Shannon here: A few weeks ago, I celebrated the release of three of my backlist titles paired with other authors in Large Print Mills & Boon Western collections. So today, I’m giving you an update since I’m often asked when my next book will release. All comments or answers to the question in this post will go into a drawing for winner’s choice of Jill Kemerer’s A Cowboy to Rely on paired with my A Texas Bond, or Heidi McCahan’s The Bull Riders Fresh Start paired with my Hill Country Redemption, or Deb Kastner’s Their Unbreakable Bond paired with my The Cowboy’s Missing Memory. Deadline: July 16th, 11:59 pm central time.
I guess you’ve noticed I haven’t had a book published in a while. But my world has been eventful lately. Last year, my dad was really sick and I put writing aside to help my mom. I still managed to fulfill my editing jobs for Scrivenings Press, though I cut it down to contemporaries only, which reduced my workload. By the end of last year, my dad was on the mend. Now, thankfully, he’s back to tending his cows and riding his tractor.
For the first half of this year, I had back-to-back books to edit. Now, I only have one more to finish up for the year. And I cut my workload again. Next year, I’ll edit final books in two series, but other than that, I won’t be doing any more content editing. Except maybe some freelance occasionally. Though I love helping authors mold their books into the best they can be, I’ve realized editing kills my creativity. My brain gets too tired to create. And at heart, I’m a writer, not an editor.
I’ll still handle contemporary acquisitions, helping decide what books Scrivenings publishes. I love calling authors with a contract offer to make their dreams come true. With my schedule winding down, I’ve been reading more. Just for fun. And I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles. I have a large wicker table in the sunroom and a puzzle board with drawers, so I keep a puzzle in progress all the time. It sounds like I haven’t been doing much about getting another book published, but I promise I have. I got new author headshots. So now, I actually look like my picture since my old ones were twelve years old.
A large part of getting published is a waiting game. Let’s start with why some authors want or need agents. An agent works with an author just like a manager or agent does with a musician. There are some publishers, who won’t accept submissions straight from authors, meaning you must have an agent to even get your manuscript in the door. It’s a guarantee that the author has done the work, studied the craft, and implemented what they’ve learned.
Agents keep track of what publishers are looking for. They know the editors and their tastes. Yes, authors have to pay them, but only a percentage of earnings when the agent gets a contract for them. And agents get more money for writers in order to earn their keep. Since I’m legal jargon challenged and I’d like to break into those publishing houses that require an agent, I need one.
My first agent was really sweet and I guess she saw promise in me. But I so was not ready. I hadn’t learned everything I needed to learn and it showed in my writing. After six months, she dropped me and she really needed to. I needed more work than she had the time to give and an agent isn’t supposed to be an editor.
My second agent had a bad rep in the industry. But I didn’t know that. So when I got my first book contract and the legal mumbo jumbo stilled my brain, I signed with the only agent I’d ever met at a writer’s conference. Subsequently, she lost my book contract for me. Don’t worry, she’s not in business anymore.
My third agent, I thought was the charm. And she was for a while. She was sweet. When my publisher shut down the line I’d written for, she got my contract continued with the new publisher who bought the imprint. She talked me off the ledge when I realized I’d signed a contract to write a book that had been stolen years ago by a shifty publisher, and since I’d tried to put the whole episode behind me, I never mentioned it to her or the not-shifty publisher I’d committed to write/rewrite the book for. That could have been a legal issue, but my agent smoothed things over deftly and I was able to write the book with the editor in the know.
That same agent landed me contracts for seven books. She’d probably still be my agent, except I wanted to write books for Scrivenings Press, the publisher I edit for. And since my friend owns the company, I don’t need an agent to negotiate contracts for me. But my contract with her was all-inclusive, which meant I’d have to pay her a percentage to write for my friend. Which didn’t make sense. My agent agreed and graciously asked if I’d like to go our separate ways. It was a hard choice, but once again, after three agents, twelve years, and nineteen published books, I found myself agentless.
I wrote my first novella for a collection for my friend’s company and edited a dozen more books before I decided on what to do with that. Then I started querying agents my author friends recommended. Potential agent number one never responded. Potential agent number two called me within days of receiving my e-mail. Though impressed with my body of work, she’s focusing on nonfiction.
Potential agent number three called me within days, wanted me to do some revisions, put together a new proposal for Love Inspired, and then sign me. Agent number three is known for Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction with Romance and has a great rep in the industry.
In between doctor appointments and hospital stays with my parents and in between editing projects, I’ve been revising and perfecting two different series in pursuit of this agent. I agreed to the revisions and the proposal, but the process turned into an almost year-long task. I’d work on the LI proposal, my dad would end up in the hospital, my brain would fry, repeat the process.
I let the agent know what my hold up was. She was willing to wait and said there was no rush. Once Daddy was on the road to recovery, I sent her revisions, she suggested a few tweaks. I’d do some revisions, edit some books, do more revisions and send them to her. Repeat. This started in February of 2021. She was so patient. Every time I sent her revisions and she still didn’t think my chapters and proposal were where they needed to be, I thought she’d write me off and stop messing with me. But she didn’t. She kept reading my revisions and suggesting improvements.
And finally, in May, I signed with my new agent. My fourth. That sounds like I’m a difficult client, doesn’t it? I promise it’s not me. Most of the time anyway. Finally last month, she offered me a contract. I’m happy to say Tamela Hancock Murray is now my agent. And I feel I’ve come full circle.
Remember back in 2009, when agent number two lost my first book contract? After I got a contract with a different publisher on the same book, Steve Laube, a longtime agent, heard about the ruckus. He reached out to me, wanting to know if I had any other books to submit to him. But I wasn’t ready. I’d never worked with an editor before, which is like going to book-writing college. I sent him a book I’d written several years ago. And it wasn’t ready. He was very nice and let me down gently.
Tamela works at Steve’s agency. And the book she’ll soon be shopping around for me, not the LI proposal, is the same not ready yet book I sent Steve all those years ago. Since then, I’ve worked with several editors and agents, became an editor, and it’s ready. Though recently I completed some revisions Tamela suggested. See – full circle. Back when my career was in shambles before it even got started, Steve Laube offered me an opportunity to sign with him. Twelve years later, I did, only with Tamela.
Writers with a dream of publication often think if they can just get that first book published, the rest is a piece of cake with publishers begging for their work. Readers assume the same and expect their favorite authors to have one to three books out per year. Not so. Lots of rejections, changes, and revisions await. But it’s worth it. So be patient with me. Tamela and I are working toward my next release.
Question for Readers: So what goal has been harder to attain than you expected, yet all your hard work has been worth it?
About Shannon: Award-winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.
She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects. Learn more & connect:
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Come back July 8th for Alyssa Roat!