The Not-So-Glamorous Story of How I Got My Book Deal

Christi Corbett

Please welcome my awesome guest blogger, Christi Corbett. Christi and I have been through some interesting times together in the publishing world. She’s got a lot of knowledge to impart regarding the rocky road to publication. I know you’ll enjoy this post and her debut novel which I happily endorsed.

Christi is giving away a fun package of writing goodies (notebook, sticky notes, pens, and other fun supplies) to one lucky commenter, so be sure to answer the question at the end of this post to be entered to win. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday evening after 9:00pm Pacific Time so be sure to leave a comment before then if you’re interested in winning the goodies.
  Publishing is a tough business and not for quitters. While right now I’m happily reviewing cover concepts and thinking of how to best promote my debut novel, it took over THIRTEEN years to get to said happiness.    
Yes, it took me thirteen years to go from, “Hey, I’ve got a really great idea for a book!” to signing the publication contract from Astraea Press.
    
And there were plenty of times during those thirteen years when I considered quitting. Considered that maybe I didn’t have it in me to go the long haul. Considered that maybe the process was just too hard. Considered that maybe my story idea was stupid and no one would want to read about a family’s adventures and misfortunes on the 1843 Oregon Trail. Considered that maybe to get published I’d have to compromise my beliefs.
    
But, even though over those thirteen years there were plenty of days, months, and even years when I didn’t write at all, there was always a little voice deep inside me, rooting me on and saying “Don’t worry. Right now you’re dealing with a lot, but when things calm down you’ll get back to this story.”
    
So, I listened to that little voice while I was pregnant with our twins in what turned out to be a high-risk pregnancy that forced me into two months of complete bedrest. I listened to that voice when our twins were born one month premature. I listened for the next two years while I was buried in diapers, toys, drooling smiles, potty-training, and tears of exhaustion and joy. 
I listened to that little voice while packing, unpacking, and then packing up again through a total of four out of state moves (Washington to Minnesota, Minnesota to Montana, Montana to Washington, and then Washington to Oregon).
     
Then, once our twins were two years old, that same little voice helped me to eek out five minutes of writing time here, another five minutes of writing time there, until lo and behold, my twins were five-years-old and I’d finally finished my book.
     
And then I realized that my book was horrible.    
But that same little voice was still with me, now saying, “Ok, you’ve got a lot of work ahead, but you FINISHED and that’s something to be proud of. Now get to work on making it BETTER.”
So I did. I went to my very first writing conference and realized there were people just like me, striving to write until they got it right. I made some great writing friends at that first conference, and in a roundabout way, that was how I met Jillian.
Now, armed with my own little voice and a few writing friends with actual voices, all of whom were giving lots of encouragement, I ripped my book apart and revised it, from the first word to the last…SIX TIMES. 
   
Then I found a local writing group and two critique partners (lots of love here to Artemis Gray and Margo Kelly!) who showed me I had a lot more work to do. So I revised it again…TWO MORE TIMES. 
Then, I went to a conference in August of 2012. Conferences are expensive and I could only afford one of the three days, and getting that money took holding a yard sale. But, my husband and entire family are very supportive, so clutching my yard sale proceeds in one hand and my query letter in the other, off to the conference I went.
    
I met more amazing writers, got requests for partials from three of the three agents I met with, and then drove home with my dreams soaring—dreams that were quickly dashed when I got rejected by one of the agents and never heard back from the other two.
    
But still, that little voice inside just wouldn’t let me quit. I revised my query letter until it shone, showed it to everyone who would look at it, revised it TWENTY more times (no, I’m not kidding) and then one minute after I put my twins on the school bus for their first day of second grade I began querying in earnest.
     
A few months into it I had around forty rejections, but I also had six agents and three editors (Medallion Press, Tor/Forge, and a small press) reviewing requested partials/fulls, an R&R offer from an agent, and an offer pending from another small press.
Then, it happened.
   
 I was rejected by an agent who called my book lovely and sweet, raved about my writing and the storyline, but ended with the statement, “…let your characters engage in sex and describe the sex. As it stands, I’ll pass. Put the sex in and I’ll take another look.”
I assure you, I have thick skin when it comes to rejections. I’ve racked up my fair share since I began querying, and normally took them with a grain of salt (and chocolate—lots of chocolate), but this one really bothered me. I understood if a rejection was based upon my writing style, the likeability of my characters, or a flaw in the storyline—but to be rejected solely on the basis that I choose NOT to include sex? That one didn’t go over well.
     
So much so that I finally decided it was time to query the one publisher I’d had my eye on for months. A publisher that cares not only for the authors, but for the kind of work they attach their name to. I’d discovered Astraea Press before I started querying in September and really liked the stance the owner, Stephanie Taylor, took against unnecessary sex.
     
During a 2011 interview, Six Questions for Stephanie Taylor, she made the following statement: “…Astraea offers a safe haven for good books where the focus is on the STORY and not the sex”.
I sent off a query to Stephanie at Astraea Press late one afternoon, and woke up the next morning to an offer! And it was my birthday too!
     
I immediately pulled my novel from consideration from all the others who were reviewing partials/fulls/had offers pending, because I believed so strongly in Astraea Press, and the niche they’ve carved out for themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
I am thrilled to announce my novel, Along the Way Home, will release June of 2013 in e-reader format and then in July of 2013 in print.
     
I hope you’ve enjoyed my “Not-So-Glamorous Story of How I Got My Book Deal”, and I hope it inspires you to never ever EVER give up on your dreams!
Speaking of dreams, here’s the back cover copy to my debut novel, Along the Way Home.
Kate Davis is intrigued when her father reveals his dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory. Settlers out west value a strong woman, and though she manages the financials of her father’s mercantile her competence earns her ridicule, not respect, from Virginia’s elite society.
Jake Fitzpatrick, an experienced trail guide, wants land out west to raise cattle and crops. But dreams require money and he’s eating dandelion greens for dinner. So when a wealthy businessman offers double wages to guide his family across the Oregon Trail, Jake accepts with one stipulation—he is in complete control.
Departure day finds Kate clinging to her possessions as Jake demands she abandon all he deems frivolous, including her deceased mother’s heirlooms. Jake stands firm, refusing to let the whims of a headstrong woman jeopardize the wages he so desperately needs—even a beautiful one with fiery green eyes and a temper to match.
Trail life is a battle of wills between them until tragedy strikes, leaving Jake with an honor-bound promise to protect her from harm and Kate with a monumental choice—go back to everything she’s ever known or toward everything she’s ever wanted?
Jillian, I thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today. And to her readers, thank you so much for reading about my journey to publication. If you’re interested, I post more tidbits about my writing journey in the following locations. I’d be honored to hear from you.
Facebook Author Page: You can find me under “Christi Corbett—Author”
Twitter: @ChristiCorbett
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/christicorbett/  (I have a page dedicated to my inspirations behind Along the Way Home, plus some fun Oregon Trail pages too.)
How about you? How do you keep writing/pursuing your dreams when it gets tough?

71 thoughts on “The Not-So-Glamorous Story of How I Got My Book Deal

  1. Christi, commenting here gives me such pleasure. Although we met four years ago, and after you had already traveled for nine years, I feel honored to have traveled through part of your journey. You were my first blog friend and we never, ever forget our first.

    I could say I’ve been at this writing gig for five years now. That is five years and thirty from the time I knew that I had to find the way to do what I loved, what I felt I must.

    I keep inspired through my good blog friends, on-line and local writer’s groups and I keep writing … knowing that I will reach my goal … because a labor of love is always worth the struggle. Love you, girlfriend :)

  2. What a great story, Christi! (Both your personal one and the book plot). And I applaud your decision to write your story YOUR way, rather than what might sell better. I get in trouble with reviewers all the time because I don’t have graphic sex scenes, so I know what that’s like. However, I recently read somewhere that more readers than ever want less sex and more story (I’m assuming that’s just in books–HA!), so we may be on the right track. Good luck with your debut. I’m delighted to have one of your books on my shelf (Kindle-wise).

  3. So inspiring! I feel so fortunate to have been cheering you on from the sidelines on your trek to get your amazing book published. I will never forget the first time I heard about your book. As a fellow mom in the throes of twin toddlerhood, I thought Whoa! She wrote a BOOK? I could hardly be counted on the write my grocery list on the back of a drive thru napkin!!! You still continue to impress me, and I am so proud of your accomplishments! Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. So proud of you, Cristi. Love to hear others sticking through struggles, especially ‘life struggles’, those things that come along in a person’s ‘normal’ life that can’t be changed, worked around, ignored or let go of, such as births and all the problems that can arise, caregiving, husband’s job situations, money things. We all have them and to see you deal with your own and stick to your writing gives hope to anyone who has a life and lives it. Thanks and good luck.

  5. That’s not the first time I’ve heard of any agent or publisher turning down a book because the author excluded graphic sex–good for you not to cave. Congratulations on your success-perseverance is an admirable trait. Sounds like a book I’d enjoy.

  6. Florence,

    We never do forget our first! I recall our phone chat as we figured out links on your blog and other fun technical stuff, and then our other chats about writing and more.

    Thanks for being such a great friend over the years, and when you reach your goal look for me, because I’ll be right there beside you cheering you on!

    Christi Corbett

  7. Ink in the Book… I thought about not sharing it because it did take me so long, but then I realized so many others were out there just like me. I’m so glad you liked this post, and best wishes in the contest!

    Kaki…I recall seeing one of those reviews and thinking, “Seriously?!” I don’t know how anyone could ever have anything bad to say about any of your books…they are AMAZING! I read what I’m thinking is the same article (USA Today or something, I have the link on my Facebook page) about how readers want more storyline and less sex and I was thrilled! I’d rather spend 10,000 words writing about an adventure/subplot for my characters than sex :)

    Christi

  8. Jen…Thank you so much for being one of my early readers! I remember bringing you those chapters as we waited together in the preschool pick up line and I was so grateful that I’d found someone who would read it :)

    TiGi…Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, and for taking the time to read my journey to publication. It was a long one (both the actual one and this post) and I appreciate your support!

    MK… I’d had a few others mention it too, but the one I spoke of above just really irked me more than the others. Not sure why, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back (forgive the cliche) and it made me take a step back, take a deep breath, and finally hit SEND on the query to Astraea. Thanks for your comment!

    Christi

  9. Christi,

    I hope our paths will cross and we meet face to face one day. I admire your tenacity. Never give up! As you know, giving up will never pay. Continuing to grow is the only way to the reward of publication.

    I have a blogger friend in Missouri who posts a lot about the Oregon Trail. You might find it interesting: http://mthupp.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/water-sports-card-games-airplane-letters/

    I look forward to reading you book!

    Smiles,

    Linda Joyce

  10. That’s what it’s all about, Christy. Keeping on believing in what you have done and keeping the faith that one day you will make it and do it your way. Beleiving in yourself is key to success. Good luck with your book!

  11. Hi Christi!
    Just got back from Ridgecrest and the conference. Lots of fun, lots of learning, and lots of new friends. Love your story, Christi, and I know you will continue to grow in the craft and someday your children will read your books and say, “My Momma wrote that.” Very proud of you! And it’s so nice to hear everyone here cheering you on.

    Jill

  12. Thanks for sharing your story, Christi. I remember Diana Gabaldon saying that the single best piece of advice she could offer writers is to never give up. Sometimes it’s hard to persevere when real life gets in the way, but a goal can only be achieved if you keep reaching for it. Congratulations on your success. :)

  13. Jill, thanks for sharing Christi’s story. Christi, I’m glad you stood your ground for what you wanted in a story. It’s refreshing to see an author not caving in on her morals just to get published. May you be blessed with many more books to come.

  14. Catherine…First of all, love your name! Probably because it’s my heroine’s name in Along the Way Home :) . Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your sentence, “Believing in yourself is key to success.” That is such a true statement, and a concept that kept me going through all the rejections.

    Carol… Thank you! I love your blog, especially when you post pictures and then relate them back to writing. Diana certainly has it correct with her advice to never give up. So many times I thought maybe it wouldn’t happen for me, but then I would just shush that thought and keep going.

    Elaine… It’s funny how the lack of sex in my story was such a big affront to that one particular agent, but in the end I’m glad it was because her rejection was what pushed me to finally query Astraea Press. Thank you for your lovely comment!

  15. Jillian,

    Thank you so much for allowing me to guest post this week! I’ve enjoyed meeting your readers and am very appreciative of their supportive comments.

    A round of applause for Jillian!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Christi

  16. Cynthia,

    You’ve made my day, and I cried when I read your comment. My hubby wondered what my problem was :)

    I admit, I originally thought about hiding the fact it took me so long because I was a bit embarrassed that I was so slow, but then I knew there would be someone out there that would understand, because they were writing, and trying, and never giving up too.

    Are you a writer too? I’d love to learn more about you.

    Christi Corbett

  17. Cynthia,

    I did a *facepalm* after I learned who you are. I can’t believe I asked you if you’re a writer :)

    I followed you everywhere I could find and look forward to learning more about you.

    Going to ACFW is out of my budget so I always live vicariously through everyone’s blog posts after they get back.

    Thanks again,

    Christi Corbett

  18. This is so inspiring, Christi! While growing up I loved writing- mostly poems (a couple have been published in poetry anthologies,) short stories, and journals- but then once I had my first child, the writing stopped. It’s always been a dream of mine to write children’s books, or children’s cookbooks- I miss writing and I know I need to get back to it! Thank you for sharing your dream and your struggles to make it a reality- and Congratulations!! :)

  19. Eve,

    If you need Beta Readers (people who read your book and give you input) I’ve got two eight year olds who love to read, and give their opinions. They’ve done it for other children’s book authors so I know they’d love to help you out too!

    I had no idea you were an aspiring author…good for you for starting your own blog, congratulations!

  20. Okaaaay I’ve tried to leave about 5 comments and I’ve been thwarted each and every time… sounds like trying to get a novel published… :) Speaking of, CONGRATS CHRISTI!!! So freaking happy to see Along The Way Home up there and about to be set free in the world!

    As for how I keep writing even when things get tough, for me, the only option is to keep writing. It’s what makes me happier than anything else. Even if you could prove to me definitively that I would never get published, I would still write stories until the day I die.

  21. Jamie… Everyone, this is my fantastic cousin! She’s great and super supportive, and knows waaaaay too much about me :) . And I’m looking forward to seeing her in about a month when I go back home for a visit!

    Artemis… YES! I’ve had some of my comments gobbled up too. I’ve noticed Blogger has a tendency to do that. I’m so happy you made it through. Everyone…this is my critique partner, who was VITAL to the final version of Along the Way Home. She made sure all my horse-related scenes were correctly portrayed, which is good because I had some major mistakes :) . And I assure you you’ll be seeing her in print soon (I’ve had the pleasure of reading several of her books and they’re GREAT!)

  22. I was going to snarkily point out that it should be “eke” out, not “eek,” then I thought about my own writing career and decided you were right, eek is the proper word. There are so many times when you say, “Eek! I’ll never get the time to do this!”

    I’ve been working on my third YA novel for about two years now, I have 9 days before my self-imposed deadline for this final revision. In the meantime I’m still looking for a publisher for the first two. (The first one has gone through 14 revisions now. A 15th is impending.) If I hadn’t found an enthusiastic agent, I’d have probably quit the search and tried self-publishing, but under his guidance the work is better and the chances of finding a home for them improved.

    I write for a living, I’m a news reporter, and some days it’s all you can do to elbow out an hour to work on the book. Yesterday I was covering a V.I. Senate hearing, and got about 45 minutes of work in while they were pontificating and just boring me to tears. I also have – as my friends say – “many, many children”. I would add to that that they are remarkably supportive and undemanding, they’ve put up with a lot while dad tries to make it as a writer. And of course, they grow and strike out on their own, so we’re down to two kids in the house. That helps. And during the process we’ve moved from oregon to the Virgin islands to New Orleans.

    It’s all about the support you get on the way, isn’t it? My wife is amazing, my kids cheer me on (and one daughter now trying to make it as an actress tells me she “has dibs” on playing the part in the movie – think that doesn’t urge you on?) an agent who sees something marketable in my work, a boss who understands. Without all of that, I don’t see how I could have done it.

    Where in Oregon are you?

    http://writepirate.blogspot.com/

    • John,

      I just got back from a vacation or I would have responded sooner…

      I love that you’ve gone through so many revisions! I was the same way before I started querying. I always knew I was close, but there was usually something else I’d find with each pass through. When you find a publisher you’ll be happy you went to all the trouble for those revisions, because it will make your editing rounds so much easier :)

      I worked in television for a while (I was first an editor of the evening newscasts, and then moved on to writing commercials) and our main anchor was a novel writer. He told me once that he outlined an entire novel during a VERY boring city hall meeting that dragged on for hours. I’m thinking he gave the bare minimum of info on that meeting during the newscast that evening!

      We live in a small town just outside of Eugene, Oregon. Really small, like one stoplight and we just got a gas station kind of small. A good place to raise our twins.

      Thanks for writing!

      Christi Corbett

    • Elizabeth and Lauren,

      Thanks so much for writing! It was a long road, but it’s comments like yours that make me happy I waited.

      Margo,

      Thanks for being such a great critique partner, and for all your help getting Along the Way Home ready for publication!

      Christi Corbett

  23. I found your link via Janet Reid, what an amazing story about your path, as an aspiring author I too have had similar experience in regards to doubting myself and stressing I am not good enough but its authors like you that help aspiring silence the doubts and push on, I also appreciate the fact you did not change your story by adding sex not that its wrong I write as well smexy novels for adults but I think a book can have plenty of romance without sex, I wish you all the best and look forward to reading your book the back cover synopsis sounds amazing I love novels like that very heart-warming.

    • Keisha,

      Sounds like you need an “I Don’t Suck” file!

      I started keeping compliments about my writing in a file, and when the rejections (so many rejections!) rolled in, I’d simply open the file and read through all the nice things that people had wrote about my writing. It kept me going through the hard times, the times I wondered if all my efforts would ever pay off.

      This site is very picky so I’m not certain if this link will show up, but I’ll give it a try. Here’s the link to the blog post I did about the “I Don’t Suck” file…

      http://christicorbett.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/the-you-dont-suck-file/

      Never ever EVER give up on your writing dream!

      Christi Corbett

  24. Christi, thank you for sharing your story, it’s such an inspiration! I needed to hear your journey to publication and the message to keep plugging away no matter what. It’s amazing how the universe gives us the right encouragement at the right time. So, I’ll go back to my revisions now, but before I do, I’d like to say thank you once again!

  25. Lynn,

    I’m so happy that my story helped in any way! I’d originally thought of hiding that I’d taken so many years because I was always comparing myself to those who pumped out three books a year, but then I realized there must be more like me out there, so I told all, and then some :)

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I really appreciate hearing from you, and I wish you all the best in your writing.

    What genre do you write in?

    Christi Corbett

    • I’m glad you did tell your whole story because I’m sure there are more people like you than the writers who put out 3 books a year. My WIP (literary fiction) started several years ago with breaks for a big move, stressful job…well, you know, life getting in the way. Seven months ago I thought I was on my final rewrite, seven months later I’m still making changes. Some days I think what I’ve written is great and then other days I’ll reread the same pages and think it’s a bunch of crap! I know eventually I’ll have to stop the revisions and let a few beta readers at it that’ll give me some perspective other than my own. Until then, I continue on my long slow journey!

      All the best to you, as well.

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