The Call 2.0

Unlike the first call story, this one ends with an actual phone call. But it started on Twitter.

At the beginning of April, Carina Press held a pitch event. The promise was that you’d hear within two months and if it was rejection, you’d received personalized feedback. I had just signed a contract with Crimson to publish Brave in Heart, but I was working through a contemporary manuscript with my critique partner, The Easy Part.

It’s a book that I love, but one I was convinced I would never be able to sell because it’s set between staffers in Washington, DC. It’s political, and it’s wonky, and there’s an Alzheimer’s subplot. I had already sent it to one publisher (name redacted), from whom I received the dreaded, “I like your writing, but…” rejection. That editor objected to the partisanship implicit in the premise. I was convinced if I wanted The Easy Part to see the light of day, I would have to self-publish it. So I pitched in #carinapitch mostly because I wanted a second opinion — I wanted to know if the book had a shot with a traditional publisher.

Also, among the epublishers, Carina was my first choice. I have loved all the Carina books I’ve read. Plus, I think Carina is just plain smart and savvy about today’s book market. For a manuscript like The Easy Part, which is very youthful and contemporary, it seemed like a good fit. But even with my hopes, I never anticipated that they’d make an offer.

My pitch was: “Millie — a shy labor organizer – is having a bad year; Parker – an arrogant congressional aide — is having an existential crisis. Together they’ll discover that compared to love, politics is easy.” And a few minutes after putting it on Twitter, I had a request for a full manuscript.

But then, the waiting began.

At first, I was able to block thoughts about my manuscript flopping around out there. I’d hear at the end of May, no big deal. But four weeks post-pitch, I received an email from the editor who had requested it asking about sequels.

If I was tense and nervous before, it was nothing compared to how I felt after that email exchange. It was a good sign, right? But I knew that just because one editor liked it didn’t mean the acquisitions board would.

Four more agonizing weeks ticked by, during which I jumped at the email alert on my phone and obsessively followed everyone at Carina on social media. Every once in a while there’d be a bread crumb. A reference to an acquisition meeting, say, but it never turned into anything. I began to think I had dreamt the whole thing.

Then one afternoon, while I was working on my dissertation, my phone rang.

I generally let unknown calls go to voicemail; however, I recognized the Maryland area code and decided to answer. This was followed by a weird pause because Angela James — the person on the other end — didn’t seem to know what to call me.

She introduced herself and my brain shut down. I’m fairly certain I saw the blue screen of death for a minute while my mind rebooted. Angela James saved me from myself; she is as nice and charming as you would expect if you follow her on Twitter. She explained that they loved my book and were interested in it and two sequels.

While she talked, I know that I said, “Holy cow” a lot. At least I hope I said holy cow and not holy something else. I’m not sure. (Sorry, Ms. James, for any swearing that may have occurred!)

I do know I told her that I never thought I would be able to sell this book and that I thanked her at least three times. Basically, I was a quivering mass of gratitude and earnestness the entire phone call. She assured me that politics don’t scare them. Then we talked about the TV show Scandal and how DC is sort of having a moment. I actually think I should send Shonda Rhimes a fruitbasket because I’m convinced I sold the book only because of Scandal.
So, yeah, The Easy Part will be coming to you at some point during spring 2014. Here’s the Pinterest board to tide you over; there’s lot of good music associated with this one. I’m chipping away at sequels to it and to Brave in Heart and feeling very humble and grateful about how things have worked out for me the past few months.
If this post is finding you in one of those writing valleys, those hopeless white nights where you think the call is never coming for you, take heart and send out five more queries.

6 thoughts on “The Call 2.0

    1. Thank you!

      Life is so damn wacky, right? I know a writer IRL who got an agent because she was sitting on the beach and asked the woman next to her about the magazine she was reading. That woman turned out to be an agent and (what do you know) she’d just finished a book. Serendipity, it’s not just for Dickens novels.

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