Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WOW Wednesday: J.A. Souders

Please welcome Jessica Souders, today's guest blogger, for our WOW Wednesday feature. Jessica  first began writing at the age of 13, when she moved to Florida and not only befriended the monsters under the bed, but created worlds for them to play together.  She is represented by the fabulous Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and blogs at Angels and Demons and Portals, Oh, My!

Agents and the Submission Process
(When It Doesn’t Happen Like It Did for Stephanie Meyers)

by J. A. Souders

When Martina contacted me, I was like, uh…I’ve NO IDEA what to talk about. Then I was like: “Did she really mean to contact me? Really?” Then, I was, “well, yes, of course she meant to contact you, because she used your name, dummy.” And that made me think about how I felt when my now agent contacted me to request the full off my partial. Then the offer of representation. The edits. Being on submission. Then the rejection letters. So that…brought me to this.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I started subbing my very first (and, shh, very BAD) first novel, I had high (and unrealistic) expectations. The book was going to find an agent within a few weeks, then a few more weeks after that I’d have a publishing offer and I’d be published within the year. Uh, yeah…REALITY CHECK! That very rarely happens to even the BEST of books.

So, then, I trunked that novel and wrote another, and another, and finally on that third book I knew I had something special. My crit. partners loved it and so did I. Even when the rejections poured in, I kept subbing, changing things here and there, but then I got THE EMAIL! Yes, it was an email, and not THE CALL. Though I did get one of those, too.

The first was a simple. Hi, I really liked the pages you sent, would you please send the rest? And I was like, “heck yeah I will.” And I started printing it out (she was snail mail only at the time.) and while the rest of the 200 odd pages printed I went into full panic mode. Doubt had set in. Had she really meant to contact me? Well, sure she did. She used my name. But there’s a lot of Jessicas, could have been the wrong person. But she used the name of the book. She meant me.

I finally (a few days later) battled the doubt down, and sent it off. In the meantime, I got THE CALL from a different agent. We talked and I asked questions, etc. Then hung up and promptly emailed Natalie to ask if she hadn’t received the rest by snail mail would she mind if I emailed it because I’d been offered rep by someone else. She responded immediately with a yes, please send and then three days later (over a GRUELING weekend) she emailed again to offer rep.

Again I went through the doubts. Here I’d been subbing for a year (yes, I know a relatively short time) and I now I had to make a decision. Which actually turned out to be pretty easy when I turned the doubts off. I wanted Natalie because she got my book.

So, then I signed and I kept thinking, this is it. I’m really going to be a published author. But in the back of my mind, I kept hearing a voice telling me it was all a mistake. This wasn’t really happening. It was a joke. Or I wasn’t good enough. Look how many rejections I had. The book wasn’t. Any. Good. I should just give up. Save Natalie and me the heartache of not selling.

But I pushed it off to the side and the edits came and I flew through them as I’d already had them plotted out. And then we went on sub about a month after I signed. And then a month after that the rejections came. And I started in with the self-doubts again. But with each one Natalie told me not to worry, it wasn’t the book, she LOVED the book. We’d keep going. So we did.

In the meantime, I gave her another of my books (she loved that one, too) and we edited that, just in case. Then we got good news. An editor LOVED, loved, loved my book and wanted to take it to the ed. board. She just needed to get a second reader to sign off on it and we’d be good to go.

Unfortunately, after almost 6 weeks of fingernail biting and email stalking, the bad news came. The second reader didn’t like it and, therefore, I wasn’t going to the editorial board. But she wanted to see my next one.

I was heartbroken. And again the doubts went through my head. Am I not good enough? Why? And Natalie again reassured me she still loved my work, we’ll just go on sub with my second story.

We did, unfortunately the market is flooded with this kind of story and our timing was off, so… we’re now in edits of my third story. And I’m hoping the third time’s the charm.

As you can see my story is MUCH different than Stephanie Meyers. She was that one in a million shot. Her story is the exception, while mine is more the average. Most writers don’t sell their first books, or even their second. It usually takes YEARS to find an agent and even that’s no guarantee of a sale.

But if you keep at it and don’t lose faith in yourself or your writing, it WILL happen. There are no tips or tricks that will make it sell instantly. The only things that will make it happen is perseverance, hard work, and a healthy dose of luck and good timing.

The publishing process is much like a roller coaster. A wild and exhilarating ride with ups and downs, twists and turns. But if you give into doubts and don’t get on, you’ll never know how great it is.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. And hanging in there and continuing to write. That's what we all need to do. Good luck with your next submissions to editors. Congrats on having Natalie Fischer as your agent. I'd love to have her as an agent.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. It's encouraging to hear other peoples' stories and to know how much persistence it takes. Good luck! Can't wait to read your books one day.

  3. Congrats on having a supportive agent who loves your work! and for sharing this story. It's great that we as writers get a well-rounded picture of what this is like, so we don't get unrealistic expectations about our writerly dreams. Mostly, these things seem to take a lot of time! And that's good to know.

  4. @Natalie: Thanks, thanks, and thanks! :D I <3 Natalie, I really do. I don't know what I'd do without her. And good luck in your agent hunt!

    @Leah: Thanks, and yep, I've learned that persistence and patience is the key ingredient to almost anything.

    @Carol: I noticed that there were TONS of articles about aspiring authors BEFORE they got agents and AFTER the deal, but never in the murky waters in between. So, I wrote one. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :D

  5. thanks for sharing your story. Yours and stories like it really are 'the norm' in this business, as hard as it is to accept, it helps us aspiring authors to keep our feet planted and have realistic goals. Congrats on finding your agent and I hope you hear some 'good news' on a publishing contract very soon!

  6. Hey Jessica:

    Interesting story, and I'm also grateful to learn about your trials and tribulations. Even though I've written professionally for 20 years, I had few illusions in beginning my middle reader. It's a crap shoot, and such hard work! The writing and editing process is exhausting. It took five revisions to find a story I could be proud of.

    I know that it's long and arduous and that it may not end happily ever after (although I'm still hoping for the Hollywood ending). I've just started submitting to agents.

    As I mentioned to you on Twitter, Natalie's on my short list, and I'll be submitting to her in February when she starts accepting queries again.

    And then, after all that, I know many writers who had troubles AFTER publishing their books.

    The only real way to succeed is to keep writing. And, like Wiley Coyote, don't ever look down.

  7. @Creepy query girl: Thanks! BTW, LOVE your "name." Wish I'd thought of it. LOL.

    @Richard: I guess I'd just watched too many movies, that I thought it was going to be all fun and games. Sure I expected some rejections. But I didn't expect to have to rewrite my story! LOL. Silly me.

    Natalie is great. Good luck with the querying process and do let me know what happens. I need to know if you're going to be my agent brother. I don't have one of those yet. I don't think. *makes mental note to ask Natalie* :D

  8. Thanks for sharing! It's refreshing and encouraging to hear a "real" publishing journey.

  9. Hummm, your story feels very familiar....

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can relate to the ups-and-downs of this journey! Wishing you all the best.... Good luck!

  11. Honestly, I'm glad you didn't sell right away, because otherwise you might not have had time to write RENEGADE and that is da bomb!! And thanks for reminding us that every stage of this process is full of waiting. It always feels like "if only I had an agent everything would be okay." But that's not the end, and it's good to remember that.

    You're going to get there. I know it.


  12. @Elle: I wonder why...? ;-)

    @Shari: Thank you! Good luck in yours, as well.

    @Liz: *blushes* You are probably SOO right. :D

  13. Thanks for the post. I'm glad your agent is sticking by you!

  14. Hmmm... a sobering story. Not sure whether it makes me feel good or bad about my efforts!

  15. What a story! Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations! Congrats to your success! :D

  16. Jessica, Thanks so much for this post! I'm just about to the point of querying for the first time, and that whole process seems so harrowing, the idea of finding a great agent match seems like the prize! But, of course, that's just one (though major) step in the long process to publication. I can't thank you enough for your honesty. Your path to publication is common--but not one that we hear of very often. (Hello, unrealistic expectations and crushing despair!) That's beginning to change, fortunately, as more and more writers share their non-overnight-success stories. I admire your perseverance and know that when you share your "my book is coming out" news, it will be that much sweeter and we'll all be cheering (and reading)! Good luck!


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