So, to tell this tale, I’d like to step back to the very beginning. Well, not the very, very David Copperfield, tell y’all the story of my entire childhood beginning, but at least the beginning for this manuscript.
I wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2009.
Yes, that’s right, 2009.
And then I didn’t do anything with it for a very long time. I had another MS, about teenage equestrians, that I was focusing all my attentions on, that I edited within an inch of its life, got it to where my critique group liked it.
I was about to query that book, and then someone very famous came out with something very similar.
I shelved that book, and decided to come back to my 2009 NaNo manuscript and clean that up.
That was a journey in and of itself. It went from a dual POV book about two sisters, where one sister ended up with no plot and then got relegated to a non-POV character. Then I switched everything to first person POV. Then, finally, I added the hero’s POV, even though it isn’t typical in YA romance, because it prevented certain misconceptions that various CPs had about him (misconceptions that had a lot to do with him being Russian, him being the heroine’s main athletic rival, etc).
Finally, I got to a point where I felt like it was query ready. And I sent it out into the world.
And didn’t get many requests out of the first several queries I sent.
Something needed to change.
In early 2018, I decided to get some help with my query letter and first few pages, and I hired Rae Loverde at Bleeding Ink, Inc. to edit my work. I didn’t want, and couldn’t afford, to get a full MS edit professionally done, but I wanted some help getting to the meat of the query issue, as well as getting expert eyes on the first bit of my story, so I could carry the changes to voice, etc, through the entire MS.
Around that time, I heard about Author Mentor Match, and I decided to go for it. I probably wouldn’t get chosen, but if I did…well, maybe a mentor could help me improve my MS and get those bites I so desperately wanted.
With my new first chapters and new query in hand, I sent my story out AMM, and I was chosen by the lovely and talented Tiana Smith as her mentee.
The fantastic thing about AMM is that you get focused, individual help, and best of all, it comes from someone who believes in you and your story. It was both exciting and humbling to be chosen.
Tiana helped me really get to the heart of what needed to change to improve my MS, and I did a massive edit on the plane to Russia last summer. No, really. Thirteen hours of AC power and free wine and no ringing phones.
The difference in my response rate was incredible.
I even got a full request, on my birthday, in Russia, which I quickly sent off from my horrible hotel room (the Hotel Potemkin is a story for another blog post, surely, but suffice it to say that the place was poorly maintained and in the middle of nowhere).
While that agent ultimately didn’t choose to offer representation, hers and other requests encouraged me that I was on the right track. I kept sending out small batches of queries and tweaking the MS based on the feedback I was getting.
I participated in Twitter-based pitch contests and received full requests there, too.
And through it all, I kept querying.
Generally speaking, I sent 5-10 queries at time, but by this point I had a “one in, one out” policy, where I would send a new query for each rejection. The day after a Twitter contest where I got no interest, I found Katelyn Uplinger’s tweets. Looking at her website, I could see that she would probably be a very good fit for my NEXT book, an alternate history for adults. But would she like my teenage figure skaters? I decided to give it a go.
I got a reply in my inbox the next day. Usually, quick replies are rejections, and by that point I was old hat.
But it wasn’t, dear reader.
It was a full request.
I sent off the latest version and prepared to wait.
Less than a week later, I got a revise and resubmit request with excellent suggestions on how to improve the pacing of the story, the tension within the central romance, and the resolution of a major plot point.
I got to work, determined to finish the changes before Christmas, and, by this point, desperately needing the distraction, since my grandma was sick in the hospital hundreds of miles away.
In the end, eager to recreate that “no one can bother me on the plane” feeling, but without the high price tag, I shut myself away in a boba shop for an entire Saturday to give the MS one last read through. That night, I implemented the last changes and sent off my revised MS.
After the holidays, I heard from Katelyn again, and she wanted to make sure that ON THIN ICE was still available. I told her it was, and she asked about my other projects. THEN she asked about The Lion and the Eagle (my alternate history for adults passion project) and asked if I had a synopsis to give her. I was thinking, No, I don’t, but I’ll have one by the time I send this email. And so I quickly came up with a synopsis and sent it off.
The following Monday, I got an offer of rep email from Katelyn. Later that week, we talked via phone, so I could get a sense of how well we clicked and what vision she had for selling the book, etc. That’s all very important, because you really need to make sure that your agent — your advocate — is on the same page with you about what sort of publishers to submit your work to.
After that conversation, I wanted to sign with Katelyn right then and there, but it’s also important, and professional, to ask for a week or two to contact other agents who have your query, partial, or full MS and give them a chance to offer as well.
So, I waited out the two weeks and then signed with Katelyn. I couldn’t be happier.
In fact, I’m glad that I didn’t get an agent when I first set out to query, and I’m even glad that my first completed and query ready MS wasn’t my debut. Everything I’ve gone through, every bump along the way, every rejection, has made me a stronger writer than I was when I began.
The long road isn’t the easy road, but it’s also not a bad road, in the end.