creative writing community, craft and inspiration
by Jennifer Walkup
I started writing stories as a young girl, became serious about it in high school, and dug deeper into the craft in college and then graduate school. While I had a few short stories published in college and graduate school, I found the process of submitting and the subsequent rejections robbed me of the enjoyment I had in creating my work. So for several years I just focused on the writing. The process, in fact, was always wonderful. It’s when I felt most alive, the part I loved most. Sometime after graduate school, I decided to “get serious” about publishing again. Writing remained the best part, but I had a goal in mind for it now and was ready to tackle it head on.
I wrote five novels before writing Second Verse. I had some close calls with them – signed with an agent who worked with me for a few years, submitting to all the big houses. But we struck out with those early novels.
I began experimenting different genres and voices. Rejection was no longer the awful beast it had been in the beginning. It still stung, of course, but I had grown a thicker skin and the will to keep pushing forward.
Second Verse, my Young Adult romantic thriller, was the sixth novel I wrote. This one felt like the one. The voice felt stronger, the plotting more complex, the writing tighter overall, and the concept seemed to have that elusive “commercial” aspect I’d heard all too often was lacking from my other books.
I had no way to knowing, of course, if it was truly ready for the next step. I had just parted ways with my agent around the time Second Verse was really ready for editors. I had to decide – did I want to query agents again or did I want to query editors at small publishers directly? After some soul searching and research, I decided on the latter. This was completely new territory for me. As anyone who has queried or worked with an agent can attest, a great deal of research goes into the querying process and there is a ton of information out there about agents and agencies. But now I was approaching publishers directly, which was unchartered territory.
I knew what I was looking for – a traditional publisher that would handle every aspect of publishing my book in house – from editing to marketing to getting my book in front of the reviewers that matter. I wanted a publisher that had the reach to distribute my books widely, getting them into bookstores and hopefully into the hands of readers.
But even with these parameters set, there were many options. So I started to research. I choose to query publishers that had a professional standing and presence. These were ones I’d heard good things about. I bought their books, taking care to check out the style and quality of their design and editing. I noticed where and how they were selling their books. Where they had been reviewed. I considered approaching a small traditional publisher for a long while before actually taking the plunge.
Before long (ha! how easy to say that now that it’s over — the wait was excruciating at the time) I had a few houses interested in Second Verse. When I spoke to the folks at Luminis Books, everything just clicked. Their vision for my book mirrored mine, their marketing plan was fantastic and their experience impressive. I signed my contract with a huge smile and no qualms.
That was about eighteen months ago. Since then, some great things have happened. I got to attend Book Expo America (BEA) this spring where I saw my first advanced copies and got to sign books on the show floor. After that it was a whirlwind toward release date – publicity plans, book event scheduling, Second Verse’s early industry reviews, everything racing toward the release date.
Second Verse has been out for a few weeks now. I’ve been attending lots of signings and events and talked to some readers, which has been amazing. I’ve gotten emails and Facebook messages from readers telling me how they loved my book and how they stayed up all night reading it. I can’t imagine a greater compliment!
People at my readings want to get advice on their own writing and path to publication. It’s been surreal and wonderful and absolutely amazing to be able to offer not only my novel, but advice as well. I am so incredibly grateful.
We also just found out that Second Verse won a 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, taking Gold in its category: Young Adult Fiction – Horror/Mystery. The award is especially exciting as my book has just debuted. I can only cross my fingers and hope it means even more good things ahead for Second Verse.
I’m certainly not new on the publishing scene. I’ve been at this for years, trying to get one of my books in the proverbial door. But now that it’s there, I’m glad I kept pushing. For years I’ve heard the same advice from those much further along the path than me – do not give up. And I can honestly say, even after all the hurdles, I’m glad I listened. I’m reeling in the whirlwind of the moment, enjoying every minute, and looking forward to whatever comes next.
Jennifer Walkup is a young adult novelist who loves to lose herself in the words and worlds of a good book and believes some of the best friendships can be made on the written page. When she’s not reading, she writes young adult novels and short fiction for adults.
Jenn’s debut novel, Second Verse, was published by Luminis Books in 2013. She has also published in a variety of venues, most recently the Genre Wars Anthologyand Gloom Cupboard. She serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review and teaches creative writing at The Writer’s Circle.