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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The "Trials" of Poison Study

Part 2!  In Part 1, I talked about how I sparked on the idea for Poison Study.  You can read it here: Part 1 

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!


11 comments:

  1. I can't believe it takes so long to finally publish a book! I really admire your determination, and for not giving up even after so many rejects. And we're all so glad you did! You brought us a wonderful, unique and refreshing story that just can't be found elsewhere. So many books revolve around the same plot lines, but I truly enjoy your work every single time I pick up your books, whether for the first time, or for the fifth time! :)

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    1. Thanks Catherine! Yes, it was a long slog, but I was determined not to give up until I explored every option :)

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  2. Wow. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! Having just gotten my first contract (with a small publisher, and without an agent) I was still fighting the small internal fear that *maybe* the reason I'd gotten dozens of 'almost' rejections from agents etc. were because the book *wasn't* good enough (despite what my honest critique partners were telling me) but after reading this (and all of the Poison Study books:) I can let go of that insecurity.

    Also, Shout out to Kate Elliot! She is WONDERFUL!!! I've been fortunate enough to meet her (along with Sherwood Smith, Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore and many others over the years) at the annual Sirens Conference. Meeting such kind and open authors, who are so willing to interact with writers who are unpublished has been invaluable in bettering my writing, and in getting me to where I am right now. I've vowed to do anything I can to help others in the same way that these established authors have helped me.

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    1. I'm so glad this post helped you! I felt the same way about Poison Study and even when it sold to Luna Books, I still felt like they were just "being nice" :) It wasn't until I went to BEA the summer before the book came out that I realized that Harlequin loved the book - I felt like a rock star.

      Kate Elliot is fabulous and I wished she lives closer to me as I hardly get to see her anymore. That's great that you plan to help other writers - that's why I teach and mentor at Seton Hill University :)

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  3. I can't believe anyone could read this book and not be wowwed by it :-)

    If it makes you feel any better, it took me two years and 67+ rejections to get my agent, and then it took us 3 years and 4 books to sell a book. We're both overnight successes! (If it is a really long night.)

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    1. Wow - you certainly were persistent! Thanks for sharing - I think new writers appreciate hearing that it's not an easy thing to do and to keep on submitting.

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  4. Its wonderful that your determination to publish didnt waver and you fought for what you wanted the book to be.

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    1. I'm sure my determination wavered at times It's hard to get rejection after rejection (lots of ice cream therapy to get back on track). I think it was probably pure stubbornness toward the end ;)

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  5. I loved reading the series and have got a few of my friends hooked too, which is awesome. I also really like that in your FAQs you said to write and only edit afterwards, i think that's great advice and when I've been trying to write recently i have kept that in my mind x

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  6. I'm in remission from cancer. When I was going through chemo reading was one of the things to get me through it & take my mind off of what was going on at the time. Your books were one of my favorites. Thank God for Luna Books. I can not wait for Night Study to be released.

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