Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Represented by Marsal/Lyon Literary Agents!

It's official! The paperwork has been signed, sealed, and delivered. I've joined the Marsal/Lyon Literary Agency, and I'll be working with Jill Marsal!

Here's how it went down. I had a partial of my single-title novel, Mystic Cowboy, in with another agency. That agency opened up a self-publishing arm, which is a conflict of interest to an agent's position. This caused a huge dust-up on the Internets (and 'dust-up' is a professional term). So I withdrew my partial. The agent in question offered to discuss my concerns about this publishing venture, so on July 29th--a Friday--we set up a phone call for Tuesday, August 2nd. The agent was very nice, and her answers were okay, but at the end of the conversation, I asked what the status of my partial was. She couldn't recall if I had sent her a partial or a full, what the title of the book was, what it was about, or even when I had sent it. In other words, she hadn't taken the thirty seconds to even call up my email to her.

Clearly, this was not the agent for me. I withdrew it a second time.

So that was Tuesday, and I began to consider my other options. On Wednesday, August 3rd, an agent I follow on Twitter named Kevan Lyon, posted something. I'm not sure what--the exact words escape me. It was along the lines of her having worked through her backlog, or cleaned out her inbox, or maybe she was open to submissions again. I don't know. I do know that I read that tweet and thought, "Huh. I've heard of Kevan Lyon. Maybe now would be a good time to submit." I checked the Marsal/Lyon website and saw that I knew several of their clients. And they only wanted a query letter. I can send query letters in my sleep by now, so Wednesday night, I fired that letter off.

Then, because so many things in publishing move so very slowly, I sort of immediately forgot about it. If you have ever asked me to get something out of the freezer so it can defrost for supper, you'll know I'm not kidding when I say it floated from my mind. I could try to make it sound nice by saying I decided not to think about the query for another month or so--most likely, the earliest I would hear back, but the simple truth is, I forgot about it.

For a whole 24 hours. Thursday night, The Kid had come down with a fever and went to bed way early. My husband and I enjoyed this bonus adult time by watching a movie while I worked on my new website (which, I promise, is coming soon!). Out of the blue, I get an email from Jill Marsal, which, in its entirety, read:

Kevan forwarded your email to me.  I would be happy to look at your manuscript.  Please include the cover letter below.

The 'cover letter' was the query letter. I sat there in stunned silence for a moment. Had I just gotten a request for a full--from an agent I hadn't even queried--less than 25 hours after I sent the query letter?

Yes. So I fired Mystic Cowboy right back to her, making sure to change the query letter to her name. This time, I didn't actually forget about it. But I promised myself I wouldn't slip into that 'gotta-check-the-email-every-five-seconds' mode of hyper vigilance. Honest!

So the next day was Friday, August 5th. The Kid was just sick enough that we got to stay home (there are worse things than sick days on Fridays) but not so sick that he couldn't demand cartoons all day long.  So we hung out, watching everything except Spongebob (I detest!) and generally just having a do-nothing day. I worked on that darned website some more. I took a break to eat lunch, came back, turned on the computer, and had a message from Jill asking for my phone number and a good time to talk.

I had brought my dessert--a small bowl of jelly beans--back to the computer. I sat there, completely stunned, chewing a Jelly Belly. Seriously? It had been less than 36 hours since I'd queried the agency!

I blinked a couple of times, ate a jelly bean, gauged how much time is left in Toy Story 3, and sent her an email with my phone number that says I could talk this afternoon, as I was home with a not-so-sick child, or we could set up a time for next week. I was clearly banking on the next-week option, because I hit send, put another jelly bean in my mouth, and the phone rang.

Sheer panic is knowing that you've got to answer the phone in your best professional voice and not only do you have to hope that your kid doesn't start screaming about toys in the garbage incinerator, but you also have to get your upper teeth unstuck from your lower teeth. Also, you *know* deep in your heart that you're supposed to have intelligent, rational questions ready to ask potential agents--and all you can think about is the jelly-bean cement gluing your mouth shut.

Ah, the glamorous life of an author.

So I manage to get my mouth unstuck and answer the phone before it goes to the machine. Jill and I had a very nice conversation in which she told me she liked Mystic and would like to represent it and I made a borderline fool of myself babbling. I mean, I was so discombobulated that I asked for the number of one of her clients so badly that she said, "Why do you want that?" And I said, "So I can talk to someone and make sure you're a nice person." There was a two second pause, and she said, "So you want a reference?" DUH. YES. I tried to laugh off the fact that I work with words for a living and couldn't do a decent job describing a reference.

But Jill is such a nice person that she didn't seem to be scared off by my strangeness or The Kid shouting about toys burning up in the background. She emailed me a reference within minutes, and I had a lovely talk with Robin Perini, whom I had met at the RWA conference in New York a few weeks earlier, right before she won the Golden Heart (for which you should go and congratulate her!). She told me that Jill replied to emails within hours, that she and Kevan worked as a team, and that Jill was an all-around awesome agent. I followed this up with some other emails, but that all dovetailed with my brief experiences with the agency. Those things, plus someone to help me navigate contracts, are what I need in an agent.

So I mailed the contracts that Monday, and yesterday got my signed copy back. It's official, in that warm-and-fuzzy legal sort of way. I'm incredibly excited about this new phase of my career and thrilled that Mystic has another chance to make it to a shelf. Jill has already offered me priceless guidance in the few short weeks we've been working together. Good things are happening!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My First Book Signing!

I'm being interviewed over at The Local Q today about the upcoming book signing I'm doing for Eleanore Gray this weekend at Great Debates Books in Quincy from 10 until 1 on Saturday. In addition to signing Eleanore Gray, I'll be answering any questions about the self-publishing process and how that differs from the 'tradition' publication process, so make plans to stop by!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I am in a state of thrilled shock.

A Man of His Word is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

Here's a funny story about Amazon and it's rare and wondrous ranking systems. The moment the pre-order went live, my mother (Hi, Mom!) ordered herself six copies. This jumped me out of no ranking all the way to 42 thousand and some-odd change. But more than that, it put me at the following:

#3 in Books > 4-for-3 Books > Romance > Series > Silhouette Desire

So on a sub-, sub-, sub-, sub-, sub list, I was number three! PARTY AT MY HOUSE!

Then my mother (Hi, Mom!) called my Gram (now 96 and 1/2 years old) and told her about the availablity. Gram told Mom to order her six books (both of these kind women overlooking the fact that I was going to GIVE them books). Mom did as requested.

Suddenly, I jumped up to the mid-39 thousands in rank and--get this:

#1 in Books > 4-for-3 Books > Romance > Series > Silhouette Desire

For a brief, amazing time in my life, I was ranked higher than Brenda Jackson. (Yes, I expect you to know who she is. Look her up!)

While it is thrilling to say that I'm #1!, the cold, hard facts are, I sold 12 books. Just 12. Not hundred, not thousand. Twelve lonely little books. To my mommy. And in the bigger scheme of things, I was still 39-thousand-some-odd. 

But for those of you who are wondering what makes a best-seller on Amazon, the take-away fact is that unless you're in the top 500 on the Amazon Bestsellers Rank, selling as many as two books will significantly impact your rankings, potentially jumping you from 100,000 up to 30,000. What does that mean? That you sold two books. 

So if you're new to this whole Authorial thing, like many of us are, don't let checking the rankings be something that takes you away from writing. The book comes first. Rankings come in at about 312th.