Kindle, A New Way To Read

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Bumpy Road of Writers -- Maya Banks

Click for Maya Banks Website

My best friend in the world, who is also a writer, once told me that the secret to selling was to hit rock bottom first. I didn’t necessarily believe it at the time, though it had certainly been true for her and a few other writers I knew. I had somehow hoped that maybe my path would be a little less rocky. That wasn’t to be.

My writing journey began in earnest when Amy Knupp and I made a pact. We’d met in an online expecting group for mothers due in Jan/Feb 2000. In 2002, we got to talking about our mutual love for romance novels and gradually the conversation shifted to our love of writing. I’d written stories since I was a very young child, all for my own enjoyment. I’m still not sure what prompted me to lay down the challenge, but there it was. I told her we should go for it. Try to become published authors. I think she thought I was a little nuts, but I doubt she took much convincing of that fact.

We had no idea what publication entailed. We just knew we loved to read and write. We knew what we wanted to write, just not how to sell it. We joined the RWA, weeded through countless internet informationals about publication, joined critique groups, yahoo groups, basically we dove in head first.

My first love was historicals and so this was my focus. My first, horrid as it was, garnered few requests. But I learned a lot in writing that novel. My second netted significantly more requests and a lengthy conversation with an agent who loved the book but wanted me to revise it. When it came time to write that third novel, I really wanted to create something different. It paid off when I got an offer from two agents in April of 2004.

The agent I chose shopped the historical. We got a few rejections and then she emailed me to say an editor really loved it but wanted to talk about revisions. I contacted the editor and we brainstormed solutions. I rewrote the book and sent it back to my agent.

During this time, I began having doubts about my relationship with the agent. I knew in my gut that this wasn’t a good fit for me, but it was really hard to act on that knowledge. When I finally severed the relationship, I emailed the editor who had my manuscript only for her to tell me she was leaving the publisher. She passed my manuscript on to another editor, who, you guessed it, also left.

This was a very difficult time for me. I’d fired my agent, came close with an editor only to have that opportunity completely disappear. Suddenly I was faced with having to start over. Completely over. I was so burned out on historicals that I couldn’t face writing another. It had taken six, agonizingly long months just to finish the last one and every word was spilled painfully onto the page. I was so ready to give up and throw in the towel.

I took a little time off, nursed my wounds. It was during this time that Amy sold and I was ecstatically happy for her even amidst my gloom and doom. I knew I wanted to do something different and that I wasn’t ready to jump back in the agent search again. I wanted to have fun again. I knew it wasn’t going to happen for me with historical. Not right this moment, so if I had any hope of publishing, I was going to have to reinvent myself.

I loved ebooks and erotic romance and read the genre voraciously. I began writing contemporary erotic romance with the intent of submitting to an epublisher. Once I took the pressure off myself, I began to enjoy writing again. Still, I wasn’t doing much in the way of building a career and was writing when I wanted or not at all if I didn’t feel like it.

I got an idea for a novella, and I’d never even attempted one. All of my work leaned toward ludicrously long. So I wasn’t even sure I could pull it off. When I finished it, I had every intention of submitting it to my editor at the epublisher who had bought my first erotic romance. I sent it to Amy because I thought it was good, but my perception was so skewed by my own funk that I had little confidence in my opinions. She read it then told me that this was the one. She told me to send it to agents and if I didn’t she was going to hurt me.

At this point, I figured I had nothing to lose, but still, I wasn’t really ready to go back to an exhaustive agent search. So I made a list of six agents who I knew were selling in the genre and I queried them. I got four rejections, never heard from the fifth and the sixth wanted to see the full. I wasn’t confident of my chances.

I sent off the full, and during this short period of time, EVERYONE around me started selling. And I do mean everyone. It was surreal. This was when I hit rock bottom. Everyone around me was moving forward and I was stuck in the mud. I was so very happy for authors I considered dear friends, but it only heightened my despair. When would it be me? Would it EVER be me?

I began seriously researching job options. My plan was to stick out the summer when the kids were home but in the fall when they went back to school, I was going to hang up writing, at least full time, and get a job that at least offered a paycheck.

If that wasn’t enough, I had a string of really horrible luck, health wise. I got a kidney stone. Had a procedure to remove it and then was hospitalized with complications. Found out during the course of the treatment for the kidney stone that I needed my gall bladder removed. I literally spent the entire summer in the hospital.

In between medical procedures, I went on vacation with the family. I brought my laptop but didn’t have internet. I had to drive to an art gallery that had wireless and sit out in the parking lot to check my email. The Tuesday after Memorial Day, I got an email from the agent who’d requested my manuscript asking if we could set up a time on the following Friday to talk on the phone. Still, I wasn’t expecting much.

Fast forward to Friday, she called, loved the story and wanted to represent me. I had a very frank conversation with her about what had not worked with my first agent. She allayed a lot of my fears, and we rang off with the agreement to work together. She said she’d see what interest she could drum up. I was a bit in shock and resigned myself to another long wait that may or may not result in a sale.

Two hours later, I went back up to the art gallery to send a few emails and I had an email from my new agent saying that Cindy Hwang was taking my manuscript home with her over the weekend and we might have an answer on Monday. MONDAY. Good grief. I was still in denial over signing with another agent. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what this might mean.

Monday afternoon, my agent called with an offer from Berkley. Two book deal. I was stunned. In the space of two days, I’d gone from having no agent, no options, to a two book deal. And all I could think of was how right Amy had been, that the sale had come at my lowest point. In two days, things had completely and utterly turned around for me.