I actually went to bed last night wondering why I haven’t been
getting rejection letters. I had grown so used to them and now
I kind of miss them.
I wrote my first novel in 2012, one I called “Treasures In Diepsloot”,
had it professionally edited, and got it back, ready to submit to
(*Jaws theme*) an agent.
After you write a novel and want it published you are given a
crash-course in how things work. You can SELF-PUBLISH
(a growing choice now that publishing is changing) or you can
publish “traditionally” ( fooled by the adverb? – publishing is
changing every day).
For Christmas 2011 Mario bought me a book called “The
Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by the husband
and wife team of Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. The book
scared the heck out of me but I read the first three chapters and
got busy…. Writing a book involves a schedule and I wrote religiously
every day any time I could. Then it involves these other little things
I had never thought of....
I finally had the story down (I’ll tell you what it’s about tomorrow).
Now was time to get it edited. I researched all the editors in the
universe and finally decided on one I would ask to edit my work:
Molly Giles. She edited all of Amy Tan’s books and I was sure
she was the editor for me, so I wrote to her. She taught Creative
Writing at University of Arkansas so I emailed her and asked
her if she would consider editing my just-finished baby.
Guess what? SHE SAID YES!!!
I must have danced around the house for days, elated that it was going to happen! My baby was going to be edited!!
I sent the book home with my Auntie who had been visiting me
at the same time (poor Auntie Emmy lived with me during the
final revisions). She mailed it to Molly Giles and then
(cricket cricket) I waited.
A couple of months later she wrote back:
"What an intriguing book! I felt very close to these eight strong
women by the time I finished and feel I learned a lot about their
lives in South Africa. Your writing is simple and uncomplicated
and realistic and it rang true emotionally for all your characters.
I admire the way you organized the material, pairing mother
and daughter in the first two sections and giving the last two
sections first to the four mothers, then to the four daughters.
Condensing the time period to only three months in the lives
of these women, interspersing the present with separate flashbacks
and connecting the present sections through Annah’s fire, was
also effective. Very accomplished for a first novel! You should be
proud. Your presentation too was beautiful; I love the heart
design with its chambers and hope to see it again on the cover
of the book when it is published!”
I took dancing to a new level that week. I think I even did a
triple lutz and a flip flop. Mario and I would break out laughing
for no reason.
Molly Giles said “published!!!”
And she said it about my book
THE AGENT SEARCH -
Before I could get too happy about the fact that a great editor
loved the book that I wrote, it was now time to find a literary
agent that could represent it and get it published. Agents are like
heroes to me: Ninjas who know the back doors to publishing houses
and get your stuff read and sold. They’re half business people,
half bloodhounds. They are like miners for manuscripts of gold.
The only way to get an agent nowadays is a referral.
Molly Giles referred me to one of my literary agent heroes.
Her office asked for exclusive reading rights before she gave
me an answer. I said yes, blushing. She denied it with quite
a strong no. Thanks, but no thanks…it’s not me.
No, it’s me. It’s my book. Are you saying you don’t like it?
I’m saying it’s not for me. I’m not in love.
Thank you… (rejection dance…walking away with my head
downcast and my manuscript dragging on the floor).
This happened EIGHTEEN more times. After my referral dried
up, I went from agent to agent, studying who likes world fiction,
women’s fiction. I wrote a query letter introducing the book and
introducing myself. The query letter is a pitch – a pitch to busy
agents that they read and decide yes or no.
Eighteen times I heard: “Not for me,” “Not what I’m looking for…”
“Too long…” “No vampires? No thanks!” … Fifty shades of denied.
In December, I found an auction through twitter called “Publishing
Gives Back” – a group of editors, agents, publishers raising money
for Hurricane Sandy relief. Agents offered critiques of our pitch,
query letter, synopsis, etc. I desperately needed to be part of it.
“Haven’t we spent enough money on your book?” Mario asked me.
I was standing in front of him, asking permission to bid on a
package, offered by an agent who was auctioning a critique of
my synopsis and my first three chapters.
“I have a feeling no one is reading my book,” I said, sadly.
“I think everyone is just reading my query letter.”
He shook his head.
After all, we didn’t have an unending supply of cash.
In about an hour he apologized and told me I could bid… and I did.
Ten hours later I won! An agent named Gail Fortune had offered
a “Critique of first three chapters and synopsis with a 72-hour
turnaround!” I did my happy dance again.
After contacting her and asking when I should submit my work
to her, she asked for a weekend reprieve before she could get started.
I waited for what seemed like weeks and finally submitted
on Monday night (it would be Monday Morning I New York).
Days ticked by in minutes. Honestly, I do have a life and things
do happen to me, but it was like waiting for your boyfriend to call
or something. I knew that a literary agent had my work and she
was going to (gulp) tell me what was wrong with it. What I should
change, why it may not sell in this market…you know – agent stuff.
On Friday there was a note in my email:
Wow, what an amazing and powerful story. I can’t
wait to read the rest. So, if you would be so kind…please
send the whole ms. as a Word attachment and I’m happy
to read and discuss representation in the new year. I would
appreciate having until early January to consider.
You have done a wonderful job of taking me to a different place
and immersing me in a new culture. I also enjoyed looking at
your blog. I also have a very close relationship with God and
I think we would get along fabulously together.
I am so grateful that you found the Hurricane Sandy auction
and that you were so generous and won the auction for my
Looking forward to reading more…
Mario and I hugged each other and started jumping up and down.
How blessed are we?? I sent her the rest and waited some more…and
then we went on vacation.
All my vacation I thought of maybe having an agent.
Maybe she would like it.
Maybe someone will represent me…
At the tail end of my vacation we were in New York.
I gulped and called Gail, the woman who had my beloved
manuscript. She knew just who I was.
“Janet, how are you?”
I gulped. She sounded happy I was calling.
“I read it and I love it. I would love to represent you…”
I didn’t hear much else on the call, but she was on speaker
phone and Mario heard everything. All I heard is that she loved
my book! She was going to represent me!! She likes me!
She really likes me!!
So, I have an agent. I’m still writing…but I feel a similar sense
of completion as the day I finished my novel.
This was awesome.
Can you tell I’m smiling?
Here’s what happens now: My agent and I will work together
to get a package ready for submission. We will submit to people
(editors) in publishing houses until we find someone with the
same love, the same desire to see this go to print as I have and
now Gail has.
After we find that person, they make me an offer on the manuscript
and we begin real editing. The kind of editing that hurts. The kind
where we lob off things that I think are dear and precious in my story (do you hear me preparing myself? ).
Now please pray I find an someone else who loves it…so it
can be published…so you can read it…and love it.
Thank you for reading and sharing this story of joy with me.