Did you miss my Once Upon a Time? Read Part 1.
The Plot Thickens…
Had I known what I was getting myself into when I began writing The Duchess Quest, I would’ve been too horrified to even try! (I suppose the same can be said of childbirth.) Therefore, I am grateful for my ignorance at the time!
When my son went down for his daily naps, I would take my husband’s laptop and write, going by the outline I’d composed. I was smitten until, after completing about 50 pages, I began to question the significance of my work. Wasn’t I wasting time telling some silly story? Wouldn’t I be better off focusing on real life instead of fiction? I considered deleting the whole document, just to spite myself, but refrained – thank God. So, I took a break. During my week “off,” I happened to be reading from a devotional when the article seemed to speak to me. What is the dream God placed in your heart, it wanted to know, but that you are laughing at, or running away from, because you think it impossible? The passages urged me to return to my dream, to pursue the one thing I longed for but feared could never happen. In my case, it was to finish my first novel and become a published author. I’d never done it before. But the article was enough motivation for me to return to my manuscript and continue.
From August to October 2013, I pounded away at the keyboard, hardly sleeping, snatching whatever morsel of time I could to finish The Duchess Quest. On October 1st, 2013, the novel was complete at a whopping 165,000 words. Within days, I began querying every agency I could find. (Mistake #1. LOL!) The responses were unanimous: too long, too long, too long. After much disappointment, I finally whittled it down to 130,000 words. But still, the rejections flooded in. “Too wordy.” “Not ready for publication.” And still, “too long.” I sent the manuscript to friends, family, and strangers alike, gathered their feedback, and implemented it. One agent loved it, but because the novel contained no “element of magic,” she ultimately passed, unsure if it would sell in today’s market. For six months, I worked my tail off, rewrote every sentence, butchered the novel and rebuilt it again, agonized and cried myself to sleep, and continued submitting to over 150 agencies and publishers. Even Harlequin took a look at it, but the slow build to the story’s central romance was not to their liking.
During this time, I kept an Excel file, tracking every submission and response. I would scrutinize that file for hours, daunted by the countless “NO”s and cross-outs, which only increased daily. There was only one submission I had never added to that file. And it was because I’d submitted it “by mistake.” While surfing the web one night back in late October, I’d come across an independent e-publisher called 48fourteen. I was impressed with their novels’ premises and artwork, and had a feeling deep down that ‘this could be the one.’ They were into original ideas and genre-bending, and explicitly stated they did not want cookie cutter novels or plot-less romances. I was intrigued and filled out their submission form at once. Immediately after doing so, however, I took a closer look at the FAQ, and realized they were an e-book only publisher. My heart sank. My dream was to see my book in print. That submission didn’t count, I’d told myself, and so I never made a note of it in my Excel file. Shame, I remember thinking.
By the time April 2014 rolled around, with the help of beta readers and other writers’ advice, my manuscript had been reduced to a far more marketable 100,000 words, and its many errors corrected. But when the rejections continued to pelt my inbox at an alarming rate, I was ready to give up. That’s when I saw an email from 48fourteen. I’d like to see the rest of your manuscript, they requested. I blinked at the name, and scoured my Excel file. Which one were they? I didn’t see them. Then it struck me. Oh. How ironic! It was that e-publisher I’d “mistakenly” submitted to. I was unsure how to respond, until something within nudged me, Just check their website, Caity. I did, and realized that they now carried all of their books… in print! I emailed them just to be sure, and as it turned out, just that January, they’d decided to offer print books in addition to their e-books. I was thrilled. Looking through the website once again, I was reminded why they’d originally appealed to me. I gladly submitted the full manuscript, now polished and tweaked, my attachment to them already forging. Of the seven publishers reviewing my manuscript at the time, they quickly became my top choice. I texted my best friend immediately and told her so. Then said a prayer.
By the end of the month, I’d decided last-minute to attend a family event in celebration of my recently deceased grandfather’s first birthday away from his earthly home. And so, surrounded by my loving family – husband, father, grandmother, brothers, uncles and aunts – I was enjoying the dinner and the good company when I casually decided to check my email from my phone. My stomach lurched when I saw it was from a publisher – my top choice, no less – and I glimpsed the preview line: “After reviewing your manuscript…” Oh, God, I began to panic. Another rejection. They all started out that way. Oh, well; I’m used to it by now, I thought. Might as well get it over with. I tapped open the email, skimming the opening paragraph and bracing myself for the worst, when I realized the paragraph ended with the words “offer for this novel.” My heart must’ve stopped. I reread the paragraph in full, and realized that the email kept going, praising my work, for the first time showing that someone in the industry understood and connected – really connected – with my story and all of the characters.
That’s when I started screaming. I just sat there at the dinner table screaming and screaming my head off, and read the email to my family. There were tears and cheers and hugs… and I felt sure my grandfather was a part of it all, too. It was simply the most perfect, exhilarating moment in my professional life. And I realized that, the whole time, God had my project in his hands and was leading me to all the right people and places to bring my impossible dream about. It was just a matter of hard work and right timing. From conception to execution to publication, it was a tremendous lesson for me in faith, patience, and trust. After all, God would not have given me the talent, inspiration, or passion if he didn’t plan on helping me see it through, would he? And so, my uphill battle for publication finally ended that wonderful evening, after 164 rejections and one blessed “yes”!
Happily Ever After
Since being signed with 48fourteen, my depression has evaporated. I’ve found my purpose (apart from motherhood), and strive daily to fulfill it: to conjure whimsical worlds, write stories of romance and adventure, and impart laughter, love and hope to readers. I have reveled in every step of the publication process, and am very satisfied with all of the care my manuscripts have been given, from editing and formatting to the artistic design and marketing. Being a new, “no-name” author can be challenging, and building a platform from scratch is slow and tedious. But I’ve been blessed with the enthusiastic support of friends, family, and new acquaintances, virtual or otherwise.
I’ve also been blessed with a downpour of new story ideas, several of which I’ve completed, and more that I’m working on at the moment. I currently have three contracts with 48fourteen, and couldn’t be more excited to share my next titles with you later this year. So, stay tuned for plenty more from me. In the meantime, I leave you with this: whatever your dream is, chase it. Chase it with your whole heart.
To be continued… someday. 🙂