First Book Friday: Joshua Palmatier
Welcome to First Book Friday, an ongoing series exploring how various authors sold their first books.
Today’s post comes from fantasy author Joshua Palmatier, a.k.a. Benjamin Tate. His latest book is Well of Sorrows, his fourth novel for DAW Books. Joshua also runs the DAW Books Community on LiveJournal.
First of all, thanks to Jim for inviting me to guest blog about my first novel sale! It’s certainly an experience an author never forgets.
My first professional novel sale was The Skewed Throne [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon]. This was the fourth book I’d written and the fourth that I’d seriously attempted to sell. I began writing it in the summer of 2002, while in my third year of graduate school, seeking my PhD in mathematics. At this point, I’d been seriously trying to get published for about seven years, sending out queries to agents and editors for the other three books I’d written. I had a list of agents and editors that had been refined using the multiple rejections from those other books. So I had agents who were interested in my writing but hadn’t seen a book from me that they thought would be a good “first” novel. I also had a few editors, specifically Sheila Gilbert at DAW Books, who had seen all of the previous books and wanted to see whatever I wrote next.
I spent that summer writing the first half of The Skewed Throne, put it on hiatus while I worked on the PhD for the Fall and Spring semesters, then finished the book in the summer of 2003. I immediately started sending it out to my list of agents and editors, including Sheila Gilbert at DAW—agents in batches of 7, and one editor at a time. I got multiple rejections (some of them rather harsh) from the agents right away and began working my way down the list, completely and utterly discouraged. I’d reached a point where I’d literally told my local writing support group, “If this didn’t sell, I was done writing.” I don’t believe I would have—or could have—followed through on this, but that’s how beat down I felt at the time. Thankfully, I had PhD work to cheer me up!
I got interest from one agent. YAY! Except, she wanted me to revise the manuscript so it was more YA and change it from first person to third. I spent a month doing that, and the agent’s response was, “Sorry, no longer interested.” This pissed me off, so I rewrote the entire book again, changed it all back to first person, eliminated the YA elements, and created a new list of agents to send it to, including Amy Stout, a new agent at Lori Perkins Agency. Amy expressed interest immediately, but I was wary at this point. We spent a few hours discussing the book on the phone. After extensive questioning, I felt that I could work with Amy and that she had realistic expectations for the book and for revisions. I agreed to let her represent me and told her the book was already on submission to Sheila at DAW.
So by fall 2004, I had an agent and the book was on submission to DAW. I was also nearing the end of the work on my PhD, looking for jobs while finishing off the dissertation. I focused on that (I had an agent to focus on the book now), and while I was away at a mathematics conference in January 2005, I got a call from Amy saying Sheila was interested in The Skewed Throne and, oh, by the way, if there were sequels they wanted to take a look at those, too.
After the resultant OMG OMG OMG dance, I wrote up synopses for sequels and sent them off.
Within three months of getting Amy as my agent—and just under three years after sitting down to start writing the first book—I had a three-book deal with DAW for the Throne of Amenkor series. Since then, all three “Throne” books have been published in English and translated into German. Oh, and in May 2005, I got my PhD.
2005 was a very good year. *grin*
August 6, 2010 @ 10:32 am
I definitely dig this new “First Book Friday” feature. It is a great idea! And Josh’s story was another interesting tale. Especially interesting was the part where he had to rewrite the story at an agent’s request only to get told after that his efforts were in vain. If that ever happens to me, now, at least it won’t be a surprise.
Jim C. Hines
August 6, 2010 @ 10:39 am
Glad you like it! I’ve got at least another month’s worth of authors lined up, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep some interesting stories coming for a while.
I’ve gotten rewrite requests for short fiction, and it’s stressful. Knowing you’re so close, but that there are still no guarantees … I imagine it’s exponentially more nerve-wracking at novel length!
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August 6, 2010 @ 11:38 am
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August 6, 2010 @ 2:08 pm
@Stephen Watkins: Yeah, that response was kind of a shock. I wasn’t expecting it at all, especially how abrupt it was after I’d spent a good month or more working on the revisions. My lesson was that I should only do a rewrite if I actually, seriously agree with the suggested revisions.
August 6, 2010 @ 2:38 pm
That’s a good lesson.
August 6, 2010 @ 3:51 pm
But a hard lesson. All of my publishing lessons have been hard ones. *sigh*