Monday, August 5, 2013

How to Sell a Book in SIX SHORT YEARS (Or, How I Got My Second Book Deal!)



Once upon a time, in 2007, I wrote a novel. I filled it with everything I knew about life and love and relationships, about family and friends, about mystery and magic. Also, a faerie revolution. Also, a high school revolution.

I filled it with my heart and soul.

I called it “The Last Changeling,” and over the next few months, I edited the heck out of that puppy. Was the love story believable? Were the rules of magic consistent? WAS I USING THE RIGHT TENSE? (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t.) I posted the story on Critters.org and got some fabulous critiques from a handful of wonderful people. I revised based on (some of) their advice. Once I thought the story was in great shape, I started working on a query letter, and once I’d fussed over that for a time (with the appropriate help from Evil Editor and his minions, of course) I started reaching out to agents in 2008. 

Over the next few months I got form rejection after form rejection.

Okay, no worries, I thought. I’ll just revise.

And I did. I posted a revision on Critters, as well as a query revision at Evil Editor’s.


I renamed the story “Child of the Dark Court.”

I took people’s advice, revised, and queried again.

Again, I got rejections. Again, they were form rejections, with no comments on the story.

Okay fine, whatever, I can handle this, I thought, and I did it all again. In 2009, “Lather, rinse, repeat” was my middle name. I became obsessed with other people’s opinions, and tried to please everyone who offered manuscript advice (hint: don’t do this.) Still, in spite of my growing insecurity as a writer (EVERYONE HATES IT! STORY WILL NEVER SELL!) the novel did get smoother, sleeker, and more pleasing to the eye. Plot-holes were reworked. Characters began to jump off the page (not literally, you guys). Even the query letter got more coherent (Hey! Evil Editor called it “excellent!”)

I renamed the story “The Forbidden Fruit of Faerie.”

And guess what happened then?

That’s right. Everyone and their mom rejected it. (Okay, not everyone—in truth, I was only querying a few agents at a time—but it felt that way.) Month after month, I heard “no” after “no,” and still, I got only form letters.

Dear Author,

Unfortunately…

Best of luck.

A sane person might’ve thought, “This is never going to happen,” and just given up. But you know what? I never really entertained that thought. Sure, it might’ve flitted around my mind, like an annoying wasp, but I just kept swatting it away, shouting:

BE GONE, FOUL TEMPTRESS!!!

("Temptress" because, when trying causes pain, giving up can be tempting.)

Then 2010 came around, and you know what that means. I changed the title again! This time, it was, “How to Tempt a Faerie,” and I gave that baby the old run around on my favorite critique sites (including one new one!) I got more feedback, and it seemed like readers had less to critique this time. Some of them told me they read the whole story in one night, and couldn’t wait for the sequel.

SURELY, THINGS WERE TURNING AROUND THIS TIME.

So I revised, polished, and was about to send out queries again, when I decided to try something different this time. I was going to go to an actual real-life writers conference, and talk to actual real-life agents, and they were going to be so charmed by my actual real-life self that they’d request the full manuscript from me! (Okay, I didn’t actually believe that last part, but I was looking forward to making an in-person connection.) And would you believe it, of the four awesome agents I pitched to, each one requested material? 

Man, I tell ya, I was walking on air when I left that conference. I went home, spent the next few days giving the manuscript another read through, and then I sent it off.

A few months later, I’d heard from all four agents.

All four of them passed.


All four sent form rejections.

So…Yeah.

That happened.

Three months later, I had an idea for a new story. (A NEW STORY! Imagine THAT!) I decided I maybe shouldn’t spend my entire life fussing over one manuscript, and even if I put it away for now, it didn’t mean I was giving up. It just meant we were taking some time away from each other. You know, for the good of the relationship.

Then, in November of 2010, I learned about NaNoWriMo, and attempted to write my new novel in the span of one month.

I succeeded, logging in 50,000 words in just 29 days. I also ended up with the cleanest first draft I’d ever written. I called it “Suicide Slut.”

Three months later, I sent out my first round of queries on what I was now calling “The S-Word.”  One week later, I had a full request. Over the new few months, I got EIGHT MORE requests. And when I did get rejections, they were very sweet, and very specific.

By Mid-2011, I had an offer of representation. When we went out on submission, I returned to my previous manuscript, and applied what I’d learned writing “The S-Word.” I cut, revised and polished one more time.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t get the story out of my head.

Then, in February of 2012, when Simon and Schuster offered to buy ”The S-Word,” my agent asked if I’d been working on anything else. Reluctantly, but still stubbornly hopeful, I sent her what I was now calling “Immortal Sacrifice.” She wrote back within a month saying she loved it. We made a few (very small) revisions and went out on submission.

Fast forward to last week, and this happened:

“Chelsea Pitcher's IMMORTAL SACRIFICE, of The Faerie Revolutions duology, in which a princess of the Dark Faeries who plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother and bring equality to faeriekind must enter the human world disguised as a 16-year-old runaway to search for a young "leader of man" as a sacrifice to convince her mother's loathed enemy to join her cause, to Brian Farrey-Latz at Flux, in a two-book deal including THE MAGIC OF MORTALS, for publication in Fall 2014, by Sandy Lu at the L. Perkins Agency (World)."

Moral of the story? Never give up. Not in the face of rejection, not when times get hard, not when it feels like your heart is breaking, not even if it feels like the world is against you. It isn’t. It’s just testing you, seeing if you will rise to the occasion.

Seeing if you will get better. Work harder. Learn. Grow. Push yourself. Believe in yourself.

I believe in you.


12 comments:

  1. I LOVE this story. Those who persevere, Chelsea, make it all the way... Congratulations again and I am so thrilled the faerie story will finally make its way into my hands! :-)

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  2. LOVE this. All of it. So, so happy for you. You deserve it, and I'm glad you never gave up! Also, yay Flux sisters!

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  3. THANK YOU Rachel!!! *hugs* I appreciate all your amazing support!!

    Kelsey, YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY on being Flux sisters!!! Sooooooo excited to be in such fantastic company!

    Woot!

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  4. *Yawn.* Totally unsurprised. Because I've always believed in YOU. Some people you just know great things are going to happen to. I've never doubted for a second I'd be seeing your books on the store shelves. Hugs and kudos, sweetie - you deserve all the success!

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  5. Honestly, Phoenix, you were the one person on EE's site who always had something nice to say about my submissions. I know some people say critiques should only focus on what should be changed, but without you, it would've been a lot harder to keep going. THANK YOU.

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  6. Yay! I'm happy to hear there's more to read from you! I'll be adding it to my TBR list!

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  7. Thank you!! It's awesome to hear that! :)

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  8. So happy for you and CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Such a great story you've got there.

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  9. Found your blog through AW. Congratulations! I'm still waiting to hear back from my agent so your story gives me much hope! :-)

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  10. Thank you Pamela!! I hope you hear great news very soon! :D

    Thank you kdoyle!!

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