Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Publishing Journey--Part 4

Had a great time at Bouchercon (Writers Conference) in San Francisco this past week. It was hard to be in a hotel, so my husband and I escaped quite often to go sight seeing.

Now, onto continuing my Publishing Journey series:

Read Part 3 Here

My Publishing Journey

Part 4

In Feb 2003, I started submitting my third manuscript, a historical novel set in 600 BC Arabia, main character Nephi. My first manuscript—WWII historical—had received plenty of rejections. My second manuscript—kidnapping mystery—had received three rejections, but my heart wasn’t in the story enough to go through revisions. First publisher submitted to: Deseret Book. Two weeks later I received a rejection letter. It was nicely written, but really a form letter. Upon first glance it looked pretty customized, but I’d received rejections from DB on my other books so I recognized the wording. One thing that was different was: “We don’t publish any Book of Mormon fiction.”

I felt my options were really quite limited as far as publishers went for this book. There were three more publishers that were possibilities: Covenant, Cedar Fort, and Granite (who were still publishing fiction at the time). I submitted to Covenant next. This was the end of February and the next response I heard from them was in August. I received an email that it had gone through the evaluation process and the consensus was that they wanted to see more of Lehi in the book (Nephi’s father). I went through the manuscript and changed some more scenes into Lehi’s point of view, then resubmitted.

A small break in my writing career happened in the fall. I was published in the Rose & Thorn literary magazine with a fiction excerpt from my WWII novel. I forwarded the publication to the managing editor at Covenant to show, hopefully, that my writing was viable and competitive.

To stay sane, I was also working on another book: a paranormal set in Puritan New England, 1840’s.

The week before Christmas, the managing editor, Shauna Humphreys, called me. The news wasn’t good.

Covenant was worried that my series would compete with another series they were publishing. Both series were set in the same time period, but they had different main characters. So of course I didn’t agree. There had been other Book of Mormon novels published, and I was certain there would be many more, all by different authors.

I had waited ten months on one publisher only to be rejected. We discussed my WWII novel and Shauna asked if I’d considered making any of the characters LDS. No, I told her. That would have completely changed the main character’s journey. We talked about my paranormal book, but it wasn’t a genre Covenant was seeking. So the phone call ended on the note that Covenant really enjoyed my writing, but the project wasn’t for them.

Well, as you can imagine, I was devastated. 2003 was a year to forget. I had lost a baby that summer and my book I had fully believed would be my debut novel had just received a rejection from possibly the only publisher who could properly publish my series.

So I asked my husband what I should do. He wasn’t nearly as bummed out as I was (probably since he hadn’t written the dang thing). But he’s a sales guy and his response was “When a deal goes south, that means it’s a real deal, and it’s your job to get back in there and close it.” He told me to set up a meeting with Shauna and present a marketing plan that explained all the reasons my book would sell and all the reasons readers would be buying it.

But this wasn’t software, this was a novel! Plus it terrified me to think of pitching my book like a sales person. I had been fired from a clothing store because they told me I wasn’t outgoing enough with the customers (another story—in my stubbornness, I ended up working in retail for several years and becoming a store manager). Then I realized I did have my stubbornness on my side. So I decided to take another shot and set up a meeting with Shauna after Christmas. It would give me a week to put together a marketing plan. Worst case, I would still be rejected, best case, they might reconsider or they’d be open to another book from me down the road.

I met with Shauna, feeling pretty nervous, and I was surprised at how absolutely nice she was. Not that I didn’t think an editor could be nice, but Shauna was a genuinely sweet person. I wondered if she was like this with everyone or if, perhaps, she really did like me. We went over my list of how my series was different from what they were already publishing and how I felt there was a place for it in the market. She seemed impressed with my ideas. Again, I wondered if she was just being nice. But she did promise to take my ideas back to the committee.

When the phone rang on January 7th and I saw Covenant Communications on the caller ID, I barely had time to think of what it might mean before I answered it. I had a house full of little kids since I was babysitting the neighbor’s kids, so I stepped into the freezing cold garage to take the call and have some privacy.

Shauna told me the committee had reconsidered and decided my series would complement their line-up instead of compete. They were worried that I wouldn’t be able to deliver a book a year, but I assured her I would (of course!). She said the release date was set for September 2004 and would come out in hardcover.

After hanging up with her, I was elated. I didn’t know what to do first. But my feet were freezing. I called my husband and then called my parents. Nine months seemed forever to wait for my book to come out, but I had crossed a major threshold. I was also pregnant again. 2004 was definitely looking up.


Maria Zannini said...

Heather, you can bring me down and bring me up within a few short paragraphs.

What a wonderful and inspiring story.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I love reading about everyone's publishing journeys. What an amazing story you've been through. :)

Michael Knudsen said...

So many ups and downs - and the downs of rejection are the worst - but you made it happen due to persistence and listening to good advice despite having to roam outside your comfort zone! Good stuff.

Heather B. Moore said...

Maria, it's nice to look back "after the fact" :-)

Thanks Chantele and Michael. I'm sure there was a lot more drama going on in smaller bits, but it's nice to have forgotten some of the details :)

Debra Erfert said...

I'm always fascinated to hear how a writer begins their journey. And it truly is a journey with all the sudden twists and pitfalls life tosses at our feet. It was comforting to hear that you didn't start your first story when you were a teenager, like so many other women I've read about lately. I don’t think I even liked to read when I was younger. Really, circumstances prevented me from falling in love with books until I was grown. Now the volumes have outgrown my shelves.

I was the “stay-at-home mom” by choice, and I’ve never regretted a single moment with my children. Looking back over the past twenty-plus years since becoming a mother, I know I couldn’t have handled writing along with mothering. I barely had enough time for sleeping. But that was then. I’m sitting in a freshly emptied nest. Now is when I need to read inspiring words, like yours, to remember to pick myself up when I trip over an obstacle, or climb out of a pit when I fall into one. I’m doing a little climbing right now, and I have the dirt under my nails to prove it.

Thanks for letting me read your journal.

By the way. . . I love Mary Higgins Clark. The pearls I'm not so crazy about.

Heather B. Moore said...

Debra, thanks for your comment. I started writing my first book when I was 30. During naptimes or at night when kids were in bed--back when they went to bed early! I can only write an hour or two a day before my mind becomes mush. I think most authors are like that as well. Even now, the first year all my kids are in school and I supposedly could write for 5 hours straight, it's mentally impossible. I start to wane at the 90 minute mark. Then my brain peters out :) Best of luck in your new stage of life!

Jenn Wilks said...

How interesting! I would never in a million years have thought of putting together a proposal like that and selling my book to a publishing house that had already said "No." What an awesome hubby you have to have encouraged you like that. And how lucky we all are that he did, too!

Heather B. Moore said...

Me neither, Jenn!