By Avery Aames (a.k.a. Daryl Wood Gerber)
Are you just about to give up? Don’t!
Over the course of fifteen years, I wrote a number of books, both traditional mystery and suspense thrillers. I submitted these books to agent after agent and received a number of comments like, “This is so close, but it’s just not for me.” [Sound familiar?]
Two years ago, when I was ready to give up, a critique partner suggested I write to the market. ‘Cozies are selling,’ she said. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a whirl.
But before I wrote another full book, I wanted to make sure that the cozy hook that I’d chosen was a good hook. I approached agent Jessica Faust at Bookends, whom I had met a writers’ conference. She had given me encouragement on previous work. I asked if I could submit cozy ideas to her to see if they would fly with a publisher. She agreed. I submitted professionally crafted bibles, [my bibles included sample chapters, an overview of the series, character sketches, and a basic outline], but none captured her fancy. After a few tries, we agreed that maybe we weren’t of like mind, so I asked if she’d be upset if I approached her fellow agent, Jacky Sach, who I had also met at a conference. Jessica gave her blessing.
I approached Jacky with the same request. Jacky agreed. I tried three, but she didn’t think any would appeal to a publisher, so I tried three more. Mind you, each of these took me a while to write, and mind you Jacky was such a good sport! Again, I received encouragement from Jacky, but none of the ideas were “just right.” Because I knew of people who had been “hired” to write books based on a bible created by the publisher, I asked Jacky if she would keep me in mind if she heard of an opportunity. [Note: I used to write in Hollywood. I created the format for a series on TV called “Out of this World.” I had no qualms about writing somebody else’s idea.] Jacky said she would.
I didn’t waste another moment thinking about the possibility, and I returned to what I had been writing before I changed track – a suspense thriller. Note: I was still considering giving up writing, but I hadn’t decided what I would do next with my life, and sitting on the couch day in, day out was out of the question (for me). I polished my new novel and started the quest again to find an agent who would think it was the most brilliant piece of writing ever. I received requests for full manuscripts and was feeling pretty sure that something was going to break for me this time…soon. [Perseverance requires that you see the rainbow behind the clouds!] At the same time, I took a cozy writing class and a suspense writing class. I polished new chapters and ideas through my critique group. And, yes, I had the occasional mini-pity party. [Note: Don’t let pity parties last longer than twenty-four hours. It takes grit to stop a pity-party, but you can do it.]
To audition for the job, I was asked to provide three chapters. I set to work, researching, tasting, and writing. Working within the publisher’s parameters provided a freedom I’d never felt before. I was writing something that had a strong hook and was already “wanted” by the publisher. In a matter of weeks, I turned in the chapters.
But I didn’t kid myself that I would be hired. I’d been rejected before. So I returned to my regular job of writing the next book.
When I was offered a three-book deal, I just about fell off my chair. I was going to be published, writing something I truly enjoyed!
My advice: If opportunity knocks on your door, open it and: Say Cheese!
Avery Aames (aka Daryl Wood Gerber) is a long-time member of Sisters in Crime and the author of The Long Quiche Goodbye, first in the Cheese Shop Mysteries. Avery blogs every Monday with Mystery Lovers Kitchen. Check out her web site at www.AveryAames.com.
(This article originally appeared on the Bookends Blog.)