The way I ended up signing a contract with a major publisher is not the usual path most authors take. I didn’t have to deal with all the foofaraw of perfecting pitches, querying agents and collecting rejections, hoping to sign with an agency and finally submitting to publishers, all the while, hoping and praying that someone along the line was looking for that exact kind of story and that they saw it before the other three novels similar in concept. It’s a process that can normally take months, even years.
All I did was upload a manuscript.
Long story short, Harper Voyager held an open call for submissions, I uploaded my manuscript, and now I have a book deal. If you want the long version, you can read the official announcement on my blog (link opens a new tab).
To be honest, sometimes I feel like I cheated, that by bypassing the headache of querying and submitting to publishers I don’t really deserve to have a contract. Part of that is a tendency to discredit my successes, but the truth is that I didn’t work it for it, not like the other authors pursuing traditional publication, dealing with the stress of queries and rejections, over and over again. How is it fair that I get a contract and they don’t?
And the truth is, I was lucky.
Harper Voyager ended up choosing my book for their new imprint because of two simple facts: I had a good book, and the timing was right. That’s it. There’s no trick, no secret, no special knowledge bestowed upon me by the publishing gods.
I just happened to have a book that one of the editors was looking for, and my book crossed their desk at just the right time.
All because I saw an opportunity and wasn’t afraid to take it.
How easy it would have been to think that I didn’t have a chance so I might as well not even enter. But here’s the thing: I have this unfailing optimism. Despite all the disappointment I’ve experienced in my life so far, whether with my writing or general life things, I still believe that if I hope for something hard enough, and work for it, then eventually, it will happen. It’s that millennialist mindset that everyone finds so annoying.
But because of that optimism, I’m constantly thinking of what ifs, dreaming of things that, realistically, I’m unlikely to ever experience, and yet I talk about them as if it’s only a matter of time until it happens.
When I sign a contract with a major publisher…
When I’m a bestselling author…
When someone makes a movie of my book…
It’s never a matter of if, but when.
This optimism drives my husband crazy because I put a lot of hope into slim chances and unlikely futures, and most of the time, when they don’t result in what I was hoping, I freefall into a wallowing pit of despair and disappointment.
And still, this boundless optimism survives, this hopeful ambition for the future. It’s what drives me to take chances, to accept the possibility of something unpleasant, to take risks, if only for the opportunity of something greater than I could achieve if I just played it safe and only did what I knew would end in success.
There was a poster in my junior year English class that I looked at every single day for a year, and the quote has stuck with me ever since (as clichéd as it might be):
I hope, and I dream.
But most importantly, I try.
So when I saw that Harper Voyager was holding an open call for submissions, it wasn’t really a matter of if I should enter, but what it would mean if I won.
I knew that the odds were against me, that hundreds of authors would submit their manuscripts, that my book would be one of hundreds, if not thousands. The chances of my book being chosen were beyond slim, and yet… there was a chance.
And if I did not try, then that was a chance lost.
At worst, the publisher would pass me over, and I’d be no worse off than before. I would keep on trying to find my audience, seeking any other opportunities that might help me do that, whether it was with this book or another, an open call from another publisher or a determined flurry of queries five years from now.
To me, far worse would have been to disregard the opportunity, to balk at the odds and not enter my book. If I didn’t try, then of course I wouldn’t succeed.
So I polished the various entry components to the best of my ability and made sure I followed the submission guidelines and double-checked and triple-checked that I hadn’t screwed anything up, and when submissions opened, I crossed my fingers, held my breath, and pressed submit.
If nothing else, at least I tried.
The original plan was that Harper Voyager would notify the to-be-published authors by the end of the following January (the submissions window being in October), and so when I didn’t get an email by that date, I just assumed they passed on it, and I forgot about it. I’ve entered contests before and never made it beyond the first stage. I never thought that the book would actually make it through the slush pile and that I would end up with a contract. It was just a hope. A what if. An opportunity.
I think if I had known the truth—that the publisher had received over 4500 submissions and that they were going to respond to every single one and that my book was still in the running for months and months and months—I think I would have been a little more involved in the whole thing. But I never checked for updates. I never wondered who might have signed contracts because of the contest. I had other things to worry about, and it quickly slipped my mind.
Oddly enough, I’m thankful for that. I can’t imagine the sort of anxiety of knowing that my book was still under consideration as the remaining submissions dwindled. It would have occupied my every thought, all hours of the day, until finally, that fated email arrived.
Instead, it was a surprise—a wonderful, bewildering surprise, a year and a half after i submitted the novel. And in a way, it’s validated my book. It’s validated me. I’ve always known that I had a good story; it just needed to find its audience. And now someone else, someone who has the means to reach that audience, thinks so too.
It’s a wonderful feeling, someone taking a chance on me, on my book. And I now have an opportunity to share my words, my story, my world with even more people than before. Because I wasn’t afraid to try, because I believed in myself and in my book, I now have a book contract with a major publisher. And while it’s not a guaranteed success, I’m one step closer to reaching my audience, to fulfilling my dreams.
All because I dared to hope.