May 7, 2012

The Golden Ticket, Part 6... after the ABNA finals

This is the hard post. Why? Because while it’s got a little bit of luck, it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s reality. It’s work.

Here is the truth: traditional publishing is still a hard business. Even for an ABNA finalist.
So you’re home from Seattle with some great memories, new friends, and a pretty trophy but no contract. I put my trophy on my desk and look at it when I need a reminder that, you know, people other than my family and friends thought my work was pretty good. The key word is work, because that’s what I was back to doing.
If you want to be published by one of the big or even mid houses, the usual way to go about it is by finding agent representation. There are a few ways to do that: get a referral, go to conferences to meet them, and, the most common, hone your query and research who to send it to. Or, you can do what I did.
While the contest progressed, I’d been working on my agent research and query-honing, but before I really had to test it, I lucked into one. My husband was out having dinner and drinks with an old friend of his, and after several beers started to tell him about the contest and my book. The friend responded with, “I think my aunt does something with books.” Turns out that thing his aunt does with books is represent their authors. And after she read and liked my work, and I talked to and liked her, now she represents me. The moral of the story is never underestimate the power of connections, spousal enthusiasm, and drunken conversations.

And now, here are the stats:
Months of editing and revisions: 4.5
Words thoroughly chopped from my contest MS: over 30,000
Editor submissions round one: 13 subs, 8 requests for the MS, 8 declines

That hurts, right? In many ways, it’s actually quite good. 8 requests for the MS was incredible. Further, the rejections were at a minimum polite but the majority were incredibly complimentary. Still rejections though. Coincidentally, one editor we queried had already read the MS during the contest, so she didn’t need to request it from our sub. I suppose I could call my request count 8.5 if I wanted to.
We’re in the midst of our second round of submissions right now, so I’m going to keep the numbers under wraps while they’re still in progress. I will say that response to our initial submission continues to be excellent. And all that time I spent honing my agent query did not go to waste, because with just a few tweaks, and a single sentence about having been an ABNA finalist, that’s what’s getting our strong editor response.
There it is, the State of the Union. Lost in Thought’s been or being read by many editors, but none have offered to buy it yet. And you know what? Maybe none of them will. It’s entirely possible. It’s a tough reality that you can actually go all the way to the top three and still not make it. You might not. I might not. But in the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my head in the work!

Up next: While you wait. Follow this story with the golden ticket tag.
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