One Year Later. . .
I figured I was done because all I was changing was the punctuation. I bought myself a printer and a Publisher's Marketplace and made my list of agents and publishers. I wrote my query letter and my chapter outline. I figured I'd start with the agents. Since I didn't think I could stand more than two rejections at a time, I prepared two query packages. One of which, I discovered weeks and weeks later when it came back in the mail, I had misaddressed. So only one of them got anywhere.
About Two Weeks Later. . .
I came home to this message on my answering machine: "Hello, this is Adele Leone and I think we have an offer on your book..." So, when I got in touch with her, I learned that although she was, indeed, a literary agent, she was also acting as a book packager. Which I suppose is something like a middleman for publishers. Any way, they needed to provide a set number of books to St. Martin's Press for their "Americans Abroad" line and they had a book drop out and so desperately needed to fill the slot. As long as I didn't mind making my heroine American instead of French, they'd buy my book. No problem. I rewrote the front quarter or so of the book, made the additional adjustments and cut enough to fit their requirements, and there you have it. I got paid a flat $3,000 (which, I should point out, was more than my advance for Lord Ruin more than 10 years later.)
And then. . .
I started writing another book. When I finished that, I got my Publisher's Marketplace and made my lists. Same strategies. The result was a contract with the Anita Diamant Agency. Stolen Love was rejected by a few places and then was at St. Martin's Press. Somewhere, somehow, the book was being considered as a hardcover, which it really wasn't. Anyway, the St. Martin's editor jumped to Harper-Collins and took my book with her. I got about twice the money for Stolen Love as for Passion's Song, plus royalties, which I actually did make.
And then. . .
I prefer not the think about those black years. My next effort was flawed because I was trying to write more deliberately instead of on pure instinct. I didn't have any friends in the writing business or RWA or anything to help me find my way. To be honest, that book had (has) flashes of brilliance, but I didn't know enough about writing to write my way out of a jam like that. It was rejected everywhere, even though at least one person at the agency told me she felt the book was so beautifully written there had to be a home for it somewhere. She was seduced by the brilliant sections, as was I. Since this is a confessional sort of page, I will be honest; if the rest of the book can be made to match the brilliant parts, it will be a literary Romance novel.
I have the skills to fix it now, and someday I will. But I'm also afraid; Afraid I might ruin the brilliant parts, and afraid it can't really be fixed and I will have wasted a year better spent writing a book that won't sell. But I will fix it one day. I'll probably change the title though. The title isn't good.
Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. . .
My agent passed away. More chaos. I had a baby (I'll have to write an essay about trying to be a writer and a single parent.) My flawed book was lost and abandoned. No one taking over the agency cared about a book that couldn't be sold. And no one wanted to tell me that, either. Frankly, someone should have told me something. Anyway, I terminated my agreement and was on my own. I started on another book and that was flawed, too. What a strange situation. I can write like nobody's business. I'd done it twice before and pretty easily, too. And I couldn't anymore. Rejections piled up, all of them saying something along the lines of "You're a talented writer, but your book sucks." I put aside the second flawed book and started another one.
The Black Years Continue . .
This third book gave every indication of being as flawed as the others. Same old same old. But by then I'd joined RWA and was participating in the lists. I was reading everything about writing that I could get my hands on. John Gardener implied I was now too old to be a real writer. Dorothea Brande implied I wasn't cut out for the writing business if I couldn't get up just half-an-hour early to write in a diary. (Never mind that I'm not really a morning person, or that I'm a single parent, and half-an-hour early was 2:00 am or that I was getting 2-4 hours of sleep due to a hideous commute.) Why I never just up and quit, I don't know. Too sleep-deprived I guess. Eventually, this third book became Lord Ruin. I analyzed and critiqued the work of other writers and I learned how to apply those lessons to my work. And every time I learned something that felt important to me, I wrote about it. All those pages are posted here on this website. At last, I knew what the hell I was doing, I understood my choices and their impact and I accessed instinct, too, without killing it with writing so perfect the emotion was sucked right out it. Lord Ruin sold. It deserved to sell.
Back. For Now
The second flawed book became The Spare. Which didn't suck and also sold. Now, I've written a third book, all from scratch, and maybe it sucks, I don't think so.