Do you believe in destiny? Or do you believe we make our own fate?
I don’t think our life is predetermined, but I do believe things happen for a reason. For example, I was accepted into several law schools. Based on circumstances, I thought I would choose one school over the other. But I didn’t. I chose a different school. Similarly, hundreds of miles away, a young man chose the law school he would attend. He needed his father to sign papers and send them in by a certain date. A freak accident occurred and his father didn’t get the paperwork in on time. So that young man went to a different school. The same school I’d decided to attend. We met on the first day. We were dating by the end of the first month. We married the year after we graduated.
Coincidence? Destiny? Fate? I don’t know. But I’ve had these types of incidents happen throughout my life and my path to publication was no different.
When I decided to try writing to get published, paranormal was huge. So I tried to write one. It didn’t work for me. I didn’t find the experience pleasant and I could never finish the book. Then an author came to speak to my local chapter and she said to write the book of your heart. I’d grown up reading category romances, specifically Harlequin, Silhouette and Loveswept. I loved them. I’ve written blog posts about my obsession. So in November 2010 for Nano, I sat down to write my first category romance novel. The story flowed from me.
I finished the book and began revising it. In January of 2011 I signed up for Savvy Authors’s EditPalooza, an intensive, month-long revision workshop where we could work in small groups with mentors. I submitted five pages and was assigned a mentor Elizabeth Pelletier. Turns out, she was a fan of category romances, too. Working with Liz was amazing. She really understood what I was trying to do and gave me lots of good advice. By the end of our time together, I had a solid plan for revising my story.
I spent the next few months applying the lessons I’d learned. In July 2011, I signed up for a query workshop with FF&P, an online chapter I’d first joined back when I thought I could write paranormal. I was excited to see that Liz Pelletier was the instructor and even more surprised to learn she’d started her own publishing company, Entangled Publishing. The workshop happened during my annual vacation with my girlfriends from college. They were not happy that I spent a lot of that time reading all the queries and Liz’s responses. I remember there were LOTS of them and I swear, I think Liz worked on every one submitted.
In October, my life changed and I had to put my writing on hold. My six-year-old daughter had a life-threatening condition that required surgery and for the next five months, nothing else mattered.
As spring of 2012 began, buoyed by my daughter’s miraculous comeback and feeling like I could breathe for the first time since her diagnosis the previous fall, I opened my laptop and reread my story. Making a few tweaks, I updated my list of agents to query. It was going to be my first year going to the RWA National Conference and I signed up to pitch. My local romance chapter was hosting its first conference in a long time and my friends suggested I pitch to the agents coming to our local conference for practice. I researched the agents who would be attending and picked one I thought would work for me. I wanted to make a good impression, but I didn’t have high hopes. The loops are filled with stories upon stories of people who’d been at this for years. People who could “paper their bathrooms” with their rejection letters. I didn’t expect to get an agent with the first book I ever finished, but I’ve never turned away an opportunity to practice.
The day of the pitches I ran into a woman who lived in the area where we’d held the conference. On a whim, she’d decided to attend. She also happened to be an editor for a new small press, but our chapter hadn’t approached them, so she wasn’t part of the pitch appointments. The more opportunities for people to pitch, the better, right? I talked to the conference chairs and with their blessing, set her up to take pitches. And since my daddy didn’t raise a fool, I took one of those slots. That editor was Kerri-Leigh Grady from Entangled and she asked for a full submission. I also got a request for a full from the agent.
Since having an agent was part of my plan, I submitted to her first. I was hoping to get some good feedback and ways to improve my story. Imagine my surprise when I got the email that they liked my story and wanted to represent me. I did my research and I talked with the agent who would be assigned to represent me. It was a great fit.
I’d told her this was my first book. I had nothing else ready for submission, although I’d started on the next one. I also told her it had always been my dream to write for Harlequin. By this point, Harlequin had purchased Silhouette and Loveswept had ceased putting out print books. If you wrote category length novels and wanted your book in print, Harlequin was the only game in town.
Except, that little publishing house that could, Entangled Publishing, was making a name for itself. And they’d recently hit the New York Times Bestseller’s list with Jennifer Probst’s The Marriage Bargain. My agent suggested I take a look at them. I told her about their request for a full and we made plans to meet in person at Nationals the following week and talk more about our plans for my book.
At Nationals, word quickly spread that although Entangled wasn’t having a sponsored spotlight–they were too new according to RWA guidelines–they were holding an informational session nearby. I went and, once again, was blown away by Liz’s passion, commitment and transparency. After their presentation, I found my agent and said, yes, please. Let’s submit to them.
We submitted to Entangled and Harlequin. Harlequin had just bought a story involving a women’s shelter—can you believe it–but they loved my voice. Could we send them something else? Entangled loved what I submitted but I needed to make a few changes.
I did what Entangled asked and before I knew it, I’d signed my first contract. Seven months after my first pitch ever, I’d sold my book to Entangled. How fitting that it ended up here, considering Liz was the first person to read it almost two years prior.
A bunch of coincidences? A small industry? Or destiny?
You decide. Make your own choice, one of many if you decide to traverse the Publishing Twilight Zone…
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