How I Got My Agent and Sold My First Book

Hello, all. Suze here. Thanks for visiting!

First things first. The Royal Bundle of Joy has finally arrived. We did pretty well with our predictions! I totally blew the date (11 days off–disgraceful!), and got the sex wrong, but I got the first name correct (George! I love that name), got the dark hair, and almost nailed the weight (I was only 1 ounce over). Thanks to everybody who played the guessing game with me.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to Really Big World News. Well, it’s big news in the Suze World, anyway. I can finally announce that I have sold my first book! It actually sold several months ago, but I’ve only just received my fully signed contract–and even better, my advance check! Sometime in the next 18 months or so, the first book in the Greek to Me Mysteries, a cozy series set in the gorgeous Thousand Islands area of New York State (click here for pictures and more information), will be released. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.

So I thought I’d tell you how all this came about. My first book, which was originally titled Bonaparte Bay, started out very differently from how it turned out as a cozy mystery. When I first envisioned this story, it was going to be dark women’s fiction, a tale of a woman scorned and the lengths she would go to get revenge on the man who wronged her. The only one wrong, though, turned out to be me! After several fits and starts, I had to admit that the story that wanted to be told was far, far different. My heroine was a little bit quirky. She was surrounded by a cast of oddball characters. She lived in a historic house that had been turned into a restaurant in a tourist trap village that thrived in the summer and closed up in the winter. And her life was about to be turned upside down when her husband disappeared and she undertook to find him.

Me? I discovered my voice. Turns out I’m funny, not dark. And when I got out of my own way and let the story–totally pantsed, by the way–unfold as it wanted to, I ended up with something I never thought I’d be able to achieve–a finished manuscript. Yes, I cried when I typed The End.

Now, it took me a while to decide to make this a cozy mystery. (Click here for my thoughts on what a cozy mystery is). It took me about six rewrites to get the opening chapters right, and I had to work on solidifying the mystery to meet reader expectations for the genre. Truth be told, I’m still working on that and probably will be right up until the day I turn it in next month.

I had originally thought I would try to sell to a small, digital-first press and/or indie pub it. But last fall I realized that if I never made a try for traditional publishing, I would regret it. So I gave myself six months to get an agent or sell to a small press. If I was unsuccessful, I would gladly indie publish and get my career rolling that way. During the querying process, I had seven requests for full manuscripts–five of which were rejected. But I did get some valuable feedback, and everybody was quite nice even though they didn’t want me (*sob!*)

In early January, I received an offer from an agent who loved my story. I was thrilled, flattered, grateful, validated–and not entirely sure he was the right person for me to partner with. So I went to several other agents who had not yet rejected me, and I got another offer, this time from an agent who had a proven track record of selling the kind of book I had written. John Talbot of the Talbot Fortune Agency and I spoke on the phone and I knew right away that we were a good match.

John told me how to put together a proposal, and I worked all weekend on it: a series overview, bio, recipes, synopses for the first three books in the series (fortunately I had these more or less done already!), and the first fifty pages of the manuscript. I sent it off to my wonderful mentor and to another experienced friend, input their feedback, and sent it to John the next day. He and I tweaked it a bit, and a few days later it was on the desk of an editor. A few more days, and it was sold in a three-book deal on my husband’s birthday.

And I still had a couple of months left in my 6 month deadline.

If you’re in the querying process, I hope this helps you. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. There are so many options now about how to publish, so if one avenue doesn’t open up, there are plenty of other directions to go–all just as valid as any other.

Go forth and sell, writer peeps! I’m happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the querying, agenting, and selling process.

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12 thoughts on “How I Got My Agent and Sold My First Book”

  1. So proud of you, Suze! You are an inspiration and an excellent example of grace under fire, not to mention perseverance! I love your passion and good humor and I’m so glad this story got picked up. Your writing is funny, your characters entertaining, and your storytelling is wonderful. If you hadn’t gotten picked up, I would have published you myself:-) Congratulations…and you’re buying the next round, right?

  2. I so needed to read your post today. I started writing my first book just over a week ago and only yesterday was thinking about how I would manage to get it to the market. I couldn’t believe it when I opened my emails this morning and there was your wonderful account of how you managed to sell your first book. Many congratulations. What a wonderful achievement!

  3. So glad you stopped by. Chattingwithspirit! My advice to you would be to not even worry at this point about how you’re going to sell your book. Just write the book of your heart and when you’re ready, the path will present itself. Best of luck to you! I’m working on book 2 of my series, right alongside you. Hugs!

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