Perseverance. It’s a word I use a lot and it’s a necessary word in the world of publishing. Today’s featured author, Brandy Colbert, wrote three novels before she signed with her agent. Each time she got a rejection, she returned to the work, honing her craft, never giving up on her dream. As she said it best in her own words, ”if one can honestly say they could live a happy, full life knowing they gave up on their dream, then maybe they should pursue a more fulfilling goal.” This thought sums up the goal of being published. It is a long hard road, that you have to be willing to persevere. But in the end, if you’re successful like Brandy, the victory is sweet.
Here is Brandy’s inspiring writing journey…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write young adult fiction?
Brandy: I first realized I wanted to write young adult fiction when I was revising the first novel I completed, back in early 2007. I knew something wasn’t clicking with the characters and the story I’d written, but it took a couple of drafts to figure out they’d be better suited as teenagers. When I was growing up, YA wasn’t the enormous force that it is today; it was out there, and I still own and reread the YA books I bought as a teenager. But the selection and diversity were truly lacking, so I read more adult books and that’s naturally what I turned to when I began writing for publication. I haven’t been a teenager in many years, but I’ve never stopped watching TV shows or movies based around young adults, so it only made sense that I’d be drawn to that world in book form, as well.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to A POINT SO DELICATE?
Brandy: I’d written and queried three novels before I wrote A POINT SO DELICATE. All of them trunked, but all of them useful in their own way (and necessary!).
Amy: What was your first query process like?
Brandy: I first queried agents five years ago so it’s a little blurry. I didn’t know anyone when I started writing for publication and relied on the internet for all of my agent and querying research (luckily, there was and is tons of really solid information out there). I sent out my queries in batches and kept a Word document with the agent/agency I’d queried, when/what they requested, and when they got back to me. I had several requests for fulls and partials on my first book, but looking back now, I know it just wasn’t there yet. Still, I think that process was invaluable, as it taught me patience (a little bit anyway), restraint, and persistence.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish A POINT SO DELICATE? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?
Brandy: I did use critique partners and beta readers for earlier versions of POINT (and even a very dedicated beta during my revisions with my editor, for whom I am incredibly grateful), and they were such a help. A very, very big help. Once you’ve been working on a book for so long, it’s easy to become too close to it and unable to see the flaws in the story and/or characters. (Or, in my case, I know the flaws are there, but I don’t always know how to fix them myself.) Beta readers and critique partners are there to support you, but I like it when they’re hard on me. When my CP points out something I knew wasn’t working but thought I could get away with, I know I’ve found a person I can trust with my unpolished work.
Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that feedback and continue to write?
Brandy: Oh, yes. I am all too familiar with rejection. Those three trunked novels? They are trunked for a reason. Rejection hurts and it makes you question your worth and ability as a writer, but I think it’s necessary for growth. Some rejections simply say, “This isn’t for me” because that’s just it — that particular book wasn’t for that particular agent. But as much as it stung to open an email and see that an agent was passing on my book, the further along I got the more I started to take away valuable feedback from those rejections. The notes were longer, the reason for rejection more specific. Once you start getting those kinds of rejections, you know you’re on the right track and should keep improving, keep working until you get that “yes.”
Amy: How many agents did you query for A POINT SO DELICATE?
Brandy: I just combed through old emails because I was curious about this myself, but didn’t keep a detailed document with query stats for POINT as I did with my previous three novels. I queried 10 agents, including Tina Wexler, who immediately requested the full, asked for a revise-and-resubmit request, and signed me three months later.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Brandy: I received very immediate responses which, besides Tina’s, were all a version of “This isn’t right for me.” But the old saying about how it only takes one yes? I’m the perfect example of that.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Tina Wexler? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Brandy: I think surreal is the best word. I knew from our emails that I already liked her and that she got my book, but I was (naturally) worried while waiting to hear back on my revise-and-resubmit request. What if I hadn’t executed the revisions in a way that clicked with her? I’d gotten so close with an agent before her that I wasn’t entirely convinced she was calling to offer representation, and made a bad joke stating that at the beginning of the call. But she laughed and made a joke of her own and offered anyway! And I knew right away that I trusted her with my career — she knew the market; she had a successful, long-term sales record; and she also had a reputation as one of the nicest agents out there (which is very true). I also appreciated that she was an editorial agent, and had plans for how to further improve my book before we went out on sub. But most of all — she got my book. Talking with Tina, I realized this was the first time an agent truly understood the story I was trying to tell, and that in itself might have been the most surreal part.
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention and sell your book?
Brandy: I think the most solid advice is to follow submission guidelines, be professional and polite, and learn to be patient (or at least how to pretend to be patient). That all sounds pretty simple, but it can definitely help writers stand out in a sea of unprofessional queriers.
Amy: If you met an aspiring writer on the street and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on their writing dream, what kind of advice would you give to encourage them to press on?
Brandy: It’s so easy to want to give up. You’re spending all this time working on a project that has no guarantee of getting into the right hands or turning into anything but a saved file on your computer. But publishing is so much about timing and luck and perseverance. When I sent off my query to Tina I was still hurting from a rejection that I was so sure was going to turn into an acceptance. I expected to have a rejection from her, as well, and clearly I was wrong. This sounds a little dramatic, but my whole life changed the day I decided to query my now-agent and I cringe when I think of what would have happened if I’d never sent that email or if I’d decided to give up on writing in general. I believe if one can honestly say they could live a happy, full life knowing they gave up on their dream, then maybe they should pursue a more fulfilling goal. But all the writers I know achieved their dream because they didn’t give up. They kept writing, kept putting their work out there, and kept improving. Writing is hard. Publishing is a tough, tough business. But if publishing a book is a lifelong goal — like it very much was for me — I think a person owes it to themselves to keep trying, no matter how tough it gets.
Brandy Colbert was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks and lives in Los Angeles. She has worked as an editor for several national magazines and as a business writer for an investment banking firm. She tap dances and watches too much television. You can find out more about A POINT SO DELICATE on Goodreads and connect with Brandy on Twitter @brandycolbert