This year has been beyond description for me. As a writer, I should have all the words in the world to put it into perspective, but they’re just not coming.
Back in January, I threw caution to the wind and entered my manuscript in a YA novel contest. I figured I had nothing to lose.
So I waited.
The day after the ex walked out the door, I hung this in my bedroom.
It’s right across from my bed, and I would look at it every night before I went to sleep.
It helped to remind me that no matter how sucky today looked, everything starts over when I open my eyes tomorrow.
So I just kept plugging away.
And here I am.
If you followed me over here from my other name, you know that I’ve made a name for myself blogging for places like Woman’s Day, BlogHer, Mom’s Magazine and on my own platform. I’ve also published a couple of non-fiction books and done a ton of article freelancing.
So I had some street cred when it comes to writing, I had a social media platform, and those two things are usually great for a debut novelist to have. I actually debated just keeping the regular name (I even submitted my novel in the contest under the original name) but after hashing it over with my agent and a few other people in the biz, we agreed on an offshoot of the name.
So Ellie DeLano became L.E. DeLano, YA novelist.
See that last word at the bottom of the signature page?
It says “Author.”
And I signed under it with the biggest, baddest flourish I could manage, capped my pen and danced in my living room.
Then I called a friend and said “Please tell me I’m not going to wake up from this with the alarm going off and a cat’s butt in my face.”
I knew from the minute we started talking contract, that I wanted an agent on my side.
And that’s not a slam in any way at Swoon – the contract offer was good, fairly and transparently presented, and I was encouraged to ask questions at every step while it was being laid out. Many of Swoon’s authors work without an agent and do very well for themselves, without shaving off 15% for someone else.
But I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It all seemed great to me, but what did I know? Maybe comparatively, it wasn’t all it could be. Maybe there was more I could ask for that I wouldn’t even think about – and I’m not just talking money. There is a lot to consider when you’re looking at rights and royalties and a lot of details that I was completely clueless about.
I have no idea why, but I didn’t check my email that day. I opened it the following morning, while munching on a bagel at my day job.
And then I started hyperventilating, sure I had to have read that wrong.
Then I went to the restroom, sat down on a toilet and put my head between my knees so I wouldn’t pass out.
I remember my hands were shaking.
I really don’t remember how I found out about the Swoon Reads YA novel contest – I think perhaps on Twitter. I’d only just started tweeting on a regular basis – it had been an occasional thing before – and trying to get my follower count up, and I came across a tweet about the contest.
It’s a revolving contest – Swoon is an imprint of MacMillan Publishing that targets YA fiction, and the contest is set up as sort of a crowd-sourced slush pile. You submit your manuscript, complete with cover art (or you can select a generic cover from their collection) and then you wait.