Thursday, March 23, 2006

Editors and Agents

As you’ve probably gathered from past postings, the road I’ve traveled to have my first novel published is an unusual one. It’s not that I set out for it to happen that way, but since the path has gotten me where I have wanted to be, I have zero complaints.

It’s been over a year since Ugly Town bought my novel, and about four months since they had to suspend operations and transferred my contract to Bantam Dell. All of this happened without me having any representation.

Two things happened last week that were interesting twists to my journey. Maybe they’re only interesting to me. Who knows. Shannon, the editor who brought me over to Bantam Dell, called me to let me know she was leaving to take a job at another publishing house.

Of course my first reaction was “Uh oh.” We’ve all heard the horror stories of writers switching editors midstream only to find their new editor has different priorities. And for me there was also sadness that Shannon was going. She’d been so supportive and had already helped me improve my manuscript considerably. She will always be an important part of getting my career started.

The good news is my worry of changing editors has proved to be completely groundless. Danielle, my new editor, called me within hours of Shannon’s call. She was very reassuring and seemed to share in Shannon’s enthusiasm for my novel. This was reinforced yesterday when she called with her notes on my latest draft. If anything, her excitement with my book had only grown since the last time we talked. Her notes were great, and very manageable. I’m extremely excited about working with her, and feel that everything is very much still on track. (Who? Me? Paranoid? Never.)

The other bit of news is about agents. I have been thinking for a couple months that I should really get one. In fact, I had contacted a couple other writers and inquired about their agents. The problem was, I already had a three book deal with Bantam Dell, so when I did have any conversations with agents, their basic response was that there was nothing they could do until it was time for a new contract. Eh...that doesn't really help me.

There was one agent who gave me a different response. Oddly, I had actually met her during a van ride from the hotel in Chicago to the airport after Bouchercon last fall. She had given me her card back then, and it is taped to the wall in front of my desk. (Lesson here: Never miss an opportunity to meet new people. I actually introduced myself to her during the ride. Something I might not have done, because I was exhausted, except for having attended a self-marketing panel with Barry Eisler, Jason Starr and Sean Doolittle. Barry introduced himself to everyone in the room before the panel. So I took his cue.)

I sent her an email explaining my situation, and within about an hour she called me. She asked to see my contract and read my book. So I emailed them off thinking it would be a week or more before I heard back.

The next morning she called me again. As she had been printing out my novel the evening before, she started to read it. By the time she called me that next morning, she’d finished the whole thing. She had some very nice things to say about it, but even more importantly, she offered to take me on as a client basically gratis until my next contract comes up.

So now I do have an agent, and a new editor, and I couldn’t be happier.

(Though, Shannon, if you are reading this, your input and help will never be forgotten.)

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