I realized last week that July brings a couple of special “anniversaries” of Very Big Days in my life. It was the 4th of July in 1993 that my then-boyfriend proposed to me in Albuquerque, NM. The tired, worn-out joke goes that, yes, there were fireworks.
The 6th of July this year was the 8-year anniversary of getting The Call—selling my first book to a publisher. To this day, it’s hard to describe the feelings that one phone call evoked in me. Back then, when it was still fresh, I wrote up a detailed recounting of it, but unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore. So here’s what I remember:
My boys, who were then 5 and 3 years old, had had tennis lessons that morning. Tennis lessons in Kansas in July is a hellaciously hot experience—I don’t care what time of day you have them. We got home from lessons, dripping with sweat, and I was semi-brain-dead from sitting in the sun and watching…on metal bleachers, of course. We still had a landline phone on the wall (old skool!) and we still had a voice messaging service through the local phone company. I checked the messages and *OMG* there was a message from Victoria Curran of Harlequin, telling me in her Canadian accent that she would like to talk to me about my story.
I freaked out.
Normally, a call from an editor is good news, but I’d heard from a couple of author friends around that time of an editor calling them to talk about how they could “fix” their story to better suit a certain line. So the call itself, in my mind, did not mean a sale, necessarily.
I called my critique partner, Maya Banks. Freaked out some more. She squeed and hollered and told me to get off the damn phone and call Victoria. After a few minutes, I calmed myself down and agreed that would be the thing to do. We hung up…and I called my husband at work.
And…yeah, getting a little repetitive here, but I freaked out to him.
He gave me sweet, heartfelt congratulations, but I told him to stop! Because I didn’t want to jinx it and find out it was a revisions call. Then, being the practical guy he is, he suggested I call Victoria and find out.
Um, really? I have to call an editor? When you’re unpublished, calling an editor is a little terrifying. That she had called me first helped, but still…scary stuff.
But okay, I would call her. Yes, I could do this. I finally calmed myself down enough to dial the old skool phone and ask for Victoria’s extension.
Of course, by this point, it was lunch hour in Toronto, and I got her voice mail. I left a message, hung up, proceeded to call other people who needed to know what I was going through, pacing my house all the while. Even in between calls, I paced, phone in my hand. Talk about waiting by the phone….
Finally, Victoria called. She said, “We’d like to go to contract on your book.” I tried not to lose my shit too badly, but the truth is, though we talked for five minutes or more, I had no recollection of any of it when we hung up, except for the go-to-contract line and also the “we’ll talk details in a day or so when you’ve had a chance to calm down and can absorb the rest of the information” part. Thank God they know to do that.
When I got off the phone, I explained to my older son that my story was going to be published as a book, with a cover, with my name on that cover, etc. Bless his heart, I have no idea how well he really understood, but he jumped up and down with me (literally) and hugged me and zipped around the house with me.
Then I called everyone I’d talked to so far and confirmed that it had been The Call. Then I called others I hadn’t yet bothered and told them the news.
The world of publishing has changed unimaginable amounts in just 8 years. Back then, we had to mail our manuscripts to the publisher (which, I’m here to tell you, costs about $60 when you use an international shipping company). We waited by the mailbox for correspondence. We depended on a publishing company to take care of every single aspect of publishing a book, from editing and cover design to back-cover blurbs and titles.
In just 8 years, publishers have (finally) switched to electronic transmission of manuscripts, revisions, author-approval copies, etc. And authors can now make the decision to forego a publishing company and publish their books independently (as I did with my two short stories, Impulse and Slow Burn).
I’ve learned a shit ton, both in publishing and in marriage. Some of it makes for good stories; some of it is better forgotten. But one of the biggest, most important things I’ve learned is that celebrating is important. Crucial. And honestly? In the Knupp family, we do celebrating pretty darn well. July is a busy month for it. It’s rough, but somebody’s gotta do it. Pass the (gluten-free sugar-free) cake!