Be sure to read Chapter 1 first!
It’s now deep into Y2K (for you youngsters, this is what we called the year 2000), and another six months pass with this so-called agent. Though a lovely grandmotherly-type who, when I ask if there’s anything I should change about the manuscript, tells me—as a good grandmother would— that “It’s perfect just the way it is.”
That’s probably because she never read it.
Anyway, nothing has happened for A WHOLE YEAR (I laugh at young me who thinks a year in publishing is a long time.), so I don’t sign with Agent-Who-Charges-Me-Money again when the contract runs out—and I get to pocket my $150!
Through this all my hope is so bright, I can’t see anything ahead except possibility.
I decide agents are a waste of time (I will eat these words later), and I send the first three chapters of the manuscript out directly to editors at pub houses (based on my research in The Writer’s Market) and receive (rather quickly) several replies. They all say similar things like, the voice of the pov character is spot on, the plot has some holes, but your characters are really authentic. Two editors (who happen to both be Jennifers, which I see as a sign from the universe as a “YES” because my big sister has that very same name) ask for the rest of the book.
I stuff those manila envelopes (again) and include my SASEs and head back to the post office. I pray, light candles, and tell way too many of my friends and family that this IS IT!
I wait. Something I never really get good at. I go to work, correct papers, plan lessons, go to grad school at night, clean the Money Pit (a.k.a. our house), and work on the sequel to the first book. I play with my cats and visit my niece and nephew who are 1 and 2, respectively. My husband and I, married not quite a year at this point, already sign up for couple’s counseling…and partner yoga.
It’s a stressful time.
Then, a miracle happens and Jennifer 1 and 2 both respond back within just a few days of each other. They both give me notes for revisions. Although I’m still fairly green at publishing, I know enough from devouring countless issues of Writer’s Digest that this is actually a potential problem because neither one knows about the other, and the fact that they want me to revise means…well, the truth is, I have no idea what it means.
I realize that this is when an agent—one who didn’t charge me—would come in handy.
So I make a real ballsy move, one that I will later learn is a real no-no. I call one of the agents who had rejected me…but in a positive way. One who complimented me on my voice and characters (but insulted my lack of a cohesive plot). The conversation goes something like this:
“Hello, my name is Hannah Goodman, and I would like to speak to Jane Agent.”
Jane Agent: Yes.
Me: Uh, hello.
Me: Well, IknowyourejectedmebutI’minasituationanddon’tknowwhattodo—
Jane: Excuse me?
Me: I have this manuscript that two editors seem to want and I don’t know what to do!
Jane: I see.
Then I launch into the WHOLE story, including that I once had an agent who I paid. This woman, who I am intentionally not naming, was patient and kind and ultimately, without signing me, stayed the course for a few weeks. She advised that I go ahead and make the changes to the manuscript and send them back to each Jennifer. Then, when I hear back again from the Jennifers, I should call Jane Agent again.
Meantime, she wanted me to (re) send her the book, too—the same one she rejected.
“Right now,” she told me, “You don’t need to tell either one about the other. Once they offer you a contract, then we use it as negotiation.”
It was the “we” part I hung on to. Oh, and the negotiation part was pretty awesome, too.
Here is the thing about all this…so far, to me, I was on this fast-track to publishing success. It never really occurred to me that this all could fall apart in an instant.
And then it did.
Eventually—my memory, as well as journals about this time period, are not totally clear with the details—both Jennifers respond. Neither one tells me yay or nay. One tells me, unfortunately she is moving pub houses, would I like to come with her? The other one gets a new job and basically can’t move forward with my manuscript.
I call Jane Agent. It’s a three second conversation that ends with her saying stoically, “Good luck.”
Words that I will hear again and again throughout the journey.
Upcoming…Chapter 3: Now what?