I thought it would be fun to re-post how some of my favorite authors obtained representation. This week: Stephenie Meyer, author of The Twilight Saga.
First, Edward was a vampire.
Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.
And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.
What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…
Getting Published: To put it mildly, I was naive about publishing. I thought it worked like this: you printed a copy of your novel, wrapped it up in brown paper, and sent it off to a publishing house. Ho ho ho, that’s a good one. I started googling (naturally) and began to discover that this was not the way it is done. (Movies lie to us! Why?! A side note: you will not be able to enjoy the new Steve Martin version of Cheaper by the Dozen when you know how insanely impossible the publishing scenario it contains is.) The whole set up with query letters, literary agents, simultaneous submissions vs. exclusive submissions, synopsizes, etc., was extremely intimidating, and I almost quit there. It certainly wasn’t belief in my fabulous talent that made me push forward; I think it was just that I loved my characters so much, and they were so real to me, that I wanted other people to know them, too.
I subscribed to WritersMarket.com and compiled a list of small publishers that accepted unsolicited submissions and a few literary agencies. It was around this time that my little sister, Heidi, mentioned Janet Evanovich’s website to me. In her Q and A for writers section, Janet E. mentioned Writers House, among a few others, as “the real thing” in the world of literary agencies. Writers House went on my wish list as the most desirable and also least likely.
I sent out around fifteen queries (and I still get residual butterflies in my stomach when I drive by the mailbox I sent the letters from—mailing them was terrifying.). I will state, for the record, that my queries truly sucked, and I don’t blame anyone who sent me a rejection (I did get seven or eight of those. I still have them all, too). The only rejection that really hurt was from a small agent who actually read the first chapter before she dropped the axe on me. The meanest rejection I got came after Little, Brown had picked me up for a three-book deal, so it didn’t bother me at all. I’ll admit that I considered sending back a copy of that rejection stapled to the write-up my deal got in Publisher’s Weekly, but I took the higher road.
My big break came in the form of an assistant at Writers House named Genevieve. I didn’t find out until much later just how lucky I was; it turns out that Gen didn’t know that 130,000 words is a whole heck of a lot of words. If she’d known that 130K words would equal 500 pages, she probably wouldn’t have asked to see it. But she didn’t know (picture me wiping the sweat from my brow), and she did ask for the first three chapters. I was thrilled to get a positive response, but a little worried because I felt the beginning of the book wasn’t the strongest part. I mailed off those three chapters and got a letter back a few weeks later (I could barely get it open, my hands were so weak with fear). It was a very nice letter. She’d gone back with a pen and twice underlined the part where she’d typed how much she enjoyed the first three chapters (I still have that letter, of course), and she asked for the whole manuscript. That was the exact moment when I realized that I might actually see Twilight in print, and really one of the happiest points in my whole life. I did a lot of screaming.
About a month after I sent in the manuscript, I got a call from Jodi Reamer, an honest to goodness literary agent, who wanted to represent my book. I tried really hard to sound like a professional and a grownup during that conversation, but I’m not sure if I fooled her. Again, my luck was tremendous (and I don’t usually have good luck—I’ve never won anything in my life, and no one ever catches a fish when I’m in the boat) because Jodi is the uber-agent. I couldn’t have ended up in better hands. She’s part lawyer, part ninja (she’s working on earning her black belt right now, no kidding), a pretty amazing editor in her own right, and a great friend.
Jodi and I worked for two weeks on getting Twilight into shape before sending it to editors. The first thing we worked on was the title, which started out as Forks (and I still have a teeny soft spot for that name). Then we polished up a few rough spots, and Jodi sent it out to nine different publishing houses. This really messed with my ability to sleep, but luckily I wasn’t in suspense for long.
Megan Tingley, of Megan Tingley Books, of Little, Brown and Company, read Twilight on a cross-country flight and came back to Jodi the day after the Thanksgiving weekend with a preemptive deal so huge that I honestly thought Jodi was pulling my leg—especially the part where she turned the offer down and asked for more. The upshot was that, by the end of the day, I was trying to process the information that not only was my book going to be published by one of the biggest young adult publishers in the country, but that they were going to pay me for it. For a very long time, I was convinced it was a really cruel practical joke, but I couldn’t imagine who would go to these wild extremes to play a hoax on such an insignificant little hausfrau.
And that’s how, in the course of six months, Twilight was dreamed, written, and accepted for publication.
Last week: ERIN MORGENSTERN