Although my debut FEVER doesn’t come out until Spring 2012, I thought it would be fun to let readers in on what goes behind the scenes of getting a debut author prepared for publication. Also, I’ll be giving away books from some of my favorite authors on every stop of the blog tour! This week, we’re starting with The Call. Yes, The Call. Even as romance readers, you’ve likely heard of how important this moment is for any writer.
A writer receives The Call. An agent who you’re interested in wants to represent you and you give your whole-hearted yes! What happens after you’ve finished Snoopy-dancing?
Well, you might know that there’s usually an extremely difficult process writers go through to get that agent. It starts all over again, only on a higher level, with an extremely specific target and pinpoint accuracy.
Depending on the agent—how hands-on he or she likes to be in the creative process—it’s not unusual for her to request changes on the manuscript before submitting it to editors. And depending on your project, those requested edits could be extensive or they could be minimal. Normally, if the agent wants big-time edits, they will discuss those prior to offering representation, because if a writer isn’t willing to make the changes the manuscript needs in order to become what the agent believes she can sell, well, then a partnership between the editor and writer would be moot. In my case, Paige Wheeler loved FEVER immediately. The only changes she requested were minor and related more to clarity than character, plot or structure.
Once those alterations are made, the piece gets a shiny new jacket and nudged out the door into the big scary world of publishing. The shiny new jacket is a cover letter from the agent, describing the work to the editor, where she could see it fitting into that house’s lines, what the author brings to the table–things really not all that different from the cover letter a writer creates to inspire interest from an agent. Most agents keep abreast of what editors and houses are looking for at any given time, what they recently purchased and what trends are taking place, so they typically know who to target with what type of work. Again, similar to how a writer targets an agent. An agent might also make a phone call prior to sending material to pitch a piece in an effort to gauge or even elicit interest beforehand. After researching the market and talking with editors, Paige sent FEVER to ten publishing houses.
In the case of FEVER, I remember receiving responses within two or three weeks. The bulk of answers returned between the three and six week mark and we went back and forth with a couple of houses for another couple weeks thereafter. Luckily, none of the rejections were negative—meaning it wasn’t because they didn’t like FEVER, but because of what was going on in the house at that time. Two large houses were merging when we were submitting, and both houses had decided not to accept submissions during this time. Another house had just acquired a story similar in plot and voice to FEVER and didn’t want to acquire another so soon. In other situations, an editor loved the book, but a more senior editor had championed something different, or the story didn’t fit the new direction a publisher’s line was taking.
In the end, we narrowed down the list to two houses, both very interested in FEVER and the books to follow. There were major considerations to weigh, including the editor I’d be working with, the strength of the publisher’s romance line, the house’s marketing plans for FEVER, their overall reputation, etc.. It was all very confusing and angst-ridden for me—in a good way of course, and Paige was endlessly patient in answering my questions and offering insight, yet not pushing in any one direction. She was great about asking me what I wanted, where I wanted my career to go, where I thought I’d be more comfortable.
When it was all said and done, I believe we started submitting in March and I signed a contract in June with Alicia Condon at Kensington Brava. I’m thrilled with my choice and have never looked back. Kensington has been wholly supportive of me as an author and Alicia has helped me improve my storytelling and structure, which has brought out the very best in FEVER.
Of course, my story is only one in a myriad of tales, each as individual as the author it belongs to. Today I’m giving away two books from one of my favorite authors, Lauren Dane.
Lauren Dane has been writing for publication just under eight years now. She sold her first book in 2004 (the first year she started writing). She has published 42 novels and novellas with another six, most likely 7, books out over the year. She’s been a multiple National Bestselling author, Bookscan bestseller list, USA Today list and the New York Times!
Her most recent release, NEVER ENOUGH – a contemporary erotic romance and last of the Brown Siblings series, hit the USA Today list! Just before that ONCE AND AGAIN hit the USA Today list and the NYT List as well. Taking Chase, a five year old book hit the USA Today list in the late summer.
Joan: Did your agent tell you how many editors she submitted the manuscript to, and if so, how many were there?
Lauren: My agent is very straightforward. When she pitched my first books especially she would give me a basic touching base mail on what she’d done. Where she’d pitched, who requested, that sort of thing. It’s been several years now but I think my first manuscript with her went to something like six editors.
Joan: How long did it take for you to receive an offer from the time the manuscript went on submission?
Lauren: Ha! Never on that book. Or the book after that. It was the third project she pitched for me, a novella written on a whim actually, that was my first sale to NY.
Joan: How many offers did you receive? Did the manuscript go on pre-empt or to an auction?
Lauren: I’ve sold twenty-three books through my agent. None of them was part of an auction or pre-empt. Some of them had multiple offers, some were option sales.
Joan: What did you do to take your mind off the submission process while you waited?
Lauren: I worked on the next project.
Joan: Did your agent have you make many revisions before the manuscript was submitted to editors?
Lauren: My agent is very editorial. At the beginning she and I would go over things back and forth a few times. These days it’s less, though she does almost always have editorial suggestions, etc on my manuscripts.
Joan: How did your agent decide which editors to send the manuscript to?
Lauren: Any agent worth their 15% is going to be very familiar with the market. Is going to make sure everyone who buys books like yours, or close to yours for lines that could be potential homes to your book. Sometimes it’s going to be a bad fit for a whole host of reasons – the editor is having a bad day, the editor hates your voice, the editor has just bought something similar to what you’ve just pitched, that story is one of his or her hated tropes or they just didn’t like your execution. But it is totally your agent’s job to figure out who the best audience for your manuscript is.
Joan: Was the manuscript a stand-alone or a projected first book in a series?
Lauren: Originally, the book she first pitched for me was a standalone, but I ended up writing a connected book.
We all go thru journey’s, mine was publishing, what has your recent journey been & how did you find, or, are you finding your success?
Also, don’t forget to visit www.joanswan.com for more details about the continuation of the Journey of a Debut Author Blog Tour and to keep up with the countdown for the release of my debut, FEVER!