We're starting off 2017 with a guest post from my friend, fellow YA author and Ohioan, Lorie Langdon. Lorie Langdon is one half of the author team that writes the best-selling DOON series, a young adult reimagining of the musical Brigadoon. A few years ago, she left her corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now she spends her days tucked into her office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word.
Lorie has been interviewed on Entertainment Weekly.com and several NPR radio programs, including Lisa Loeb’s national Kid Lit show. The DOON series has been featured on such high profile sites as USAToday.com, Hypable.com, and BroadwayWorld.com. Lorie’s solo debut, GILT HOLLOW, a YA romantic thriller, released September 27th 2016. GILT HOLLOW was recently named by Redbook Magazine as one of the "Books By Women You Must Read This Fall."
Lorie's publishing journey isn't the standard tale, and it's a good way to follow up yesterday's post about 10 New Year's Writers Resolutions.
The Uncommon Route
I’m not sure if there’s a “typical” way to find a literary agent and get a publishing deal. It seems every story is different. But my route was more convoluted than most. The first book I pitched and queried to agents was an adult Time Travel set during the maritime Revolutionary War with an inspirational element. Sounds great, right?
I received rejection after rejection and was told that time travel and God do not mix. Theologically, I disagree. But that’s a different post.
Around this same time my critique partner, Carey Corp, insisted that I read TWILIGHT. I’m not a vampire fan, so it took some convincing. But it hooked me from the first page. Not because it was beautifully written literature, but because I could see myself as a teen in the character of Bella. Because every girl who feels average longs for the extraordinary. That’s when I knew I wanted to write young adult literature.
And I had the perfect story idea.
When I was sixteen I saw the musical Brigadoon and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every one hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the hundred years that the portal to Brigadoon is closed, the people sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years.
Coincidentally, Carey had just completed her second young adult novel, so I was picking her brain on voice and technique when somewhere along the way our conversation took a detour. Our ideas for the mythical kingdom of Doon sparked an explosion of evil witches, magic spells, daring adventures, two unique best friends, and heroic princes in kilts … soon it became clear that this story was bigger than the both of us, but that together we could make it amazing.
As soon as we finished the book, we began to research agents and send email queries. Almost immediately, we received requests from agents to read the full manuscript. We were flying high.
A Test of Faith
It's hard to see, but this picture
shows me with the skywriting
in the background.
Months passed with no offers. Our dream agent, Alexandra Machinist, requested to read the full. More time passed. But Carey and I knew Alexandra was meant to be our agent. During that time, I took a trip to Disney World with my family. The trip was a dream come true, but my attention was divided as I constantly checked my phone for responses from agents.
Toward the end of our trip, we were eating in the German Village at Epcot Center and I got the email. Alexandra Machinist rejected. Not wanting to upset my family with my tears, I ran outside and this is what I saw in the sky: TRUST GOD
And so, I did. Little did I know, I’d need to keep that message in my heart through more trials. Less than a month later, we had an offer from an agent with a big firm in NY. She had revision suggestions for the manuscript, but Carey and I were more than willing to make the changes she requested. We rewrote and cut chunks of the book, but the agent wasn’t satisfied. She decided we should make our main characters frenemies.
As a writer, there are times when your vision for your project will conflict with other’s opinions. You must decide where your line is, that place that you won’t cross even to accomplish your goal. For Carey and I, making our characters Veronica and Mackenna frenemies was a deal breaker. We strongly believed illustrating a healthy female friendship was one of the greatest strengths of our story. So, we parted ways with our agent.
The Second Round
After a few weeks of mourning, we began to send out queries again. Almost immediately we received a full request from a new agent, Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. She stayed up all night reading the manuscript and offered us representation the following day. We set up a call. She adored the book, but she wanted us to make major revisions.
After rewriting our hearts out for our previous agent, to no avail, we weren’t ready to do it again. Our trust had been broken. So we turned down Nicole’s offer.
Fast forward nine months and approximately seventy-five queries later. (I have the spreadsheet list to prove it.) We still didn’t have any offers. Carey was ready to self-publish DOON. She’d previously self-published a solo YA novel with good success. But my lifelong dream had been to see my books on bookstore shelves. I believed that DOON would be that book. We just had to trust.
During those long months of queries, a friend had signed with Nicole Resciniti and received a YA deal with Disney Hyperion. And I began to question whether turning down her offer had been the right decision.
Finally, we received an offer from a literary agent. We spoke to this woman for hours on the phone. She believed in Doon, loved the story and the writing, but she’d never sold a young adult book. Her connections were all with editors of adult fiction.
As Carey and I were considering her offer, we found out that Nicole had asked our mutual friend if we’d found an agent yet. Thankfully, Nicole gave us another chance and read DOON again. We set up a call. She still loved the book and she still wanted big revisions, but Carey and I were ready. We signed with Nicole, worked our butts off for months shaping up the manuscript, and wrote blurbs for three more books so she could pitch it as a series.
When Nicole took DOON out on submission to publishers it felt like a miracle. Like I could breathe again. But as with everything in publishing, it took time. After four long months, Nicole got us both on the phone. We had an offer! Zondervan/HarperCollins, one of the biggest Christian publishers in the world, had started a brand new imprint called Blink YA Books. Their mission was to publish mainstream books with a positive message and they were offering us a four-book deal as one of their lead titles!
We accepted the offer. The first DOON book was released in 2013 and the last one, FOREVER DOON, released this past summer.
As an agent, Nicole has been a God-send. Her believe in my work has never wavered. Last year, Blink published my first solo novel, a YA romantic mystery called GILT HOLLOW. And I have just accepted a deal for a YA historical retelling that will release in 2017.
Sometimes you just need to wait and trust.