In June 2017, a month after graduating college, I had a breakfast conversation at Cracker Barrel that changed my life. I was talking with my mom about a manuscript I’d written–and started submitting to agents–called DEPOSING NATHAN.
My parents have always been the two strongest champions of my writing. When I finished my first manuscript in high school, I came home to find a handbook on my bed titled YOU ARE A WRITER, with a sticky note on it that said, “Congrats on finishing your book! Can’t wait to read it 🙂 Love, Mom.” And now, at breakfast, my mom wanted to know how the agent hunt for NATHAN was going.
I told her, flatly, that I was stuck in a bit of a rut: I’d been querying for six months, and a lot of agents had asked to read the full ms (15 out of 35), but all had ultimately rejected it. I didn’t want to keep submitting until I found what was wrong with it, and I was out of energy to figure it out.
“Well,” she said, “I don’t think you should change anything, and I think you need to keep submitting as is. Because this book is what it is, and it needs to be out there. And I think you’ll find someone who agrees, if you keep looking. I really do.”
So I decided screw it, I’ll just submit to the rest of the agents on my list and see if we have any takers. Which, at the risk of being obvious, ended up working out.
My name is Zack Smedley. You probably know that, and if you’re here, you probably know that my debut novel is coming out on May 7th—less than two months from now. But what you may not know—because I certainly didn’t—is how wild of a process publishing is AFTER you sign the contract. The past year has been, without a doubt, tougher and more stressful than writing the book itself.
So, every Tuesday between now and my release date, I’ll be doing a weekly blog post to form a “making of” miniseries that chronicles the production journey of my debut novel, and my experiences with this entire process. Posts will include topics like how my team chose the book cover, how we decided on a title, and my own struggles with self-doubt during the final days.
That said, I’ll finish today’s post by continuing the story above—or rather, by jumping ahead two months. The morning of August 5, 2017, I woke up to an email from a literary agent. This wasn’t anything new—ever since I’d started submitting broadly, I’d been swapping emails with agents a few times a week, all dutifully tracked by a spreadsheet.
I started to read.
“Dear Zack: Thank you so much for allowing me to read DEPOSING NATHAN, which I stayed up half the night last night finishing. I think you’re a brilliant writer, with a clear and honest voice,”
Aha! So this would be an R&R–“Revise & Resubmit”
“and I think this is a novel that needs to make it into the world. I’m thrilled to make you an offer of representation…”
Cue exactly the type of reaction you’d expect. Loud yelp, followed by “HOLY [insert lots of curse words],” at which point I shook my boyfriend awake and just started saying, “That’s an offer. That’s an offer. That’s an offer.” With each rendition my voice got a bit weaker, my eyes teared up, and finally I started crying in a way I’d only done a few times since high school. I shook my head. Laughed like a lunatic. Cried again. Which made my boyfriend laugh and cry too.
The rest of the day was a blur. I called my parents, who exploded into cheering and congrats. I researched the offering agent, Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio, to find every additional piece of info I could. I replied to her email and scheduled a phone call for a few days later, then sent notice to all other agents who had my material.
The ensuing week sent my head into a spin. I talked with Allison on the phone for an hour and a half and loved everything about our conversation. She did encourage me to wait to hear back from the other agents, which resulted in two counteroffers. Which meant two more phone calls and a lot of wracking my brain. In the end, though, I ultimately signed with Allison. She’s been my agent ever since, and I truly couldn’t be happier.
I hope some of you tune in for these weekly posts (which I’ll definitely link on social media), to learn about the rollercoaster DEPOSING NATHAN went through in the ensuing road to publication. And I hope you stick around to hear about the many incredible people responsible for making this a reality. But if you don’t, I at least wanted to tell you about the first and most important one. Because I still have that sticky note she left on my bed years ago, and it’ll be staying in a frame on my wall for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Mom. I’d be nowhere without you.