It is my absolute pleasure to have my friend Cat Lavoie here today talking about publishing Breaking the Rules. It is an amazing book, and she is so lovely. Thanks for joining us, Cat!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Samantha. I've very excited to share the ups and downs of my journey to publication. Here we go…
There's a folder in my email inbox labeled Agent Rejections. I'm not going to tell you how many emails are in there—truth be told, I'm not even sure of the exact number myself—but the words 'staggering,' 'overwhelming' and 'Oh-my-God-does-Gmail-charge-you-for-the-extra-storage?' come to mind. When I started querying my debut novel, Breaking the Rules, I blogged about the process and compared it to riding a rollercoaster—the thrill of getting partial requests from agents, the anticipation of receiving that one answer that will change everything, the fear of getting an email with another variation of thanks, but no thanks and the occasional nausea from all of the above.
I started querying in October 2010 and the ride was bumpy from the start. Having crafted (what I thought was) the perfect query letter, I emailed it to my two dream agents. Even though I knew from reading about other writers' experiences that querying was going to be tough and that I had a long road ahead of me, I was hoping that one of these dream agents (or both!) would see something in my query. Nope. Within a week, both queries came back with a form rejection. I was devastated. Crushed. How could this happen?
Looking back, I know exactly why this happened. I wish I had realized that my query letter was awful before I sent it a long list of unsuspecting agents. After posting it on a writing forum and getting feedback on how to improve it, I started sending out my new and improved query. Now things were going to start happening.
And they did. Slowly but surely, I started getting partial requests and the occasional full request (which made me almost cry with excitement).
I became obsessed with checking my email. On my home computer. On my work computer. On my phone. I couldn't go to bed without checking it one last time. And the rejections kept rolling in each and every day.
I'm not somebody who has a ton of confidence to begin with and this process really drained what little self-confidence I did have. I started thinking that it went beyond agents and publishers being afraid of taking on a chick lit novel. What if I was the problem? What if my writing was truly awful but everybody was just too nice to tell me the truth? Thankfully, I had a team of supportive friends and family around me and they got me through the times when I wanted to throw in the towel—not just on this novel—but on writing altogether.
I remember where I was when I got (what was to become) my final rejection in January of this year. This particular publisher had been considering my novel for over six months and ultimately passed. Again, I was crushed. Devastated. But only for a few days. After wallowing for a bit, I decided enough was enough.
Taking the decision to self-publish was one of the most exciting decisions I ever made. It wasn't something I was resigned to do… it was something I was excited to do and I couldn't wait to get started. It was like I was taking control of my writing and my future. I wasn't going to wait around anymore. If things weren't happening, I was going to make them happen. And if I failed and fell flat on my face, at least I had tried. Giving up on this novel was not an option.
My first step was finding an editor to help me whip Breaking the Rules into shape. I Googled 'freelance chick lit editor' and landed on the Chick Lit Plus blog and its founder Samantha March. From the very first emails we exchanged, I knew I wanted Samantha to be my editor. She loved chick lit and was already a great cheerleader for the chick lit cause. She'd self-published her own novel, Destined to Fail, a few months earlier and (as anyone who's had any contact with her can confirm) she is made of awesome. As we moved forward in the editing process, she told me about Marching Ink, the publishing company she'd started. (Seriously? Writer, editor, blogger, blog tour coordinator. When does this girl sleep?) I was in the middle of finalizing my novel's cover design when Samantha asked me if I wanted to publish Breaking the Rules with Marching Ink. I still remember getting that email and how excited and honored I was. But I had a decision to make. Would I continue on the self-publication road or go with Marching Ink? It didn't take long for me to accept Samantha's offer. I believed in her and her endeavor to start an independent press and she believed in me and in Breaking the Rules.
So, here we are. It's been close to two years since I sent my first query letter and I've learned quite a few things along the way. The main lesson I take away from my querying adventures is this: Everyone has their own path. I started out seeking traditional publication and then decided to self-publish and then published with a small press. It's been a bumpy ride but I don't regret a thing. Everything I went through was worth it in the end because I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. And why do I still have that folder in my email inbox with all those rejections? Because now I can look at them and—instead of making me feel sad and depressed—they make me feel that much more grateful and proud that Breaking the Rules made its way into the world.
Cat Lavoie was born in the small town of Jonquière in Québec, Canada. At the age of nineteen, she packed up her things (mostly books) and moved to the big city of Montreal where she currently lives with her tempestuous cat Abbie—who is both adorable and quite possibly evil.
An incurable Anglophile since her university days where she studied English Literature, she can often be found daydreaming about her next trip to London. Since she’s an expert at the art of procrastination, Cat is easily distracted by cooking and home improvement shows—even though she’s not particularly good at either.
Cat grew up watching soap operas and legal dramas and—had she not decided to be a claims analyst by day and write chick lit by night—she would have probably become a designer suit-wearing lawyer. Or a character on All My Children (which is what she really wanted to be when she was twelve).
Cat is not sure whether she’s a geek or a nerd—and is afraid she might be both. Breaking the Rules is her first novel.
Connect with Cat!
Cat blogs about the writing life and posts adorable pictures of Abbie over at the Catenabi Chronicles. Come say hello at Catlavoie.com or follow Cat on Twitter @catenabi.
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