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so here it is, our first official BIG LAUNCH INTRODUCTION, in which all eight of us briefly reflect on the moment all unpublished authors dream of–Getting THE CALL.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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????
EDITOR: I want to acquire it, but I’m leaving town for two weeks, will put together an offer when I get back.
ME: YES! YES! YES! YES!
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.