Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meet Mandy, the author (and her agent) who never gave up

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I love me an inspirational success story. Which is why I asked Mandy Hubbard, YA author extraordinaire, to do a guest blog today. I do not represent Mandy, she has a wonderful agent all of her own, but I am beyond lucky and blessed to have Mandy as an intern at the Bent Agency. Her energy and knowledge and good cheer astound me, and the story of her path to publication amazes me.

At TBA, we do an intern conference call every other week. Many of our interns are writers at various stages in their careers and sometimes we discuss the trials and tribulations of getting published and offer each other advice and encouragement. Mandy told us how she’d happened to get published and I thought it was such a great story that I asked her to tell it here.

This is what I hope you’ll get from it:

  1. Mandy never gave up.
  2. Her superagent never gave up (I’m very impressed!)
  3. See what happens when you never give up?

Okay, over to Mandy…..

Hi Everyone!

And thank you, to Jenny, for having me. :-)

My name is Mandy, and I’m an author. (Why do I suddenly feel like I'm in AA?) My debut, Prada & Prejudice (Razorbill/Penguin) came out in June. I also have four more projects in the works with Harlequin, Razorbill, and Llewellyn Flux. You can learn more about my books at my website (www.mandyhubbard.com)

Eighteen months ago, life was different for me. I was lucky enough to have an agent, but after two years, the phrase “my agent” had lost some of its novelty. My first project didn’t fare well and had been retired, and Prada & Prejudice had racked up over 20 rejections, from every major house in NYC. Every day, I feared the email from my agent saying it was time to give up and move on.

In February of 2008, when Prada & Prejudice was in its 8th draft, I received my third revision request. Except it was really a rewrite request, because all they liked was the concept. And the title. But the rest? It had to go.

Even while I was still hitting my head against my desk, I emailed my agent and told her I’d do it. I opened a blank word document and started over. I never once opened the old book, never copied a single word. I spent six weeks writing and polishing the first hundred pages of the 9th draft of Prada & Prejudice. We sent it back to the editor, and then I crossed my fingers.

Two weeks later I was rejected.

My agent, undaunted, told me she’d give it another shot. After all my work, it was practically a brand-new book. So we put our heads together and came up with a list of six or seven publishers. I knew in my heart that it was the last hurrah. If it didn’t sell, it never would.

In May, it went out. Two weeks later, we received not one, but two offers. When I got the news, it was like a freight train was roaring in one ear and out the other. I couldn’t hear a thing, and I was convinced my heart might actually break one of my ribs, it was beating so hard.

The final tally? Twenty-six rejections, almost two years on submission, and nine drafts. What’s more? The editor who purchased PRADA & PREJUDICE rejected it twice before offering it. Since P&P has been published, it's received positive reviews from SLJ and Publishers Weekly, been featured in TIME magazine (why yes, I bought 5 copies, why do you ask?), and is now in its 5th printing.

There were many, many times I wanted to rip my hair out, one strand at a time. I remember the angst, the frustration, the longing. I’ve never wanted something so fiercely as I wanted to be published. And yet it’s one of the most difficult things to achieve, because it’s a dream that relies on someone else granting it.

A few months ago, I went into my blog and unlocked the posts dealing with rejection, despair, frustration—the ones most people don’t seem to want to share. My hope is that some authors will find in encouragement and realize that there is a happy ending, if only you work at it. They can be found here: http://mandywriter.livejournal.com/tag/the+road+to+publication

All I can say is: It’s worth it. It’s worth every second of the blood, sweat, and tears it takes.

The difference between a published author and an unpublished one is one day. It only takes one day, one moment, for your whole world to shift. I firmly believe that if you work hard at improving your craft and you simply do not give up, your day will come.

The question is: will you quit before then?

41 comments:

  1. Wow, I so needed to read this today. Thanks for sharing your journey, and I hope there is nothing but rainbows in your future. And, if you are ever in need of some inspiration, pop over to my blog. I try to dish that up regularly. There are some great inspiring videos on there now. Again, thanks for sharing and for giving the rest of us hope.
    Blessings, Buffy
    http://buffyswritezone.blogspot.com/

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  2. You are an inspiration, Mandy.
    And Jenny is the kind of agent every writer dreams of working with.
    Congrats to both of you!

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  3. Great story and like Buffy I needed to hear this today. Patience is truly the best quality a writer can have.

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  4. Thanks, Mandy! I needed this right now. It'be better than the host of medications in my cabinets. ;D

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  5. What a great, inspiring post! Thanks for sharing Mandy and Jenny.

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  6. Thank God for this post today. My agent linked to it from twitter (an RT) calling it "inspiring" and I rushed here immediately. It was worth it. What a positive message. Way to hang in there and thanks for the great write-up about it!

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  7. Mandy, thank you for sharing your story! You are an amazing author!

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  8. Mandy, Thanks so much for your amazing story! I just signed w/an agent and am not quite ready to go on submission. I think I'll make sure I've got a lot of Pepto Bismal in the house before I do! I'll also keep your story in mind.

    And, Jenny? Well you know how I feel about you. ;-)

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  9. I wish I could be totally original, but I agree with everyone else when I say, I really needed to read this today. Thank You.

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  10. Mandy, congratulations, and thank you. Your post is exactly what I needed today.

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  11. great post! Thanks for sharing with us. It definitely is encouraging :-)

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  12. Mandy, thanks for sharing. I'm particularly happy that you wrote a successful Time Travel YA chick lit, because that's my genre and your book is proof that not only can Time Travel YA sell, it sell's well.

    I did an Author Shout Out to you on my blog because of everything you just said. Funny thing is, this week I almost quit. Again.

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  13. I am so patting myself on the back for asking Mandy to blog. ;)

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  14. Wow that truly is inspiring. Thanks for sharing,Mandy and congratulations on your success.

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  15. I'm from Spain, and the courage you had to go on and on once and again is amazing.I'll never give up,ever, when the times comes to me.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  16. It's a dream that relies on someone else granting it... lovely.

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  17. Thank you for that inspirational post! One day...I'm looking forward to that one day!

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  18. This was a great, inspiring post. Thank you.

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  19. Thanks so much for sharing your story Mandy! I've read your posts about it on the BlueBoards, but it was great to get this reminder today. Congratulations on your first deal and the four projects in the works!

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  20. YAYYYYYYY beautiful post, Mandy! I couldn't be any happier for you. :D

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  21. Perfectly put, Mandy:

    The difference between a published author and an unpublished one is one day.

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  22. It was worth it. What a positive message. Way to hang in there and thanks for the great write-up about it!

    Work from home India

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  23. What a great post. Almost brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for it, Mandy & Jenny!

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  24. Aww, yay! I love that she opened up the "despair" posts, because I agree: people need to know that stuff, to see that you can get past it. I try to be mostly positive on my blog, but every now and then it's hard to stay encouraged and motivated, and I need to release. The blog-love I get from my readers is wonderful. And sometimes I wonder if I should lock those posts up after the feelings pass, but I think I'll take a page from Mandy's book and keep them open.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing this story, and congrats!

    (Here via YALitChat, fyi.)

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  25. Thanks Mandy for sharing your story. It's truly amazing. I really enjoyed Prada and Pred. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan! Looking forward to reading more of your work.

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  26. With the negative floating around cyberspace - this was a great pick-me-up for me. :)

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  27. That's an amazing story--thanks so much for sharing.

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  28. Whoa, I needed this today too, so thank you for that amazing, encouraging story. And I am definitely going to go and check out all those posts!

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  29. Can I just say that is the awesomest thing I have read in a really, REALLY long time? That is all.

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  30. Your penultimate paragraph says it all for me!

    Congratulations and good luck on all your future projects.

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  31. Thank you for your honesty and bravery! Great post!

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  32. I kind of teared up reading this. Not going to lie. You are an inspiration, Mandy. Thank you so much.

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  33. Congratulations on your success and persistence! You are inspiring! :)

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  34. I sent the link to this post to two of my critique buds. They are both wonderful writers, both hanging in there through rejections while continuing to work so hard. I see their frustration and disappointment, though, each time another rejection comes in, and I feel it for them, too. I hoped this would inspire them, and it did! Thanks, Mandy! And thank you marvelous Jenny B. for having Mandy post.

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  35. Mandy,

    I've been hearing a lot about your newest book, and in positive terms. Congratulations on its launch date.

    I'm wondering about some of your remarks, especially in regard to revisions. It sounds like you had to rework the piece several times, even starting completely over at one point.

    I'm confused about the latter. How was your original text so much different from the final version? You mentioned dropping the ages of your characters to the teen years, but apparently that wasn't the only thing you needed to "fix" to get it published.

    This tale, while encouraging to us non-published authors, scares me. If no one likes the book I've written, with the characters I've created, what's the point? You're writing the book an agent or editor would write if s/he could, not what you've thought up.

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  36. Hi Danceluvr,

    I understand how it might be discouraging to think an agent or editor isn't going to love what you've created as-is, or at least very close to what is. You should know that no one is going to force you to make any changes-- it is *ALWAYS* your choice, even after you are contracted, what you are going to change and what you aren't willing to change. Sometimes that choice means walking away from an agent or a deal, and sometimes it means simply finding a new way to address what the agent/editor sees as a problem.

    The bottom line is that these people are professionals, and they know what works, and they see something in your book that they want to spend time bringing out. In my case, there were a lot of flaws in my story. You don't see them until you grow as a writer and are able to look back on early drafts. My character's story arc and growth just was't sufficient in early drafts, and her character as a whole was really a mish-mash of traits that didn't fit together right. Their feedback really, truly made for a much better story.

    THere are some people who don't like/want to revise, and that's fine. Don't do it. But please remember that publishing as a whole is a business, and they are requesting these revisions becuase they want your book to be a success. You are the writer and it will always be your choice, you just have to choose what sort of balance between art and business makes sense to you.

    And, in case I wasn't clear-- I've never done revisions that didn't result in a book I was even MORE proud of in the end.

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  37. Mandy what an inspiring story. It's totally set me up for 2010. Like you, I'm not giving up!

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  38. This is a very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it!

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  39. What an inspirational post! I loved it.

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  40. Thank you Jenny and Mandy! This is so inspiring, and proves that the only way you'll lose is if you LET yourself by giving up.

    Mandy, way to hang in and kudos to your wonderful agent for encouraging and believing in you. Those are the best kinds of agents to have! ;)

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