Short story: I've just accepted an offer of representation with Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group.
Long story: Nine months ago, my wife and I took a big risk. We reversed our familial positions.
Since the start of our relationship, following into our marriage, each of us have always had full-time jobs. She's been a flight attendant. I worked in the wine industry. We moved to New York for a couple of years, then returned to our home in Texas; I changed managing jobs from a small, mom and pop operation in Manhattan to a massive nationwide company called Total Wine in Dallas.
Through it all, I had this nugget of a dream to be a full-time author.
It always seemed like a pie in the sky type of dream, the type you're chastised for as a kid because you need more realistic options. As the years progressed, I couldn't let it go, so on subway rides to work, any spare pocket of time at my job, I'd jot down notes for a book. I wrote my first book while living in NYC, submitted it to literary agencies...and got nothing in return.
SIDENOTE for those unaware---there are various levels of gatekeepers on the path to publishing a book. The first, and possibly most important, gatekeeper is securing a literary agent. Kind of like wanting to act in movies, you need a guide, confidant and someone that knows the ins and outs of the business. For an author, this is a literary agent. To get a literary agent to represent you, you essentially need a finished, very polished book and a query letter. There are other aspects, but for simplicity, I'll leave it at that.
So you query into a "slush pile" along with hundreds, possibly thousands of other writers. Suffice it to say, the odds aren't great that you'll get through and it typically takes a long time to secure this first gatekeeper.---
My first attempt was a bust. (There's more to this story of my first book, but I'll detail more on a later blog.) It was frustrating. I'd put in a ton of time and effort and I couldn't get more from an agent than a form letter rejection. Only NO. NO. NO.
So, after moving back to Texas and working at my new job, I started working on a different story, slowly on the side, writing notes and ideas and over the next couple of years, I pieced an entirely new book together.
At the same time, Cam and I found out we were pregnant. Cam took off time from work, took a long leave of absence, returned to work for a few months, and then we found out we were pregnant again. Another year off, to focus on our growing boys. It was an amazing time.
My dream still needled at me. It was tough. The way my schedule fluctuated and lack of free time with raising these two new, blossoming lives, it was impossible for me to form any type of regimented writing schedule. So, I continued to write in spare pockets of time, on long car rides or between naps, but nothing ever regular.
Yet, very slowly, I wrote that second book.
I queried again to agencies with zero success. All form rejections AGAIN (other than one agency, but that, too, turned into rejection). I was frustrated, distraught, and just had that feeling that my dream would never be realized.
I was (am) married to the love of my life, had (have) two incredible boys, had a stable job with a steady income, but when there's something you dream about, it just continues to needle at you no matter how much you try to push back. The dream haunts you.
So, this past January, we had confronted by a choice. Cam was due to return to work, but we'd always desired to have one of us at home full time with the boys. Between Cam's ever changing schedule of flying and my crazy schedule at the wine job, it would be very difficult to stick with both, raise the boys and still have one on one time with each other. We'd done it once, for about five months prior to finding out about our second son, and it was really stressful; we rarely saw each other.
So, the question we had: does Cam quit her job or do I quit mine?
Cam essentially made the choice for me. She knew that I hated my work, coupled with this intense dream clinging to me, and pushed me to leave my job. At least being home with the boys, I could have the regularity to truly focus on writing. So, that's what we did.
I left Total Wine, set up a routine of writing for about two hours during the boys' nap times, squeezing in more words here and there and started writing a brand new book. At the same time, I hired a published author of eight books in my same genre and age category, who also provided editing services on the side, to look at my second book.
I worked on a third book, something new, while my second book was in the editing hands of the published author, and by April, I was provided with extensive notes, with which I totally overhauled my book. I joined a writing group through Facebook, and by May, I was querying my second book again, noticing a significantly different response from my two previous attempts.
This time, I was getting numerous requests to read my manuscript. I still received rejections, but many of these were personalized rather than form letters, some with light feedback. I took the feedback and continued editing, all leading up to this past September when it started to feel as if my momentum was really picking up. I felt incredibly positive like it might really happen. I had two agents that both seemed very interested, providing feedback while still requesting more pages--just more correspondence than I'd experienced.
As this was going on, I was checking my email minute-by-minute, biting my nails, nervously anticipating the inevitable rejection that would follow. When you have such a seemingly impossible dream (the odds of publishing are not in my--or anyone's--favor) you prepare yourself for failure. At first the rejections sting, but then those ego callouses build around you like armor. You become impervious to it at some point because you're so accustomed to the "NO's" and you just expect it.
Then, this week, I found out that one agent felt so positive about my work that he was ready to submit my book to publishers immediately. We talked after he emailed this message to me and I almost had no words. Right now, my book is in the hands of every one of my dream publishers and we're waiting for their responses, which could take another couple of months.
I have accepted an offer of representation from Mark Gottlieb with one of the top agencies in the country, Trident Media Group. My ultimate dream is not yet fulfilled, but it's just around the corner and I feel as though I finally leaped over the biggest hurdle.