Most people think that authors get a story idea, they write it, they have an editor look at it, then BAM they get it published. I'm here to dispel that myth. It's a long, sometimes painful process of self-discovery and a test of resilience. Here is my experience with publishing my debut novel...
When I was writing my first book, we had just moved to Montana and I had taken a few years off work to be home with my kids. During the endless winter days with long kid naps, I occupied my time with reading, writing, and ancestry searches. When I searched my husband's family who settled French Canada, I found a history rich with unbelievable details and intrigue. What a great book this would make, I thought.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019. I had self-published my first book and was still very much in over my head in the writing world. And the Daughter of the King story scared the wits out of me. Writing about religious persecution in the 1600s? Not the best idea for a new author. But after a few years of this story nudging me, one afternoon in August, I took a stab at it. Isabelle Colette and her world in La Rochelle started to form.
I combed college campus libraries and bookstores for books on King Louis XIV, 1660 France, Huguenots, European history, the settling of French Canada, and of course, devoured everything I could find on the Filles du Roi (Daughters of the King). I wrote and wrote and erased and wrote some more.
By this time, I had decided that I was going to be an author, come hell or high water. So I joined the Women's Fiction Writers Association. They paired me with a critique group of fellow authors. I had been working every day on what was then titled Beautiful Rebel (residents of La Rochelle call their city "belle rebelle").
My critique group formed an instant bond. We tore through each other's manuscripts, coached each other, pushed each other. There were tears and moments of triumph and lots of feedback to help me grow. I took classes, watched webinars. Had beta readers. And still, it wasn't ready. My writing needed a lot of work. So I kept at it. Every day. Sometimes all day Saturday and Sunday, I read craft books and made notes.
Finally, it was time. I pitched it at an agent event through WFWA and on Twitter. Crickets.
Okay, maybe I'm not ready.
Back at it. I rewrote scenes, erased chapters. Cried a bit. Dreamt about Isabelle almost every night. Hired another editor and attended classes with my local writing group. Now it was time to query.
A query is a letter you send to literary agents to pitch your book idea. If they like it, they ask for pages. Finding the ones that represent your genre and are open to queries requires a whole lot of research and patience. And agents on average sign about 1% of their submissions. One percent. I sent out my first round of a dozen. Crickets again.
Turns out, writing queries is another animal. There's a science to it and I didn't have the secret. Back at it.
I took query workshops and rewrote my manuscript for maybe the tenth time. Not just a few words... the whole thing.
Another batch of queries. This time, a few bites. A partial request for 50 pages and a full request! I sent them over and celebrated. Progress.
Both loved the idea but didn't fall in love. Agent code for, your writing is not there yet. Another revision. More classes. More beta readers. And yep, more queries. I was up to about 60 by this point and also threw in some small presses that fellow WFWA authors recommended. A small press is an independent publisher that doesn't always require an agent. The big houses (Random House/Penguin, Simon & Schuster, etc...) only accept agented pitches.
By 75 queries, and not one bite, I had all but given up. Not on Isabelle, but on pushing this story. I was tired of being told no. I decided to switch gears and write whatever the hell I wanted without worry about pitching or querying. Out came My Boring Life. And I loved every second of writing that book. It was pure joy.
Check it out here:
Daughter of the King had been shelved. I hadn't looked at it in months. It was too painful and I was too close to it.
And then, a response from a press. They wanted to see the manuscript. So I sent it over. And I started to prepare to publish My Boring Life. The press responded with an R&R- a revise and resubmit. The notes said that I could spin a tale and had a talent for storytelling but I wasn't there yet. But this time, he gave me specific feedback that I could use. So, I opened the story again, and I saw it so clearly. He was right. Everything he said resonated with me. And let me tell you, having one person say that there is talent there is enough to fuel you for months. So I tore through it. Another revision. Major surgery. But this time, I felt it. The story started to click and I knew that it hadn't been ready before. But it was ready now.
I revised and in the process received another request from a second press. With some help from my author friends, I had a finalized MS and resubmitted to both presses.
A snowy morning this last December, I received an email that one wanted to publish it. I almost cried. The other press asked for some changes still, but I liked my offer from Black Rose. So I signed the contract. The story that started in my head back in 2017 will finally be published on December 16, 2021. And you know what? I'm a better writer for having been through this process. Not just technically, but I'm more tenacious, more committed. I can handle rejection and I understand the publishing world a bit better. I'm tougher. And that is a requirement to be a writer.
Pre-order for Daughter of the King will be up very soon. It's an understatement to say that I'm proud of this accomplishment. I love this story so much that I plan to write a series. But for now, I'm enjoying the ride.
~Sip Coffee, Savor Books