My Big News: Rejection, Conviction and Lots of Zeroes

By now some of you have heard the news that my YA novel Zero Repeat Forever earned me a six-figure two-book deal with Simon & Schuster. I don’t really know what to say about this except…

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As you might expect I’m pretty happy about my deal. I’m supremely grateful to my new agent, Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency, and I’m super excited to be working with Simon & Schuster editor Zareen Jaffrey. I have a lot of work ahead of me. Right now we’re just starting on edits to book one in this series. After that I’ll have to write book two. Then there will be edits to that and so on. Not to mention all the promotional stuff I’ll be doing.

But I want everyone who reads this to know a little bit about the work behind me too. I started writing this book in 2011. It got pushed aside for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’ve written and sold five books in the meantime, one each year for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and one on the way this year – Pandas on the Eastside.

So Zero Repeat Forever is something that has been percolating for a long time. Early this year I figured out that I finally had it in the condition I wanted it – this was after two “page one rewrites” (that is, completely starting the book again, from page one – twice) and countless revisions (based on multiple readers’ notes). Having it in a good state to sell put me in a position where I needed to make some hard decisions. Perhaps the hardest was changing agents. I’ve worked with a lot of agents over the years as a screenwriter and novelist (and as the mother to a child actress) and I’ve learned how important it is to have the right agent to match your goals.

I knew what I was looking for. I spent weeks perfecting my query. I sent it out to a long list of agents. I had A LOT of rejections. A LOT. I wanted every agent who read my query to drop everything they were doing and demand to read my manuscript but that’s not how it turned out. Agents are busy. They have individual tastes and stuff they are and aren’t looking for. Most of the agents I queried were not looking for what I was selling. That’s the way it goes.

If you’re an aspiring writer reading this and you take away one thing, let it be this:

YOU WILL BE REJECTED. A LOT. Just as a visual aid, consider that the bulk of querying – probably about 80-90% — has been done by email. Also consider that about 50% of queries I sent by post never got any reply at all. So bear that in mind the below represent the rejections I received on about 5-10% of my queries over the years. This, in other words, is 5-10% of my rejection letters:

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The moral: NEVER, EVER GIVE UP. I believed there was an audience for my book and I stuck with that belief. I knew if anything was going to be my breakthrough book it would be Zero Repeat Forever. And it was. Because among those many rejections were a few agents who saw what I saw and my beta readers saw. Adventure, romance, intrigue, suspense, originality.

A book that would sell.

I knew Barbara Poelle was the right agent for me the first time we spoke on the phone. After the usual discussion of her thoughts on the book etc I took a deep breath and confessed my dream scenario for Zero Repeat Forever.

“I want a multi-book deal, sold at auction for six figures to a big five publisher”

I expected her to snort, but I was wrong. I don’t think Barbara is a snorter so much. She very calmly said: “I think that’s reasonable.” I knew from her track record that she could do for me what she did for NYT Bestseller Lauren DeStefano amongst others. I signed with her the next day. Ten days later I had a publishing deal.

A two book deal

Sold at auction

For six figures

With Simon & Schuster.

I would never say “everyone can do what I did”. That’s the kind of misleading doublespeak Kindle marketing gurus spit out to get you to buy their Kindle books about marketing Kindle books. I’m not sure if there are some people who could never write a publishable book. But I do know that some books just aren’t publishable. Some of my books will never be published. They’re not good.

And to get published and/or sell books you need two things:

  1. a good publishable book
  2. perseverance.

You have to find people who will tell you the truth about your book. You have to listen to people who criticize your book. You have to make your book better. And you have to not give up. Because at the end of the day there are really only two reasons why you might not be successful as an author:

  1. Your book is not good.
  2. You gave up.

So that’s my advice summed up. If you want to be a successful author write good books and don’t give up.

Simple, right?

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3 thoughts on “My Big News: Rejection, Conviction and Lots of Zeroes

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