OMG! I Got a Book Contract! Now What?

by Kathleen Duhamel

Tom and I were about to sit down to dinner a few weeks ago when I compulsively checked my email one more time and opened a message that took me by surprise, to say the least. It was a response from Imajin Books, the publishing company that was reviewing my manuscript, Deep Blue.

Don’t get your hopes up, I warned myself, expecting yet another rejection. I’d been turned down by at least half a dozen publishers during the past year and although I did get some positive feedback on my plot and characters, no one had been willing to take a chance on a debut novelist whose book didn’t fit the format of a conventional romance novel. Deep Blue is a little outside the lines, just like its author–an often humorous love story with characters old enough to qualify for AARP membership. Hen lit, they call it in the publishing industry. The older sister of chick lit.

I had to stare at the phone screen for a few seconds until it sunk in. I’d been offered a publishing contract. Me.

It’s not merely the fact that this will my first published novel. Deep Blue is also the first novel I’ve written. Period. For years I’d dreamed about becoming an author but it wasn’t until 2013 when, unemployed and bored, I sat in front of my computer screen, typed “Chapter One” and never looked back. I’d recently finished reading a wildly popular “romance” trilogy featuring a despicable male character who takes advantage of a naïve young woman. I was so turned off by the premise that I told myself, I’m going to write a book that I would like to read, even if no one else does.

No one sells their first book, I was told by people in my writing group. Or their second one. These works are merely practice until you get good enough to be published. Many uber-talented writers struggle for decades and never become published authors, so I know I’m among a fortunate few. That thought sort of blows me away and scares me at the same time. What if I’ve already peaked?

“Now what happens?” my husband asked after I’d signed and returned the contracts. To tell the truth, I didn’t really know. I didn’t “workshop” Deep Blue like other new novelists, I didn’t attend a lot of writers’ conferences where I could’ve pitched my book to a potential agent or publisher. None of it. I’m a 63-year-old neophyte in the publishing world, anxious and excited, hoping that my marketing skills will help make up for a lack of experience.

Next came writing the back cover copy–a headline and two paragraph summary designed to intrigue potential readers–and getting it approved by my publisher, Cheryl. Today I finished a line-by-line first edit of the book, trying to get my dashes, hyphens and elipses in order before sending the manuscript off to my editor, Todd. We expect to go through a few sets of revisions before agreeing on the final product.

I’m beginning to think writing Deep Blue was the easy part, compared to what comes next. My biggest challenge will be implementing a marketing program that connects the book with its readers through social and conventional media, book signings and other events that will make it stand out in the crowded, competitive indie-book marketplace. I only have one chance to get this right and I want to do everything I can to insure its success. Then, who knows? I’ve already written a sequel and a third book is in the works.

My goal was not to write a best-seller or win any prizes in literature. Instead, I wanted to offer a story that would appeal to women of my generation, those of us who know that falling in love later in life feels just the same as it did when were young. And so does heartbreak.