The sale of a book is a weird phenomenon — an often exciting but sometimes frustrating process involving a magical combination of skill, timing, and — mostly — luck.
If you’re a writer who’s feeling defeated, or if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes of the submission process, or if you’re just nosey and want to know how my latest sale went down, I invite you to read on. I hope this saga (spanning seven years) reads like commiseration or inspiration or maybe a little bit of both. I hope it encourages you to continue trudging down the path to publication because — cliche as this may sound — it really does take only one yes.
September 9, 2010 – On this, my daughter’s first day of preschool, I write the opening scene of Where Poppies Bloom, the manuscript that will one day end up almost entirely rewritten. If you’ve followed this blog or any of my social media platforms for a while, you might recall hearing about Poppies, also known as my Ghost Book.
November 30, 2010 – After three months of writing like the wind, I finish the first (of MANY) drafts of Ghost Book. It is my third complete manuscript.
January 3, 2011 – I begin querying. I feel hopeful, like Ghost Book might be The Book.
March 6, 2011 – I complete an agent-requested revise & resubmit. I’ve trimmed 11K words (about 50 pages) from the story, and learned a lot about pacing and killing darlings.
April 29, 2011 – I receive the first of two agent offers of representation. I’m certain this is it — my big break.
May 9, 2011 – I accept an agent’s offer of representation. Celebration ensues.
Early June, 2011 – I begin to revise Ghost Book according to my recently acquired agent’s feedback. I work hard, all summer and into the fall.
November 4, 2011 – Ghost Book goes out on submission, a process that will prove to be long, and rife with close calls.
August, 2012 – After a miserable “we love this, but the market is currently saturated” walk down submission lane, Ghost Book is, to my dejection, placed in a metaphorical drawer.
November, 2012 – With much anxiety, I decide to part ways with my agent. The decision to seek new representation turns out to be a positive career move.
December 3, 2012 – After a whirlwind and surprisingly positive querying experience with a fresh manuscript, I accept an offer of representation from Victoria Marini.
January 21, 2013 – Just as Victoria and I are getting ready to send the manuscript for which she signed me out on submission, we hit a snag. Through the publishing grapevine, I discover that my first agent received an offer on Ghost Book. In secret, she declined that offer on my behalf. This is a long, convoluted story, but suffice to say, I am very upset.
Late January, 2013 – Super agent Victoria manages to gracefully straighten out the mess caused by my first agent. I decide to let the previous offer for Ghost Book go in favor of focusing on the submission of my new manuscript. I won’t lie — this is a hard decision. For years, I will wondered if it is the right decision.
February, 2013 – April, 2014 – I work on new things: different manuscripts, strengthening my craft, and supporting others in the writing community. This time brings highs and plenty of lows. The path to publication is a rocky one.
May, 2014 – Because I love it — have always loved it — I dig Ghost Book out of hibernation, and brainstorm how to revitalize it. Victoria and I agree on the incorporation of a new element, and I begin a significant rewrite.
July 14, 2014 – I finish rewriting Ghost Book. I am so proud. I send it off to my critique partners, and await feedback.
November, 2014 – After another round of revisions, the story is ready. Victoria sends it to a limited list of editors. Remember, an earlier version of this book was submitted back in 2011-2012, so the pool is shallow. I write new stories while the months pass. Again, ALL the close calls. If I hear maybe when the market shifts one. More. Time.
July, 2015 – Eventually, Ghost Book finds its way back into the drawer, but not indefinitely. I believe that one day, luck will be on its side. I’m not so sad this time, either, because I’ve recently discovered Swoon Reads, and I’m preparing to upload a different manuscript, Kissing Max Holden, to the site. I’m excited to see where this crowd-sourced Macmillan imprint might get me.
November 16, 2015 – Holy shit — Swoon Reads wants to publish Kissing Max Holden! Finally, I’ve gotten my foot in the door, and with an imprint I find truly inspiring.
December, 2015 – August 1, 2017 – I spend the next 18 months focused on Jilly and Max. I revise, and edit, and promote. Spring, 2016, Victoria and I sell a second manuscript, The Impossibility of Us, to Swoon Reads. I am thrilled to be working with an imprint that supports and celebrates its authors. I can’t wait to write more!
Early August, 2017 – Victoria and I submit a third manuscript to Swoon Reads. Full disclosure: I’m feeling pretty confident.
September 13, 2017 – I get word that my editor isn’t into this latest manuscript. I’m so bummed, and yet… I get her reasoning. Also — surprise! — published authors don’t go on to sell everything they submit. I knew this, but now I know this.
October 11, 2017 – I write detailed synopses of two new story ideas, and submit them to my editor. I am vaguely excited about both ideas, but also terrified that I won’t be able to pull them off should either be picked up based on proposal alone.
November 6, 2017 – Turns out, my concern was for nothing. My editor isn’t 100% onboard with either idea. *womp womp* But… she suggests I consider writing a story like [popular YA novel] meets [popular YA novel]. To which I respond… I’ve actually already written something kind of like that — my Ghost Book.
November 15, 2017 – My editor reads Ghost Book. And… she wants to take it to acquisitions. I am DYING. It’s been years, and this story means SO MUCH to me. How will I get through the next few weeks of waiting?
November 29, 2017 – Victoria has good news: Swoon Reads wants to buy Ghost Book! I’m beside myself! Not only do I get to work with my fantastic editor on another book, but this story that I love with all my heart has finally, finally, finally found a home.
And now I get to share my news with you! The story to which I have for years lovingly referred to as Where Poppies Bloom has a beautiful new title, How the Light Gets In, which speaks so perfectly to its themes and mix of darkness and light.
I’ve been hard at work on revisions, taking inspiration from my editors savvy notes, as well as some of the images I’ve included here, and those I’ve pinned on my How the Light Gets In Pinterest Board. This book (what will be my third published novel — what is this life?!) is due in stores and libraries Spring/Summer, 2019.
I can’t wait for you to read it!
2 thoughts on “How the Light Gets In: A Not So Brief History”
Katy, I’m glad there is a happy ending for Ghost Book. Did your first agent decline the offer for Ghost Book while you were still a client or after you have moved on? Either way, I would be upset too if that had happened to me.
Thanks so much, Cynthia! She declined the offer while I was still her client, but I didn’t find out about it until after we’d parted ways. Pretty frustrating!
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