Evernight Teen Publishing

Friday, May 24, 2013

Black Amaranth Coming Full Circle

The pain of rejection and the joy of acceptance....

Something I did (and I'm sure the majority of other authors too) while writing Black Amaranth, was google well known author journeys into publishing. I was curious about their submission process. I wanted to know how many queries they sent, who to, response times, what type of rejections, and the circumstances that finally led to their acceptance into the publishing world. I was surprised by the brutal honesty of even the most successfully published author. Here are some of their stories:

Aprilynne Pike: While she was the first agent I sent the manuscript to, between me sending it to Jodi and Jodi signing me, I racked up just over 100 rejections from other agents, almost all of whom I found on AgentQuery.

Stephanie Myer:To put it mildly, I was naive about publishing. I thought it worked like this: you printed a copy of your novel, wrapped it up in brown paper, and sent it off to a publishing house. Ho ho ho, that's a good one. I started googling (naturally) and began to discover that this was not the way it is done. (Movies lie to us! Why?! A side note: you will not be able to enjoy the new Steve Martin version of Cheaper by the Dozen when you know how insanely impossible the publishing scenario it contains is.) The whole set up with query letters, literary agents, simultaneous submissions vs. exclusive submissions, synopsizes, etc., was extremely intimidating, and I almost quit there. It certainly wasn't belief in my fabulous talent that made me push forward; I think it was just that I loved my characters so much, and they were so real to me, that I wanted other people to know them, too. I sent out around fifteen queries (and I still get residual butterflies in my stomach when I drive by the mailbox I sent the letters from—mailing them was terrifying.). I will state, for the record, that my queries truly sucked, and I don't blame anyone who sent me a rejection (I did get seven or eight of those. I still have them all, too). The only rejection that really hurt was from a small agent who actually read the first chapter before she dropped the axe on me. The meanest rejection I got came after Little, Brown had picked me up for a three-book deal, so it didn't bother me at all. I'll admit that I considered sending back a copy of that rejection stapled to the write-up my deal got in Publisher's Weekly, but I took the higher road.

Sherrilyn Kenyon: When the idea occurred to me, I was destitute financially. My husband had just graduated school and was working in a factory to make ends meet. My father had died of cancer, my mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and I had barely survived a high risk pregnancy. During the course of it all, I lost my house and we only had one car between us and a new infant son. I'd lost my job and had been trying to find another when I learned I was pregnant again. Yes, I know how these things happen, and according to all science, I should not have conceived, yet there I was pregnant, hard on the heels of a birth so severe that I spent a week in the hospital afterward (after I'd died), and my baby didn't come home for 7 weeks.
Due to all of the above, we were homeless. All of us. My oldest and I would stay in the hospital waiting room (it's the only safe place you can stay for hours where no one asks questions about it), until my hubby was off work with our home- the car. Rejected 75 times before publication.
I guess since a bestselling author can be honest, eek...I can too! I haven't counted all the rejections I received, but I'd put it in the ballpark of around 40-50 rejections, and I saved them all. With that said, over the last 3 years, I embarked on a roller-coaster ride that has finally ended. I'm thankful in this process for many things. First being that I've never been homeless. Secondly, I never received a nasty rejection letter from an agent or publisher insisting that I kill my dreams of being published. Thirdly, that after all the no-responses, some requests, and rejections, I finally have been accepted. Things finally came full circle for me and reflecting back over my journey, I can say that it was a learning process I'd ever dreamt of.

At first I sent out around 10 queries. Some I never heard from, some politely rejected, and one NY agent requested a partial. This was it! I dreamt of book signings with long lines, my publicist fetching white chocolate mocha's throughout the day to keep me inspired and long walks on the beach with my agent. After 48 hours, the NY agent got back to me. While nice, she said she was excited to read it but not enough to send out a contract. Insert cringe, here's the ugly picture of me in the weeks following my first true rejection.
After eating my weight in Ben and Jerry's, watching The Notebook over and over, and slumming around the house in stained up jogging pants, my husband finally convinced me to take a shower, burn The Notebook and swear off ice cream for at least a month. I decided to take a more constructive approach or at least a healthier one. I tried to analyze WHY I had been rejected. I went back to the manuscript and I can honestly say after being away for a while, I was able to easily spot mistakes, and I took steps to correct them. I sent my ms off to several agents and received requests for not only partials but fulls. It got me thinking: if after writing a synopsis (something I tried really hard to stay away from), editing the manuscript for the tenth time, and properly formatting produced requests from literary agents, perhaps it would be worth while to query some actual publishers (the folks literary agents sell your book to).

Here are some responses I received:

Dear Ms. Hibbs,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider BLACK AMARANTH for possible representation and for your patience in awaiting a reply.
I enjoyed taking a look at your sample pages and can readily see that there’s a lot to like here: a fascinating premise, fun world-building, and a memorable cast of characters, to name just a few positive elements. Your distinctive writing really captures the Ally’s environment, immersing me into her daily life without being heavy-handed in establishing her backstory. Including the attack, a highly gripping scene, early on in your narrative is a smart move, as it immediately creates momentum and drew me further into your story.
Unfortunately, though there is much to admire, I’m afraid I don’t love it as deeply as I would need to in order to represent your manuscript in today’s competitive marketplace. This is just one opinion, of course, and hopefully another agent will have a different perspective.
 
Dear Sasha Hibbs,

I have received and reviewed your query for your manuscript. I greatly appreciate
you sending your ideas to us for consideration. However, because of the number
of submissions our agency receives, we often are not able to take on clients who
merit publication. While I believe that your ideas might have market appeal, I am
not convinced that we could represent it successfully at this time.
 
Hi Sasha,
Thanks so much for thinking of me, but this one’s just not right for my list. Due to a very full workload, I have to be extremely selective about pursuing new projects.
Please know that this is a very subjective business and that tastes range widely among agents. Someone else may feel very differently—you deserve someone who is passionate about your work and is confident about their ability to position it.
Best of luck with this, and thank you so much for thinking of me.

Dear Sasha,
I must apologize for the lateness of my reply. I try to get back to authors within six weeks, but sometimes that isn't feasible. With that being said, I want to thank you so much for sharing BLACK AMARANTH with me. Though I think you have an interesting concept here, I didn't quite fall in love with it in the way that I need to in order to request more. In this subjective industry, I'm sure another agent will feel differently, and I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey.
 
To sum things up, not too long after the above replies, I received offers from three different publishers! There was no difficulty in selecting which publisher to go with. When I found Evernight Teen, I instantly fell in love with their website, their list, well...them. More to the point, it's not about how many rejections you receive, it's about the ONE yes you get. It's all you need...just one.