Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Journey to Publication - Part III

Rhonda McKnight

I begin working on the rewrite. I immediately realize why I sent the manuscript off with a bad chapter one; because I couldn’t figure out how to make it better. Really, I couldn’t and now I can’t. I try a few things, submit them to my writers' group and everyone kind of has the same comments: "Nah, it’s not working.", "No, that feels like you just dropped it in the front of the story.", "Hmmm…that’s good writing, but it belongs someplace else in the story." By mid-December I’m beyond stressed. I email my final effort, the only one I think is any good to my buddy, Dee Stewart and she emails me back that the writing is episodic; I’m telling the story in vinettes, blah, blah, blah. It sucks. I burst into tears. Wah! I email her that I’m freaking out. I can’t execute this change, and I’m running out of time. Dee feels so bad for me that she calls, and we talk it through. She makes one little suggestion and completely changes the opening of the book. Thank you, Jesus.

Lesson#5 – When you’re in trouble, ask for help. Sometimes people are mad busy or they think you’re working it out or assume someone else in the group is helping. Don’t be afraid to send out a distress signal. Let somebody know you’re drowning. They’ll jump in the water to save you. Never, ever, ever let an important deadline or opportunity pass you by without tapping all your resources.

Lesson #6 – Two heads are better than one.

On December 24th (yes, Christmas Eve) I head to Federal Express with my package and send it overnight to the publisher. I feel good. It’s so much better, definitely publishable. I’m in. My novel, Issue of the Heart (at the time) has a home. I’m just waiting for the phone call.

It’s Friday, December 28th and I arrive at my parent’s home in South Carolina. I’d literally just gotten off the road; just gotten a signal back on my cell phone, because I was driving in the woods. My phone rings. I seriously almost don't get it, because I've got a one year old on my hip and luggage in my hand. But I know my husband should be checking on us, so I decide to answer. I look at the phone. I notice the area code. It looks familiar, like publisher familiar. Not publisher #2 that I just mailed my package to, but publisher #1. I answer and the woman on the other end says, “Hello, Rhonda. It’s Joylynn Jossell with Urban Books, I’m calling to tell you we’d like to acquire Issues of the Heart for the Urban Christian line.” It’s “the call”, it’s “the call”, and I’m stunned, so stunned I don’t say anything. She tells me about money, and then asks me if I would like to accept the offer. This is a no brainer, right? But I hesitate; after all I just mailed my revised masterpiece to publisher #2. I’ve moved on in my heart, in my mind, in my pocket (that Fedex package was $32). So she asks me again and this time I release the “stupid button” and say, “Yes!” after I get off the phone I tell my mother and son. I call my husband and my writer friends with the news that I am going to be a published author.

Guess what ya’ll… I sold the novel before the end of the year. Now was that God, or was that God? Crazy faith...I'm telling you. Works every time. I found out some months later that my manuscript was actually rejected by a reader in the Joylynn's office back in the summer. It was in a pile waiting to be shred. When the reader left Urban, Joylynn decided to go back through all the manuscripts to make sure the woman hadn't said something was a "no" that should have been a "yes". Her exact words were "I saved yours for last because it was 400 pages, but it was 400 pages that blessed my soul." Can you imagine? The devil tried to get in the way of crazy faith.

Lesson #7 – It's a spiritual one, what God has for me, it is for me.
Lesson #8 - It's a spiritual one also, delayed is not denied.
Lesson #9 - The post office would have been cheaper than Fed Ex, but the post office closes at noon on Christmas Eve.

To be continued on Friday, May 15th. Getting an agent: Should be easy, I’ve already done the hard work - right?
Great news - my book is available for pre-order on Amazon. As of today the cover is not there. The discount on the price is not there either, but it's there. (LOL) Click here...


DonnaD said...

Okay Rhonda, I love this story. It could be a story in and of itself. Or at least a movie treatment. :)

But I'm confused. If you sent it off to pub #2, how did you sell it to pub #1? How did you work it out with pub #2? And did pub #1 see the revised version?

Details, details...

Rhonda McKnight said...


I had to advise pub#2 that the sale of the novel had been pre-empted by another house.

Some houses don't accept manuscripts that are being submitted to other houses. They want an exclusive. The beauty of having an agent is that they can do simultaneous submission to different houses. I guess I was acting as my own agent. So, don't follow my lead on what I did. I really assumed that Pub#1 did not want my manuscript, so I'd moved on. I think we can chalk this up to being a newbie mistake, but I also have to say that the published authors in my circle didn't discourage me from submitting to pub#2, so I don't know. I guess you have to go with your instincts on what to do. I was determined to sell that year, so that perhaps clouded my judgement. Regrets? I have none.

PatriciaW said...

This is a great story, Rhonda. My question is, since you'd done all that work to revise, and now had a better opening than what you'd originally submitted, did Pub#1 use the better opening?

Rhonda McKnight said...

Oh yes, Donna asked the same question and I forgot to answer it. Yes, I told my editor at UC that I had reworked the beginning and it was much better. I printed out a copy of it plus a few other changes and sent it to her.

I'll talk more about the details of the final manuscript submission later this month because I learned how that worked kinda the hard way. But an editor will always want a stronger book, so I think you should feel free to talk to them about that.

Thanks for reading, Pat.

Veronica Fields Johnson said...

Rhonda, you've got me sitting on the edge of my seat, and I already know most of the story! LOL. Just reliving it is exciting and motivating to me! So proud of you!

Ty said...

I've heard bits and pieces of your story before, but this is truly amazing!

I had to crack up on "I’d literally just gotten off the road; just gotten a signal back on my cell phone, because I was driving in the woods." South Carolina is unbelievably rural! I should know, but I love it here.

I'm looking forward to the continued saga!

Wanza Leftwich, The Gospel Writer said...

I am sooo enjoying your Journey to Publication! Fascinating...and motivating. And you're right, crazy faith works!