Feature

How I Got My Book Deal With Christine Lynn Herman

So, as you may or may not have noticed, I announced something this weekend.

Something I’d been keeping a secret since August.

Something I still can’t talk about without getting a little bit teary eyed, no matter how many people I tell.

I’m going to be a published author!

https://twitter.com/christineexists/status/926897530914435079

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THE DEVOURING GRAY, my debut novel, will be releasing from Disney-Hyperion in Spring 2019, with the sequel to follow in 2020! The response to this announcement has utterly blown me away — I’ve cried many happy tears, and I’m so thankful to each and every one of you who’s wished me well!

It’s weird, because I love words. I have built my entire life around words. And yet…there are no words for this feeling.

So I’m not going to try and describe this book-deal-specific feeling. Instead, I’m going to tell you a story, because I guess I know how to do that.

I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. It’s scribbled in every journal I’ve ever had, from first grade onwards; it’s been my answer to “what do you want to be?” for so long, becoming it is almost frightening. When you base your identity around a goal, any goal, it takes on a mythical sort of importance in your life. It becomes the underlying force behind every choice you make, even when you don’t realize it.

For a few years, I tried to push that goal away because I was scared of how much it mattered to me. I wanted to be practical. I wanted to be sensible. And nothing about my love of writing felt practical or sensible; it felt…well, all-consuming. I thought maybe I could trick myself into caring enough about something else to just do that.

I entered my first semester of college intending to be a double major in Psychology and International Relations. But my school required all freshmen to take the same college-level essay writing course, so I dutifully enrolled in WRT105.

I realized within weeks that I cared about this basic essay writing course, which wasn’t even creative writing, far more than any of my other classes. But I was stubborn, still am, and I didn’t want to admit defeat. I was bored to tears, but I kept insisting to myself that I’d promised: no more English. I would be well-rounded. I was eighteen, and in college, and it was time to be a grown-up. Never mind that my grades were slipping lower than they ever had in high school. Never mind that I would go back to my dorm room every night and cry.

Things might have continued on like that for a long time.  But in the middle of the semester, my professor for that writing course had meetings with everyone during office hours. She was behaving strangely at first when I went to see her, and it made me confused. I’d been doing my work; I’d been coming to class. I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong.

I’ll never forget the look on her face as she folded her hands across her desk, stared me straight in the eyes, and said, “Christine — I strongly suggest you enroll in an English course next semester.”

“But…” I said. “I don’t want to be an English major.”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Do you love English?”

I nodded.

“Okay, so, one course. Just think about it.”

I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to think about it. But the longer I turned the idea over in my head, the more I realized it was what I wanted to do.

That a near-stranger had seen in me the flame I’d been trying to snuff out.

And when I graduated, three and a half years later, it was as an Honors English major on the creative writing track.

This post is called “How I Got My Book Deal”. I talk more about my writing journey in my “How I Got My Agent” post back in January — where I cover all my past awful first drafts, working the hardest I ever have in Pitch Wars, and signing with the incredible Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

But, tl;dr: I got my agent because I found a story I loved enough.

I got a book deal because I decided, somewhere in between that day my professor told me to take an English class and the day I officially turned in my paperwork to declare the major, that there was no sense in pretending anymore that this wasn’t what I wanted.

That drive to be a writer is what made me sign up for that first English class. It’s what carried me through writing THE DEVOURING GRAY, through Pitch Wars, through endless rescheduled social plans and weekends where I didn’t leave my apartment to finish revision after revision. It pushed me to do the research on which agents were best to query; to choose the one who I knew cared about my career just as much as I did.

It’s what kept me going when we went on submission to editors, and I had to learn how to deal with the fact that my best work wouldn’t always be enough. The same passion and intensity I’d been terrified of as a teenager was what gave me the strength to know that if THE DEVOURING GRAY didn’t sell, I’d write something else. I knew by then that I couldn’t make that part of me go away, even if I tried.

And that lifetime’s worth of wanting this one thing, this one goal, is what made all that hard work utterly worth it when I got the news from Kelly that an editor wanted to buy my book — MY book! — at last.

When I create a character, I’ve found that their greatest strength and their greatest weakness often come from the same source. A dedication to order and rules prevents flexibility and adaptation; intense loyalty to their companions prevents a character from acting in their own best interests.

I can see, at this point, that I’m like this too.

I still sometimes wish I could care less about…well, everything even remotely related to writing. But I know it’s why I’m here.

Of course, being the intense, passionate person I am, this meant that I was extremely set on finding an editor who loved THE DEVOURING GRAY almost as much as I did. Not an easy task, considering that my Pinterest board alone for this book has over 1300 pictures on it, and I can easily talk about it for multiple hours at a time.

So when my agent emailed me after we’d been on submission for about 2 months to say that an editor wanted to talk to me on the phone, I was thrilled, but nervous. We’d had a few close calls by then; some requests for revision, some very kind passes. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. I prepared a list of questions, printed out some notes, and did my best to remain calm. (Spoiler: I was not.)

But within thirty seconds of getting on the conference call with this editor and my agent, I knew I had nothing to be afraid of. And within five minutes, I knew that I could trust her with my book.

She understood the story I was trying to tell on every level, from every angle. She adored the characters, the world, the magic, the woods. I could tell she truly loved THE DEVOURING GRAY, and I could tell, as well, that she was like me: the kind of person who, once they decide on a goal, will work tirelessly to achieve it.

The best part was, we had the same goal: to make my book the best possible version of itself.

But, although we’d had a great phone call, this editor’s house hadn’t made an offer yet, or even taken the book to the editorial board.

So I waited. And waited. Through the six most excruciating days of my entire life, through reassuring emails from my agent, through panicked gchats to the one friend who knew what was going on.

The call was on a Thursday. The next Wednesday, I was out to dinner with my parents and my younger sister, whom I hadn’t seen in months. It was the first time all week that my book wasn’t the main thing on my mind.

So when I glanced down at my phone between dinner and dessert, I was shocked to see a series of texts from Kelly:

CHECK

YOUR

EMAIL!!!!!

…I had enabled notifications on my publishing email. So I scrolled down.

And saw the subject line. The one that said “Offer from Disney-Hyperion for THE DEVOURING GRAY.”

I started shaking. And then, as I fumbled to open my phone, I started sobbing, in the middle of an Italian restaurant, in front of half my family and many concerned diners who had no idea why the girl in the corner booth was suddenly hysterically crying.

The next few minutes are a blur — me reading the email through my tears, my parents reading the email, explaining hastily to the tables next to us what was going on. The waiter brought us champagne. I rushed out of the restaurant to call Kelly, my boyfriend, and my best friend.

It was one of the best nights of my life.

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This picture was taken after I stopped crying.

 

The next few days are a blur, too. We were lucky enough to get another offer, and while I also liked the other editor a lot, I ultimately chose the first one I talked to. Her enthusiasm and passion made me confident that THE DEVOURING GRAY had found the perfect home.

That assistant editor is Hannah Allaman, who co-acquired THE DEVOURING GRAY duology with Emily Meehan. I will forever be grateful that they fell in love with my creepy woods book, and that the rest of the Disney-Hyperion team was on board!

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The first time me and Hannah met in person! It was super secret.

After the deal was struck, it took about three months for it to actually be announced. Publishing is slow! Being an author means getting used to lots of waiting.

But now the news is out, and at last, I can tell you all. I’m so thrilled to continue sharing my publication journey with the Writer’s Block Party readers!

I can’t wait until THE DEVOURING GRAY is out in the world — Spring 2019 feels a long way away, but at least that gives me plenty of time to get used to being a debut author.

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Me, holding the print edition of Publisher’s Weekly with my deal announcement flagged in red. Totally surreal.

 

If you want, you can add my book on Goodreads below:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36535913-the-devouring-gray

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