Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Jocelyn Drake authors the Dark Days series published by Avon. The second book in her series, Dayhunter, is in stores on April 28, 2009.
At what point do you throw in the towel? When do you finally admit defeat and start to move on with your life?
These were the questions that were rattling around in my brain just before The Call arrived. It had been over two years of continuous “no’s”. And to make matters worse, the rejections weren’t all impersonal form letters. Some were actually “good” rejection letters, with personal, hand-written notes complimenting my voice, which almost seemed to taunt me with how close I was. But in the end, the answer was still “no” and no one was telling me why.
I felt as if the door to the great world of the published was being cracked open for me, but I wasn’t allowed to enter. Without a little guidance from an editor or an agent, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly improve my manuscript so that someone would finally take me on.
I was at the end of my rope and I was beginning to doubt that I would ever sell my urban fantasy novel. I was considering putting the book on the back shelf and starting over with a new idea. But I was going to take one last shot at it.
My latest issue of Romance Writers Report from the Romance Writers of America had a listing of agents that were looking for new clients. I selected five promising names that took electronic queries and shipped off my query letter. I made a promise to myself that night that if I didn’t get a serious nibble, I was going to pack up the book and work on something else.
Boy, did I get a nibble! Within twenty-four hours, three had replied wanting the first three chapters. I had been down this road before, but my heart still did a little skip at the interest as I shipped off the chapters. Another couple days passed and two replied wanting to see the full manuscript. Again, my heart did its funny little skip and I tried to tap down my hopes to realistic levels as I shipped off the manuscript. To my surprise, one even promised to read it over the weekend and get back to me early the following week.
It was the longest Mother’s Day weekend in existence. While spending time with my family, my mind would continuously wander back to the promise of finally landing an agent. I had had so many close calls that I was afraid I would soon go insane, but a friend told me to have patience (not an easy thing) and to wait for an agent that loved my work as much as I did.
The following Monday, I found her. Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates was my knight in shining armor, my saving angel, and my fairy godmother all rolled into one.
To my complete shock, she called in the afternoon on Monday and all I could think was that she was calling to ask for more time to read the manuscript. It never dawned on me until she uttered those oh-so-magical words that she actually wanted to represent me.
She loved my voice, she loved my characters, and she loved the concept behind the book. And possibly the most important part, she believed in me and my ability to write an even better book under the guidance of a good editor.
I’ll admit that the phone conversation has blurred slightly in my mind, as I don’t think blood and oxygen were actually flowing to my brain any longer. I like to imagine that I was coherent, calm, and all-around cool, but I know better. When she offered to be my agent, I became a babbling idiot, but Jennifer has always been kind enough to deny it.
When I hung up the phone, I sat down on the floor in my dining room and I cried. Hands shaking and breathing still uneven, I called both friends and family so that I could cry some more. I had been writing since I was twelve and I was one step closer to my dream.
During the next week, my agent and I worked on tweaking the manuscript a little more before she blasted it out to several editors. Almost three weeks later to the day, we had an offer. And not just any old offer. It was an offer from the editor I dreamed of having. A fellow author and friend spoke in glowing terms whenever she talked about Diana Gill, editor for Eos, and I dreamed of having her there to guide my words.
When the offer came in, Jennifer was there when I cried some more.
Two years and thousands of words later, I have to admit that I’m still sitting on that cloud with Jennifer and Diana at my side, guiding my career and my words. I’d be lost without them.
But back to those first two questions I asked, I’d have to say that the answer is “never.” Sometimes you may have to shift gears and put a certain book aside and work on something else, but if you want to get published, you never throw in the towel. Your agent could be just one query letter away.