Tuesday, March 23, 2010

B&H Publishing

Did you always want to be an author? How did you get published?
These are questions I get now and then these days but there were times along my journey to publication where they seemed like they would only happen in a dream.

The short answer is Thomas Walters at B&H Publishing decided to take a risk on me. I’d sent in a proposal for Snow Angel (at the time simply titled, Elizabeth) and he loved it. But that moment when he called me and offered me my first three-book deal, the moment where my heart paused with a leap of fear and longing, that was a long time coming.

I’d like to share a little of that journey and a very cool video that B&H has put together to tell a little about their publishing house. And I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone might have in regards to B&H to the best of my ability - .

My first novel, Snow Angel was born on a frosty night in an old farmhouse in Fishers, Indiana, where the cold floor gave me plenty of motivation for the snow scene. Two years later, armed with my jewel, I sat out to get it published. That began some of the hardest years of waiting that I have yet endured. When I look back on it, I can hardly believe all the crazy things that happened. I began my search for publication with the conference thing, meeting with editors and learning the submission process, studying the publishing houses and markets for romance novels. Then I sent out several query letters to both ABA and CBA publishing houses. It took months and sometimes years to hear back, but each one was a rejection letter. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I just kept researching and waiting.

My first break came in 2000 when Time Warner started an online writing group called iPublish. There was a lot of talk at that time about ebooks and how big they might become, so TW thought to tap into that market with an online community of writers providing the content for these ebooks. I signed up and within a couple of months got a call from an editor with Time Warner. They loved my book and felt that in this new format they could stretch out into something on the inspirational side with little risk on their end. Now, I wasn’t crazy about the whole ebook idea, but by that point, I was pretty desperate, so I signed the contract, hoped that my book would be so successful that they would eventually print it and looked at the whole thing like a possible springboard for my career.
After 9/11 I received the news that Time Warner was shutting down the ebook division and letting all the ebook authors out of their contracts. One of the editors went to bat for my book to be traditionally published in trade paperback because she loved it so much. These were months of living on gut-wrenching hope, but it was determined that it was too inspirational. I sank into a minor depression for a couple of months after that and didn’t write anything. I kept praying and asking God what was going on, wondering what His will was for my life. It felt horrible to think of letting my dream go, but I wanted to prove to Him and myself that it wasn’t bigger than He was to me.

If you’re wondering if I was looking for an agent during these times, the answer is, of course! But I had always heard that getting an agent was even harder than getting a publisher on a first time book. One day, I was online looking up agents and came across an agency that I had never seen before. They had an online form so I filled it out. I was shocked to get a call from one of their agents who had just relocated to Indianapolis. Within minutes of talking, he asked if I would like to meet him somewhere with the manuscript.

I was a nervous wreck as I handed it over to him at a Borders, believing he was my ticket to publication. He read it and loved it. So again, I signed the papers without knowing very much about him. Now this man was a really wonderful person, but he had never sold fiction before, only non-fiction in the technology field. During the next ten months, I continued to have great hope that my agent would sell my book. At the end of the tenth month with him, realizing he hadn’t sent out more than two proposals, I decided to take a leap of faith and part ways. This terrified me, because now I was back on my own, but I honestly thought I could do a better job myself, and I kept hearing that still, quiet voice say, “I’ll be your agent.”

“Really?” My slacker-faith self asked.

“If I am for you, who can be against you?”

“Really?” I whispered as tears began to flow down my cheeks.

Armed with fresh faith I set out to query every possible publishing company that had ever published a romance novel. I poured over each word and sentence in that query letter. I used a sample proposal from a well-known agency as a template and polished my 40 page proposal until it was the best that I could make it.

Then, in November 2005, I sat at my kitchen table and looked at the giant stack of brown envelopes. A part of me felt hope, a part of me felt fear, but a big part of me said, “This is it, Lord. If this doesn’t work, I’m going back to college. Then, surprisingly, my sister dropped by on her way to work. Jennifer is something of a prayer warrior and we laid hands on the stack and prayed over it, asking God to bless each proposal. Within two months I had a bite from Bethany House, Warner Books and B&H Publishing. B&H gave me a call.
Here's a peak of B&H:

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4 comments:

  1. Jamie, Thanks for sharing your journey and the information about B&H! I read Snow Angel several months ago and was swept away by your beautiful prose. I'm glad it found a good home! :-)

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  2. Thanks Sharon and Sarah! Never give up hope is my motto! :-)

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  3. Michelle WeidenbennerMarch 24, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Thank you, Jamie. This is encouraging and makes me realize that my journey has been short. I need to keep on. But there's one huge part of this I struggle with: How does a writer know that her book is good enough to be published? In order to SELL my work I have to be totally SURE that it's good. How did you know your book was "there"?

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