Counting Exclamation Points: How My Book Was Sold

Coaster“The call,” for me, was an email.

Which was fine, because I was at my day job, and though it’s sometimes difficult to take time out for a call, it’s not that difficult to click over and check my email. Also, I don’t really like to talk on the phone, not for work, for life, to order pizza, not at all. The only kind of news I don’t want electronically is bad news, like the time I learned that a beloved family member had died—in a Facebook status update.

[Pause to let you think about that.]

But this was business, and business happens on email. One morning in February, there it was in my inbox: the second half of my writing life, the part where I get published. The message subject: “a bit of news.”

It wasn’t even a single email. The good news came in a trickle of emails over a couple of days.

First: “There’s a nibble. Don’t get excited.”

Too late.

Then: “There’s going to be an offer.”

Then, at last: “We have an offer.”

I will save my agent, Sharon Bowers, the indignity of how many exclamation points the two of us used in the actual conversations. Sufficient to say we were excited. Our time together hadn’t been long, but we had gone through a couple of close calls by that point. Sharon is a pro, though. When the nibble came, she said, “It’s nothing until it’s something.” In the case of a rejection, she’d calmed me down with similar words. “It’s early days,” she’d written. “Let’s not worry yet.”

Easy for her to say, right? This was almost three years of my life we were not worrying about yet. And she had other clients. I had only one agent, and only one book ready to show around. While I like to think I have many more years in me, it was devastating to think I’d have to use them to write another debut. This one, I kept thinking. This is the book. Sharon thought so—that’s why she’d taken me on.

Luckily someone else thought so, too. And then I started getting emails from Dan Mayer from Seventh Street Books. Then I started getting emails from new people at Seventh Street, people whose jobs were to help create and sell my book.

Remember when they used to call the internet the “superhighway”? I get that now, because with all the emails I’m getting, I’m rolling downhill, picking up speed and new teammates. But not the whole way. If you’ve heard publishing called a rollercoaster ride, well, I can’t argue with that. But there’s a certainly a lot of wheeeeee at this stage.

Though I have a host of new things to worry about now, exclamation points are not one of them. While I can, I’m going to use them all.

 

Have you ever received news in a way you didn’t expect?

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Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery THE BLACK HOUR (Seventh Street Books, July 2014). She grew up in central Indiana, but now lives in Chicago with her husband and very spoiled dog.

19 thoughts on “Counting Exclamation Points: How My Book Was Sold

  1. How exciting! I’m totally with you—I hate answering the phone and would much rather get 95% of news via email. If agents ever start calling me (a girl can dream) I imagine my heart will stop each time I hear a ring.

    Hope you’re enjoying your rollercoaster ride.

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ha! I stole some!

    The Facebook status thing–the superhighway has led to a deterioration of manners in my opinion and that’s just so sad you found out that way. I’m sorry! :/ As for your “call”, how did you handle that at work and act normal? I did a lot of jumping up and down and whooping.

    • Those are MINE!!!!!

      When I got my email, I freaked out a little in my office (but I have a door and it’s always closed as it opens up to a busy hallway) and then I calmly took myself to my coworkers’ office and freaked out a little more with them. No whooping, but many quiet exclamation points.

  3. In a Facebook status update? Cripes. I try not to be one of those cranky “In my day, that never would have happened” people (as if everybody always had good manners until the Internet and cell phones came along), but that’s cold.

    And, yes, I agree about good news (and neutral news) by email and bad news in person. Like you, I have a lot more flexibility to check email than to answer my phone during the day.

    Congratulations on being at the wheeee! part. 🙂

    • It was pretty harsh, Anthony, I’m not going to lie. Someone was thoughtless, but I have tried to be forgiving about it. They are just going to have to buy several copies of my book in order to make it up to me. 🙂

  4. I’m actually the opposite. I’d rather get good news via a surprising phone call—that way, when I see my agent’s number on the caller ID I know to get excited! And I’d rather get bad news via email (but this only applies to business things…personal things should stay personal, and I think as close to face-to-face communication for this is essential). I agree that FB has led to a deterioration of manners and in a lot of ways has disconnected us. Friends who used to call me to say happy birthday or just to catch up and say hi now rarely pick up the phone…a simple status or update seems to do the trick (and of course, it really doesn’t).

    BTW…I joked with both my agent and my editor that I’d be using up ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! So looks like between the five of us Debs and our publishing peeps, there may soon be a shortage 😉

    • I definitely talk to my friends less now that I “talk” to them on Facebook. At once I feel more a part of their lives, and also that we never really talk. It’s a weird place to be in. Someday Facebook won’t be our mediator and we’ll have to figure out how to talk to one another again.

  5. I was just having this Facebook / talking on phone discussion with a friend! It’s so odd, isn’t it? A false intimacy in some ways…But, I’m not a phone person either, so maybe I don’t mind thaaat much.

    I like how your “call” dribbled in over a few days. Talks about amping up the suspense!

  6. I love this story!

    I’m much more of an email person than phone person, too, but it was fun when my agent called me with book deal news — plus it meant I got to avoid the record of just how many exclamation points I would have used via email!

  7. This, my friend, is hysterical in that I always think of you partially as “the exclamation point police”!! As in when I fear I am overusing them I think, “Yikes! Lori would make me take a bunch of these off.” So thrilled you are now in an exclamation point phase of your life!

  8. I got my publishing deal news by email, too – well, email first and then a couple of VERY exciting phone calls.

    Ironically, I also got my offer for representation from my fabulous agent, Sandra Bond, by email also. She emailed me to tell me she’d loved the book and wanted to represent it, and me, and could we talk by phone? I got the email at 11:30 at night (she’d sent it at 3pm but of course that was the day I didn’t check email all evening…) and I don’t think I slept at all.

    Good news by email is awesome!!

  9. Just catching up on reading now that I’m back in the country. I love your agent’s pithy little expressions: “It’s nothing ’til it’s something.” So true.

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