Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ask the Authors: Wednesday

Ask the Authors: Wednesday

If you have questions you’d like us to ask during a future “Ask the Authors” week, send it to As always, thanks for joining us!

Today’s question: Did you sell your first novel over the transom, through an agent, through a conference contact, or some other way?

I was going to self publish my first novel because I didn't think anyone would be interested in the crazy thing (The Darwin Conspiracy). So I came to my first CBA Convention to talk to publishers about the business of publishing. But one of them said "Why don't you send us the manuscript?" So I did and they published it, and that's what got me started. -- James Scott Bell

I have no idea what "over the transom" even means! Is that an unsolicited manuscript? Ha! I'm such a loser! I was able to have my first manuscript read because of a personal contact in the industry. --Lisa Samson [Yes, Lisa, that’s what we meant. ]

My first contract was for four books. Having established a friendly relationship with an editor over several years of conferences, at one conference she told me her new publisher was looking for someone to write a historical fiction series. I asked what they were looking for in the series and custom made a proposal to suit their needs. — Jack Cavanaugh

Over the transom. I sent out 20 manuscripts and got rejected 17 times. I broke all the rules, sending my entire manuscript, no query, no name a rule, I probably broke it. I wouldn’t advise that method, but sometimes the Lord blesses us in spite of our ignorance and arrogance. I ended up with three contract offers for that first novel and here I am. ––Deborah Raney

Slush pile (over the transom). Sold it, then withdrew it because I was hearing horror tales about some bad stuff happening on the "inside." Then I decided I didn't even like the thing, so I shredded it. Wrote another book. Also sent it over the transom (to a different publisher). It got lost, then got found. Then got sold. -BJ Hoff

I sold it myself. But that was in the early 90’s. I recently polled the head of a very large publishing house for my website Q& A and he said that all writers need an agent. He doesn’t look at any manuscripts except through an agent. There may be one or two publishers now who will still look at author-sold manuscripts. --Patty Hickman

I sold over the transom. I sold the first 15 books without an agent but I wouldn’t recommend it in today’s competitive market. You need a champion, but I’m also aware of the can’t-get-an-agent-without-a-contract syndrome. Agents are always looking for saleable manuscripts so if you’re constantly getting rejections from agents and houses it’s time to call in someone with professional knowledge that can advise you about your work. –Lori Copeland

My first novel was nearly sold twice, both times through an agent. The first time an agent in New York managed to get an offer letter from Simon and Schuster (an offer email, actually). Unfortunately, this was before secular publishing houses understood the size of the Christian readership, so they made their offer contingent upon modifications to the novel that included changing references from “Jesus” to “God.” I refused, and they withdrew their offer. The agent felt I had been unreasonable and dropped me. A friend, hearing this story, suggested that I contact his agent, which I did, and that agent (who is the same man representing me today—Greg Johnson) sold the novel to Zondervan. —Athol Dickson

First book (a true crime) by proposal, via an agent. First novel via an agent. (Reference yesterday’s question and answer.) ~Brandilyn Collins

Our first manuscript sold over the transom. Our next, to a different publisher, sold via a conference contact. Actually, Mel and I had to use teamwork to sell via conference contact, because once we were at the conference, I suddenly developed a horrible case of shyness and ended up sitting behind a ficus tree at a "meet and greet" party. Mel had to make the contact with the editor. It developed into a great relationship with that publisher, so perhaps I should hide behind trees more often, and let Mel take care of the business side of things. --Hannah Alexander (Cheryl's answer)

By 1998 I was already successful as a nonfiction writer, so two houses were willing to take a look at what I had in mind with fiction. God bless Karen Ball for signing me with Multnomah for my contemporaries and Lisa Bergren for signing me with WaterBrook for my historicals! The scary part was being an established author in nonfiction and taking the leap to fiction. Would the writing be good enough? Would I find a readership? Those are fears we all share, of course, previously published or not! --- Liz Curtis Higgs

I sold my first novel over the transom. I queried 21 publishers, and sold it to the first publisher who requested the full. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

I had been writing children’s books and nonfiction when my editor suggested I try an adult novel. I thought, I guess I can do that. My next question was: “So . . . what kind of novel do you want?” I was so clueless. –Angela Hunt

"Some other way." Lisa Bergren, who was editor for Multnomah's Palisades line at the time, overheard me at the big Christian Booksellers' trade show when I was talking with Francine Rivers. I told Francine if I was ever going to write, it'd be something like the Palisades romances. Lisa contacted me a few days later, telling me she'd overheard me and was I serious? If so, she wanted me to send her a proposal. I've always believed if God opens a door I need to at least check it out, so I sat down and put a proposal together. That became my first novel, Reunion, and I've been going ever since. --Karen Ball


At 12:14 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks for bringing us these answers.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger PatriciaW said...

I'm finding these Q&As very interesting.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

I'm loving these question days. Fun to read the answers and yet very informative.

Thanks, everyone!

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Ronie Kendig said...

Deb - Your answer was so relatable and encouraging. :-D Actually, they were all encouraging--hearing some tales of struggle and some connections.


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