Getting “The Call”

Welcome to EMU’s Debuts’

We thought it was best to start out with an introduction to all of us and to our books, so here it is, our first official BIG LAUNCH INTRODUCTION, in which all eight of us briefly reflect on the moment all unpublished authors dream of–Getting THE CALL.

photo: bulldogza/

What call, you ask? The one that means you can start calling it a BOOK instead of a MANUSCRIPT.

The one that means you are an AUTHOR as well as a WRITER.

The call that changes it all. Funny thing is, that call can take a lot of different forms. Read on…


J and Her Big-Girl Panties

This might make some of the other EMUs glare covertly, but it’s hard for me to tease out a specific reaction to my Call moment, since the ink hadn’t really dried on my agency contract before I had an offer from an editor. In fact, Without the Walls teetered on the brink of going to auction for almost a week – over the Thanksgiving break – while I sustained myself with a regimen of jelly beans and a caffeine drip.

The three weeks or so between the day I signed with Agent Joan and the day I accepted an offer on Without the Walls are a blur of delirious giggling and a rather unflattering gobsmacked disbelief, and I don’t think I really pried myself off the ceiling till late November, when I accepted the offer from Reka Simonsen over at Harcourt.

And my hair is rarely that combed.

These are not J's big-girl panties.

Here’s what stood out: Reka emailed me to introduce herself, explaining that she’d tried to call but apparently my phone blocked any number that didn’t show caller ID information. So I had to call her. I had to pull my big-girl panties up to my armpits and actually call an editor at a major New York publishing house. I had to dial that 212 area code and not stammer like a halfwit when she answered.

But I shouldn’t have worried, because Reka was delighted to hear from me. She was friendly and enthusiastic about Without the Walls and put me at ease immediately, and we chatted for half an hour about what would come next.

I’ve cut back on the jelly beans but not the caffeine drip, and I couldn’t be more excited about what comes next.


Mike Jung’s “The Call” Story is Rather Long and Drawn-Out…

…which is amusing in light of how quickly the step between “getting an agent” and “getting a book deal” actually happened. I’m amused, at any rate. I very happily accepted Joan’s offer of representation at the end of June, but it wasn’t as simple as “okay I signed with this totally fabulous agent and now she’ll submit my manuscript to editors” because…um, I’d already leaped recklessly into the void and independently submitted the manuscript to somebody in the spring. An Arthur A. Levine somebody, in fact.

Hubris? Delusions of grandeur? A sudden brain injury? NO! Well, maybe. And oy, I revised that manuscript for Joan. Before she offered representation, but after sending it to Arthur. So during that period I experienced, well, a tizzy. An awful tizzy! Don’t mock my choice of verbiage, IT WAS A REALLY BIG TIZZY! Different manuscripts! What to do, what do do?

Arthur's amusement over my "low expectations" sign did nothing to diminish his Dream Editor status.

Obviously, what you do is sign with that agent and let her handle it. Which Joan did, telling Arthur that we had a new draft of the manuscript, and sending it to him. Now, along came SCBWILA10, where I very sneakily took Arthur’s master class in writing about strong emotions and made what I believed to be a respectable showing, and I was lucky enough to just hang out with him a bit. We hit it off, and I went home thinking “dude, he’s totally gonna read my submission now. Totally.” Two days later I got a call from Joan, which returned me to a state of mental disarray, because I’d just had THE PRE-OFFER OF REPRESENTATION CALL with her a month earlier, the one where you ask all your questions and whatnot, and it was fresh in my mind that Joan only makes surprise, unscheduled calls to her clients when there’s something really good to report.

I was NOT expecting an unannounced call so soon! Could it possibly be THE CALL? Well, it was pretty close. It wasn’t the official “YOU HAVE AN OFFER” CALL, it was more of a “THIS EDITOR WANTS TO OFFER BUT MUST GO THROUGH ACQUISITIONS FIRST” CALL. No complaints here – it’s still an awesome call, you know? Joan said Arthur read the manuscript – the day after the conference!! He loved it and wanted to make an offer…right after the next available acquisitions meeting, which was two weeks away.

Fair enough, right? What’s two weeks when you’re waiting on the guy who edited HARRY POTTER? I was serenity personified. I was the very picture of Zen-like calm. Except when I was flipping out, which was every waking moment. But when I was asleep, which was a solid 90-120 minutes every night of those two weeks, I was like the damned Sphinx, I was so poised. So there were two weeks of email exchanges between Joan and me – thoughtful, collected, reassuring emails from Joan; freaky, rambling, borderline-sociopathic emails from me – and then finally I got another unannounced call. And there it was. THE CALL.

I was at work, so I walked outside of my office to the courtyard around the corner of the building – there are some attractive little pine trees there, a couple of white stone benches, and windows into three coworkers’ offices. I suspect they all watched as I tugged on fistfuls of my own hair, paced back and forth atop the benches, pulled handfuls of needles off the pine trees and hyperventilated. I had an offer of publication from Arthur A #$%&ing Levine. I’d just gotten THE CALL, LIKE, FOR REALS THIS TIME. I had a book deal. With my dream editor! Somewhere out there, pigs were taking to the sky.


Speaking of Drawn Out, Here’s How Jeannie Got The Call:

When I first signed with Erin Murphy, and she first sent my shiny, new manuscript to editors, I found myself checking email every fifteen minutes, even though the manuscript had only been out a few days. Then a fellow writer told me if it was good news I would get THE CALL; email was only for rejections.

So I spent the next four years reading rejections on email, and checking voice mail for THE CALL. And it did eventually come–after a slew of emails, filtered through Erin, that looked like this:

July 31.
EDITOR: I like this novel. I want to show it around to others here.
ME: Here we go again. Don’t get your hopes up, Jeannie. Do. Not. Get. Your. Hopes. Up.

August 12.
EDITOR: We like the manuscript and will be taking it into a submission meeting shortly.
ME: Shortly. Okay. I can hold my breath that long.

Sometime mid September.
ME: What, exactly, does shortly mean in publishing????

September 26.
EDITOR: I want to acquire it, but I’m leaving town for two weeks, will put together an offer when I get back.

Don't worry, no one at S&S was harmed. Photo: Carlos Porto

September 27. 3:00 AM.
ME (in bed in cold sweat):
Two weeks?! She’s going to change her mind! The economy is going to crash again! Everyone at Simon and Schuster is going to be eaten by giant locusts! Two weeks?! Aaaahhhhhh!

October 28. (four weeks later)
EDITOR: Here’s our offer for this lovely novel.
ME: Holy Cow! She called it lovely! And they want to pay me! I can’t believe it!

That’s when THE CALL finally came. Only it was ME, calling Erin, who was wonderful and professional, while I was every bit as coherent as a five year old on Christmas morning. Within two days, all negotiations were complete, the announcement came out in Publishers Weekly, and the rest…well, it isn’t history yet, but since the novel is historical fiction, we’ll just say it’s history in the making.


L.B.’s Call Lasts a Month…

“Getting the call” was not at all how I envisioned it. I always pictured myself doing a mundane household task when the phone would ring. My agent, Joan, would wax poetic about how XYZ editor adores my book. Of course, she would reveal the startingly generous offer right then and there.

Here’s what really happened: On September 21st, my agent wrote that the editor who’d requested and read my revision had decided that while it was much better, it still needed more work. This was devastating. For one thing, an editor at another house had also requested a revision, only to turn it down. And here I was, being asked to do it all again. After some thought, Joan and I agreed to take a risk: I’d be happy to revise again, Joan told them, IF we had an offer in hand. A few nerve-wracking days passed before we got a response. The editor agreed! (Yay.) But…it had to go to the board for final approval. (Gulp.) Even worse, the meeting wasn’t scheduled for another three weeks. (Ugh.)

Meanwhile, Joan was making preparations to come to my area to speak at a local conference a few days after the board was expected to discuss LEAGUE OF STRAYS. I offered to pick her up at the airport. On Tuesday the 19th, the day of the Meeting-I-Refused-to-Dwell-Upon, (yeah, right), I went out to lunch with my sister at Bubba’s Diner. I didn’t tell her anything, just excused myself from our burgers and fries to take Joan’s call, my heart pounding so loudly in my ears I could hardly hear my agent utter the words every writer longs to hear. I must have looked like a fool, hopping about in front of the diner window.

A few days later, Joan and I enjoyed a lunch unlike any other, though what was on the menu was irrelevant. It was truly wonderful, to have this special opportunity to celebrate it together.

Check back on Wednesday to read the rest of our experiences with Getting the Call.


Filed under Celebrations, Writing

25 responses to “Getting “The Call”

  1. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    I loved reading these posts! I was right there with each of you, as you described your disappointments, periods of wondering, and the elation of actually receiving the BIG CALL! Well done! I can’t wait to read more from each of you–including reading your debut books!!


  2. Deb

    Looking forward to following along and reading your books as they come out! Happy New Year and thanks for sharing your journeys!


  3. Love hearing these stories! Wishing you all a wonderful year in the making 🙂


  4. Wow. Gulp. Deep Breath. A dream agency and dream stories. A spot-on perfect way to start 2011. Thanks.


  5. What a great idea for a blog! This will be such fun to follow. Congratulations to each of you!


  6. Wow, thanks everybody! What a terrific day. I’ve been busy all day with a big New Year’s event that has kept me away from the computer. It was the icing on the cake to come back and see such a warm welcome in all these comments. I am excited about this project, too!


  7. Love these stories! They remind me once again of how varied our individual writing journeys are.

    BTW, One of my new year’s resolutions is to cut down on my internet browsing. Blogs this engaging will not help me in that goal! *shakes fist*

    Jeanne (a client of Joan’s who dreams of getting THE CALL one day)


  8. (Sigh)
    I just love reading all ofyour stories!

    What a great idea for a blog!


  9. I was nervous just reading these puppies, and I must admit, I almost cried with the sheer powerful build-up of tension before the glorious call day. How did you stand it?
    I’m wishing you all the very best as you move into the land of “the published.”

    On a happy note, I’m sort of enjoying my own ride lately. I wonder where I’ll land. It is a fun game, huh?


    • Glad to hear your ride is an enjoyable one a the moment. As for your “how did you stand it question,” in my case, it wasn’t pretty. But I have a great critique group who was helping me ride it through (we have no secrets from each other), and a great agent who was very understanding. At one point in the process, I did tell Erin Murphy that if patience was a virtue, waiting for an offer was the road to sainthood, to which she replied that she would hurry things along, because calling me Saint Jeannie just felt wrong. 🙂


  10. These stories are so much fun to read! It really shows how varied our publishing experiences can be. Looking forward to Wednesday to read the rest!


  11. L.B. Schulman

    I am so glad to see all these great comments. We hope to really pass along valuable information and inspiration. A lot has been said about trying to get published but not much is out there about the journey from “the deal” onward. We hope to share our own experiences in a way that everyone can learn from. I think Jeannie said it best in her comment…to paraphrase her, our blog won’t just be another Internet Wasteland, but professional research. We’ll all take the journey together.


  12. So great to discover this today! And your stories are all so different and yes , the 18 mth wait actually gave me some hope for a ms that’s been kicking around out there for 6 mths 🙂 Thank you all!!



  13. Pingback: L.B. Thinks Twice about Spreading the News | EMU's Debuts

  14. Thank you all so much for sharing your big moments! And thanks to Jennifer for pointing her readers to your new blog. Good luck with the birth of all your new books!


  15. I LOVE this idea, and the intriguing tales that go along with it. Thanks so much for sharing! Waving to Jenn — can’t wait to hear your tale. Soon, I’m certain. And I see other worth candidates here too as well (Hi, Linda and Angela). Hugs all around!


    • Thanks for coming by, Linda and Lynne! I figure any friends of Jenn’s are friends of mine. We have been in a critigue group together and I was also on her “staff” when she edited the RMC-SCBWI newsletter. Plus, I just love her blog, so I am happy to welcome some of her community here, too. If you have specific topics you would like us to cover, feel free to offer some suggestions or ask questions!


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