Beginning my Rather Unorthodox Path to Publication

I haven’t had a chance to address this yet, but a lot has been going on in the book front for me. Two major things, specifically, and I’m very excited about both of them.

But first, for those who may not know, here’s a really basic rundown of how getting a book published traditionally works. The first step is to write a book. (Something I didn’t know is that it’s actually called a manuscript at this point.) You revise it like crazy until it’s as good as you think it can be. Then there’s a special little form of torture called the query letter, in which you try to pitch your book in about 250-300 words.  Why do you need to write query letters? Because you need a literary agent. You can’t just send your manuscript to a publisher. They won’t read it and you’ll get nowhere. (I’m speaking generally about the big publishers) So you need to get a literary agent on your side, which is why you’re sending out query letters, trying to get one excited about your book. If you do get an agent to represent you and your book, you’ll likely face more revisions, then when you both think it’s great, your agent will shop it around to the publishers. If all goes according to plan, a publisher will want to publish your book, and you’ll work out some sort of a deal with them. Then you wait and wait, and eventually your book hits the shelves. I’ve just skimmed over the basics, but it’s a pretty long and involved process.

And it’s not really how I’m doing things.

I actually did the first few steps. I wrote a manuscript, called OLDSOUL. I spent over a year revising it. I spent plenty of time agonizing over trying to get my query letter perfect. (That’s a whole different post right there.) Then I sent it out to quite a few agents. But none of them were biting at my line. At the beginning of this year I decided my book was getting published no matter what, even if none of the agents or big publishers were interested. Luckily I made friends with Lani Woodland, author of INTRINSICAL. INTRINSICAL was published by Pendrell Publishing, an independent publisher who deals directly with authors. This was great, since I felt agentally challenged. (agentally is totally a word, or should be) I submitted my query and a section of OLDSOUL, and they liked it! They requested the full manuscript and after a bit of anxious waiting, came back with an offer to publish it! I was beyond thrilled. But here’s where it got interesting.

I’ve been on Twitter for a few years, and have met a ton of cool people. Now, Twitter gets sort of a bad rap by folks who think it’s all just people sitting around talking about what they had for lunch. There is a fair share of that, but it’s also an amazing place to network and learn things. Those who use Twitter the right way know it’s a treasure trove of awesome people and resources. And yeah, Ashton Kutcher might tell you what he had for lunch, but it’s much more than that.

(If you’re still doubtful, keep reading before you mock Twitter.)

I was following a bunch of literary agents (who give out great advice all the time), one of whom is named Kathleen Ortiz of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency. One random day she tweeted something about the Disney movie TANGLED. I mentioned that I had worked on that movie, and we got to talking. She noticed on my profile that I liked to write, and asked me what sort of stuff I wrote. I told her, and she ended up here at my blog where she read the first chapter of OLDSOUL. She thought it had some potential, so she asked if I would consider querying her. As it turns out, I actually had queried her earlier this year, but got a form rejection back. Not wanting to waste her time, I told her what had happened. It just so happens when I queried her, she was moving to a new agency. The old agency just answered all her queries with rejections, since she wasn’t there anymore. So I sent my stuff to Kathleen. Then I asked Pendrell if they could wait for my response to their offer for a few weeks, which they very kindly agreed to do.

When I heard back from Kathleen, the news was mixed. The good was that she liked my voice, but ultimately didn’t feel like OLDSOUL was a project she felt strong enough about. It’s important for an agent to be in love with the manuscripts they take to publishers, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get an agent. They have to love your story and be convinced that they can sell it to a publisher. Kathleen wasn’t totally feeling it, so it made my decision to go with Pendrell really easy.

(Don’t forget about Kathleen though, she’ll come up again.)

So far things with Pendrell have been going great, and OLDSOUL has a release date of January 31, 2012.  One of the very cool things about going with an independent publisher is I’m able to have a lot of say in things like the design of the book. I had a couple ideas that I sent over to Pendrell, one of which they liked, and I was able to do all the artwork for the cover based on it. So right now I’m just going through the editing stage and working on the book cover. (PS. If you want updates on OLDSOUL, you can like its facebook page.)

Now, remember Kathleen the agent? Good. About a week and a half ago, once again we were chatting on Twitter. At one point we got to talking about what projects I was working on after OLDSOUL. I told her a few of them, and one in particular she seemed to really like. I didn’t really think much of our conversation afterward, but then the next day I got an email from her. She said she had told the people in her office about one of my new stories and they all thought it could be pretty cool. She asked me if she could give me a call the next day.

Now, for authors trying to get an agent, The Call is one of the most exciting things that can happen, because it means the agent might be calling to give you an Offer of Representation, meaning they’re going to represent you and your book, and try to get it sold. Very exciting stuff. Now, I wasn’t expecting Kathleen’s call to be The Call, because I didn’t have anything written for the new project, and I hadn’t really heard of anyone getting represented without a completed manuscript.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Kathleen called and we chatted a bit, and based off what she’d read of OLDSOUL, and how much she liked the new idea, she made me the highly coveted Offer of Representation. I couldn’t believe it at the time, and even a week later it’s still quite surreal. It’s been a whirlwind of a week.

On the OLDSOUL front I’ve been working on finishing up the cover and some other things so we can get it sent to the printer.

On the Secret Project side of things with Kathleen, I had to take a pretty simple idea and expand it into a book length idea, and had to come up with a synopsis. At this point I’d like to say that I like writing synopses better than query letters. But only slightly. But it’s coming along pretty well, and Kathleen and I are both really excited with the project. She wants me to keep a tight lid on things for now, but I’ll definitely be sharing details as they come. I also got to meet a lot of great folks at the Nancy Coffey via Twitter, all of whom are super nice. I’m incredibly lucky to be with them.

So remember at the beginning when I told you how publishing traditionally works?

Don’t worry if that way doesn’t work for you. With both book projects of mine I’m going about them in a rather unconventional way, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the two methods compare and contrast. But my advice is don’t get discouraged when the rejection letters come. Keep working. Keep refining. Never burn bridges. And, ugh, keep querying. And despite what the naysayers may think, give Twitter a chance. You never know who’s there waiting to talk to you!

P.S. Come back tomorrow for the OLDSOUL cover reveal!

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9 responses to “Beginning my Rather Unorthodox Path to Publication

  1. Great story! Welcome to N.C.L.A.M.R. And the part about Twitter is very true. I was a “naysayer” until about a week ago.

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