Receiving the call.
It's something we dream of before we sell our first book.
Receiving the call stories are requested often enough authors post them on our websites to share these personal stories with our readers. It's something I've held off on for a long time, though readers and interviewers have kept asking.
Why have I held off?
Mine isn't the typical exciting jump up and down screaming with excitement type of story. Mine was what I can only describe as a ping-pong experience.
You see I'd made the decision to fire my agent when I received the call. I'd returned home from the RT convention (Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention) just two days before, firm in the belief severing was the best decision. There were a number of reasons why, which I usually answer by saying he was not a good match for me. (The author/agent relationship is frequently compared to a marriage and this is the typical response most authors give when asked why the relationship with their agent didn't work out.)
The call came in while I was seated at my desk, severance letter right in front of me. It lacked one thing. A stamp.
My agent called to tell me Samhain Publishing wanted to publish A Desperate Journey, my American Title II finalist manuscript. I was thrilled! Hurray!
Then I glanced at the letter on my desk.
The game began in my head as I listened to my agent.
Hurray! Oh shit.
This continued back and forth in my head accompanied by my heart leaping and crashing with emotion up until the call ended. I don't remember what I said to him other than something along the lines of that's great and I looked forward to looking over the contract. Probably not the response he was expecting.
The problem was, the letter needed to be sent and I was now forced into a waiting position until the ink was dry on my first publishing contract before I could send it. I resolved to send the letter once the ink was dry. Thirty days later our business relationship would be ended. The one smart move I had made when signing with my agent was adding an addendum, which stated either party with thirty days notice, could sever our relationship. He hadn't been happy with that at the time but had accepted it. (Looking back his response had been an early sign I should have paid heed to.) The original agent contract had allowed severing only at the one-year renewal date. And the only reason I'd known to add the addendum was the advice I had received from my writing mentor.
I remember staring at the letter on my desk when the call ended and I believe I was somewhat in shock. I couldn't sever with him and then take this contract. It would not be ethical and there were legal reasons as well. At this point I also realized I couldn't sever with him and then take any contract on this manuscript because I didn't know for certain where he'd sent it. He'd neglected to inform me he'd submitted the manuscript to Samhain. So his call had been a combination of surprise and shock.
While waiting for the contract to arrive I did something bold. I emailed the publisher and explained I was excited about the publishing opportunity but wanted to let them know in the future this agent would not be handling my work. It was a short simple informative email, which required no response.
When the contract came in it was a standard first contract. There was one unexpected portion I was thrilled with. The publisher had split the payments. I would not have to go through my agent for anything and the relationship could truly be severed. I will always be grateful for that. It's always good to be able to move into the future without baggage to lug along.
For each author receiving that first call is a unique and special experience. For me it was the ping-pong call. My career as an author has been a bit of a roller coaster ride with highs and lows and has taught me so much. Perhaps by sharing the story of my ping-pong call it may help other authors to make wise decisions. This is why I am sharing it today.