Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Guest Blogger - Diane O'Brien Kelly
I first met Diane when I attended a fabulous workshop about writers and taxes she presented at the RWA national conference. Then she graciously agreed to let us use some of her tax articles on the Playground website. When I got her newsletter last week and found out... well, I'll let her tell you what I found out. Please welcome Diane O'Brien Kelly to the Writing Playground blog!
Sneaking in the Back Door
I did it. I beat the odds. I sold to a major New York publisher and I did it without an agent. Maybe you can, too!
After winning or placing in two dozen RWA chapter contests and taking home the Golden Heart in 2009 for my manuscript “Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure,” I felt confident. Not only did the contest wins prove that my manuscripts had broad appeal, but I’d had two requests for fulls from editors who’d judged my work in contests. I was sure agents would engage in hand-to-hand combat for the right to represent me.
That’s not quite what happened.
Several agents I queried asked for fulls and one even approached me unsolicited with a request to see my Golden Heart manuscript. One of the agents worked with me for several months on revisions. Unfortunately, even after the revisions, she still wasn’t convinced I had a marketable project and didn’t offer representation.
There were no takers.
Was I devastated? Of course! I thought that, without an agent, the chances of being taken seriously by a big house were about the same as the odds of winning the Powerball. After all, the submissions guidelines for many houses state that only agented submissions will be considered.
Since the contest requests had given me an “in” through the back door, I sent the manuscript directly to the editors who’d requested it. And I kept hustling. I attended yet another conference and pitched my work directly to an editor at St. Martin’s, who requested a full.
Months later, with yet another round of requested submissions sitting in agents’ in-boxes, I got the call. In fact, I got two calls. The first was a two-book deal based on two completed manuscripts the editor had judged in a contest. The other deal, which was the one I decided to take, would be a three-book series beginning with my Golden Heart book. The editor who made the offer was the one I’d pitched to in person at the conference.
Yep, I’d snuck in the back door and got a deal on my own.
What did I learn from this experience? To take advantage of any and all opportunities to get your work in front of editors. Agents are not the only way. Enter contests. A lot of contests! Attend conferences. Lots of conferences! And, above all else, believe in yourself and your work.
For right now, you can see more about Diane at her website, which will soon be changing. And because her book won't be out until next year, she's graciously agreed to give one lucky commenter copies of her critique partners' books, "Operation Afterlife" by Angela Cavener and "Do Over" by Celya Bowers