When I started writing Oppression, the first book in my Children of the Gods series, I wrote for fun. I needed to satisfy my YA book addiction and nothing was sucking me in like I wanted. So, I wrote what I knew would suck me in. I never really intended it to be published (…maybe I fantasized about it a little, okay, but I never thought it REALLY would be published).
After I finished, I decided why not at least try, right? I researched the perfect query, wrote up a synopsis, and sent the first 5 pages off to 10 agents. Then my mind did awful things. It imagined great responses. Of course agents would want the full manuscript. I had perfected it. I had worked so so so hard. How could they not?
Each rejection was crushing. I cried. A lot.
Then I got some advice from a friend of a friend who used to be in the publishing industry. I’ll never forget it. It changed my life.
“Go to a writers conference.”
I wrinkled my brow. “Sure,” I said, but I didn’t believe her.
I really don’t know how I convinced myself to go. I was raised to be frugal. I don’t spend money on just anything, but somehow I paid $400 to attend the Southern California Writers Conference. After clicking “submit payment” I seized up…Jessica, what did you just do? $400?!!
So I went. I’m not good at being social, but as it turns out, writers connect with other writers, and I ended up meeting some great friends (despite my sweaty palms).
At these conferences writers are allowed to send in advanced submissions to agents, authors, publishers, etc. They read what you send and sit down with you for a quick 15 minutes to review/give feedback on your work. I chose to submit to two agents and one author.
The first agent hated me. I got the vibe. The second agent wasn’t interested in YA. Sigh. The author, Michele Scott, was very sweet and supportive. When I asked her why she thought I’d gotten 10 rejections in a row, she said, “I don’t know. You have a real talent for storytelling.”
It was great to hear, but I wasn’t sure how an author could help me get published. I went off to attend a seminar with little faith that anything would come from the conference. At least I was having fun.
Halfway through the seminar, someone interrupted the lecture.
“We’re looking for Jessica Therrien. Is she here? Publishers from ZOVA Books would like to speak with her.”
My brain: WHAAAAT?! My mouth: “I’m Jessica.” Eyes wide, I followed the man to meet the people would soon become my dream team.
Turns out author Michele Scott had passed the word onto her publisher about my submission. Crazy, right? I’ll be ever grateful to you, Michele!
ZOVA requested my full manuscript after meeting with me. A few looooong weeks of waiting passed, and ZOVA proposed a contract.
I toiled over the fact that I didn’t have an agent, but in the end I signed on my own, agentless. It was a risky call, but I’m glad it turned out the way it did. I’ve grown very close to the people at ZOVA and consider them good friends.