Getting “The Call”

I think every aspiring author dreams about how they will respond when they get “the call” – the call that converts them from aspiring author to debut author.

Well, after years and years of dreaming about it, it finally happened to me. I was not prepared. Nope.

How would I describe my reaction to “the call”? Stammering idiot comes to mind.

Let’s back up a few days.

I’d been querying my erotic romance series “Sinners on Tour” for a couple of months. Strangely, the publishers I queried kept making requests to review the full or partial manuscript, but I had absolutely no luck getting a literary agent interested. No luck. None. Zero.

So after a couple weeks of waiting to hear back from publishers (milliseconds in literary world time), I get an email from an editor at Sourcebooks. She told me she was taking my manuscript to an editorial meeting later that week. Meaning she wanted them to buy it. No guarantees that the publishing house would be on board with her decision, but I had a foot in the door.  Maybe a whole leg.

After I got over the accompanying feeling of flattery (more precisely: OMG, an editor likes my manuscript! OMG! OMG! OMG!), the panic set in. I still didn’t have a literary agent, but I needed one if I did get an offer for publication. Business person, I’m not. And I don’t speak legal-ese. Time to face facts. I needed an expert.

This meant it was time to make a few calls of my own. Email correspondence would be too slow. Spam filters eat my emails for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I couldn’t risk it.

I was a nervous wreck. (Is this where I mention my phone phobia?) How many times had I been told to NEVER cold call a literary agent or a publisher? Uh, many. Many, many, many. And I don’t recommend it unless your situation is as immediate as mine was. As I dial the numbers for my short list of potential agents, I’m expecting flames to shoot out of the phone and to be connected to that annoying fax-machine screech in retaliation. It turns out that literary agents are very nice people. Who knew?

Also agents are interested in reading your manuscript immediately when you have a potential sale in the pipes. If they don’t think they’re a good match for your work, they will still reject you. It isn’t just about making a quick and easy buck to them.  They really want a strong connection with your work.  My respect for literary agents grew three sizes that day.

Luckily, I found a match – the wonderful Jennifer Schober at Spencerhill Associates. I knew she was the right agent for me because a) she liked my work, b) she was easy to talk to, and c) she didn’t connect me to a fax machine after making me wait on hold for thirty minutes. I knew she was good luck, because while I was talking to her on the phone, I got an email from Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks. They wanted to publish my manuscript. Well, manuscripts. Five of them.

Yes, I’m still pinching myself. They bought the entire five book series.

SO after much enthusiastic screaming at poor Jenn (who shared my excitement), I hung up and less than a minute later my editor, Deb, called. This is when my stammering began. And my gulping. I don’t even know if I said a single coherent sentence. It’s all a total blur.  All I could think was: what a great first impression to make on your new editor.

So how did I respond when I got the call?  With a complete lack of poise and grace.

If you’re an aspiring author, how do you think you’ll respond to “the call”? Or if you’ve already gotten “the call”, how did you react? It has to be better than I reacted.