“My book came out yesterday!”
“Oh yeah? How do you get published?”
First, you get an agent.
In 2006, I finished my first novel. I started querying. By 2007, it became clear that no one wanted it. Barbara Lowenstein sent me my first form rejection letter.
In 2009, I finished THE GEARHEART. Again, I started querying. The only real response came from Laurie McLean, then of Larsen Pomada. I met her through Philippa Ballantine.
Laurie said, in a nutshell, “Great imagination! Your craft sucks!”
I spent 3 years wasting time on that book, trying to get it right, rewriting it from scratch. I never did.
In 2011, I wrote two long novellas for THE GEARHEART.
In 2012, I finished THE GEARHEART: LION & SNAKE, which I totally count as my fourth book. Again, Laurie McLean was the only person to send me a nice response. She said THE GEARHEART series wasn’t for her, and she wasn’t interested in revisions. It’s the most crushing moment of my writing career to date.
I started writing EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW after the 2012 election. I was angry with conservative politics, and the way they would affect my family. The book was nothing like my earlier novels, and it felt so arbitrary. At the time, I wondered if I’d lost my mind. Surely, there wouldn’t be a market for a gay, autistic, dystopian, Southern Gothic, horror book with literary pretensions.
I finished my edits in late 2013. I was sure no one would buy such a weird manuscript. I checked Laurie’s website, and it said she wasn’t accepting submissions. She was the only agent with which I had a working relationship.
In early 2014, I asked her if she’d consider reading EVERY MOUNTAIN, and she said, “I’ll read anything you send me.”
She got back to me in a week. “I want to send this to my junior agent, Connor Goldsmith.” She told me she loved the book, and wanted to sign me, but that she already had a large stable of clients, and Connor was hungry for sales. She said the choice was mine: Connor or Laurie.
I chose Connor. I waited a tense two weeks, and in March, he offered to represent me.
From there, it was pretty easy. We workshopped a query letter together, and he threw in the stuff he knew would attract people. We got a few rejections, but nothing too big.
In mid-December, he emailed to say that Jonathan Oliver at Solaris was interested. Jonathan made a generous offer, and I finally had my book deal.
Then came the waiting…
I was allowed to announce the sale in February of 2015, and in March, they sent me the first edit pass. I hit “accept all” and re-read the manuscript, tracking any changes I made. Yes, I know that makes me weird. I got it back to them after a week, and they told me my official release date: October 25th, 2016. It was a coveted holiday spot, so I was thrilled to get it.
I then spent a year and a half just kind of… hanging out. It was tough when October 25th, 2015 rolled around because I was like, “Oh, god. I still have a whole year to go.” I got my cover design from Jeffrey Alan Love somewhere in there, and was floored by its perfect representation of my work.
I wrote two and a half more books for myself, and then my final edit pass arrived. Again, I hit “accept all,” tracked changes and reread it. I got it back to them in one day.
I think that was the best part: seeing that after 2 years, I still liked my book. Everyone has done that thing where they create something they love and dig it up later, only to find a HORRIBLE ZOMBIE INSTEAD. That painting you loved? Crap. That book you wrote? Crap. But I still loved EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW, and it was affirming to have to reread it directly before the release.
And now it’s here. And people are buying it. Every bookstore in Huntsville sold out. I’m getting reports it sold out elsewhere, too. It’s surreal to see myself on the shelf with all of the authors I love.
So yeah. That’s how you get published.