Getting The Book Deal And How It Nearly Killed Me
The title of this post is no exaggeration. The entire process of writing my novel, Forest of Shadows, and getting it sold very nearly ended my life…sort of. More on that in a bit.
I’ve been a fan of horror ever since I was a kid. The passion for writing horror overtook me somewhere in my early twenties. I dabbled with horror short stories, then spent years writing non-horror novels so I could get in the practice and find my voice for my first big horror novel. Once I felt I was ready (which meant I had spent almost a decade writing and thirty years reading as much as humanly possible) and I had a concept that could sustain a novel, I got to writing. All along I had one goal : to have it published by Leisure Horror (part of Dorchester Publishing). Leisure was the gold standard for horror publishing, thanks in large part to the leadership and skill of editor Don D’Auria. I consumed Leisure novels like Jaws munched on skinny dippers. I wanted in the Leisure Club more than anything in the world.
I spent the next 4 years writing my book, originally titled Frozen Harbor. After going through a dozen rewrites, I felt it was good to go and I immediately sent my query letter to Leisure’s slush pile (this is the massive mountian of unagented queries and manuscripts that sit in every publishing house). I knew the odds of getting out of the pile were slimmer than Kate Moss, but I had a goal and I was going to live or die with it.
A little under a year later, I received a letter asking to see the first few chapters. I nearly jumped out of my shoes, but knew in the back of my mind this was by no means an acceptance. So I sent it. And waited. And waited some more.
Over a year after that, I recevied another letter asking for the entire manuscript. OK, there was obviously some interest. It had been almost two years now, and every time I was about to give up, the fates came along to reignite my hopes. Could they be so cruel as to guide me to shore, only to dash me on the rocks? Being a New York pessimist, I leaned to that being the case.
I kid you not when I say I had all but forgotten that I had sent in my manuscript when a year and a half later, while checking my email, I saw a letter from Don at Leisure. Holy crap! He liked the book! He wanted to publish it! I had my deal with my dream publisher and editor! I was at work when I opened the email, and after almost having a stroke, I rushed home to celebrate.
The next few months were spent getting an agent and working with Don on the book and getting the final details done on the contract. I was flying higher than Balloon Boy. Naturally, the fates saw my happiness and stepped right in to kick my ass in short order. Dorchester Publishing, after 40 years in business, was in complete upheaval. They weren’t paying authors and had decided to stop printing paperbacks. Don parted ways with them just before I signed my final contract. The deal was dead.
And so, nearly, was I. Granted, the turn of events made me physically, emotionally and spiritually ill. But it was the horror writer doppelganger in me that nearly died last summer. I was done. No matter how happy a face I put on, I figured that part of my life had taken a permanent dirt nap. I didn’t have another 8 years in me to do this all over again. R.I.P.
Here’s where agents can be a godsend. My agent, Louise Fury (with the L. Perkins Agency), did her best to keep my spirits up. “Don’t panic. If it was good enough for Don, it can be sold elsewhere. We can even wait to see where Don lands and hope he’ll still be editing horror.”
So I waited. But this time it was much less than 8 years. It was only 5 months. Don joined Samhain Publishing and yes, he still wanted my book! The dead part of me had been revived (kinda like a zombie, only without the eating flesh part). So yes, the entire process did nearly kill a very real part of me. But like any good movie monster, I live! And as long as I live, I will continue to write.
To read the book that nearly killed me, click here.