Guest Blog by Nancy Tandon
Hello and thank you to everyone at 24 Carrot Writing for hosting me on your blog during a very exciting time for me! After eleven years and close to 200 combined rejections across multiple manuscripts, my very first middle grade novel will be published tomorrow! This is especially rewarding for me since I thought I would be celebrating this accomplishment in the fall of 2017. Yes, you read that correctly. My book launch was delayed by five years.
Most 24 Carrot readers will be familiar with the concept of publishing being slow. But even insiders agree mine was one of the more slothy paths. What happened? How did I keep going? And how will you stay motivated on your journey?
I sent my first query letter, on 3/9/2010. I know the exact date because it was my 40th birthday. It was an underbaked picture book manuscript, and I addressed the letter To Whom It May Concern. Spoiler: I never heard back. But the important thing is that I was signaling to myself and the universe that I was ready to pursue publication in earnest.
Over the next several years, I did all the things. I joined SCBWI, became active in critique groups, went to conferences, read books in my genre, read literary blogs, and of course…even wrote from time to time. I was focused on learning the craft of writing picture books, while also plugging away at a longer piece that began to take the shape of a middle grade novel.
During this time, I continued to submit to agents, editors, magazines, and contests. As my little baby rejection pile grew, my belief that I would find success shrank. Then, in 2014, I learned that a selection from my middle grade novel had been awarded the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship from NESCBWI. It was just enough encouragement to bolster my drive to keep working.
With the help of my critique group, I completed and revised that novel and in 2016, submitted it to a small publishing house. A few months later, things seemed to happen very quickly: an offer, a phone call, a book contract! I was thrilled! Still un-agented, I used the services of a lawyer who was familiar with literary contracts, and also educated myself using a book called The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and Tad Crawford before signing. (I highly recommend this book whether you are agented or not.)
Everything looked great. Publication was set for fall 2017. I joined a debut group. This was happening!
There was a wrinkle. The small press had been acquired by a larger publisher. They were willing to take on my manuscript as part of the deal! I was relieved, happy, even excited about this chance to be published by a bigger house.
Publication was moved to 2018. I joined and became active in another debut group. This was happening!
After a year of working to negotiate a new contract (I had learned just enough from The Writer’s Legal Guide to know the first offer was not favorable to me), I still had not heard from my new editor. And the contract negotiations were spinning in circles. I found out that the second publisher had decided they were not moving forward with my manuscript. My heart sank. I had told everyone about this book deal. I had celebrated with champagne. And now, nothing.
Worse, I had to buy back the rights from the first publisher. (Which is completely on the up and up business-wise, by the way. And in truth, the editing done by that first house was worth the cost. But still, it was painful.) I was embarrassed, disheartened, and very close to giving up all together.
Luckily, past me (the one who’d had a book contract and was all excited about kidlit) had signed up for two well-known New England spring conferences that year, NESCBWI and Whispering Pines. I forced myself to attend both.
After the New England conference, I earnestly studied the list of agents and editors and sent my work back out there. It felt like I was shouting into the wind, but at least I could still say I hadn’t given up. Not fully, not yet. Even though my heart did very much want me to.
The second conference, Whispering Pines, included a one-on-one consultation with Rachel Orr from Prospect Agency, who represented (among other amazing authors) a writing friend I’d met through the 2018 debut group (which again I was now no longer a part of – cue tears). That friend, Samantha Clark (The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast; Arrow), alerted Rachel ahead of time that she’d be meeting me and gave her the heads up about my manuscript’s twisty past.
That meeting did not result in an offer of representation from Rachel. (I know! I wanted the story to go that way, too!) But, Rachel passed my work to a new agent at Prospect and I was agented at last!!
Ready for another plot twist? Meanwhile…
Karen Boss, an editor from Charlesbridge, had gotten my query and read my fist chapters. She asked to read the full manuscript. There were other in-house readers, and a presentation at their acquisitions meeting. I hoped for the best and braced for the worst.
Then in September 2018, it came. An email that made me shriek and cause a scene in the coffee shop where I was writing with a friend. Re: Offer…
This time, I didn’t have to negotiate on my own, or spend money on a lawyer. My agent at the time, Emma Sector, made sure my interests were represented while also easing the process of getting back my rights to the work.
Everything looked great. Publication was set for 2021. I joined a third debut group. This was happening!
Due to circumstances at the publishing house, the date of publication got pushed back to 2022.
I’m not embarrassed to tell you I cried. However, my disappointment was strongly tempered by the fact that in fall 2019, my agent sold my second novel (The Ghost of Spruce Point, coming from Aladdin in fall 2022) within a week of being on submission!
And then of course 2020 and 2021 happened, which weren’t great years to debut anyway (when you can, please show love to writers who did debut in the past two years!!). During this time I also navigated an in-agency switch as Emma left agenting for a new adventure, and I gratefully landed in Charlotte Wenger’s web (Prospect Agency).
And now: I have held my first novel in my hands. And tomorrow, it will wing out into the world to have an adventure all its own. I’m revising my second and have seen amazing cover art.
Friends, it was a long road from desperation to celebration. And if you have read this far, you might be a person who is in the exact position I was in. One breath and one keystroke away from giving up. Please consider this a sign from the universe for you to keep going.
Give it time.
Give it space.
Don’t give up!
Nancy Tandon is a former speech/language pathologist and author of two middle grade novels, The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge, 1/18/22) and The Ghost of Spruce Point (Aladdin, 8/2/22). Her short story, Finders Keepers, was published with Heinemann for the educational market. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her family and is a fan of popcorn, reading, and literacy outreach programs of all kinds. To find out more, or to get in touch with Nancy go to www.nancytandon.com, Twitter @NancyTandon , Instagram @_NancyTandon_, or Goodreads.
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