As promised on this the last day of 2012, I've decided to go back and show you what my first year as a soon to be agented/published writer looked like. So in timeline style, here goes:
January 13, 2012 (Friday the 13th): I am so very busy twitter stalking my friend who also happens to be an agent. I'd formally queried her with my latest project back in November, in the midst of the annual NanoWrimo assault on her and every other agent's slush pile. She'd warned me that she was swamped, but would read my manuscript as soon as was humanly possible for her. I had not given the manuscript to anyone else yet because I wanted to give her first dibs. I also valued her opinion and wanted to see if she'd give me some pointers on how to improve it before I sent it to anyone else. That night out of the blue she mentions that she's reading a manuscript she can't put down. I cross my fingers that it's mine. She emails me about a half hour later and confirms that it is and that she'll get back to me when she finishes. Needless to say I don't sleep that night. AT ALL.
January 14, 2012: I'm sitting at the local Mexican restaurant with the hubs and kiddies pounding chips and salsa because I'm still nervous and twitter stalking and...nervous. I get an email from said agent who happens to be the fabulous Lucienne Diver, and she says she wants to discuss representation. I think I squee so loud that the ENTIRE restaurant stares at me. Kids look at me like I've lost my mind. Hubby had stepped away from the table and so found out a few minutes later. I can no longer eat (rare for me) and so I just sit there and grin. Because I'm lucky enough to live in close proximity to Lucienne she emails me offering to meet the next day to talk things over over coffee. I step all over myself to email her back and accept. Then I call every single person I know. The plus here? I could be just over the moon excited and not ask all of the questions you're supposed to about your prospective agent because I already knew Lucienne well enough to know that she would be an awesome agent.
January 15, 2012: I meet Lucienne for coffee and pretend to be cool. I doubt I pulled it off too well. I was shaking like a leaf inside. That nervous, jittery, "I'm about to freak out" kind of shaking. Probably my lips were twitching. Lucienne started the conversation by gushing about my book. I can't remember all that she said, I just know that I was beaming. She asked if I'd sent it out to anyone else and if I would consider having her represent me which shocked me because she seemed nervous that I might not pick her. It was all I could do not to tackle her when I said yes, I was that excited.
January: the next five or so days after that: I haven't put an exact date because this is where things get blurry in my memory. Lucienne sent me my contract for the agency and got to work on my revision notes. She felt that the manuscript was tight enough to go out with just a few tweaks. She gave them to me in two parts and I spent about a week making the necessary changes and biting my finger nails that I managed to do them well. She was scheduled to go up to NYC for some other business and decided to pitch my book while there. She gave me a list of editors/houses she planned to submit to. It was long and impressive. I emailed back as calmly as possible that I liked the list. I had a few secret faves, several of whom had edited authors that I love. It was surreal and scary and I didn't sleep much at all. By now I was checking email like a mad woman and basically researching every editor on the list.
Beginning of February: Lucienne goes up to NYC. She'd sent out the manuscript to some editors already and met with several others. My list of editors grew as she mentioned my manuscript to other editors not on our list in passing and they asked to look it over. I walk around the house twitter stalking all of the editors actually on twitter and wringing my hands.
Second week of February: I get my first editor rejection. It is kind, the editor did end up reading the whole manuscript (which is not always how it works), but unfortunately didn't connect with it. I try not to freak out and concentrate on all of the really nice things she had to say while rejecting it.
AND then there is silence for a few weeks. I have other friends who are out on sub. They get deals very quickly. While I'm happy for them--as in very, very happy for them, the speed of their deals shakes my confidence and I begin to worry.
Third to fourth week (or there abouts) of February: I get my first interest, an offer from an editor, and one that I have grown to really like (from a distance) whilst Twitter stalking:-) I start to get excited and nervous. I would like very much to write a sequal to the book I have out on sub, but this editor is not interested in said sequel at all. I swallow this disappointment and write up several synopses of other ideas I've been kicking around to show her to consider since she'd like to offer a two book deal, gulp. I'm worried that she won't like what I'd like to write next, that she might reconsider offering. She doesn't and I begin to feel real hope. Still, we decide to wait to hear from the other houses or at least some of them before talking about taking this offer. This is where an agent is crucial. It's hard to know what the right move is in this kind of situation. An agent has been there/done that a bunch of times before. Lucienne kept her head when I didn't/couldn't and steered me right.
A few days go by and still silence from the bulk of the list of editors. I'm beginning to get nervous. Lucienne has nerves of steel and keeps me calm and informed as stuff arises.
Beginning of March: I get some nibbles that quickly snowball into interest. My manuscript is in second reads, etc. with several houses and is being seriously considered. One of them I have been secretly coveting. I try not to get my hopes up too much for this house because second reads don't make a deal, all of the interest can still fall through. Every day brings a flurry of emails now. There is enough serious interest to warrant an auction which is how Lucienne expected it would go from the start. I am in a perpetual state of "on the verge of throwing up". The auction date looms closer. A few houses drop out, but there are still an impressive amount of houses working through all of their reads. We go into auction day with I believe at least four or five houses still in the game. I navigate emails and agent phone calls from everywhere from Walmart to my oldest's field trip where they fuss at me for being on the phone, but I do it anyway because this is the biggest thing to ever happen to me. One of the houses I was really excited about drops out here, but there are still enough in the game that I am not too disappointed. I do start to worry about how the auction will go and have anxiety attacks that the day will arrive and they'll all realize that they don't want my story and back out.
Auction Day!(Middle of March): The day is strangely quiet at first. I freak out BIG TIME, but silently and to myself. Lucienne is upbeat and keeps in touch all day. I refresh my email constantly. I chew my fingernails to the quick. I pace. I stare at the ceiling. One house drops out. I feel sicker. The original house interested in me weighs in with their best offer. I'm happy that they've come back again with an even stronger offer and am now feeling like I will definitely get a deal, but am secretly still holding out hope for this certain house that I've been coveting. They're very much in the game and want a sequel and working on their offer.We wait to get the other offers in from the remaining houses as well. The deadline is set for 4pm. Finally, I am in the car rider line at my kids' school waiting to pick them up. It is now five minutes to four. We've heard from all of the houses except the one I've been coveting. I've begun to lose hope that they'll come back with an offer. The phone rings as the cars start to inch forward to the pick up lane. It's Lucienne. She asks if I've checked my email. I haven't. I've just spent the last few minutes staring into space. The last house has come back with an offer. Plus it is from the house I secretly really, really wanted. She tells me the advance sum and I promptly yell "Oh my God!" into the phone over and over while Lucienne laughs. It's for so much more than I dared hope, although is almost exactly what Lucienne was predicting (not that she told me this until it was over in case it didn't actually go that way--the process is nerve-wracking enough for me already). I'm shaking all over and feeling strangely like a character in a movie-like the guy who makes a touch down in the last seconds of the game. My ears are roaring. Lucienne gives me some more details and I try to listen, but I'm basically out of my body. The kids enter the car and gawk at their teary-eyed, overly tembly mom. At first they're scared. I hang up the phone and tell them what happened and then we're all screaming and shouting and celebrating. I call my husband and he leaves work immediately to come home, shows up at our door with a bouquet of roses. I call my mom and she starts to cry. It is one of the best moments of my entire life. We eat out that night and I think I smile for an entire week straight, even in my sleep.
The week after the auction: I hear back from Lucienne about details. We firm up a few broad points about the deal and I get a very, very nice email from my new editor, Suzy Capozzi, who just seems lovely. We schedule a time to talk on the phone. I try to write something new, but it's hard. My life seems so surreal. My deal appears in Publisher's Weekly and in Publisher's Marketplace. I stare at both anouncements for a long, long time and just marvel. It still doesn't seem real. I talk with Suzy over the phone and we click right away. She gets my book in ways I didn't dare hope. She is wonderful and gushy about it and it hits me just how big this all really is all over again. I float around the house for days afterwards.
AND then I am in for a wait. Once the deal is set, the world slowly goes back to normal. After the flurry of excitement around the auction and such, my email goes pretty quiet. The contract is being worked out and drawn up and I won't hear from Suzy for awhile about my revisions. I begin to think about the sequel and start writing it, but it is slow, slow going. I think it's hard because my concentration is just shot. I have to wrap my head around what it all means and because my deal was much bigger than I'd ever dared to imagine, I felt the weight of it. I wanted (and still do) to live up to that advance and not disappoint anyone. The only problem? I didn't feel different as a writer. Validated? Yes. Different? No. I could almost see the wide gap between what I knew craft wise and what I felt I should know now that I was "legit". I write a lot of scenes that I won't ultimately use. I buy a lot of new craft books and start studying earnestly.
It is the beginning of July before I sign my contract. Four months from the time of the offer. It was enough time to make me worry that they were changing their minds-irrational and ridiculous on my part, but I am insecure about every aspect of this business at this point. I'd prepared like a fiend for the querying process, I am not at all prepared or versed on this part. I let out the longest sigh of relief when I sign. The first advance payment comes shortly after this. I almost throw it away by accident! It comes with a copy of the contract and so at first I only think it is the contract that I'm supposed to be getting. The check itself had stuck to the side of the FedEx envelope. I had already put the envelope in the trash when something inside me told me to make sure that there was nothing else in it. I take a picture with the check and make a copy to keep before running directly to the bank. We celebrate by leaving two days later on a summer trip to the mountains in North Carolina and to visit family. I was about as happy as anyone can ever be. It felt the same way it did when I was newly pregnant, like my dreams were coming true one at a time and the future was scary, but bright.
This puts us at a little over the half way point in the year. Since this is quite a long post, I'll finish this up on Wednesday. Happy New Year, everyone! May this year be for you what last year was for me. Truly a dream come true!