A new post by Jennifer Archer in the “How I Found My Agent/How I Sold My First Book” series. I should preface this by saying that everything about Jenny’s story goes against conventional wisdom. I’m sure I have counseled people against switching genre on panels, for example. But Jennifer has made it work for her, and there is a continuity of voice that is present in all of her writing which I believe has helped her bring readers with her as she’s moved across genres. As well, all of her books have contemporary settings and the paranormal elements are “light” paranormal elements; she’s not switching from women’s fiction to heavy world-building. I think Jennifer’s career has been about perseverance, really. She’s stayed true to herself creatively, and I think that’s the most important thing. Plus, she’s a remarkable writer and a true joy to work with and that always helps. Her professionalism, talent and grace never cease to amaze me.
Over to Jennifer…
HOW I SOLD THREE “FIRST” NOVELS IN THREE DIFFERENT GENRES
As a writer, I am constantly reinventing myself. I’m not certain if it’s because I have eclectic taste in stories, I’m easily bored, or if I just can’t make up my mind. Maybe it’s a little of all three.
My first novel was called SHADOWS OF DOUBT, and it never sold despite being nominated twice for the RWA Golden Heart Award and winning or placing in various other contests. SHADOWS OF DOUBT was a romantic suspense novel. I loved the romantic suspense genre (and still do), but while I was shopping my book to literary agents and publishers, another story idea took root in my mind and refused to wither and die. That book was BODY AND SOUL, my debut, and it is a quirky, funny paranormal romance. When BODY AND SOUL sold to a publisher, I thought I’d found my niche – my brand: I would be the Queen of Quirky Romantic Comedy with a Paranormal Twist. I could be happy with that. Or so I thought at the time.
I wrote and sold a second novel in the same quirky genre, and it was after that book’s release that I found my agent, Jenny Bent. Jenny liked my zany paranormal romantic comedies. In fact, I had decided to query her after seeing her listing in the Romance Writer’s Report, stating that among other genres, she was looking for just the sort of books I was writing. After I signed with her, she made two more romantic comedy sales for me. We were a good fit. I wrote books that she liked and she was able to sell them.
Then something happened. My writing changed, and so did I. I wanted to write a different kind of story. The problem was that I wasn’t sure what kind of story, I only knew that it wasn’t a quirky paranormal! I was at loose ends. I called Jenny, worried she’d decide that we should part ways since I wanted to walk away from an offer from my publisher for the sort of book she’d signed me to write. She would’ve had every right to let me go, and I would’ve understood, but class act that she is, Jenny did no such thing. I still remember that phone call and what she said: “Take some time to experiment and when you decide what you want to do, I’ll be here.” Every writer should be so lucky to have such an agent – one who understands the creative ups and downs that writers sometimes experience.
Over the next two years, I worked on two different novels – a women’s fiction and a young adult. Occasionally I sent pages to Jenny, but I began having serious doubts that I’d ever sell again. I asked myself if I’d made a mistake by walking away from a contract for another romantic comedy with my prior publisher. Then, quite unexpectedly, Jenny called one day to ask how much of the women’s fiction novel I had finished. How quickly could I write the synopsis? Harlequin was starting a new women’s fiction line of “light lit.” Jenny said my novel was exactly the sort of story they wanted. That novel, SANDWICHED, became one of the launch books for the Harlequin NEXT line and my debut in women’s fiction. I had to set aside the young adult novel I’d been sporadically working on to write five more books for Harlequin NEXT.
When the NEXT line folded, I knew that the best move for my career would be to write more women’s fiction and market it to a different publisher. I loved writing women’s fiction, and my books for NEXT had been well received by readers – one of them, THE ME I USED TO BE, had been nominated for a Rita. But although women’s fiction was a perfect fit for me, the story of sixteen year old Tansy Piper and the seventeen year old ghost named Henry who haunts her stayed on my mind. Once again, I followed my heart instead of logic; I pulled out that young adult novel that I’d set aside, finished it, and sent it off to Jenny. She said it was the best thing I’d ever written and began shopping it to publishers, all of whom promptly rejected it!
Devastated, I put the book away again. I ghostwrote a business book and hated every minute of it. Then my prior publisher asked me to write a women’s fiction novella. I happily complied, convinced it would be the last piece of fiction I’d ever publish. The week that the anthology with my novella in it was released, I heard that my publisher was starting a new Young Adult line. I emailed Jenny and asked if she thought we should submit my book. She said ‘yes,’ but that enough time had passed that we could do another round of submissions to other publishers, as well; many of the editors at the publishing houses we had submitted to before had changed. Hopeful again, I did a light revision. Jenny sent the book out. More rejections followed. And then came two offers! I signed a contract with Harper Teen, and I rejoiced. My story had a home! My characters would live!
THROUGH HER EYES was released in April, 2011. Whenever I look at it, I think of the persistence it took to get it published. Persistence on both my part, and Jenny’s. And I thank my lucky stars that I have an agent who believes in my work and never gives up.
I have a second YA novel coming out next year, and I’m working on an idea for a possible third. And then there’s that other idea . . . the one that creeps up on me from time to time lately, the one whose characters have started whispering in my ear. The story is different than anything else I’ve ever written before – but you already guessed that, right?
Jennifer’s latest release is THROUGH HER EYES, published by HarperTeen. Her website is http://jenniferarcher.net/ and you can find her on twitter at @jenniferarcher1