My Path to Publication (So Far)

This is the long-winded story of my path to publication. There are many like it, but this one’s mine.

I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, but I never dreamed of being an author while growing up. First, I wanted to be a doctor. Once I realized that other people’s blood and I didn’t get along, I decided on Computer Science.

I went to an engineering school. I avoided all extraneous English classes and loaded up on technical classes. I might’ve written some fanfic on the side, but that was just something I did because I was a huge nerd. I got my Bachelor of Science and totally enjoyed writing code instead of prose for many years.

I wrote my first (terrible) novel during NaNoWriMo 2008. I was working full-time and snuck in words whenever I could. I “won” NaNo again (with another terrible novel) in 2009.

I enjoyed writing. People are surprised to learn I find coding and writing similar. Both involve creating something out of nothing and then debugging/editing until you’re happy with the result.

In 2010, I attended a half-day writing workshop where I was placed in a group headed by the guests of honor—Ilona and Gordon Andrews. I was a huge fan, so of course I was sick with nerves to have them read the short story I wrote.

They were super nice and were very encouraging. For the first time I thought that writing might be something I could do as a career. Later, they would move to Austin and become dear friends.

I decided to expand my short story into an urban fantasy novel. Progress was slow, even after I quit my job to focus on writing. (Note: I don’t recommend this course of action unless you have a very understanding spouse with a good job, sufficient savings, and a solid plan.)

Deciding enough was enough, I set myself a deadline of finishing by RT in May 2016, with the goal of pitching the book to an agent. I succeeded, barely, and pitched the book to my dream agent, Sarah E. Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency. She was very nice but honest—urban fantasy was a hard sell. Still, she requested the first chapters.

Sarah was my top pick as an agent, so I only sent out a single other query, which was promptly rejected. (Note: I also don’t recommend this course of action, even though it worked out for me.) While I was waiting to hear back from Sarah, I started writing the urban fantasy sequel but wasn’t loving it.

Ilona suggested I write something totally new. I’d recently had an opening scene for a science fiction book knocking around in my head, so I decided to follow her advice.

At NolaStoryCon in October 2016, I happened to meet up with Sarah again. I’d won a drawing for what I thought was a query letter critique, but turned into a pitch session. I was mortified and worried she would think I was wasting her time by pitching her the same project, but she was very kind and understanding about the whole mix-up.

In a follow-up, I mentioned I was writing a science fiction book. She requested a blurb, which I had to write because I’m not a plotter. She loved the blurb and immediately requested the first three chapters. Only one problem: I hadn’t written three chapters yet (shhh, don’t tell her).

So, over the weekend, I wrote almost 10,000 words, edited them (roughly) and sent them off with a prayer. A couple weeks went by then Sarah setup a call. I had no idea what to expect and was mentally prepping for a very nice rejection.

When she offered representation, I nearly dropped the phone.

She asked when I thought I’d be done with the book. It was now the end of October and I was maybe a quarter of the way done. I naively committed to the end of January, completely forgetting about the holidays.

I work better under deadline, and I really enjoyed what I was writing, so I came in just under the wire, but it required quite a few long days. Polaris Rising was born.

Sarah and I went through several rounds of revision and polishing, then sent the book out to editors at the end of April. Within a week, I had two offers from major publishers, which completely blew me away. I talked to both editors then had to make an incredibly difficult decision.

In the end, I went with Harper Voyager and could not be more excited! Polaris Rising is on their publishing calendar for early 2019. It is a dream come true!

4 thoughts on “My Path to Publication (So Far)”

  1. Wow, what an adventurous journey you had! My school background is semi engineer and semi design and someday I want to be able to write full-lenght novels too (either in English or my mother’s language or both). For now, I’m still enjoying a little too much of my spare time spent on reading and just reading another fiction n-n

    P.S: Why 2019? Why? *cue the high pitched frustration*

    1. You would have to check the submission guidelines, but I believe they have non-US clients. The book would most likely have to be in English, with thoughts to publish in the US market first. But, once again, check the guidelines. :)

      1. Consider it done! And yes, it’s supposed to be in English. Thank you for your kind response, Jessie^^

        I also look forward to read your debut novel and the next chapter of The Queen’s Gambit story. Totally anticipating how Queen Samara will twist the young Emperor’s heart and the grand kick ass scene courtesy of Ada with a certain dangerous someone ;)

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