If you’re like me, you send what they ask for.
I’d been writing, and making mistakes, and querying and making mistakes (but learning from them) for about two years. Then, in January 2014, I twitter pitched a PB manuscript and received some interest. Although it was not the first bit of interest I’d had from a contest, (I’d entered many and learned from each one) it was the first interest directly from a publisher.
Jessica Schmeidler, an editor at Anaiah Press, asked for a picture book manuscript I’d written about a rude and stubborn cow. I gladly sent it with a query that very day. A few days after that, I received an email from Ms. Schmeidler saying my picture book manuscript wasn’t quite right for them. But, she had seen my twitter bio and visited my website and saw that I also write middle grade. (How cool is that?) So when she asked what I had in MG, I sent her a synopsis of my current work in progress, TREE ROPER, about a one-eyed boy and his summer goal of cosmetic surgery, which I was revising and preparing to resubmit to agents.
She liked the synopsis and asked if she could see the manuscript. I was thrilled, and sent the manuscript. When she got back to me (while I was still in revisions) she gave me an R&R. She liked the premise and much of the story but thought some things should change to reach the audience she had in mind.
Since most of her suggestions for revision were already recommended by one or more of my trustworthy beta readers or CPs, (You absolutely need honest beta readers and blunt CPs if you want to improve) I rolled most of her recommendations into the current revisions I was making and planned to resubmit to her with my next batch of agents I queried. I finished revisions in late April and sent out my agent query letters and also sent the R&R to Ms. Schmeidler.
At this point, I wasn’t expecting much response from her since I didn’t’ think I’d changed the manuscript enough for her to embrace it. Also, she was an editor with a new small Christian publisher and in my mind, my book did not scream religion! Thus, I didn’t think I was a good fit for them.
But Ms. Schmeidler loved the new manuscript and on May 2, Anaiah Press offered me a contract!
What the…are you kidding me? Now again, I ask – What would you do?
I know there are scary stories out there about new publishers, and I really wanted an agent to market my book to all the big publishing players. But the reality was, here was a professional editor who loved my book (I could feel the passion in her emails) and who was prepared to champion it to publication. And I, on the other hand, was an overworked stay home dad trying to share a snippet of my family and story with the world. I still considered myself a newbie in the writing world although I’d been writing this particular story (inspired by my one-eyed daughter) off and on for over two years. But now I had a clear looking path to publication!
I asked for two weeks to consider the offer and sent out nudge letters to the nine agents who had my new query and/or revised manuscript.
That two week wait was perhaps the longest, most drawn out affair I’ve ever experienced. I waited, prayed, worried, scoured the contract, researched, and waited some more.
During that time, gracious agents congratulated me on my offer and bowed out for various reasons, and although I hadn’t heard back from all of them by the end of the two week stretch, I knew I’d be going with Anaiah Press and senior editor Jessica Schmeidler. I felt that they were the right publisher to help me get TREE ROPER out into the world.
Now, I just shake my head. It still doesn't seem real. Who knew when I set out to twitter pitch a picture book in January about a stubborn and rude cow, I’d make a connection which would ultimately land my debut middle grade novel deal? I didn’t, but I think that’s pretty cool. Thanks, Jessica Schmeidler and Anaiah Press!