Another Look: The Contract that almost wasn’t

Author note: this article appeared on another website last week as part of a promotion. So many responded to it, I decided to run it again on my own website this week.

In 2016 I planned to attend the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference in Portland, Oregon. Like most conferences, authors were invited to pre-submit a manuscript for consideration by an editor of their choice. A writer only gets one chance to make a first impression and I’d learned early in the game to polish everything. I combed the cover letter and the three sample chapters like a veterinarian might search for a dog’s fleas.

Certain my material was perfect, I submitted two manuscripts to two different publishing houses. Not long after, I received a note from the manuscript coordinator. The appointment calendar of one of the editors I had chosen had filled. Would I like to submit to another?

I looked over the list of available publishing houses and didn’t see one I thought would be a good fit for my story. I queried my agent for suggestions. She recommended someone about whom I’d heard little. She went on to say that though the advances were quite small, she’d had several clients publish with this company and all thought the publisher was a great person to work with. “You won’t be sorry if you publish with Mountain Brook Ink.”

I followed her advice and informed the manuscript coordinator of my plan, indicating which manuscript I wanted sent.

A few days later I received an e-mail from the new publisher. Confused, she’d received a cover letter for one book and the sample chapters for the other. She was interested in either one. Which one did I want her to consider?

My heart sank.

My opportunity to impress this woman had just taken flight. All my work had turned to ashes—my dreams and hopes shredded into little bits of paper floating on the wind. Where was the nearest exit? Stage left.

Certain that I was doomed, I quickly responded (wouldn’t you?), telling her that I had planned for her to see the contemporary story. I sent her the file, making sure she received the correct cover letter, along with its corresponding sample chapters. I knew the mistake had been an honest one by the manuscript coordinator, but I couldn’t help feeling as if this snafu would be one more rejection in a long list of them. I’d had my share of those.

I was in for a surprise.

At the conference the editor said she really liked the premise of my novel. Then she hit me with the bottom line. How could I make it a three-book series?

On the outside I’m sure I appeared calm and considerate, but on the inside a minor explosion was happening. Three books? You’ve got to be kidding! This is a stand-alone! There aren’t enough characters in the book to make a series. Once again I could feel my heart plunging to the depths of darkness.

My brain spun into overload. I remembered the finished contemporary story I had shelved after a publishing house rejected it the year before. If I changed the names of some of the characters on both books, I could make the older book part of the sequel. I told the publisher what I planned, outlined the second storyline, and asked her opinion. She requested the first three chapters of the projected sequel as well as a proposal for book three—which would require another set of characters.

I didn’t go home excited. In my mind I didn’t believe I could find a third character in book one from whom I could write another story. I scoured the pages to see if one of my cameo characters had enough to make a storyline. Eureka! I found a bit character and my imagination soared. By the end of the week I had crafted the paragraph of a storyline for which I had no idea what I would write. I tweaked the second novel, changed the characters names to match, and sent it off. I’d done the best I could but doubted anything would come of it.

Three weeks later

The subject line in an e-mail from my agent said “CONTRACT OFFER!”

The rest, as they say, is history. An Anchor On Her Heart released July 15, 2017. The second novel, which saved the contract, Love Calls Her Home released February 12, 2018. In October 2018 A Kite on the Wind will join its predecessors to complete the series. In my mind I had done the impossible, but I was reminded that with God all things are possible.

 

4 Comment

  1. Wow! Congratulations, Pat!
    When can we expect another series? 😉😄

    1. That’s up to God and His timing Phyllis. I am working on a time slip novel that involves the true story of my pioneer family who settled in the Pacific Northwest. But I haven’t shown it to anyone yet.

  2. Anna Bourassa says: Reply

    This is such an incredible story! And encouraging. All I ever hear are the stories of people who submit their manuscripts to publishing house after publishing house, year after year. I have a faith-based space opera trilogy that is finally ready for submission, and I’m learning how to begin this next part of my writing journey. This was the perfect day to read your story, as it reminds me to hope and not just expect the worst.

  3. Always hope, Anna. And pray. God’s timing is the best timing and He knows when and where your story will be needed. And don’t stop writing while you are waiting. The next piece you produce may be the one He’s waiting for you to finish. He is capable of greater blessings than any of us can imagine. Thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply