I don’t think I’ve ever done this here. I’d like to take a minute and share with you the story of how I became an author and my experiences with the publishing industry.
I wrote the first draft of my first novel, a romance book called Devil You Don’t, when I was very, very pregnant with Ruby. I wrote it in November of 2004, during Nanowrimo. Ruby was born on December 8. That first draft sucked. It was bad. I mean, it was really bad. But I found a fantastic critique partner and we spent an entire year going chapter-by-chapter through both of our novels. By the end of the year, my book didn’t suck anymore. It won a prize. It got very close to being published by Harlequin (after two rounds of editing, they passed.) I had a hard time letting it go, because every time I thought I was ready, someone else nibbled at it. In the end I self-published it.
Meanwhile, I kept writing new stuff. My fourth novel was my first young adult story. I called it Freaks and the Revolution. Here’s a pro-tip. Don’t get invested in the title of your book if you’re planning to seek traditional publication. Chances are very high that the title will be changed and that there will be nothing at all you can do about it. (Chances are also good that when an editor emails to tell you that your title is being changed, you’ll still be on such a high from learning that you’re going to be published that you won’t care what they want to call it.)
When you write a book that you think might be publishable, the next step is to find a literary agent. The agent represents you and your work to big publishers who otherwise wouldn’t even let you dive into the slush pile. I wrote a query letter for Freaks and the Revolution in November 2010. I sent it out to ten agents, and while I was waiting for a response, Ruby got very sick. She had pneumonia and I went with her to Las Vegas (from the tiny mountain town we lived in 300 miles away) where she was in the hospital for three weeks. During those three weeks, half of the agents who had my query letter requested the manuscript, and then still during those three weeks, they all promptly rejected it.
I didn’t do anything for a year. I was overwhelmed at first by Ruby’s illness. She got better, thankfully, but I just couldn’t bear the rejection of Freaks and the Revolution. I let it sit. And sit. And sit. I worked on another manuscript, called Wasted, and eventually I decided to self-publish Freaks and the Revolution. After all, 2010 was the start of the indie publishing boom. A lucky few were becoming overnight successes. I loved the story and I thought–why not? So, I hired someone to make me a cover and I read it again. Two things happened. I had fresh enough eyes to see the problems with my story, and I was sure all over again that this book was publishable.