This is one of those blog posts I’ve dreamed about writing for years. To be able to say the words, “I have an agent–a great agent!” is unreal. Even reading those words now, knowing it’s true, I’m still waiting to wake up. I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess I should start at the beginning.
Ten years ago I got knocked over the head with an idea for a story. I had written poetry before and fantasized about writing a novel. But having a background saturated in art and education, I assumed fantasizing was all I would ever do. I could draw and paint… I could teach… but writing? It seemed like an impossible dream, even though it was one I desperately wanted. The idea for the book refused to leave me. It tapped on my shoulder, a constant reminder that there was a story I had to tell. So I did. I wrote the first draft by hand, slowly transferring the pages I wrote on my lunch break to a computer each night. It took me a year to write the first draft. A year of staying up late, holding a sleeping baby with my left hand, and typing with my right. A year of bringing a notebook with me wherever I went incase my characters decided to show up and talk to me. A year of having a secret I was terrified to share.
When the story (which I’ll refer to as Distance) was done, I didn’t know what to do with all 128,000 words of it. I wasn’t even sure what genre it was. I had no friends that were writers and nowhere to get advice from. So I printed a hard copy of Distance and stuck it on a shelf. It would be a few years before I revisited that manuscript. But, having successfully written a story from start to finish, I was bitten by the writer bug and excitedly began writing my second novel. That one took me six months. My third took me three months. My fourth, three weeks.
I discovered early on that the query trenches are pretty much like the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride. A struggle to climb and a sword fight waiting for me at the top.
I won’t bore you with the details of my rejection letters. I’ll just tell you that there were A LOT. While my second novel was deep in the query trenches, I was making writer friends. I was learning, but most importantly I was ready to revisit Distance. I rewrote it, trimmed it by about 20,000 words and decided to send it off into the query trenches.
Two things happened immediately after:
- I signed with a small press for a three book (The Darkness Saga)
- I met my editor, the amazing, Kara Leigh Miller.
The book deal fell apart, and for this reason I took matters into my own hands and went Indie. But four years later Kara and I have had an amazing journey together. She’s been more than my editor. She’s been my rock and helped me birth several book babies into the world. I look forward to many more “barefoot on Bourbon” nights with her. Kara was the first person I met in the “literary” universe to fall in love with Distance. Her determination to help me get Distance into the world is just one of the reasons why I’ll never let her go.
By the end of 2014 I had partnered up with the fiercely talented S.P. McConnell who helped me relaunch The Darkness Saga with incredible new covers. He became a solid sounding board for me, and I asked if he would read Distance so I could get his opinion. He loved it. Like, crazy loved it. And to this day has been one of Distance’s biggest fans. His inspiring words of encouragement have made me cry on more than one occasion. Plus he always knows when I’m stressed and can use a sexy Scotsman in a kilt pic. I mean, that’s what friends are for, right?
By now I had become comfortable in my own skin as an Indie author. I had released several titles, and was writing the books I wanted to read. But the dream of Distance having a traditional deal remained my ultimate goal, and I knew the only way I could achieve that was with a literary agent. So, I rewrote Distance again, and sent it off into the world. That’s when things started appearing in my inbox that I never saw before: Requests for the full manuscript. Like, more than one. Like, several. I even got an offer of rep. But something told me this wasn’t the right agent for this book. Do you know how hard it is to get the call and say no? I mean what if this was my chance and I was blowing it? But, I went with my gut.
In 2015 I went back to work full time. I was able to release a series of fantasy books, and a spin off for my New Adult novel before I got swallowed up by my new career, but once in the belly of the work beast I had to accept that writing could no longer come first. By the Summer of 2016, I was itching to get back to my dream of traditional publication. I spent August-November rewriting Distance. This time I did it the right way. It had been nine years since I first wrote the original version. I was different now. I had learned so much, and it was time to apply what I had learned. All the advice I had collected from agents and my betas through the years would not be wasted. It was time to let go. I tore out 200 pages and laid what remained on the surgical table. It was like surveying a soldier who was badly wounded in battle. But I knew how to fix him– and I knew he’d pull through. For three months I worked on Distance giving it everything I had left.
Kara swooped in to edit and helped me polish the manuscript to a high shine. It was sent to beta readers and by the end of January 2017 I was ready to query.
This time I knew what I was doing. For starters, I even knew the genre of Distance, Women’s Fiction and Magical Realism. 😉 Only took me a decade. I researched every agent before I queried and made sure they represented my specific genre. I read through #MSWL and all the new agent alert posts. By my birthday I had been querying for 3 weeks and received my 13th rejection. Ironically that’s always been my lucky number. I remember the waitress setting this spectacular dessert in front of me and my husband telling me to make a wish. If there was ever a moment for magic to happen, this was it. I blew out my candle and had this feeling like everything was about to change.
Two days later I was scrolling through the list of agents who rep’d WF on query tracker when an agent name jumped out at me: Kevan Lyon. I knew exactly who this agent was. I owned several books written by authors that she represented. But all those books were romance and I (foolishly) had assumed that was the only category she had represented, and that’s why I had not included her in my original round of queries. Note to self: DO NOT ASSUME. Immediately I headed over to the Marsal Lyon website and read every detail on Kevan’s bio.
Her submission guidelines asked only for the query letter so I sent it off and returned to my work emails. An hour later Kevan requested the full. It took me awhile to respond, 1. my heart was racing. 2. My fingers now felt like sausages making typing nearly impossible. I reached out to Kara and Eden Plantz who gave me the kick in the ass I needed to get my act together. I hit send and treated myself to Chipotle. (I’ve found in this business there is so much rejection and disappointment that you really have to celebrate the little moments.)
Two days later I discovered that Kevan was following me on twitter. I ran to my girls, Kara and Eden, hoping they could crack the hidden message in this cryptic courtship that was unfolding. I tried to keep it cool, but inside I was trying not to burst from the hope that was starting to bubble up inside me.
The following Monday I was working on my employees schedule when an email came in from Kevan. For those of you that like numbers, it had been 3 days since she had started following me on twitter, 5 days since she requested the full, and I was flat out terrified to open that email. A few more rejections had rolled through while she was reading Distance and I had so much hope in her response. When I finally opened the email on my phone, I read the message out of order. I was basically scanning the email for the words “unfortunately” and “pass”. Those words weren’t there. Instead there were words like “love” and “call”.
I shouted for my husband who ran down the stairs thinking the house was on fire. I started telling him about the call, my words flying out so fast I was pretty incoherent. Considering he doesn’t speak publishing, I think the poor guy thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I assured him I was in full out I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening mode.
Fast forward two hours later. The phone rings and I had an hour long conversation that was too perfect to be real. Kevan loved my story. Loved it how I loved it. She described it as an “epic” love story, and compared it to a NYT bestseller that I was well aware of having seen the movie. (I know! The ONE time I didn’t read the book! UPDATE: I bought he book and am reading it now.) Every question I had Kevan answered before I even asked. She knew her stuff, and by the time she officially offered me representation, I felt all my fears from horrific past publishing experiences melting away because I knew Kevan was the right agent for this book.
She loved my story. She was talking about my career. Kevan was painting a future that only an artist could truly appreciate. But, I still had another agent who had my full, so I had to end the call by being honest. Kevan was very gracious, encouraging me to reach out and give the other agent a chance to respond. I did, waiting patiently for her answer, but in my heart I had already made my decision.
Twenty-nine hours later I was free to sign with Kevan. In that moment I was so thankful to my younger self for holding out and waiting. If I’ve learned anything from this business it’s this: KNOW YOUR WORTH. Ten years is a long time to wait, but now as I begin to enter the real first steps on the road to traditional publishing, I know I’m working with a person who not only has the experience, but the enthusiasm to help my dreams of publication come to fruition. For the first time I’m not alone in this writing thing.
It’s amazing looking back on how I started, how I didn’t know a soul or even what a query letter was. Now, I not only have Kevan, but the backing of the Marsal Lyon literary agency.
This business is hard, but it’s not impossible. It takes patience and dedication. You gotta have skin made of dragon scales to deal with the harsh criticism. But above all else, it takes believing in yourself and persevering. I was lucky to have so many betas along the way. I especially want to thank Alexandra who was the first person to ever read Distance. She asked for more pages, and so I felt a need to finish the book. I owe so much to you lil cousin. To April who texted me play by plays of my manuscript, and Tiffany who devoured the novel in a day, thanks for letting me fire so many questions at you guys. And of course to Justin who declared this early on the best story I ever wrote, thank you for reading the original and final version. But more importantly, thank you for believing in me.
And now, it’s time to get back to work.