I'm now less than 100 manuscript pages away from my targeted completion of this book, and yesterday I wrote a scene that had me squeeing like a fangirl. Actually, there's a lot of squeeworthy stuff in this book, and I figure if I'm pushing my own buttons, then it's bound to affect someone else the same way. I'm also doing a little bit of personal experience research. Some authors do stuff like skydiving or exploring haunted houses to research books. I'm messing with my hair. I mentioned last week that my heroine has curly hair and is stuck in a situation without conditioner or hair gel. Well, I haven't gone without conditioner and a ton of styling products in forever, so I'm not even sure what my hair would be like. Last night, I washed my hair by just scrubbing my scalp, used no conditioner or styling products, and braided it wet. Today I walked to the post office and got a bit sweaty (which also fits with the book). I'm already seeing that my hair doesn't stay in the braid and has lots of little frizzy bits flying around. We'll see what it looks like when I take the braid out tonight.
And anyone with curly hair will know that going without conditioner and styling products is almost as scary and extreme as skydiving for book research.
So, in my saga that traces my journey from corporate drone to unemployed failure to moderately successful author, we're now where I started the uphill climb to the moderately successful part. In the spring of 2003 I'd started to try to take more control of my writing career, but still wasn't having much success. In July of that year, I went to the Romance Writers of America national conference in New York. I'd set up some meetings with editors I'd worked with in the past, and I was optimistic that this would be the conference that would turn my career around. And it was, just not in the way I was expecting.
I came out of those meetings with requests for revised versions of some of the books I'd been working on for ages (in one case, the editor had seen an earlier version and thought that with some revision it would be perfect for what she was publishing then). By Friday afternoon of the conference, I was done with all my business and feeling like I was on my way. I tagged along with my friends to a reception a publisher was holding. The reception was to launch the latest attempt at a Harlequin romantic comedy line, and since I'd written for one of their previous lines, I thought crashing the reception by being dragged by my friends who wrote for the line would be a good chance for me to make yet another possible contact. For whatever odd reason, the reception was also the venue for launching the Luna fantasy imprint. While I was hovering and waiting to talk to the editor in charge of the romantic comedy line, another editor approached me and mentioned that she was one of the editors working on Luna, and did I have any questions? I mentioned that the guidelines said they were interested only in books with historical-like settings for their initial run, but might they ever consider a contemporary setting? She said they'd just bought a contemporary book. I said, "Oh, that's interesting, because I have this idea ..." And then I told her about that quirky Bridget Jones meets Harry Potter kind of idea I'd had, and she totally perked up, so I told her more, about the heroine being immune to magic and working for a magical company. I swear, I made up half the story just as I was talking to her, and she was definitely interested. The friend who was standing next to me said her nostrils were flaring, but I'm not sure it was that intense. She handed me her card and said she wanted to see it. I told her I hadn't written it, that what I'd just told her was all I had, and I had a few other things I was committed to getting done first, so it might be a while. She said, "Then what are you doing standing around here? Go work!"
So, there was an editor who actually thought it was a viable idea! But even then, I wasn't sure there was a market for it. Because I was still halfheartedly looking for an agent, I was keeping a grid with all my various projects, their status, where they'd been submitted, etc., and when I added this one to the grid, my note in the comments section was that I wasn't sure any other publisher would be interested, so this was a lower priority.
That fall, things started really looking up. One of my former client contacts who'd been laid off got a new job, and he needed help developing his new company's marketing materials. Then someone at another company I'd done work for called me about a project. I was making money again! And then in October, I finally started writing that quirky little book. I got three chapters and a synopsis done and sent them off to that editor, but I was having too much fun to stop, so I just wrote the whole book. In fact, I was having so much fun that when all the stuff I'd sent out that summer after my conference meetings was rejected (or else revisions were requested that I couldn't live with), I didn't care. By the time I was done with the book, I had a feeling I had something special, so I started looking for an agent. I queried and got a request for the first 50 pages in January 2004, then that agent offered to represent me in March. Around that time, I got a big freelance job that would take up the first half of the year, and that kept me distracted while the waiting game went on. That was also around the time I first saw the Infamous Red Stilettos at Nordstrom and swore I'd buy them when I sold the book. Rejections poured in all summer -- including one from that initial publisher who'd spurred me to write the book (though, oddly enough, not from that editor). And then I got the book deal at the end of July.
I guess I'm currently more on a downward slope again, as I'm not under contract and not even under option, and because I've been focusing on the fiction writing, my freelance contacts, except for one ongoing project, have mostly dried up. In a way, I'm back where I was in the fall of 2003, when I was writing a book that wasn't contracted, having no idea of where or how it would be marketed, just because it was fun. But a few factors make things a little better now than it was then. I already have an agent. I have a decent publishing track record. My earlier books are still selling to foreign publishers and doing quite well overseas, so money keeps coming in. If none of my next few projects sell, then I suppose I'll have to reconsider a few things, but I'm nowhere near giving up on anything. I'm still firmly convinced that I'll hit the tipping point with my series somehow and get a big enough sales boost to get book 5 published.
As an aside, in case you're interested in the timeline in the life of a book, from idea to publication, here's how Enchanted, Inc. went (this isn't necessarily typical, but from what I've heard from other authors, it's not atypical, either):
January 2002: Initial idea
July 2003: Initial publisher interest in idea
September 2003: Character development, plot outlining and research trip to New York
October 2003: Wrote and submitted book proposal, continued writing first draft.
December 21, 2003: Finished first draft
January 2004: Revised book, queried agent, got request for partial manuscript
March 2004: Got agent request for full manuscript, got offer for agent representation
April 2004: Did revisions with agent
May 2004: Agent submitted book
July 22, 2004: Got book deal (yay!)
September 2004: Copy edits
October 2004: Got cover art
December 2004: Galley proofs
May 2005: Book was published