Asa Maria Bradley

Getting a Yes after 47 Noes

SnoopyHappyDanceNo matter what Jim Hanas says about writers being caught up in the lottery of “rejection porn,” I love reading about successful writers who made it after a gazillion rejections. I’m a sucker for lists that tells me how many times authors like J.K. Rowling, Louis L’Amour, Dan Brown, and C.S. Lewis were rejected.

Why? Because knowing others found success after rejections is what kept me submitting my manuscript even though I gained a total of forty-seven forty-nine rejections. (Update: after I sold, I received 2 more rejections from retracted queries.) Fifteen of those were on full requests. And, to make things worse, it wasn’t the first book I queried and pitched. I had two other books out there gaining noes. But I kept going.

I persevered because as I went from form letters to personalized to editorial suggestions rejections, I measured each little step in that chain as progress. And because I once heard a professional writer say that the only friends of hers who didn’t publish after receiving their first partial manuscript request were the ones who stopped writing and editing and stopped querying.

I kept going, but I also kept revising based on the feedback I received from editor and agents. Maybe I queried too early on the manuscript, but I figured it was submission ready after it placed second in the On The Far Side contest and the editor judge said she didn’t request it only because her pet peeve were stories that mixed sci fi with mythology. So, I figured all I had to do was find an agent and editor who didn’t mind a mix of those two elements.

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And I did–two years later. Here’s my crazy journey from query to signed contract:

-I finished the book as part of Cherry Adair‘s Finish the Damned Book (FTDB) challenge in late 2012 and received favorable comments from the editor who read my first three chapters. This is also the year I was a finalist in the On The Far Side. After numerous rejections, and attending a Michael Hauge story structure seminar,  I did a major overhaul of the manuscript in early 2013, sent the book to the Golden Heart contest and continued pitching and querying–and receiving rejections.

October 2013, I pitched to agent Sarah E. Younger at the Emerald City Writing Conference. She requested the full manuscript and rejected me about a month later through a very nice note that encouraged me to query her on any future projects.

Early December 2013, I submitted to Sourcebooks through their general submission system, a confirmation message said I should hear back within 8 weeks.

-Sixteen more rejections happened, six of which were full requests.

March 20, 2014, Cat Clyne of Sourcebooks emails me. She loved the manuscript but thinks it needs a lot of work. Her email includes some editorial suggestions and an invitation to resubmit. She also wants to see an elevator pitch for the series as a whole, short blurbs for the first three books, and a synopsis of book 2.

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March 26, I get the call letting me know VALHALLA’S KING was Golden Heart finalists. Yay! One of the congratulatory emails I receive is from Cat, who says “it’s well deserved.”

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First weekend of April, I attend the Desert Rose conference in Arizona. Sarah is one of the agents attending. She too congratulates me on the GH and asks if I’ve done any revisions to the manuscript. I explain I’m revising for Cat, and she asks me to send it to her again, plus a romantic suspense project that finaled in the conference contest. I also pitch to two other agents and two editors.

Through the month of April, I touch base with agents who are currently reading the manuscript to let them know about the GH nomination and interest from a publisher. I also query some more agents. All of this result in 5 more rejections.

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Late April, I see a submission call from another publishing company asking for manuscripts related to fairy tales and/or mythology. I send them VALHALLA’S KING.

Mid May, I finish the revisions for Cat and send the manuscript, plus blurbs and synopsis of second book.

May 21, An email from an editor at the other publishing company arrives. She loves the manuscript, but would like some minor changes to the story line. I complete those and send her a rewrite a week later.

June 2, The other publishing company offers me a three book contract. I happy dance for a while, then panic and call a published friend to see what to do next. She says to email Sourcebooks and any agents reading the manuscript. I ask the other publishing company for some time and do exactly what my friend tells me. Sourcebooks asks for a week to finish reading and take the project to an acquisitions meeting.

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June 4 – 9, I chat with agents on the phone and end up with three offers of representation. A completely surreal experience.

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June 10, I sign with Sarah and am super happy.

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June 12, I’m on vacation in Washington DC and outside the Museum of Natural History when I receive a call from Cat Clyne at Sourcebooks offering me a three book deal. After we hang up, I email Sarah immediately. She asks me to call her and I talk to her in the shadow of the Washington Monument. (DC has a very special place in my heart now.)

June 13, Sarah and I talk over which publisher would be the best fit for a debut author building her career. We lean mostly toward Sourcebooks, but it’s a hard choice because the other publisher is awesome and everyone I talk to loves the editor. In the end, a print deal with an advance wins over an e-book only deal.

June 13 – 23, Sarah and Cat negotiate until they’re both happy with the terms. I mostly happy dance and annoy my husband with tons of questions he doesn’t know how to answer. I’m on the verge of exploding from not being able to talk about what’s going on.

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June 19, Sarah finally gives me permission to announce that I have signed with her.

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June 24, Sarah and Cat says it’s time to announce the deal. And a day full of celebrations begins!

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My persistence in submitting VALHALLA’S KING in a market where paranormal romance became a super hard sale is a sign of either perseverance or craziness, but I did write another book during these two years and I sincerely hope it will be a much easier sell. 🙂

32 thoughts on “Getting a Yes after 47 Noes

    1. Asa Maria Bradley Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. I think the only way to not get published is to give up on writing and submitting. Keep at it and there will be happy dancing. 🙂

  1. Debra Elise

    Well, what can I say except that I’m so D*MN happy for you Asa. For the past year you’ve really been an inspiration to me. More so now because you never let us see you down after receiving your 47 rejections. You just kept moving forward. And now, because of your perseverance, I no longer feel blue today. I’ve been in the “this is all crap” state of mind lately and reading the finer details of your story has helped me more than you know.

    BTW, I see this running theme in most of the comments and I’m thinking perhaps your next book should have a sommelier in it. How bout it? Just think of all the “research” you’re already planning on doing at RWA14 that can be written off 😉

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      I’m always happy to have an excuse for drinking…ehr…I mean researching wine. 🙂
      Glad the post could help you a little, but I’ve seen your writing, Ms. Deb. There’s no reason for you to be blue, you are very talented.

  2. Tammy Baumann

    Asa, I think it takes BOTH perseverance AND craziness to get published, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only stubborn nut out there. ;0) I enjoyed your call story very much, thanks for sharing!!! And a huge congrats. Here’s wishing for many, many sales.

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      LOL! I think you’re probably right about that, Tammy! Thanks for the congratulations and good wishes.

  3. Nan Dixon

    Ahh Asa – what a wonderful story! Congratulations. Perseverance and talent, the two ingredients that got you where you are! Can’t wait for the debut!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Thanks, Nan! And I’m so looking forward to SOUTHERN COMFORT’s debut!

  4. marnifolsom

    Asa, what an awesome series of events. Those eventual yesses are so well-deserved and timely, because if there’s anything better than a GH Finalist ribbon on the conference badge, it’s a First Sale ribbon! Your perseverance is inspiring and super meaningful to those of us sitting at the beginning of our query process. I got 2 agent rejections last week and responded by sending out 3 more queries. Must. Move. Forward. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story in finer detail. I look forward to meeting you soon!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      At some point I decided that the Golden Heart nomination meant I can think of rejections as a reflection of everything but the quality of my writing. It could be the agent/editor didn’t connect with me, my characters, or my story. Or it could be the market is not a good place for my project. But when I made the switch in my brain to trust the quality of my writing, submitting wasn’t as tedious any more and rejections didn’t cause as much emotional hurt.

  5. Sharon Wray

    Wonderful story, Asa!!! I also love call stories because they keep me going when I’m dealing with the negative voices which seem to happen more often than the positive ones. I am so happy for you!!!!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      The negative voices are the pits. Specially when they are inside your own head, which is where most of mine live.

  6. Jillian Lark

    Asa, what a great story of perseverance and keeping secrets! FYI Don’t carry chocolate in your purse when you’re outside in SA. Contrary to the famous ad, chocolate does melt in your hands and everywhere else in the July Texas heat.~Jillian

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Sounds like I need to stock up my hotel mini fridge with chocolate. I hope there will be room in there, you know, because of all the wine. 😉

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Hi McCall, I am so looking forward to seeing you and all the DWs in SA. I feel like we’ve already shared so much together on the loop that we’ve forged a true bond with each other.

  7. Jere

    You should also show your writers group doing the “Just Jack I Told You So” dance. We knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of the publishing world figured it out. 🙂 Well deserved my friend!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Wish we had a video of that! Thank you, Bestie, for always having my back and believing in me. 🙂

  8. Jessica Ruddick

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Asa! I also like reading success stories, because it gives me hope. Hopefully one day I’ll be in a similar situation and call you for advice!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      I think it’s more a case of “any day” than “one day,” Jessica. I’m very certain good things are on their way to all the Dream Weavers!

  9. piperhuguley

    An excellent and inspiring post! I always wondered how it works when some people end up with editors who have rejected them. I would just figure, ‘Oh well, that’s it then” What a show of persistence. Congrats to you Asa. It’s wonderful news.

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Hi Piper! It seems like after the Golden Heart nomination, my conversations with agents changed from “selling one project” to “selling me as a writer.” So, I think that had a lot to do with Sarah asking to see the project again, plus I finaled in the conference contest with a different project. (There were 5 finalists and only 20 entries, but shhh, Sarah didn’t need to know that. 😉 )

  10. Marnee Bailey

    Oh, Asa! I love this post with all the love. 🙂 Best wishes for many more surreal and awesome experiences.

    Can’t wait to see you in San Antonio to celebrate!
    Marnee

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Hi Marnee! We have so much to celebrate in San Antonio, I don’t know how the Dream Weavers will ever sober up enough to attend any conference functions. There are sales and contests and agent signs galore in our group. DW rule! 🙂

  11. Suzanne

    Great story, Asa! I’m so glad you persevered. Your stories sound unique and intriguing. Can’t wait to see them on the shelves!

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      Thanks Suzanne! I can’t wait to see them on the shelves either. 🙂

  12. Laura Trentham

    LOVE IT!! I too love reading stories about rejections turning into success. And, boy howdy, did you ever stick with it! None of us in the GH loop had any idea of the hoops you were jumping through in April-June. Well played, Asa, well played. 🙂 So happy for you and as a fan of the TV show Vikings (holla!), I read your blurb early on and knew I must read your book. Btw, all your gifs made me crack up.

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      It was so very hard, Laura. Every day I asked Sarah, “Can I tell the world now?” and every day she said “Not yet.” It became a running joke. We’ll have to talk Norse men while in Texas. 🙂

  13. Vanessa Barneveld

    *Congratulations*, Asa!!!!! I love all those gifs — they’re all perfect for this occasion. (I’m watching Seinfeld now!)

    Thanks for sharing your inspirational Call stories. “Persistence” might well be your other middle name! I know from personal experience that all the noes make the yes so much sweeter. I’m looking forward to sharing some celebratory Cheetos and drinks with you in San Antonio. 🙂

    1. AsaMariaBradley Post author

      We’ll have a Cheetos feast! I’ll bring the chopsticks so we don’t get any orange powder on our pretty dresses. 🙂 I’m so looking forward to meeting you. 🙂

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