#WriteThinking Charlene Ross

Charlene PWI’m so happy to have Charlene Ross on the blog today. Charlene’s latest novel Frosted Cowboy is out now, and today she posts about the roller coaster of signing that book deal.


The Roller Coaster Ride of Signing a Book Deal

It took me a long time to write my first novel. I won’t say how long (because I don’t want my publishers to regret signing me), but let’s just say that when I first started writing my book chick lit was all the rage and I thought Sandra Bullock (who was older than my protagonist, Laney Delaney, at the time, but still young enough to play her) would be perfect for the movie version. Laney is thirty-two. Sandra Bullock is now… never mind!

Of course all of that time was not spent writing. A lot of time was spent crying over how horrible my manuscript was. Or ignoring it (for months) as it sat on a shelf silently taunting me. Which lead to where most of my time was spent: editing.

When I was finally finished (book is no longer horrible, now it’s awesome – yay!), I started sending query letters to agents and mostly heard crickets. If I was lucky I’d receive a form rejection letter. If I was really lucky I receive personalized rejection letter. Occasionally (or should I say seldomly?), I’d get a request for a partial or a full and then have those rejected as well. (Sigh…)

The good news is this long process made my book better. I couldn’t figure out why my book was getting rejected. It was so good! (I mean, my mom thought so.) And then I would re-read it and realize, “oof, not so good” and would get back to the drawing board. (Or rather the editing board.) When my book was once again “perfect” I would send it out again only to face more rejection.

With every rejection I received my response would be, “That agent is stupid. How does she even have a job? She obviously has no taste and no idea what’s funny. My book is awesome. It’s obviously them, not me.” Then I would have some chocolate. And chase it with some freezer vodka.

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) the rejections would get to be too much and I would stop querying for months (and months and months) at a time. (Which was not helpful because while Laney Delaney stayed the same age, dammit if Sandra Bullock -who looks fabulous-times-one-million BTW- kept getting older.)

I knew that chick lit was supposedly “over,” but really? It can’t all be vampires and kick-ass teenage heroines in dystopian futures can it? What’s wrong with a modern-day, thirty-two-year-old, kick-ass heroine who’s just… funny?

Then one day I received an email from a writer-friend with a link to a new publishing company with an open call for submissions for chick lit. An open call for chick lit? Don’t they know that genre is dead? Hadn’t they heard of dystopian teenage vampire lover/slayers? Or, even the newest trend, sick-lit? What was wrong with them? But I sent them a query anyway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go with a small publishing company, but figured I had nothing to lose.

They requested a full manuscript three days after my query. Eight days after receiving my manuscript they offered me a publishing deal.

Side note: I go the offer the day after my 50th birthday. (Yes, like my friend Sandy -that’s what her friends call her, Sandy- I kept getting older too.) And in case you were wondering if getting offered a publishing deal the day after your 50th birthday is the most amazing present ever, the answer is YES!

But, do you want to know what my first thought was?

Those publishers are stupid. What kind of company is this? They obviously have no taste and no idea what’s funny. My book is terrible! There’s too much dialogue, too many F-bombs, it’s not the least bit literary. Why do they like it? It’s crap!

Immediately followed by…

My book is too good for them. It’s funny and quirky and engaging. I’m going to find a proper agent who will sell my book to Random House or Simon and Schuster and broker a movie deal starring Anne Hathaway and Bradley Cooper. (BTW, Bradley Cooper is also too old to be one of the male leads in the movie version of my book, but who cares, because: Bradley Cooper.)

Plus, I had a query out to an agent that seemed like a perfect fit. And then that agent rejected me (with a nicely worded, most-likely form letter).

So I started doing some research on Velvet Morning Press. The authors they signed seemed pretty fantastic and the owners, Adria Cimino and Vicki Lesage had a great reputation in the blogosphere. Maybe going with a small publishing company was  the way to go. Like everything else, the publishing industry is changing at lightning speed. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.

I mean, if Sex in the City creator Darren Star, once the poster boy for HBO, can take his new show Younger to the quirky little channel, TV Land, who am I to say my book is too good for a small publisher?

And so, as they were taking a leap of faith in me, I took a leap of faith with them. And I’m so glad I did. I’m proud and excited to be with a company with a growing list of fantastic authors that pays so much attention to me and thinks my book is awesome. (I’ve heard horror stories from other authors about not even being able to get their agents to answer an email!)

As I said, the publishing industry is changing and I believe small companies like Velvet Morning Press are better able to adapt to the changes and become leaders and innovators in the industry. The road to getting published has been a crazy ride, full of highs and lows and I look forward to the twists and turns that surely lie ahead.

Click here to buy Charlene’s book. You can also follow her on her website, Facebook and Twitter


  1. Jodai

    Your book IS awesome, Charlene. I finished reading it yesterday. I love the humor and the terrific characters whose voices left me wishing I could be part of their circle. Congratulations on your first book publication. And here’s to many more great stories finding the light of day through “small publishing houses!”

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