Today's post is what happened next. After spending 4 years writing and revising Poison Study, it was ready. I decided I wanted to find a literary agent to help me sell my book to publishers (editors work for publishers). So I bought a copy of The Literary Marketplace to do my research and find agents who didn't charge fees to read my book, who were located in New York City, and who represented fantasy novels. I made a list of those agents and agencies.
In June 2001, I began submitting to agents. Most of them wanted to see the first 3 chapters and the synopsis, and some only wanted a query letter. A query letter is just a single page that tells the agent what your book is about and who you are. My first round of submissions goes out and I start getting rejections.
Most are form letters (or postcards) and a few just write, "Will have to pass on this project" on my own cover letter and mail it back to me. There are a couple personal responses (note - the personal ones are from agents I met at writing conferences). One says, "Although I found a lot to admire in the material, my final reaction is that I would not be able to place it to your or my satisfaction in the current publishing market." And this one, "I was simply not excited about the story. Yes, it is written fairly well, but I did not see anything in it to make it stand out in a way to grab me." A few agents, don't even bother to reply.
In January 2002, I get an email from an agent who enjoyed the opening chapters of Poison Study and would like to see the full manuscript. I'm quite excited and I send her the whole novel. In February 2002, she replies, "I really, really, really enjoyed it and it is with a heavy heart that I am turning down the opportunity to go further with it. There were a few important aspects that I felt needed work." However, it's not all doom and gloom as she offers to look at the book again should I revise and she even offers a more detailed critique. Her comments are great and I revise and send it back to her. Unfortunately, she doesn't offer me representation and the close call is harder to take than a form letter.
In June 2002, I decide to send Poison Study directly to publishers/editors - this is after 26 rejections from agents. I make a list of 20 publishers (both large and small) that publish adult fantasy. Rejections roll in. The publisher rejections are basically the same form letters and notes written on my cover letter. One publisher doesn't even open my query letter (see picture). I get a couple personal responses (again from editors I've met in person at a conference). One says, "Unfortunately, while I absolutely adored the background about the taster's trade, I can't help feeling that the story itself is a little too weak to support the premise." She suggests I add in more political intrigue. While I appreciate her comments, I'm reluctant to change the story. I'm not a big fan of lots of political intrigue in fantasy and my story is more focused on the characters.
I receive a couple of nibbles--where the entire book is requested only to be rejected later. One phone call sounded promising, but in the end the publisher decided that my 95,000 word novel was too long. When I offer to shorten it, I'm told the story is too good to be shortened. Sigh!
In June 2003, I see an announcement about a new Harlequin Imprint. "Luna Books delivers a compelling, female-focused fantasy with vivid characters, rich worlds, strong, sympathetic women, and romantic subplots." They're looking for 100,000 words and wanted the POV predominately from the female characters. Poison Study is 5,000 words short and doesn't have a big romantic subplot, but otherwise, it's perfect. I mail off the first 3 chapters and synopsis on June 24, 2003. By this time, I have 17 rejections from publishers.
At the end of September 2003, I receive an email from a small publisher who is interested in publishing Poison Study! I'm excited, but don't commit right away, I want to review the contract first. While I'm waiting on the contract, I get a phone call from Luna Books on October 2, 2003. They loved the first 3 chapters, can I send the rest? I'm honest and tell them about the offer from the small publisher. They're disappointed but understand. However, later I get an email saying that Luna doesn't mind multiple submissions and, if the other publisher hasn't requested "exclusivity," Luna would be happy to read Poison Study at the same time. The other publisher didn't request exclusivity so I email them the rest of the manuscript on October 3, 2003, but tell them I need an answer back right away.
Monday, October 5, 2003, my phone rings and it's Helen from Luna Books. She and her boss LOVED Poison Study and want to publish it and a second book!!! I'm torn because I have that offer from the smaller publisher as well, but Luna is like the major leagues, while the other would be like the minor leagues (it's a baseball reference ;). I decide to go with Luna Books!
It takes 2 months to get a contract finalized (I found an agent for Storm Watcher, and she's happy to help me with the contract for Poison Study). I sign it in December 2003!
It took me 2 and a half years to find a publisher for Poison Study! And then I had to wait another 2 years for the book to be released. In the meantime, I worked on Magic Study (it is due to Luna Books on June 1, 2005).
Total time from start to publication for Poison Study was 8.5 years!! Whew!