I’ve been sitting on some news for a while now. Really good news. News that still gives me a thrill when I think about it. It’s been very tempting to say something before now. What stopped me initially was disbelief that it would amount to anything. Then my superstition that keeps me from announcing anything until the ink is on the contract. But now the time has come…for me to set the scene for you. I’m a writer–you didn’t think I’d come right out and just tell you without a long drawn out story, now did you?
Twas just before Christmas and in my little house… I was procrastinating because I was supposed to be writing. So, like all good procratinators, uh, I mean authors, I took a little time to check and empty the spam folder in my email account. But among the discount insurance and drugs guaranteed to make penises grow, one email stood out. Maybe the name was familiar to me because I’ve seen it around the web. Maybe it was the subject line which read “Your Agent”. Either way, this junk mail looked different enough to make me open it rather than trash it with the others.
It basically said that this person had been on my web site, had read my free short story 8 Second Ride, and had loved the mix of humor and sexuality. It was just what they’d been looking for and would I like to submit a proposal to them? Or should they contact my agent instead? Then it was signed Alicia Condon, Editorial Director Brava with a phone number.
Now I’ve been called a naysayer before. I’m a New Yorker and I don’t trust anyone. Besides, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in this business. It’s been drilled into my head since my first RT Convention in 2007 when I was a starry-eyed newbie that New York publishers do not come knocking on your door. You have to submit to them, then get rejected, then submit again and maybe if you’re lucky, after a year or two, they’ll let you revise that manuscript and resubmit. Then maybe you’ll get an offer of a contract, maybe, if you’re lucky and in the right place at the right time and the editor you started submitting to years ago doesn’t leave the publisher first.
Given all that, I of course thought this email was fake. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like those scammers in Nigeria who try to get you to wire them money would be pretending to be an editor at Kensington Publishing, but what the hell did I know? My heart was pounding so hard at the thought that this might be real–and how amazing that was–that I couldn’t think straight.
I copied and forwarded the text to a coworker in the biz, figuring she’d know and tell me if this was a scam or not. Which is when she told me, of course Alicia Condon was real. We met her last year at RT. By that time I had already Googled Kensington and found her name and a matching phone number on the Kensington site so I knew she was real, but what I couldn’t comprehend was how she’d found little old me? Had she googled “Western Authors” and my site came up? That could be it but the fact she’d pawed through the many pages of my site and found a story to download and read was still pretty amazing. Then there was that other little glitch… the ‘should we contact your agent’ line.
I don’t have an agent. I don’t have an agent for the same reason I hadn’t been submitting to NY publishers–who the hell has the time? I can’t keep up with the books I’ve promised to my current publishers. Forget about write something new on spec and have it wallow in a slush pile somewhere for months or years. But I was sure as hell willing to write a proposal for Kensington, since they’d been kind enough to ask and all. I checked out the subs guides and found they’d need a 5-page synopsis and the first three chapters of a 80K word novel. GULP. 80K? Okay, I could do this. I’ve written 63K before. 80K was only 17K more and that was only like a short story. No problem. BUT would she want it from me still when she found out I didn’t have an agent? I emailed and asked, and the answer was yes.
At this point the only people I’d told were my one coworker, and one other author who had a Kensington Brava contract, because I wanted her take on this. I expanded that small circle to one other person–the significant other, mainly so he’d leave me alone when I side-lined one impossibly tight deadline to write this proposal. He was warned there’d be no cooking, no cleaning and probably one cranky author, but he was more than happy to help me because though he’s not a reader, even he knew this was a huge deal. First I came up with an idea, and fleshed it out enough to send to her and see if she’d be interested in seeing a full proposal for it. She was interested.
Alicia told me the offices were basically shutting down for the holidays, but she’d like to present the proposal at the first editorial meeting right after the new year. Holy crap, this was really happening. I researched and wrote my fingers off, basically sliding through the holidays with as little effort as I could get away with. We had no Christmas tree, but I did get the wreaths up and the mantle decorated. There were no Christmas cards but thanks to online shopping, there were presents, and some of them were even wrapped (thank God for gift bags). But I did it. I got the synopsis and the first 3 Chapters written and sent off by the time they opened again after the new year. all without my friends or family (aside from the hubby) knowing why I was so rushed and stressed all the time.
It was while writing the proposal that I expanded my inner circle of confidants by one–an Army Reservist and student I know at Oklahoma State University who was kind enough to help me with the details for my setting, which I’d chosen to be Oklahoma because of my contacts there. Still, I could count the people who knew about this on one hand. That’s how superstitious I am about jinxing things by spilling the beans early. Besides, I still didn’t think she’d offer me a contract. Especially not after I saw in publishing deals that editor Alicia Condon had just offered a 3-book deal to a different contemporary cowboy author. That’s it, I thought. I was a backup plan while they were negotiating with this other author’s agent. But I proceeded as if this hadn’t happened. I’d rather live with the rejection than with the regret of having never tried. (Boy, that’s philosophical of me. huh?)
Fast forward a week or two after I submitted the proposal. We’re now in January, I’m working to make that other deadline still, while there is yet another book I owed Samhain still hanging over my head and needing to be completed, when my email alert chimes and I see the name Alicia Condon pop up. I literally sat there and gave myself a pep talk before I allowed myself to read that email. It went something like this, and yes, I said it out loud to me and the cats.
“It will be okay. No matter what is in that email, it’s fine. It was amazing she even contacted me and I should be very proud of that, even if she didn’t like the proposal.”
Turns out I didn’t need the pep talk. She wanted to offer me a 3-book contract for a series built around my proposal. Was there a phone number she could reach me at to discuss? So after I screamed, and IMd my cohort/coworker the news, I emailed her my number and the phone rang almost immediately. I was shaking while taking notes because I knew I wouldn’t remember a thing after I hung up if I didn’t. I kept a cool enough head to make sure she knew I had a prior relationship and responsibilities (including 2 ongoing series) with Samhain Publishing, whom I fully intend to continue with because I love them there, but that was fine with her and the contract was amended accordingly. At that point, after hanging up and while folding laundry, I grabbed the phone and I expanded my inner circle to Mom, mother-in-law and my aunt. I told my 4 best friends too, excited that maybe NOW they would stop calling me a porn writer and asking what I do all day. No such luck–they never heard of Kensington and since I’ve had literally dozens of contracts in the past and as many books published, they truly didn’t get why I was excited about this one in particular. I guess fate has put them in my life to keep me humble. I guess I should be grateful… anyway…
So that’s it. The contract is signed and barring a ‘force majeure’ my first contemporary western novel tentatively titled ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY (OKLAHOMA NIGHTS SERIES, BOOK 1) will be released by Brava in April of 2013. I am now a Brava author, and for all those who are wondering if my books will be in bookstores, the answer is yes they will, and in eBook as well.
Oh, one more tidbit–the answer to my question of how the hell she stumbled upon my website to begin with… It turns out two of her salespeople (the folks who go out to the Books-A-Millions and the Barnes and Nobles of the world to try to sell them the new season’s crop of books being put out by Kensington) told her to check me out. How amazing is that?
What has this taught me? Always put out your best work, even if it is a free read for download on your website. AND always check your spam folder!!