A New Website, A New Book Deal – And The Real Story Of How Book Deals Happen

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce I’m going to be published again! The brilliant Marissa Grossman at Razorbill (Penguin Random House) has acquired, at auction, my YA fantasy duology, to be published in Summer 2020. The books are set in the fantastical world of Talassa, and the first follows sixteen-year-old Zahru, who is chosen as a human sacrifice in a dangerous race across the desert between the king’s three heirs. A sequel will follow in 2021.

You can add the first book on Goodreads here!

And if you’d like to be the first to know about series-related giveaways, character reveals, exclusive content and other news from me, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.

Now, I’m about to get really real here, so bear with me. This is mostly for my fellow writers, but it’s also for anyone working toward a difficult dream: I think there’s an unhealthy expectation that these kinds of deals come easy, or only to a lucky few. That if it’s not easy, then you’re doing something wrong, or you’re not good enough, or it’s not meant to be. And of course there are successful authors who go from first book to movie deal in what seems like no time flat – and that’s great, because their success paves the way for yours, too! But y’all, that’s not the only way–and that’s not how it happened for me. The main reason I’m writing this post today – the main reason I have a book published at all – is not because I figured out a magical formula or flew to New York and blackmailed someone (as tempting as the latter might have been). It’s because I’m exorbitantly stubborn.

I won’t even go into the process I went through to get my agent and my first book deal, because that’s the other 7 years of posts on this blog. But allow me to skim the surface of the things (both good and bad) that have happened since:

  • Dec 2013: Signed my very first publishing deal ever! A one-book deal for an advance of $7500. I WAS GOING TO BE AN AUTHOR!
  • In Nov 2014, I asked my publisher for bookmarks I could take to events, only to find the marketing budget for my book was so small, they couldn’t cover it. They did, however, provide a design, so I paid the $75 to have a third party print them.
  • To recap: $75 was not in my marketing budget.
  • In Feb 2015, I found out a miscommunication meant my debut hadn’t been sent out for trade reviews. This meant Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist etc – any and all literary journals where booksellers, librarians, and teachers find new books – had no idea I existed. Essentially, I had a brand new product to introduce to the world… that wasn’t going to be included in the company catalog.
  • March 2015: Duplicity published! Woo!
  • Two weeks later: my publisher declined to acquire my next book, citing Duplicity’s poor sales.
  • April 2015: my agent sent me an exciting write-for-hire project I immediately fell in love with. I worked my tail off to write a 75-page polished sample in 3 weeks – this was also while a) my 7-year-old cat was dying of cancer b) I was on vacation to visit family. My agent was so excited about what I’d written that she sent it on without ANY edits, which has never happened to me before or since.
  • In May, the publisher said I was the clear front runner for the project … except they’d decided to cancel it.
  • In July, I found out I was pregnant. Also that I am not a person who glows while pregnant. I am a person who throws up for the entire 9 months.
  • In August/October, we sold our house and moved. This new house was our first fixer-up, which is probably all I need to say about that.
  • Nov 2015-Feb 2016: While we renovated the kitchen/bathrooms/entire world, I was madly making changes to the horror book my old publisher had turned down, hoping to make it my next published work. I’d already done 5 heavy rounds of changes by this point and been revising for over a year. Upon turning this draft in, I learned it would need another major re-haul before we sent it to editors.
  • In March 2016, our amazing baby girl was born, and while I’m eternally grateful she was 100% healthy, I also contracted a blood infection from my C-section. I had constant spiking fevers and couldn’t sit up without using my arms, because using my abs felt like sliding into an iron maiden. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks. It took the doctors most of that time to figure out what was wrong, during which I considered the real possibility my baby might be growing up without me.
  • Once free, I had this incredible, amazing bundle of joy… who didn’t sleep through the night for 11 months.
  • Due to all the above, I fell into one of the worst depressions I’ve ever been in. I felt totally stuck. My body and my time wasn’t mine anymore. I felt guilty being away from my baby to write, and equally as guilty about not working when I held her in my arms. When I did write, I hated everything I put on the page. I didn’t want to redo the horror book for the 90th time. I couldn’t get excited about any new ideas. I soon found I didn’t care about much at all, writing-related or not.
  • It was at this point I seriously considered quitting writing.
  • In Jan 2017, after I started catching up on sleep, I started to feel good again. In a cataclysmic alignment of stars, I watched Adele give her acceptance speech for Best Album at the Grammys, in which she talked about how difficult it was to be a mom, and how she felt she lost a lot of herself in the process, but that winning that Grammy was like coming full circle. And there she was, a mom and a blockbuster artist, thriving after she thought her best days were behind her. It was the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • In Feb 2017, I shelved the book that wasn’t working. I went back to an old idea and two characters who’d been sitting around in my head for years. I decided I didn’t care if I sold it, I just wanted to write something fun again.
  • Three months later, I had a first draft of THE KINDER POISON.
  • In Sep 2017, I learned Duplicity would be going out of print, just 2 1/2 years after its release. I would never earn out my $7500 advance.
  • In Dec, my agent gave me a big thumbs up on the revisions I’d done for KINDER POISON.
  • In Jan 2018, we went on submission to editors.
  • In Feb, we got our first offer.
  • And in March 2018, a year after I wanted to quit, after I thought I couldn’t write anymore and I’d traded my career to be a parent, that I’d already written the only thing I’d ever write worth publishing… THE KINDER POISON went to a multi-house auction, where a Big 5 bought not just that title, but its sequel as well.

If you read all that, bless you. If you started skimming, I don’t blame you – but remember, these are all the pieces you don’t see. A book deal is clean; a blip of fantastic news, a waterfall of congratulations. So when you start to panic that it’ll never happen to you, or you’re killing yourself for nothing, or you’re not sure you have what it takes–I hear you. I’ve been there, I’ve been through counseling for it, and I hope you can take comfort in knowing I came out on the other side.

You’re not failing. You’re building the origin story that’s going to encourage someone else like you to keep going.

Don’t you dare give up.

8 Comments

  1. The shitkicking that comes with sleep deprivation is REAL. Sending mom solidarity. <3 Thanks for this honest and encouraging post!

  2. All of THIS. Beautiful. Heart-wrenching. REAL. Thank you for sharing, encouraging, and for being the stubborn writer you are! So excited to read THE KINDER POISON and sequel!

  3. Amazing post! The struggle is very real as a new mom, mom of multiples, and women who long to be mom’s. Depression is so hard to deal with. Thank goodness in time it lifted. I love your story. Thank you so much for sharing the horror that’s the truth. <3

  4. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing your origin story!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. Moms rock. So glad you are a member of the stubborn club as well. Lol. Your books sound great.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. We’ve you’ve been in the trenches for a while and see all these amazing stories on Twitter about new book deals etc, it’s easy to forget the hard work behind those deals. Writing takes a lot but it gives a lot too. Sort of like being a mom. Best wishes to you in this next season of your writing and parenting..

  7. Congratulations, Nat! Though I haven’t gone through personal issues as intense as yours, I’m also struggling with weak debut book sales and a dormant muse. I hope I can take some inspiration from your story! –David

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