A question from blog commenter, Natalia Sylvester, inspired me to write this post about how I got a two book deal. I’ll share my story in hopes that any writers reading this do something very important:
Before I get to the specifics, I’ll take you back to some wise words from Donald Maass at his Breakout Novel Intensive Conference I attended in September. He said that the most common complaint of his authors was that they wish they had the time they’d had before publication to write stories. Many publishers expect a book each year once they sign you, and this can be quite a challenge.
When I finished HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and sent the book on submission to agents and eventually, to publishers, I was tempted to lean back, relax, and play more Jewelquest. After all, I’d just completed two and a half years of devotion to the book. I felt as if I deserved a break.
But something happened; I didn’t want a break. An obsession with a new historical figure had been brewing. While my agent submitted my novel to publishing house editors, I fed my new obsession and felt a story growing around it.
Then, an editor from Penguin wanted to speak to me on the phone. She loved HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and had many questions for me about the story and about my background. We had a great chat about the novel, but she was also very interested in what I was currently writing. My level of interest for my new subject was such that I was able to speak clearly on the new novel. It showed the editor that I was a serious writer interested in a career. I believe that question was the deal maker.
Writers, I know that saving the final revision on a novel is a moment of extreme triumph. Crafting a novel is an emotional journey–ask the spouse and family of anyone involved. When you complete a novel you do deserve to breathe for a bit, recharge your battery, and reset your mind for a new journey. If you need a significant amount of time, however, I’d recommend holding off on the query process until you are ready to jump into a new novel. There are several reasons for this:
First, it will give you something to focus on so you don’t obsess over agent/editor responses to your work. Nothing stifles creativity like a self-addressed stamped envelope carrying a form letter rejection. If you invest all of your energy and emotions into one project it places too much importance on it.
Second, when you do get an editor interested in your work, you will have an answer for, “What are you working on now?” I now know, firsthand, how important it is to have an answer to this question.
There is one final reason you should be working on your next novel: your readers. I self-published my first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, and was blessed to have had wonderful reader responses. The most common, however, sometimes made me feel wrung out. It was this:
“When can I read your next one?”
Don’t get me wrong, this is music to a writer’s ears. On the wrong kind of day, however, it actually sounds like this:
“When can you mine history for obscure facts, make dozens of time lines, uncover universal themes important enough to share, while packaging them neatly within three hundred pages splattered with your deepest fears, longings, and judgments for my consumption?”
Let me reemphasize, the former are words every writer longs to hear and provide the best possible compliment, but if you don’t have something ready to say in response, a dissatisfying experience in communication results for all involved.
Writers, if you are able, keep working on the next project. Life gives us both welcome and unwelcome breaks from writing that are beyond our control. If you’ve finished a story, recharged, and have the time and energy, start your next project. Your editor, the world, and your SELF will thank you for it.
*Photo courtesy of PszczolaM at DeviantArt.com