Wednesday, June 22, 2011

21 WOW Wednesday: J.A. Souders

I want to jump into today's WOW post without even a introduction--it's that fabulous--but I'm going to restrain myself long enough to introduce J.A. Souders and her wonderful agent, Natalie Fischer. Catch them at their blogs (lined from their names) for more information. Now, get reading, because I love their post! (Note: Natalie's comments on the process are shown in red.)

Anatomy of a Book Deal

by J.A. Souders and Natalie Fischer

Hi again, everyone!  I’m so glad to be back here, and to be talking about my favorite topic.  My new book deal!  SQUEE!  (I’ve been doing that a lot lately. LOL.)  Martina asked me, and my awesome agent Natalie Fischer, to do a post on what it was like working with each other to get the deal.  Since I’d always wondered what it would be like to work with an agent before I had one, I was thrilled to do the post.  Luckily Natalie agreed to do it with me.  J

Natalie offered to represent me on February 16, 2010 and I accepted that night, the very next night (my 10th wedding anniversary. LOL.)

Ahem. No, it wasn’t THAT easy. She almost didn’t sign with me. Jess was one of my first clients, and so you know all those questions floating around you’re supposed to ask any offering agent? Yeah, I’d never heard those before. So she asked me a question (can I contact your clients) and I FLIPPED out. (Ok. Not FLIPPED. But sent a very stern email saying how un-appropriate I thought that was and yatta yatta yatta…luckily, she signed with me anyway, and luckily, I know better now. Well, mostly because, heck I think my clients can give a better review of me than I can!).

I got my first set of revision notes.  I was SO nervous to open that file. I was still developing my thick skin (who am I kidding, I’m STILL doing that), so I was REALLY nervous to read the notes.  I just kept thinking, Did she really like my work?  Were there a lot of edits?  Would she be mean?  What if she was?

Eventually, I just squared my shoulders and opened the file.  And started laughing. Almost immediately the notes started, and they were hilarious.  She was snarky, but it wasn’t in a bad way and they totally made me go, “oh, yeah, I suppose so.”

Le sigh. Sadly, the Kindle has taken away many of my gut-reaction snark that I used to hand write…

So after reviewing the notes a few times and emailing a few questions to Natalie, and then doing the normal author thing of revising as fast as I could (which you really shouldn’t do), we went on sub. 

I was on cloud nine.

I totally saw your little happy face with the cloud and the 9 on AW. Yeah, us agents do look at these things…be careful!

I couldn’t believe my work was really going to be seen by awesome editors.  And then I started to lose my mind.  A week went by with no responses, then another, and then two more.  Finally, about a month later I got my first rejection. 

Very typical time frame, by the way – yes, I do have editor friends who will read a submission from me in like two days, but most often, it’s about a month.

I was sad, but I was sure it was no big deal.  Natalie had faith the book would sell, so I did, too. 

A month with one rejection is SO nothing to worry about! A month with FIVE rejections isn’t anything to worry about, either!

In the meantime, I sent her the rough draft of a book I’d just finished.  She read it and loved it, then sent me notes.  These were MUCH more intense notes.  But I’d been expecting it.  It had been a rough draft, after all.  I started working on them, to keep my mind off the fact that I’d had a couple more rejections.

She sent me this manuscript, EXILED, and I literally came in the next morning gushing to my colleagues, “OMG, I JUST got the appeal of TWILIGHT! I just read this TOTAL hot mess, but I am SO in love with the characters, their chemistry, what happened…” (Jess: I still have the hots for Patrick. For reals. This book pushed the YA steam LIMIT).

After a few more revisions (a lot of revisions – like I said, it was a hot mess, but I had every faith she could pull it together, and she did), Natalie put Exiled on sub, too and I started writing yet ANOTHER book.  But I kept starting and stopping.  I couldn’t get the feel for any of the books I started.  I was terrified I’d never write again. 

It had been almost a year by this point. To me, we were just getting started. I guess agents have very different time frame expectations…

Then, when I was procrastinating my latest WIP by watching a news story on people’s obsession with being perfect and my son was playing a video game, it hit me.  I knew what story I needed to write.  RENEGADE was born.

I plotted it out, then started it.  Immediately it made me angry.  I kept trying to write it in past tense (the tense I’d always used) and I kept slipping back into present tense.  I HATED present tense.

Me too.

But I decided to go with it. 

This was around a point when ALL of my clients decided present tense was the one for them, for some darned reason, too. But hey, not going to say no; if it’s done well, it doesn’t matter. And by well, I mean that when I dive in reading, I don’t even have to stop and THINK about what tense it is.

Once I did that, the whole story flowed like water over a waterfall.  It came in a HUGE deluge. I was writing about 5k a day, minus weekends, and I’d had almost the whole first draft written in 3 weeks.


Shortly after that, I found out an editor wanted to take my first book, MIRROR IMAGE, to acquisitions.  I was SO excited I couldn’t focus on writing any more, so I took a break.

And of course, all thoughts of other books left my head as I prepared to focus on the one that might sell.

Sadly, the editor couldn’t find a second reader that loved it.  I was heart-broken.  Even though I’d kept telling myself that that could happen, deep down I was really hoping it would work out.  She did, however, want to see more work from me.

As an agent, of course, I was still thinking…just the beginning! It was a small sign that things were definitely on the right course.

Unfortunately, at this time I was feeling sorry for myself and I couldn’t get back into writing.  EXILED went back out to editors, but I couldn’t get excited about it. I kept hearing how angel stories were a tough sell.

And they were – the bar was set very high. I knew that I wouldn’t go out on another round of submissions; it just wasn’t good timing for the book. Even a good book, if it doesn’t hit that absolutely, HIGHEST bar (that the best sellers hit) isn’t going to sell if it’s already been done.

I was starting to panic a little, but RENEGADE was sitting on my hard drive calling my name, so I told myself I’d finish the story anyway.  It was a good story, no matter if it got published or not.

So I did.  In the meantime, all the editors who had EXILED pretty much said the same thing: great writing, but we just bought an angel story.  Send something else.

Me: OK! Onward!

So, I finished RENEGADE, sent it to critique partners, then betas, then finally Natalie.  A few months later,  (she was moving agencies, so it took a bit longer than usual for her to get to it) she wrote back saying she loved it and we started working on revisions.

Psh. Loved it. Try LOVED IT. Try, this absolutely convinced me that Jessica was one of my favorite authors EVER, and I will absolutely read EVERYTHING she writes. As in, it wasn’t even about just selling it – I truly, absolutely enjoyed her storytelling. And BOY was I antsy to get this on submission! But I knew it needed work, and I knew I wanted to do it justice. I knew I wanted to do JESSICA justice; this girl had stayed true and positive through EVERYTHING – she made me WANT to sell a book for her. She deserved it. And I was going to make it happen.

Throughout the revision process for RENEGADE, I was in full panic mode.  Was this one going to be like EXILED?  Would it be good writing, but there was too much dystopian?  I kept pestering Natalie to go out on sub, but she kept putting the breaks on with more tweaks.

Yup. She sent it to me in December, and I wanted to go on submission in January. Didn’t happen until April. Why? I wanted to take my time with this one. I KNEW it would sell – but I also KNEW it would sell because I KNEW the idea was there, but it REALLY needed to be brought to THAT level.

She passed it on to Laura Bradford, her new boss, for more notes (I started crying when I saw how much more still needed to be done. It really wasn’t that much when I actually started in on it, but seeing the several pages worth of notes made me panic), before giving me even MORE notes after I’d finished Laura’s.

I won’t lie, I was getting frustrated. I never said anything to her, but I’m pretty sure she knew it.  I was like, these are LITTLE things, let’s get going already!  But she’d only send me more tweaks.

Oh yeah. I knew. TRUST me, I knew. But you know what? It had to be done. I’d rather sell a book than give in to an author’s impatience.

Finally, at the end of March we went on sub. About a week later I started getting answers, and they were POSITIVE!  I couldn’t believe it.  There was a request to see more of my work, an R & R, a note saying RENEGADE was going to acquisitions – and then 5 weeks after going on submission, we got an offer.

And not even from the one that had said they were taking it to acquisitions, by the way. Yeah, this book kicked ass.  

I had fallen asleep playing around on my computer and when I woke up, with key imprints in my cheek, I saw Natalie had sent me a message telling me she’d tried calling and had left a voicemail and would I please call her back.

I couldn’t BELIEVE that I was trying to give her THE call and the girl didn’t answer her phone!!!

I didn’t know what was going on, but my mind decided to imagine the worst possible scenario.  That all the other editors had rejected and she was calling to tell me she didn’t want to represent me anymore.

Given the circumstances, I can’t even believe she thought that. I was so sure she’d know why I was calling! I was so befuddled why she wasn’t more enthusiastic to call me back…she tweeted me like…uh, I lost my phone, can I email? And I was like giiiiirl, NO!!!!!

So, after tearing apart my bedroom to find my phone, I called her back, my heart beating a million miles an hour.  Honestly, I don’t really remember a lot of this call because once she told me it was The Call, my brain stopped functioning all together.

I seriously couldn’t comprehend why she wasn’t excited and screaming on the phone. I said to her, “Are you ready for THE CALL?” And she says, “Uh, ok?” And when I told her, “We have an offer,” her answer was, “Ok.” ?!?! Apparently, she was in shock. Knowing this makes me feel better. Since I was totally about to cry for her myself.

 This is what I remember from the call:  “Mel Frain…Tor Teen…offer…three book deal…$$$$$$$.”

I was so busy crying and trying to stop my daughter from trying to get the phone from me to yell at Natalie for making me cry, that when I hung up the phone, I just stared at it for like 10 minutes.

It’s been a whirlwind of things since, and, even though I’m working on revisions for my new editor, I’m still pinching myself to see if it’s real.

Guess what? It’s just the beginning. ;)


  1. Thanks for sharing this J.A. and Natalie. I love the back and forth. And your story is so inspiring. Because it shows us if we keep on writing and giving our agent other good manuscripts rather than giving up that one will sell. So excited for you and can't wait to read your book J.A.

  2. Such an awesome story. Congrats J.A. I can't wait to get "The Call" or an agent for that matter. LOL Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Congratulations J.A.! I loved reading your perspective on the process and Natalie's as well. Sounds like you have an awesome author/agent relationship.

  4. This is so inspiring! Thank you both for sharing inside info about the process. Congratulations :)

  5. Terrific and exciting story. I'm very excited for you, Jess.

  6. Such an inspiring story and the happy ending just makes it even better.

  7. Thanks, guys!! Natalie has been awesome and I've been in tears almost all morning seeing her responses to some of this!

    I also wanted to say something else. When she told me how much the offer was for, I literally saw dollar signs in my head. I had no idea what amount she'd told me. I just remember saying, "well, of course I want more..." And then thinking, wait, what did she even say the amount was?! LOL. I WAS totally in shock.

  8. Wow is right, good stuff! Thank you for sharing this, very inspiring! =D

  9. Jess, SO super excited for you. You totally deserve it. Great story. Thank you to you and Natalie for sharing. :)

  10. LOVE this! I want this for all the writers I know (and Ha, me too!), I really do. Thanks for sharing this story, both of you :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  11. Great story--I was just telling someone there aren't enought posts out there about acquisitions. And today, this!

  12. Congratulations on your deal Jessica, that sounds so awesome!!! I loved reading this, and particularly with both you and Natalie commenting - it's been very inspiring, and helpful to know how the process may work.



  13. Wow! Great story. Thank you so much for sharing and reminding everyone to keep writing!

  14. Loved hearing the details on this! <3 You're both AWESOME :)

  15. Wow, oh wow! I've never heard this amount of detail before about life on the Other Side. Neat!!! Way to go, both of you! I'm glad you both persevered and kept at it. ;o)

  16. This was incredible to read! Very inspiring. I'm getting back to work, reinvigorated. Oh, and Natalie? If you ever have a prospective client that wants to talk to one of your current clients about how great you are, feel free to give her my #!

  17. Love the dual interview. But now I'm disappointed that Exiled wouldn't be coming out. I was hooked on the steamy part. ;)

  18. I love, love, love "the call" stories, and, Jess, this one is super. So glad you have such a wonderful agent who helped make things happen for you!

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  20. feel a lil like a "peeping brenda" because i don't know you personally, aquainted with Steph and well CONGRATULATIONS!!!..this is so EXCITING DREAMS COMING TRUE!! WOOT WOOT!!

  21. Love this story. You two make a great team. Can't wait for Renegade to hit the shelves!


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