Columns > Published on February 18th, 2014

The Path To Publication 2.0: This Thing Is Actually Happening


Back in January 2012 I started a column for this site called "The Path to Publication." I was nearing completion of a novel, and planned to document the process of querying, getting an agent, and everything that came after. The column lasted for four installments before I realized three things: 

  1. I fooled myself into thinking it would be a quick process.
  2. The book needed more work.
  3. I had fallen into the trap of writing about writing instead of just writing.

Bush-league stuff. So I pulled the column and felt like a bit of a dummy. And I want to own that real quick, because I'm back, with what I'll call "The Path to Publication 2.0." Because now the book is actually getting published!

As you might have seen announced on the site last week, Exhibit A Books, an imprint of Angry Robot, has bought my first novel, New Yorked. It'll come out in Winter 2015. So far away it still doesn't feel real. Except, there have been three inquiries into the film and TV rights. I've delivered my notes for the cover designers. This is a thing that's actually happening. Soon it'll be a book that's in bookstores.  

But here's the thing about trying to sell a book and build a career as an author: There is no one, final, ultimate goal. It's about collecting victories and moving on to the next battle. You'd think selling the book would be an endgame, and that's true, in a way. Except now we've got a long road ahead on the book we just sold, plus I have to start thinking about a sequel, plus I need to consider how I'm going to pace the next couple of projects I want to work on.

This is a victory, and it's a good one, and I want to savor it, at least for a couple of minutes. So I figured I'd kick off the return of the column by talking about how I got here from my mea culpa in April 2012. 

Small victories

So the column got pulled and I got back to work on the book. Ground-up rewrite. I chipped at the new draft for months until I finally, finally got it to a place where I could be comfortable. When the book was finished—finished for real—it ended up on the desk of Bree Ogden, LitReactor's agent-in-residence.

But here's the thing about trying to sell a book and build a career as an author: There is no one, final, ultimate goal. It's about collecting victories and moving on to the next battle.

I forget if she asked to read it or if I asked her to read it. I do know she enjoyed a short story I wrote, and my novella. It was a little risky sending it to her, in the sense that we already had a working relationship through the site, and I ran the risk of souring it. But I also liked Bree a lot, and I knew she was smart, and I figured even if she just had some good advice, it would be worth it. 

I didn't think she was going to offer to represent me. Which is what she did, in May of 2013. 

When she offered, saying yes was a no-brainer. She had been a guest on our podcast, and I hung out with her at Wordstock, and I liked her style. And I soon learned that her middle name is Kickass. True fact. 

So landing an agent was great, and I was happy, but it was a step in the process. From there we started a very difficult, frustrating step: Submissions. 

Being on submission is simultaneously the best and worst feeling in the world. Best, because you've got an agent in your corner and you are on the yellow-brick road. Worst, because you live in a constant state of: This could be the moment. I had to give Bree a custom ringtone in my phone, because every time my phone rang, my heart would catch, because I thought it might be her. 

But what I learned quick was: Just because an editor requests your book on Monday doesn't mean you'll hear back on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Friday, or the week after, or a month later...

Patience is a huge, huge virtue. I should know that—I'm the associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com, so I should know that—but it's easy to get swept up in the process. It got easier as we went along, and I learned how to temper my expectations, but there were some real ups and downs. Some very cool editors at some very cool publishing houses requested the book—and then it would be a shot through the heart when they turned it down.

We were on submission for 10 months before we wound up in front of Bryon Quertermous at Exhibit A. 

Shortly after Bryon asked to read the book, we met up here in New York; he was in town for some meetings and wanted to grab a little face time. So I dragged my ass out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to meet him at a diner for breakfast. I liked him right off, and we had a great talk. About publishing, but also about New Yorked. Leaving that meeting, I was in a dangerous position: I liked him, and I wanted to work with him, and if he said no, it was going to sting. 

It was a risky move. I was setting myself up for a big fall. I could have said something dumb or spilled coffee on him. As luck would have it, I didn't spill coffee on him. And he ended up liking the book. Then the rest of the folks at Exhibit A liked the book. And they made an offer, and here we are. 

The best part about this, really, is that I could not be happier. There were two things I was worried about going into this process: That the book would never sell and I would have to scrap something I loved, or I would have to settle for a deal I wasn't passionate about after exhausting all other options. I don't know which outcome would have been worse.

But Exhibit A puts out awesome books. They’re affiliated with Angry Robot, which puts out awesome books. They’re open to the idea of turning New Yorked into a series. They’re forward-thinking on issues like DRM-free eBooks and print/digital bundling. They’re distributed by Random House, so they’ve got both guts and reach. I couldn't ask for anything better than that. 

I feel lucky. A lot of this is luck. Not all of it. 

Going forward

So that's how I got here. There were definitely some moments where I was ready to throw up my hands and say, Fuck it, I'll just self-publish this fucking thing and move on. A lot of writers talk about how it's not until their third, fourth, or fifth book—sometimes even later—that something catches. 

I was lucky to have a kickass agent in my corner. I love this book. I really do. It was written during a time of great uncertainty (my 20s), which I wanted to reflect in the narrative. The book is about growing up and finding your moral compass and what it means to be a man, but with an amateur private investigator and a drag queen crime boss and a hipster turf war. It was the best way I could think to tell the truth of what I wanted to say. 

And this time next year, hopefully, you'll be able to read it. 

Until then, I've got stuff to do: A follow-up, another series I've been toying with, an idea I just got that might be brilliant (we'll see what Bree says). Plus I've got my responsibilities here at LitReactor, and with MysteriousPress.com. It's going to be a packed year. My wife is a fucking saint, because she never complains, always encourages.

Busy is good. Better than the alternative. 

Still, I wanted to resurrect this column. I can finally get to the original intent, which is talk about the process, in the hopes of generating discussion, and informing, and learning. For example, I talked a bit about risk above. My path wasn't a typical one. And I can't pretend like my gigs with LitReactor and MysteriousPress.com didn't help me along a little.

But, also helpful: Attending events and conventions. Sending out short stories and getting my name out. Saying 'yes.' Being nice. Learning the value of patience, and working hard, even when you don't want to work hard. All in name of that one victory, and then being able to move on to the next one.   

So, ask questions, or comment, or pillory me for shameless self-promotion. Whatever works. 

I'll be here monthly. If there's stuff you want me to cover, let me know. There's some things I'm planning to talk about, but would love to make this interactive. Because this is fucking fun, and a bright day, and I am happy to be here. 

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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