First Published in Women's Writer's: http://booksbywomen.org/a-publishing-journey-10-years-3-agents-7-manuscripts/
Publishing Journey: 10 Years, 3 Agents, 7 Manuscripts
By Cara Reinard
A while back, authors were asked on Twitter to share the arduous process of becoming traditionally published with three numbers: years, agents, and manuscripts.
There aren’t any authors I can recall who had “ones” across the board, and there’s a reason for that. Almost no one gets “the deal” on their first crack. Here’s a little insight into my personal journey: 10, 3, 7.
In 2009 I wrote my second book (I shelved my first), which I finished on maternity leave. What? Who writes a book with a new baby? I know, but here’s the thing: he was nocturnal for three months and I don’t sleep during the day, so while he slept, I finished my domestic suspense novel.
Stats on the first book before I secured my first agent--63 queries, including the one I was invited to send from a junior agent at a large New York City agency of my dreams during a Twitter pitch contest. She signed me shortly after, and so I thought--this is it!
After edits, it was time to go on submission. I was sure it was going to sell. There wasn’t anything on the market like it. I was so sure, while she was pitching the book to publishers, I wrote its sequel (I advise against this). After six months with no interest, my disposition on the submission process changed to--outlook looks bleak. My agent suggested we start brainstorming new projects.
But I have a sequel…Dread.
Finally, after more than a year, it was evident the book was not going to find a home with a traditional publisher, but I still had a strong desire to publish both books. I suggested a smaller publisher, but my agent didn’t agree. At that point, I just wanted to launch my books into the world, so I had to make the difficult decision to separate from my agent submit to the small publisher of my choice. I had a deal in a matter of months from the Wild Rose Press for Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades and Last Doll Standing.
My goal was still to traditionally publish, and I needed an agent for that, so I wrote another book, this time, women’s fiction. I had one agent high on my radar for women’s fiction, but I never thought she’d bite. Stats for the second agent: 42 cold queries. She bit! My first choice agent. This one was definitely going to be the one. While my book was on sub, I wrote another book (we’re up to 5 now). Unfortunately, even though we had a lot interest on book #4, after fifteen months, the women’s fiction book didn’t sell either. My agent also “didn’t connect” with the new book I had written…so she released me from my contract. Oh…the dread.
Outlook was really bleak at this point and I quit writing. I know, I’m probably not supposed to tell you this, but if you’re reading this article and you’ve quit writing, take it as a sign that you should pick up your computer and try again, because you’ll never know how close you were to succeeding if you give up now! The very next book I wrote would become a published novel…just not right away.
Serendipitously, at the same time I “quit” writing I took on a sales territory at work that required overnights and hotel time, and I suddenly found myself with something I never had before—time. I decided to use those spare moments to write. I wrote a domestic thriller called Into the Sound, which I queried 23 times. After a Twitter pitch contest, I found my third agent, Ella Marie Shupe from Belcastro Agency. Same old story though—we went on sub, no bites.
By book six, I’m pretty jaded, I’m not going to lie, but here I am with this hotel time, so instead of trying to tackle another book, I write a short story for an anthology called Into the Woods. The story is published, and I can’t get the premise out of my mind—of knowingly leaving a body behind in the woods to spare the other party of culpability—so I decided to expand on the story and write my breakout novel, Sweet Water, #7.
Sweet Water was only on submission for less than three months before it had two offers for publication! I couldn’t believe it. I chose Thomas & Mercer from Amazon Publishing and I couldn’t be happier. The second book they purchased…drum roll…was Into the Sound. That’s right, they purchased book #6, after book #7—it happens all the time, I hear. And my newest release, The Den, pitched as Knives Out meets Succession, will be released December 13th!
I’m looking forward to the future, and when anyone asks me about my writing journey, I’m quick to summarize now: 10, 3, 7. And when they ask me, was it all worth it. I say—absolutely!
A poem by Cara (DiAlesandro) Reinard
Strong hands were mightier than the pen
In the steel city that would never die
Immigrants came from around the world
to wield molten metal infused with scrap steel
Grandfather was lucky to get a spot on the night shift
Vietnam vets who made it home lined up too
Opportunity was only one forged crank away
Work ethic smeared on blue collars
Stains that spanned generations
Undershirts with yellowed pits. Nicotine rings
Sunday dinners at Nonas
Garlic and wine and hard work squeezed through a press
Three cloves. Four? Never enough
Tongues singed with acid from homegrown tomatoes
Say a prayer before you eat
Thank God for all your blessings
Tell a tale about the depression
You are lucky, as you sit at the long table; tattered plastic tablecloths
You are lucky, as you elbow your cousin; he talks too much
Sunday is so loud with love it hurts your ears
to remember how much you miss the sound
Marry someone who can garden, Nona says
Marry someone who works with his hands, Nono says
Worth Measured in utility, utility measured in sweat
The women do the dishes. The men drink and smoke and play cards:
Poker. 500 Rummy. Everyone loses their nickels
Go to school, they say. This is all for you, Kids
They knew it wouldn’t last forever
A hometown lost to abandoned warehouses now—rehabbed apartments
Brown sodden riverbanks—made green with big banks and hospital systems
Broken glass that once housed mighty machines
Strong men now old and broken
Industry shifted overseas
Andrew Carnegie’s dream lost to
An international revolution
But the values they passed down remain as strong as the steel they once poured
Live in the apartments, they say
Work on the green grass, they say
It’s why we came
Cara Reinard is an author of domestic suspense, including Sweet Water (Thomas & Mercer), a novel based in Sewickley that reached the Amazon bestseller list in December. Her forthcoming novel, Into the Sound (Thomas & Mercer) will be released in December. Cara resides in North Pittsburgh with her husband, two children and Bernese mountain dog and is currently pursuing her MFA at Lindenwood University.
This post was originally published by Dayna Linton, book blogger at NovelsAlive.com (1/25/21: novelsalive.com/2021/01/25/guest-blog-my-not-so-straight-journey-to-publication-by-cara-reinard-plus-giveaway/
I have two books being released from Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s mystery, thriller and true crime imprint, and I couldn’t be more excited about that!
Interestingly, Sweet Water (January 2021), my debut domestic thriller, was written after the second book being released through the imprint. Into the Sound (January 2022).
What? How can this be?
The longer I’m in this industry the more I learn that this isn’t rare because the publishing market changes rapidly with no warning, and the journey to publication is not a straight line.
I signed with my agent, Ella Marie Shupe of Belcastro Agency, in April of 2018 for a domestic thriller about a woman who goes missing during a Long Island superstorm. The premise of the book remains the same for Into the Sound. However, at the time the book went out to editors, the market had just shifted and domestic thriller novels with unreliable narrators were no longer desired—books like the one I’d just spent the last year crafting.
This was a hard pill to swallow, but it happens. Writing is a gamble. There’s always the chance the book you’re drafting, the one you’ve toiled over for days and months, might become obsolete before it has a chance to sell. Markets shift. Queues fill up (we have too much of what you’ve got, no more, thank you!).
Ideally, an author’s book will be niched in a way that makes it fit nicely into a genre without being too much like another book, but it needs to have comps too. Sweet Water was pitched as The First Mistake meets Defending Jacob. I think it stood out in the marketplace because of its immersive setting, the kind where the town is like its own character, and because of its intriguing plot about a family who’s determined to protect their son at all costs, even if it’s at another child’s expense.
After Sweet Water was purchased, I rewrote Into the Sound, keeping the premise the same, but changing up my characters’ point of views. It worked wonderfully—I don’t miss that crusty first draft at all. In fact, I believe that draft needed to fail so it could become a better version of itself. Being an author has taught me to trust in the process, both in publishing and in life. If something doesn’t work out it’s because it wasn’t supposed to—because there was something better waiting around the corner. Patience truly is a virtue in publishing and after working on Into the Sound, on and off again for the last three years, it will be amazing to finally see it in print!
For all the authors who have novels on the back burner and manuscripts they’ve had to shelve for one reason or another: just because those stories are buried in your computer doesn’t mean they have to stay there! And to the readers: I truly hope you enjoy Sweet Water and I really hope you give Into the Sound a look when it comes out too. For me, these are more than just books—they’re journeys—very crooked, fantastically unpredictable, journeys!
It's been a while! I haven't had a lot to say, but the world is a crazy place right now, so I've dealt the best way I know how--by channeling my energy into creative projects, both my children's and my own. I've managed to squeeze in a few words in my new writing space, and thought maybe it might inspire you to carve a space for yourself too.
Creative writing spaces are as old as the craft of writing itself. Some of the greatest authors had some interesting places to draft their finest works.
1. British novelist Charles Dickens was so attached to his Victorian style mahogany writing desk that he sometimes had it shipped to travel with him so he could work on the road. Now that’s dedication!
2. Stephen King started out as an English teacher living in a trailer. He used a makeshift desk wedged in between his washing machine and dryer and would often lock himself in the tiny room for hours and write.
3. E.B. White wrote in his living room with his entire family running around. His quote is one of my favorites. “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work, will die without putting a word on paper.”
For years I wrote in places that lacked inspiration. This was mainly due to the fact that my full-time job and two small children didn’t allot much time to write, let alone a bougie studio to scribble down my thoughts. My creative space was limited to dull hotel rooms, my saggy leather sofa, or the kitchen counter when it wasn’t cluttered with kid junk. And, most notably, my bedroom closet.
Yes, you read that correctly—my closet.
Do we have an office in our home? Sure. But, if you think my kids have junk, you should see my husband’s. This is Western Pennsylvania, and people do hang their hunting conquests on the wall. But even though my writing trends on the darker side, I can’t get into my author groove with his latest hunting trophy lurking behind me. It’s like my anti-Feng Shui. Not to mention I have to move his technology just to set mine down.
There wasn’t much point in complaining about any of this, because in our world of investments, my scribbling didn’t rank. Then, in October (2019), after years of submitting manuscripts and working with multiple literary agents, my current amazing agent, Ella Marie Shupe, sold my domestic thriller, Sweet Water, to Liz Pearsons, Senior Editor at Thomas & Mercer. This deal came with an advance, and when I asked my husband if we could transform my walk-in closet into a walk-in/writing nook, he said—YES.
Of course he did. Because even though there wasn’t much point in complaining, I sometimes did. I’d walk around the house clutching my MacBook Air and jokingly say, “I’m an author without a desk.”
My space includes a coffee bar, complete with Keurig coffee machine, desk and chair, so I can creep into my nook early in the morning and get in some words, .
And did I mention how much I love my California closet system? Hello shoes...nice to see you now that you’re not in a disorganized heap on the floor. I’m excited for what the future brings with both my new space and my new publisher.
We may not have extra time or energy to be creative at the moment with all the terribleness in the world, but a space can be designed, an idea started—a seed planted. Like E.B. White said, if we wait for the perfect time, we’ll be waiting forever!
“You may not always write well, but you can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
~ Jodi Picoult
I wrote this letter to my husband on our way back from our couple's vacation, a luxury not everyone takes, but one everyone probably should.
I used to like to dance with you. Do you remember? You were never much of a dancer, but sometimes, in the early years, when we were dating, you'd humor me on the dance floor for awhile because you knew I loved it. Then we moved to the suburbs and the sound of our baby crying became the new "house" music and there was no where for us to dance anymore, but up and down the stairs for burp cloths and baby bottles. And that was beautiful music, wasn't it? I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but it was a different kind of rhythm than we were used to, a cadence that wasn't filled with just you and me anymore.
I was overwhelmed, but after maternity leave, I went back to my job, and I thought I needed to work really really hard to prove I could do it - work full-time and raise a baby. That very same year I won my first all-expense paid trip through the company. I'd never understand how much it would mean to get away with you like that until years later.
On our most recent trip to the Bahamas, with the casino bringing us some luck, and the night winding down, you asked me if I wanted to go to the club upstairs and dance with you. You never have to ask me to dance, just so you know, I'll always say yes. We danced the night away, and when you looked at me like "that", the way you used to, before we were stressed, two children ago, when we had all the time in the world, I thought to myself - oh there you are, I've missed you.
Our rare date nights are nice, and I don't discount them, but they're not quite the same as going away. We aren't able to stay out too late, because, there're babysitters and we can't drink too much because there are next-day sporting events and hangovers to contend with, and we never really do wind all the way down, do we?
That's why it's so important to do this, even if we don't have someone paying our way, and even if our family is too busy, and even when we're feeling too guilty to leave our kids for a few days, we really should, because I know there're weeks that have gone by when we're running so much that we barely look at each other. And that is bad. It's really bad, and I'm afraid we'll lose each other in the shuffle if we don't carve out a minute or two to find those lost expressions, the ones that remind us who we are as a couple. I don't want to forget the way you used to look at me, and I don't want you to forget how much I love you because you can't remember either.
I'd fallen asleep on your shoulder on the boat ride home from our snorkeling excursion, and when I woke up, I noticed the corners of your hairline have flecks of gray now. When did those get there? Don't get me wrong, it looks good on you, but it made me think we're growing old together and I haven't taken the time to notice. What else have I missed? I want to pay closer attention. How are you? I hope you're doing well, I thought. I hope you feel good inside like I do with the sun and the ocean breeze lulling us into an afternoon nap we couldn't otherwise take.
It was quiet when we got back to the hotel and I asked you what was wrong and you said nothing, isn't the quiet nice? And we sat there like that - sleepy, happy, brain shut off in a way that doesn't seem possible anywhere else, and so very ready to get back to our kids, but happy we took the time to leave them. And right then, I knew we'd always be okay, just as long as we keep doing this every once and a while. And just as long as you never stop asking me to dance.
Remember...I'll always say yes.
Last Doll Standing, the sequel to Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades, will be released April 8th from The Wild Rose Press, and will be available in both e-book and print.
It’s three years after the explosion that made her husband’s mistress, Katelyn, disappear, and Cece has finally put her life back together—until her seventeen-year-old daughter, Josie, goes missing. Josie is a prima ballerina in the New York ballet. The police suspect her mystery boyfriend is the culprit for her disappearance, but her parents know she’d never sacrifice her first major performance to run off with a boy.
When Katelyn returns and threatens Cece’s family with promises of revenge, Cece must woman-up with her old partner in crime who banished Katelyn from their lives in the first place. Katelyn demands proof to clear her name so she can return to her life in New York, but if Cece gives Katelyn what she wants, she risks a life behind bars. And, if she doesn’t, it could mean her daughter’s life.
One of the biggest hurdles to publication is, no doubt, securing a literary agent. However, there may come a time when your author-agent relationship isn't working anymore for any number of reasons: your agent may no longer share the same vision as you for your projects, or maybe you want to write in a genre they don't represent anymore. Perhaps they've left the industry or retired, or their response time has become so poor you wish they would retire, so you didn't have to break up with them first. In any case, relationships change for all sorts of reasons, and you may find yourself back in the query trenches sooner than you thought.
Don't despair. From personal experience, I can tell you, it's not as bad the second time around, and you might actually find yourself in a much better spot than you were before, because:
1. You’ve Been There Before
If your previous stay in the query trenches was a few months or a few years, going back to them shouldn't seem as daunting as the first time. It wasn’t long ago that I remember typing, “What is a query letter?”, into my web browser, and now, I smile at the memory, and how scared I was to hit the “send” button on my e-mail, and how devastated I was when the same agent responded within a half-hour rejecting me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Even if you didn’t spend a ton of time querying before, you undoubtedly know so much more about the process than you did before, which will help you manage your expectations the second time around.
2. Your List Gets Smaller
If you’ve become part of the writing community, followed industry professionals on Twitter, met agents and editors at conferences, you’ve made some connections you didn’t have before. Through dialogues with other writers, you may have also learned the inside scoop on these individuals—both good and bad—and now you’re in “the know.” Your journey to publication becomes more about finding the right agent and editor to represent your work, so your list will likely be smaller and more targeted than before.
3. Experience Counts on Resumes and Query Letters
Query letters are your brag book when selling your project. You’re giving someone a list of reasons why they should work with you, and in some cases a sample of your writing too. If you’ve made the connections listed above, your letter will likely be phrased with a personalization that will garner more requests than the first time around, and having previous experience with other agencies can’t hurt. It shows writing was good enough to secure representation once, so think of it as previous "job" experience.
4. You Have A Better Product
Whether your querying an old project that didn’t move with your previous agency or starting the query process with a new project, you’ve likely received editorial feedback from publishing professionals that will make the manuscript your sending out into the world better. You also know the value of a polished manuscript, and wouldn’t dare query something before it was ready for submission.
5. You Have More Confidence In Your Works
You’ve done this before. You can do it again. In my case, I had been on a bit of a writing tear when I re-entered the query trenches. I had developed a backlog while I waited on submission with my first novel. So, when I started querying agents again, instead of having one project to pitch, I had a two, and ended up querying both.
My personal stats the second time around: I queried my project to twenty-one agents over four months and secured representation with my number one choice, Carly Watters of P.S. Literary, for my women's fiction project, and I couldn't be happier!
I'm pleased to announce the release date, March 4, 2016, for my debut domestic suspense novel, Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades!
It has now been added to Goodreads. The button for the link is below so you can add it to your to-be-read pile.
I've also added an excerpt link if you would like to read a sample of the novel.
Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades will be available for pre-order in both e-book and print formats in February, and I will be sure to update you then. The sequel will be available in the summer, and I will announce the release date when it is provided by the publisher.
I'm so excited to share my work with you in 2016.
Happy New Year!
I’ve been employed in corporate sales for over a decade, and while it hasn’t provided much of a creative outlet, it’s put food on the table and money in the bank. Money I can use for—#1—investing in my writing platform.
1. Your Platform - With the rise of different options to publish a novel these days, it’s harder than ever to stand out in a crowded market. However, there are outlets that can help, like Bookbub.com (If you’re lucky enough to make their list), book blogging services, giveaways, fancy websites and other tools you can use to market your work—and they all cost money. Money you might not have if you quit your job to write your novel.
2. You Can’t Beat A Steady Paycheck – I’ve been writing for years, but feel as though I’ve finally woken up and figured out what I was supposed to do with myself after taking a long, stale, dreamless nap. But, I have to tell you—in all the years I’ve been writing, I haven’t made a single dollar doing it yet, and that's not out of the norm for many authors. My sales career, however, has afforded my husband and I free vacations, other corporate perks like a company-provided vehicle and substantial income. So, to that point, I say, if you can write and work a full-time job, you probably should, because everyone needs to eat, and there are no guarantees, and certainly no free lunches in the publishing industry.
3. The Ups Balance The Downs – Rejection in publishing is imminent, but if you’re largely successful in another area of your life, it will soften the blows when they arrive. I find that when I receive bad news in regard to my writing, there’s often something positive happening on the work end, and vice versa. Not only is this a positive thing, but I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my day job to balance it out.
4. It Helps Pass The Time – One thing is certain about publishing (unless you’ve decided to self-publish)—you will wait. Whether you are in the query trenches, or on submission, or waiting to hear back from a small press—you will wait. The one thing that is difficult about letting someone else handle and review your work is that you have absolutely no control over it once it leaves your hands. This is especially hard for me, because selling is what I do for a living. So, it’s refreshing that my day job is so transparent. When I send an e-mail, I get an immediate answer. Sales numbers come in every Monday, and I don’t have to wait six months to see if what I’ve done was effective. So, if you have another career to keep you busy, projects to work on, other things to keep you occupied, it makes the time go by so much faster.
5. You Do Have The Time – It drives me crazy when my friends and relatives say they wish they had the time to write a book. If you love something enough, you will make the time to do it. I travel for work every day, so I can’t tinker with manuscripts on my computer at a desk. Even though I have breaks in between my appointments, they aren’t conducive for creativity or drafting, so that leaves the evenings and weekends. I’ve always been a night owl, so after my kids go to bed, I have two choices: I can stay up and watch crappy television or I can write for two hours. I usually opt for writing. I also write on Sundays while my kids nap, and so far it’s worked out really well. You may have to swap out one activity for the next, but again, if you’re really passionate about writing, you’ll make the time for it.
It's finally here!! The cover reveal for my debut novel, PRETTY DOLLS AND HAND GRENADES, which will be released from The Wild Rose Press this winter with the sequel, LAST DOLL STANDING, following close behind for a summer release.
Fans of GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN will love the twists and turns in this domestic suspense novel, which will keep the reader wondering about the mystery woman who appears in the lives of a married couple, and what she really wants with them.
Check out my website here: /books.html to read more about PRETTY DOLLS AND HAND GRENADES. Please share and RT if you like the cover!