson’s managing editor, that they wanted romances in the 50,000-word range, give or take. My bubble burst. WICKED PARADISE was 91,000 words. I was sure it was too long for them, so I put thoughts of submitting to Crimson aside. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor, watching the imprint flourish with great romance books.

One evening, I was visiting my favorite online writing forum and someone mentioned that she had submitted a longer work to Crimson, a novel in the upper 80K range. She suggested I give it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen? I get rejected (rejections bounce off my skin now)? Or they ask me to cut 20-30K words? So I shot out a query letter to the managing/acquiring editor, still thinking I didn’t have a chance. Lo and behold, the next day, I received an email from Jennifer requesting to read the full manuscript! I immediately sent the full out by email and put it out of my mind. I had too much on my plate to obsess over it, anyway. Plus, been there, done that. I didn’t want to get too excited.

Five weeks later on May 7, I received an email reply from Jennifer. It had that paperclip attachment icon next to the subject line. I stared at it without opening the email, wondering what she was sending me with her rejection. At the same time, my heart began to race. I opened the email and read that she’d love to add WICKED PARADISE to Crimson’s lineup!!! The contract was attached. I had to read the email 3 times before it sunk in. An offer? Did I just get an offer? Thank goodness I was home. I screeched. I did a little jig. I clapped. My drought had ended.

I accepted the offer by email, still not believing it was true. One day later, I signed and returned the contract. Then it was a done deal.

Last week, I finished my first round of edits and WICKED PARADISE remains at 91,000 words. Crimson Romance releases it to the world on August 13.

People in this business always say, “keep writing, your time will come.” I believe it now.