I had a book.
Or at least, I thought I had. I took the idea of there being another world on the other side of the mirror, and I expanded on it. What if there were many, many worlds there? What if a mirror was just a portal?
Why would you go there? What makes you different that you’re able to go there? What if something goes wrong while you’re on the other side?
58,000 words, and I had a clear beginning, middle and end. I had a good protagonist, a budding love story (because YA loves a love story) and even a hint of a potential love triangle. I set it up to work as a stand-alone, or perhaps be part of a larger series of books – which is ideal when you’re talking about YA.
It’s not like I know any New York literary agents or big publishing company editors personally. I knew I wanted to try to get this book traditionally published versus self-publishing, but I had not one thought (beyond blind-querying editors and agents) as to how to do that.
I had a good story, I had some bona-fide writing credentials, I had a social media platform (though certainly not a hugely impressive social media platform) but none of that was going to get me published without a nudge.
So I decided to nudge big. I applied to the New York Writer’s Workshop Fiction Pitch Conference. The conference is a two-day event and you spend day one with a facilitator who helps you craft your book pitch into a thing of beauty that any editor would like to hear.
Day two, you actually workshop that pitch with a genuine editor from your genre, who gives you very, very valuable feedback. Then in the afternoon, you pitch two more New York editors, and if all goes well, they want to know more.
Two of my three editors wanted to know more. In addition to that, I met three agents at one of the panel sessions, and they all asked to review my manuscript as well. I was flying high! Yes! They loved my idea! They loved my pitch! They couldn’t wait to read my story!
There was only one problem: My story wasn’t long enough. They wanted it at least 75,000 words. I told them I could get it there within a week or two, easily. I had no idea if I really could, but I told them that.
And I held myself to that. I wrote like a madwoman, and in so doing, I expanded my characters, created deeper scenes, added a whole new world for them to discover and completely altered the ending of my book for the better.
Two weeks and 77,187 carefully edited words later, I sent out the manuscripts. Then I waited. And I waited. And I waited.
And then I waited some more. Two of the agents were kind enough to write back – one to say “I’m really only looking for LGBT stories right now” and the other to say “You write well but the beginning was slow and I’m not going to represent you.” The editors? Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. I gave it eight weeks before I reached out, and very diplomatically nudged. Then another month. And another month. And another month.
So I reworked and cut and rewrote and fine-tuned and added an exciting beginning that perfectly book-ended the new ending.
Then I researched and found forty more agents and editors who might be interested in my book and I carefully followed all their submission guidelines, tracking my offerings and reminders with a spreadsheet and all of that got me…
Nothing. Nowhere. Crickets chirping in the dark.
I joined writer forums and online communities and found out I was not alone. Sadly, I’m not even an exception. Being utterly ignored – even after they’ve asked to see the manuscript – is absolutely par for the course. It’s beyond frustrating, and it eats your soul for lunch.
It was time to do something drastic, so I did.