Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting *THE CALL*

I love stories on how authors reacted when they got THE CALL from a publisher offering a contract. They're fun because you can see their reactions to the whole thing. I'll admit, I like to collect them. I run them because it offers hope to many aspiring writer wishing for THE CALL.

My guest today is Olivia Cunning. I've known her for over two years and have read many of her stories and thoroughly enjoy reading work from such a talented writer. However, like many authors, Olivia didn't get a request on the first query she sent out. There is a lot of writing, sending off queries, waiting, getting rejections, repeating the cycle and getting more rejections. Sometimes an aspiring author thinks they will never get a nibble of interest much less a call like this.

But let Olivia tell you about her call.

I think every aspiring author dreams about how they will respond when they get “the call” – the call that converts them from aspiring author to debut author.

Well, after years and years of dreaming about it, it finally happened to me. I was not prepared. Nope.

How would I describe my reaction to “the call”? Stammering idiot comes to mind.

Let’s back up a few days.

I’d been querying my erotic romance series “Sinners on Tour” for a couple of months. Strangely, the publishers I queried kept making requests to review the full or partial manuscript, but I had absolutely no luck getting a literary agent interested. No luck. None. Zero.

So after a couple weeks of waiting to hear back from publishers (milliseconds in literary world time), I get an email from an editor at Sourcebooks. She told me she was taking my manuscript to an editorial meeting later that week. Meaning she wanted them to buy it. No guarantees that the publishing house would be on board with her decision, but I had a foot in the door. Maybe a whole leg.

After I got over the accompanying feeling of flattery (more precisely: OMG, an editor likes my manuscript! OMG! OMG! OMG!), the panic set in. I still didn’t have a literary agent, but I needed one if I did get an offer for publication. Business person, I’m not. And I don’t speak legal-ese. Time to face facts. I needed an expert.

This meant it was time to make a few calls of my own. Email correspondence would be too slow. Spam filters eat my emails for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I couldn't risk it. I had to pick up the phone.

I was a nervous wreck. (Is this where I mention my phone phobia?) How many times had I been told to NEVER cold call a literary agent or a publisher? Uh, many. Many, many, many. And I don’t recommend it unless your situation is as immediate as mine was. As I dial the numbers on my short list of potential agents, I’m expecting flames to shoot out of the phone and to be connected to that annoying fax-machine screech in retaliation. It turns out that literary agents are very nice people. Who knew?

Also agents are interested in reading your manuscript immediately when you have a potential sale in the pipes. If they don’t think they’re a good match for your work, they will still reject you. It isn’t just about making a quick and easy buck to them, as I had always assumed. They really want a strong connection with your work. My respect for literary agents grew three sizes that day.

Luckily, I found a match – the wonderful Jennifer Schober at Spencerhill Associates. I knew she was the right agent for me because a) she liked my work, b) she was easy to talk to, and c) she didn’t connect me to a fax machine after making me wait on hold for thirty minutes. I knew she was good luck, because while I was talking to her on the phone, I got an email from Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks. She'd just got out of the editorial meeting, and... they wanted to publish my manuscript. Well, my manuscripts. Five of them.


Yes, I’m still pinching myself. They bought the entire five book series.

SO after much enthusiastic screaming at poor Jenn (who shared my excitement), I hung up and less than a minute later my editor, Deb, called. This is when my stammering began. And my gulping. I don’t even know if I said a single coherent sentence. It’s all a total blur. When it was over, all I could think was: what a great first impression to make on your new editor.

So how did I respond when I got the call? With a complete lack of poise and grace. Maybe I should have rehearsed my reaction in advance.

If you’re an aspiring author, how do you think you’ll respond to “the call”? Or if you’ve already gotten “the call”, how did you react? It has to be better than I reacted.

Combining her love for romantic fiction and rock ‘n roll, Olivia Cunningwrites erotic romance centered around rock musicians.

Raised on hard rock music from the cradle, she attended her first Styx concert at age six and fell instantly in love with live music. She's been known to travel over a thousand miles just to see a favorite band in concert. As a teen, she discovered her second love, romantic fiction -- first, voraciously reading steamy romance novels and then penning her own. Sourcebooks will release Sinner’son Tour in Fall of 2010.

You can visit Olivia's Website and read the blurbs on the series. You can also visit her on her blog:

Brian’s Muse Book Blurb

Human Sexuality Professor, Myrna Evans, wants nothing but a weekend of hot, no-strings-attached sex with Sinners' sensual lead guitarist, but Brian Sinclair is looking for something more permanent than a one-night stand. Unable to compose music for months, when Brian makes love to uninhibited Myrna, he hears exquisite guitar riffs and finger-burning solos. In Myrna, he's found his muse.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Olivia, welcome to Over Coffee.

Help yourself to the Coffee Bar and trust me I also have quite a selection of Teas, not to mention plenty of breakfast goodies. Pull up a comfy chair and chat awhile with us.

I had to laugh when you suggested perhaps you should have *rehearsed* for The Call. lolol! Were you really that nervous talking to Deb?

Sherrie Super said...

Wow Olivia! With how well you told THIS story, it's easy to see how you snagged a five-book deal. I laughed, I cried, I bit my nails on your behalf.

Very interesting insight too, on how the game changes once an editor is interested. At that point, we're actually allowed to CALL agents? Who knew?

Great article! I can't wait for the series to come out. Congratulations!!!

Tonya Kappes said...

Olivia that is wonderful news. I am looking forward to the day I too will get the call!! You are an inspirations. Thanks for sharing.

Judi Fennell said...

And I say "pfft!" to your phone phobia - you sounded perfectly coherent when I talked to you that day!

I was celebrating right along with you! And, not to worry, Deb's used to calls like that. Welcome to the Sourcebooks family, Olivia!

Olivia Cunning said...

Oh good. Tea. I haven't caffinated yet.

Thanks for having me, Sia. This is my first guest blog and I'm happy to be here.

Sia - Was I nervous talking to Deb? I don't know if it was nervousness. I was overwhelmed. My sympathetic nervous system was definitely in control. Heart racing, palms sweating, mouth dry, panting. And my brain? It wasn't working at all.

Sherrie - You never fail to crack me up. And yes, I CALLED agents. At Judi's insistence. I truly was terrified. She gives the occasional kick in the pants when I need it.

Tanya - Thank you. Be sure to share your "CALL" with us when you get it. Hopefully soon.

Judi - Define coherent. :-) Thanks for the welcome. I can't wait to meet you in person in Nashville.

Now for that tea...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Well, I sure can understand overwhelmed. Selling one book would do that for me, selling FIVE?

Judi is great for giving a kick in the pants when needed. I think I still have a few bruises there. She's pretty good with bandages, too. :-D

readwriteandedit said...

We dread many phone calls, look forward to others. But this has got to be the one that tangles every thought, every emotion. Way to go, Olivia! Both with handling it well and knowing what to do for the next step. And then the next.

What fun it is to be a writer!

Olivia Cunning said...

Sia - I know, right. Five. I thought maybe they'd buy one and wait to see how it did at launch and then consider the next, so yes, when she told me they wanted all five I was floored. I just finished the second one last week. The third one is in that half-way done, how do I get my characters out of this mess I put them in, point. I'm having lots of fun writing them though. I'm really attached to these characters.

readwriteandedit - It is fun to be a writer. And oh how it hurts to get all those rejections, but it's all worth it. Even if the call never came, I love to write, so that wouldn't have stopped me from continuing. I have to give credit to my online writing group "The Writin' Wombats" for knowing what to do next. They're a wonderful group of writers - both published and aspiring. You might now them. *wink

Sherilyn Winrose said...

Olivia, enjoy every minute of this. You have so earned it and are truly worthy. I still smile like a fool remembering your email that day. How perfectly wonderful.

Stephanie Draven said...

This is a fantastic story, Olivia. And as one of Jen Schober's other clients, I couldn't be more excited for you. She's the best, and since I know she has EXCELLENT taste (if I do say so myself), I can't wait to read your stuff ;)

Helen Ginger said...

What a great story. And amazing how it all came together at the same time. Congratulations of all your success.

Straight From Hel

Olivia Cunning said...

Sherilyn - You've always been one of my biggest supporters. You know I love you.

Stephanie - Awesome to meet you! I'm in excellent company.

Helen - It was the craziest (in a good way) week of my life. And thank you!

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Olivia! Congratulations.

I probably shouldn't admit this but I have a feeling that when (not if, but when) I get the call, I'll hear the roar in my ears and then start laughing so hard I pee myself. All this whilst bawling my eyes out. I'll be a spicket. A spicket that may never shut off!

Olivia Cunning said...

You know, Elle, the first thing my mom asked when she heard the news was, "Did you cry?" I, too, am a known tear spicket. But I didn't cry at all. I think I was too stunned to cry. :-) I hope you get your "call" soon!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elle, I'm not a spicket, I imagine I will be very calm, other than the What? Would you repeat that again? ReAALy. And talk calmly until I put down the phone. I'm a stupefier. I sit there for that moment in the eye of the storm and reaction will set in, like a hurricane. OMG, OMG, squeal, jump up and down, do the yes, yes, yes choo-choo then pick up the phone and call my mom, then my hubs, call a couple of people in my writing group and run for the computer to tell the rest of my writing group.

How do I know this? because this is how I've reacted to really big news in the past. A prestigious award (I was in shock, I couldn't figgin' believe it)? Calm, cool, and then explosion. I won a grand prize with a very nice amount of money. Same thing (The guy who gave me the news actually asked me if I heard him--oh I did).

I know I'll be doing the same thing Olivia did, pinch myself.

When I get the call, I'll be sure to report it accurately to EVERYone. lolol!

Anonymous said...

I actually watch Days of Our Lives and started reading romance novels while I was stuck in the hospital because it was that or magazines. Good job girl !

Baiden Farrell

crazywritergirl said...

A five-book contract is awesome. Congratuation! I got "the call" in the middle of a mystery panel. I'd muted my phone, so after the panel I checked my cell and noted my agent had called. I dialed her from the parking lot of the hotel where the conference was being held. The news: a three-book deal at a very nice sum per book. I danced around grinning like a fool. A few folks gave me weird looks, but I didn't care. The series I believed in had sold to St. Martin's. I'll always remember that day and that parking lot.

mynfel said...

Wow, 5 books??! That's brilliant. :)


SueO said...

What a great story! I hope I'm so moved when I read your book.

Best of luck in the future! You're in for a great ride!

aries18 said...

Your story of the call is terrific! You bring us right into the room with you.

When I get the call, (note I didn't say if) I'll probably be pretty calm. The last time I got big-time news I was very calm, a little unbelieving but still calm. Until I hung up anyway! Then I squeeee'ed all by myself, alone. Didn't matter, I told the cats, the dog and even tried to call someone, got a wrong number and told the wrong number my news!

Great story Olivia. Looking forward to reading the first of the five soon.