2) How I Got My Publishing Deal

Hi Allison, I officially signed the agency agreement along with my W9. I reached out to an accountant and met with a litigator in the area, both of whom recommended I form a single-member LLC without incorporating. I’ll get you the EIN once the IRS provides it. Thanks!

That’s a REAL email I had to send. Two weeks prior, I was in the query trenches. Since then I’d gotten an offer of rep, two counteroffers, signed with the first, been advised to form an LLC for my works, and met with a lawyer and accountant to help me do that.

This was like, three months after I graduated, guys. My biggest piece of furniture was an inflatable couch.

In the background of all this, my agent (Allison) and I also tidied up my manuscript, which we knocked out in a record 6 days. And on September 5, 2017—exactly one month after the offer of rep—Allison sent my book off to about 10 publishers. When I asked her how long it would take to hear back, she replied with a broad bit of advice:

Publishing is the slowest thing that will ever happen to you 🙂

I’ll do for you what I wish someone could have done for me–i.e., cut to the important updates:

  • September 25th: Hi Zack, I wanted to let you know that […] has passed on NATHAN. She said it was an intense story, but she just didn’t connect with the voice. When I get a pass in, I like to replace it, so I sent it to […]
  • October 20th: Hi Zack, I haven’t heard any more—but no news tends to be good news in this game. I’m sorry that the submission process takes a lot longer than we would like it to. Let me know how you’re feeling.
  • November 9th: I’ve done an across the board nudging, and you are still under consideration everywhere.
  • December 4th: I wanted to let you know I got another pass today.

Christmas came and went, and my perpetual state of slow-burning submission anxiety rocketed me straight into 2018.

But in early January—nearly four months after submitting—I got a phone call on my way home from a doctor’s appointment.

“Hi, Zack,” Allison said. “I just wanted to let you know that…well, we got our first offer!”

Compared to when I got the offer of rep back in August, my reaction this time was different. More controlled. More, “Okay cool, so, what does this mean?”

In this case, what it meant was a lot more waiting (of course it did). Allison notified the remaining publishers; we soon found ourselves with multiple offers, and it took another month of her agent-y negotiating magic to finalize everything while I stood in the corner waiting for updates.

Eventually, I got a call from her asking if I was available to do a conference call with herself and two other people: Will Kiester and Lauren Knowles, the founder and editor (respectively) of Page Street, an independent publishing house distributed by Macmillan.

I, having no idea what I was doing, jumped on the conference call and did my best to not fully insert both of my feet into my own mouth. Lauren and Will were very relaxed, though, letting me know how much they liked DEPOSING NATHAN and wanted to move forward in publishing it. Allison called me a few days later to let me know they had made a formal offer, and we accepted it. She couldn’t tell me any details yet, but it was something.

Now don’t get me wrong—I was excited. Really excited! But I was starting to realize that publishing, as a whole, puts this chokehold on your reactionary emotions. You can never get too ecstatic about news, because you don’t have all the pieces yet.

  • An agent wants to sign…yay! But will it be published?
  • We have an offer from a publisher—great! When will we know details about it?
  • We know details…hooray! But will this actually sell? Will I like how it looks? Is this what I wanted?

And the ever-present question that constantly lurks in your head and, if you let it, will wring all joy out of any exciting updates that slide across your radar:

SO WHAT NEXT?

It’s like you can never properly exhale, if that makes sense.

And as Allison explained to me, nothing would really be “final” until contracts were signed. Which involved a lot more—you guessed it—waiting.

Cut all the way to March 21, 2018:

subjectline

Exhale, now, RIGHT?

HAHAHAHAHA! Wrong.

The deal still wouldn’t be final until Page Street got the contract back and signed it as well. I wasn’t sure when that would be, but I got my answer—rather jarringly—two weeks later, when Allison called me one morning.

“Hi Zack,” she said. “I’m sorry this is last minute, but Page Street finalized the deal—we need to get word to Publisher’s Marketplace ASAP to make this week’s Rights Report. Are you able to come up with a two-sentence pitch for NATHAN in the next hour and a half?”

The thing here is that I colossally suck at coming up with book pitches, time limits notwithstanding.

But I rolled up my sleeves, scribbled disjointedly in a notebook until I had something coherent, and sent what I had off to Allison. She called me back.

“Hi Zack, this looks good except we need to mention that it’s an LGBT story.”

Ah.

I was, unfortunately, wildly unprepared to tackle my mixed thoughts on this subject in a time span of 40 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, my book was full of LGBT content, but I also didn’t want this story to fall under a singular label—particularly since this would be the first time, ever, that it was introduced to the world.

“Identity with LGBT themes,” I finally decided. “’LGBT story’ is inaccurate. ‘story that explores identity with LGBT themes.’”

“Let me run that by Lauren.”

“Could you let me know if she shoots it down? The wording is really important.”

Lauren ended up agreeing. And just like that, we had our pitch.

announcement

The announcement came out on April 10th, the night before my birthday–so, as Allison pointed out, I basically got the best present ever.

And as I looked at the announcement, this REAL announcement, I realized we had a whole team—Allison, Lauren, Will, me, and everyone else at Page Street—that was about to start turning my manuscript into a book. And as always, that nagging question popped up: SO WHAT NEXT?

I still didn’t have my exhale, but for once, I did finally have an answer.

We get to work.

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