I ended up querying Capture before it was ready, and I learned from my mistakes. (If you're going to query your book, make sure that it is ready. Don't let your excitement make you do something you're going to later regret.) I spent months and months editing the manuscript, and when I finally felt happy with the story, I decided to try self-publishing. Now, at this point, self-publishing was just starting to take off. Amanda Hocking was still ruling the Kindle charts. And I'd spent a lot of time looking into how to go about doing things the right way. I felt like I knew what to expect. I was confident going into this whole new world.
Yeah, not so much.
When reviews started coming in, they weren't that great. And it wasn't necessarily the story readers weren't getting. It was the ending. See, in the first version of Capture? I killed off Autumn, the main character. Readers hated it, to the point where I received e-mails telling me that ruined the book for them. That was the worst.
I tried re-writing it so that the ending was a bit happier, and that helped, but not entirely. Reviews were still pretty bad, and I ended up pulling it to revise it again. (And I reallyyyyy overhauled it this time. You'll get to read the new version in 2014, hopefully.)
So when I prepared to publish my second novel, Program 13, I went about things differently.
I posted the original manuscript on InkPop (which is now Figment), and I received a TON of feedback from readers. After taking all of their comments into consideration, I revised the manuscript and went through numerous rounds of edits before I started querying. This time, I had a lot of interest. I thought that maybe, just maybe, this would be the book.
Agents requested partials, and soon after requested fulls. Publishers, too!
And just when I thought I stood a chance, the replies started coming.
I received this response from a small publisher, and it got me all excited:
We loved the sample you sent of us of Program 13 and would love to read the Full. Please attach as a word doc. Make sure the Doc is double spaced and pages numbered. Please include a cover page with the following word count, title, and all contact information for you. In the subject line: Request_Title. Thank you so much and we're looking forward to reading the rest.
The editor was incredibly friendly, and I was eager to send her the manuscript.
And then I received this message two days later, from an entirely different editor (same publisher), in response to my query (not the full, because I hadn't sent that in yet):
Yeah, talk about a blow.
But then I had a few agents requesting the full still, so I figured I needed to keep my head up and just keep going. It sounded easy enough, but when the rejections started coming in? It was hard.
Some of the rejections I received (I will not post the names of the agents, sorry):
In response to my query for Program 13:
Thank you for allowing me to consider your manuscript, PROGRAM 13. Though there was much to admire in your work, ultimately I didn't feel enough enthusiasm for the work as a whole to offer you representation. Others are likely to feel differently and I encourage you to solicit additional opinions.In response to my query for SUBMERGED:
Perhaps the worst rejection was one in which the agent even stated they were only rejecting my query because they'd just signed another writer a week before with a similar manuscript.While this sounds like an interesting story, I worry that dystopian has seen it's day. So it's with regrets that I'm going to pass.Sorry this isn't working out but I wish you nothing but the best finding the right agent for your work.
At this point, I was ready to shelve Program 13, but the feedback I'd gotten from readers had been fantastic. They really enjoyed Emile's story, so I said "screw it". I figured the worst that could happen if I self-published it would be that people just wouldn't be interested. I self-published Program 13 becuase I believed in it, and becuase there were others that felt the same way that I did. I self-published to give it a chance.
Sure, if I added a romance and changed up the story a bit, I probably would've had better chances of finding a home for it. (There were a few rejections that stated I needed a romantic element.) But that wasn't the story I needed to write. I needed to write Emile's story, and I did that, and I believed in it, so I released it. And I'm glad that I decided to go ahead with my decision. Sure, my sales aren't great, but those that have read Emile's story have enjoyed it, and that's all I really want - for people to fall in love with Emile's story.
That hasn't stopped me from querying, of course.
I'm currently querying both Collide and Decoding Evie, and while I'd love to sign with an agent or publisher, I'm happy with my decision to self-publish.
On my own, I've managed to build a fan base. Sure, it may be small, but that's okay with me!
And on my own, I've managed to garner enough attention from people to have my book quoted on Criminal Minds. I mean, how many self-published authors can say that? (Hey, I don't have a Best Selling title, but I do have that, so I'm going to continue to be happy about it.)
A publisher and an agent definitely would've helped me to expand my audience, and I'm hoping that, down the line, I may find the right one for my work, but right now? Right now I am happy with my decisions. I've submitted Program 13 and Submerged to a few foreign publishers, so we'll see where that goes. And I've submitted the new edition of Capture to two publishers, though I'm rather sure I'll be getting rejections in the new year. But that's okay. =)
Because I want you all to understand what I mean when I say writing is hard, here is a drafting timeline for my published books:
- Capture: I wrote the first draft of Capture during NaNo 2010. This was the first and only time I've managed to finish NaNo. ;)
- Program 13: I wrote the first draft of Program 13 over two months, not too long after I finished Capture. This was a completely spur of the moment WIP that came about after marathoning Dollhouse on Netflix. (Yes, the inspiration for Program 13 came from Dollhouse. It's one of my favorite shows!)
- No Place Like Home: For a novella, this story took a longggggg time to write. It was meant to be a novel, but after I started writing it, I realized novel length just wasn't for this story. I started this book in 2011. It wasn't until 2012 when I finished it. (In my defense, I wasn't working on it consistently. It mainly sat on my computer untouched.)
- Submerged: I started writing this book in 2011. I finished it in late 2012 and it finally made its way to the public in 2013. This was the hardest of my projects to write. It took me a long time to figure out how to make the story work. (Fun fact: Glate did not appear in the original draft. That's how much I ended up revising it between 2011 and 2012. I'm so glad that changed, because I adore the heck out of Glate.)
- Deprogrammed: I spent December 2012 through July 2013 working on this book. I think the biggest problem was trying to figure out how to tell it. I mean, I wrote Program 12 long after I wrote Program 13. Same with Allegiance. I knew both digital shorts would tie into Deprogrammed, but I struggled with figuring out how. I needed to get back in that state of mind, but I also had to figure out a way to make Alexis an important part of the story. (Her story ties together with Emile's.) Once I figured it out, I finished the book rather quickly.
So yeah, when I say writing is hard? I mean it. There are some writers that can knock out books quickly (such as the amazing Jennifer L. Armentrout). I'm just not one of them. I always know where my books are headed, it's just getting to that point that takes me forever. ;)
Would I love to be traditionally published? Of course! That is one of my goals for 2014. Collide is the book for me. I'm proud of it. It showcases just how much my writing style has changed over the years. And I'd love to find a home for it over the next couple of months. It's scary moving from YA sci-fi to NA contemporary, but I've enjoyed the journey thus far, and I can't wait to see where it takes me next. Even if that means self-publishing Gemma and Ben's story!
To sum it up: Don't give up! You have to stay focused, and you have to keep fighting! =)
One last thing: Bloggers and readers are the reason that I've gotten as far as I have. I <3 every single one of you. Big time. *Insert Virtual Hug!* Every single one of you, you make the headache of writing totally worth it.