How I Got an Agent (and a Book Deal): Part V

Chuck: The Complete First SeasonSorry I didn’t get time to post yesterday. It was quite the hectic day for me, and I just plum ran out of time. Anyway–on to today’s post. When last we met, I had submitted Vodnik to Tu Publishing, which then turned into Tu Books, and I hadn’t heard anything back, but (as I said) that’s the nature of the beast in this industry. Six months isn’t a long time to wait, but it’s sort of standard for the amount of time to wait before you inquire to see if any progress has been made. (At least, that’s the arbitrary number of months I’d set in my head). So I waited until September to shoot off an email to Stacy to see if Vodnik was anywhere near getting a decision made.

I was always hesitant to be pushy at all about books I’d submitted, and I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If you haven’t heard back from an agent or editor, that could mean that they’re on the fence about your book and thinking about accepting or rejecting it. If you get pushy, that could make the decision to reject that much easier. Then again, if you say nothing, maybe nothing happens. See the dilemma? And speaking from personal experience, there’s nothing quite like the agonizing an aspiring author goes through when he’s waiting to hear back from an agent or editor. You know that it’s not likely that it’ll be a yes, and you’ve heard so many no’s before that you keep telling yourself this one will be a no, too–but you can’t help but be hopeful, because sooner or later, it’s got to be a yes, right? But it doesn’t have to be a yes ever, and you know that, so you keep those hopes down. It’s a vicious cycle, and you repeat it every. single. time. you send another query or–even worse–full manuscript out. And each time, you finally get that no, and then you’re depressed and wonder if you’re deluding yourself about the quality of your work.

Do you know what one of my worries was? It was that I was the literary equivalent of one of the contestants on American Idol. You know–one of the ones who are just so bad, but their friends and families have all told them how great they are. Or (just as bad), being one of the ones that’s decent, but just not great. They’re pleasant to listen to, but you doubt they’ll go far. It’s strange, but I feel quite confident in my ability to evaluate any piece of writing . . . but my own. Go figure.

At any rate, I digress. Back to the story.

I sent Stacy a quick email on September 9th. Tu Publishing had started announcing acquisitions, and I congratulated her on the progress they were making, and just asked if she had any update on Vodnik. When I hit send, I didn’t expect a response for a week or two at the earliest.

It came an hour and a half later. Not only was it positive, but it was really positive. Stacy had liked the book, but was waiting for a bit later in the Tu Books publishing schedule to look at it more closely, since it lacked the people of color element. I responded with an idea that had been germinating at the back of my mind since I’d read about the people of color emphasis at Lee and Low. While most people in Slovakia are as Eastern European White as they get, there’s a significant minority population: the Roma. (You might know them as Gypsies, although that’s not the PC term for them, FYI). I emailed Stacy back to see if she’d be open to me revising the book, incorporating a significant Roma element into the revision. (I’m oversimplifying here to make things flow with the story more–there will be more explanation of Roma and the revision at some future point on my blog).

After a bit of back and forth, it was set: Stacy was going to reread Vodnik and email me any big changes that stood out to her, and I was going to do the same. Then, I’d revise the book. Oh–and I’d get it all done by the end of September. Vodnik at the time was about 95,000 words, give or take. This was happening at the same time that I was working on my wood shed, painting the garage, and doing a slew of other things in my life. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll no doubt recall this period.) In fact, just a few days before I’d emailed Stacy in the first place, I’d been complaining to Denisa that I was too darn busy, and I was on the lookout for things to ditch in my life to simplify my schedule.

But you know what, when opportunity knocks, you don’t just say “hold on until I’m ready.” I dove into reading Vodnik, which I hadn’t touched in over three years. I had some friends read it and get me suggestions, too. Stacy got her notes to me on the 17th. For the next week and a half, I had no spare time at all. I finished the revision on the 27th, exhausted, but happy with it.

I should be able to bring this storyline to a close with my next entry in the series–hopefully on Monday. I’m at a conference tomorrow, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything from me. Doubt I’ll have internet and time to post. In case I don’t, have a happy weekend!

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