Happy Tuesday, Reader Friends!
I’m happy to introduce you to Taylor Bennett, YA author of novel, Porch Swing Girl. She’s our first author of the year for Takeover Tuesday. Be sure to give Taylor some love in the comments!
When I was little, I wanted to be many things when I grew up—doctor, TV newsperson, actress.
Being a writer never crossed my mind.
Then I entered middle school, took a creative writing course, and wrote my first novel, a paltry collection of some thirty-thousand words. And I was a writer.
I wasn’t a very good writer—I was quite bad, in fact—but I had discovered the joy that came from stringing words together to create a story. I had found the delight that resulted in sharing my words with others.
I was hooked.
I re-wrote that first novel probably half a dozen times, with dreams of query letters, publishing contracts, and sold-out book tours dancing in my thirteen-year-old head.
That book, naturally, never saw the light of day.
I spent a few years on revisions that, while ultimately educational, never helped salvage the mess of story wandering around in pages of plotless prose. I dug out a fresh notebook, a new pen, and started again.
I was fifteen, this time, and—I was sure—much older and wiser when it came to the writing and publishing industry.
Certainly I wasn’t.
Yes, my prose was tighter, my sense of story stronger (though not as strong as it needed to be) and I knew more about the publishing world, thanks to years spent studying top industry blogs and websites, but I was still a naïve literary greenhorn.
And that’s how I did everything wrong to get my dream contract.
I started by choosing to attend a writers’ conference—not an error itself, of course. What I did wrong happened after I made the choice to go. I sent out advance submissions to three of the publishers at that conference—including Blink, a YA imprint of Zondervan.
I was confident.
I had, perhaps, 25% of my book written at that time.
Which meant that I should FOR NO REASON be sending out query letters.
But I did.
Remarkably, one of the publishers reached out to me before the conference, requesting the first five chapters and questioning whether I could write a sequel or two.
That’s where my second mistake—or at least an uninformed error—came into play. I didn’t have the first five chapters on my computer. Rather, they were hastily scrawled in a notebook. Untyped. Unedited. And now a real, live publisher wanted to read them!
I scrambled to get the words written up as fast as my fingers would let me, all while racking my brain for ideas for books two and three. If this publisher wanted my book, she would get it. And if she wanted two more, I’d give her those, too.
Fast-forward a few months to the first day of the conference. My mom was there with me, it was the opening session, which included worship and a brief welcome speech. All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a woman I recognized only from the conference handbook bounded over. We didn’t say much more than hello, the encounter lasted less than a minute, but it filled me with renewed confidence—perhaps too much.
I had met my publisher.
I went home that year with no contract, no offer of representation, but hope. I had hope—quite possibly too much of it. Certainly I could finish my book in a month or two. Then all I needed to do was send the full manuscript to that publisher lady, wait for her to send me a contract…and bingo! I’d be published.
There was my third mistake.
It took me months longer than I’d expected to finish my book, and then—then there was editing. I hired a freelance editor who showed me even more things I’d done wrong. Things like forgetting about the plot halfway through the book, completely ignoring one character’s story and cutting them completely out of the picture after one scene, and describing food way too much.
The edits I were certain would take me a month or two ended up taking six months. Six long, laborious months. In other words, by the time I’d written and (mostly) edited my book, it was conference time.
A whole year had gone by since I’d met my dream publisher. I was seventeen, and time to fulfill my dream of being a teenage author was running out.
This time, I assured myself, I would do things right.
I approached the publisher’s table with a complete book proposal—and a finished, edited book on the hard drive of my computer back in my hotel room. I sat down, offered her my proposal, and…
She waved it away.
Little did I know, but she’d been in contact with my freelance editor throughout the entire editing process, reading little sneak peeks and keeping updated on my progress. And she wanted my book—plus the two more we’d talked about at the conference last year.
So that’s how, after doing most everything wrong and blundering my way through the book submission process, I walked away that year with a three-book contract with my dream publisher.
It wasn’t the Zondervan imprint. It wasn’t Bethany House. It wasn’t any of the big houses.
It was Mountainbrook Ink, a fledgling company in its fourth year, but it was perfect for me. Small, welcoming, and filled with a staff of brilliant writers and editors. I had found my home.
And now, just barely four months after I was offered my contract, I’m scurrying around, keeping up with fast-track edits and promotion as I prepare for my book to release in June of 2018. It’s a crazy road but one that I’m blessed and privileged to travel.
Taylor Bennett is the author of the contemporary YA novel, Porch Swing Girl, which releases from Mountain Brook Ink in June 2018. When she isn’t pecking madly at her computer, she’s playing violin on her church’s worship team, snapping pictures, or walking in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She loves to connect with future readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (her favorite!) as well as on Goodreads and her author website.