We’re going to be running some inspiring success stories over the summer as we gear up for the 4th Annual WriteOnCon! We hope you’ll find them motivating, and see that the connections and effort you make at WOC are beneficial — and could result in a book deal with a major publisher!
Up first, Isaiah Campbell. We asked him to tell us about his WriteOnCon experience — and he did!
Tell us what went down, from beginning to end! We want the juicy, behind-the-scenes action!
Isaiah: There’s a lot I’d like to say about WriteOnCon, but to avoid hyperbolizing, let me just say that WriteOnCon changed my life completely, like a radioactive spider bite or my little sister getting selected for the Hunger Games. Seriously.
I first heard about WriteOnCon in 2010 and got super excited because, hey, free writing convention. Considering that I was dirt poor (like “feeding my kids from a local food pantry” poor) it seemed like a dream come true. But then I found out it was for Kid Lit, and my just-finished book (I dubbed it “Lord of the Rings meets Dallas with a LOST style twist”) was for adults. Ok, that’s actually incorrect. It turns out that book wasn’t for anyone. But more on that later.
So I attended WriteOnCon 2010 and enjoyed every single moment of it. I lurked on the forums, I watched the videos, I joined the chats, and by the end of it, I realized how bummed I was that I hadn’t written a Kid Lit book, because Kid Lit was WAY better than Adult Lit.
Over the next year, it became clear that none of the 100 agents I’d queried with that first book were going to take it, so I worked on a MG novel, more for the fun of it than with high expectations. When WriteOnCon 2011 came around, I was primed and ready to hit the forums with my query letter, first pages, and synopsis for tips from the amazing attendees. I honestly had absolutely no thought that I might get noticed by anyone, or get a request from an agent, or anything like that.
By the end of that conference, I had four requests for partials/fulls based off what I’d put up in the forum. Or, rather, the much improved version of the items I’d put up in the forum, thanks to the pages and pages of comments left for me by the other attendees. The level of excellent advice and input I received was invaluable (wait, does that mean it wasn’t valuable? See, that’s one of those things a commenter would clear up for me).
One of those requests I received was from an agent who seemed to buy into my story as much as I had. Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency.
One month later, I had to choose which offer of representation I wanted, and I thank the cosmic space monkeys that I chose to sign with Marietta, because that was when the real work began and her talent and wisdom helped me turn my sow’s ear into a much prettier sow’s ear.
Tell us about the journey from that contract to one with Simon & Schuster:
Isaiah: We had to expand my book from the 30,000 words it was originally to 60,000 words, and then we went on submission. After some really generous feedback from editors at various houses, I did a complete rewrite. Then I learned that I’d totally missed the mark, so I did another complete rewrite. Marietta sent the newly rewritten manuscript to a couple of the most passionate editors who had given feedback, and after waiting a Russian tragedy length of time, she called me with the news.
David Gale, Vice President of Simon & Schuster BFYR, wanted to acquire publishing rights to my book.
And it wouldn’t have happened without WriteOnCon.
Yay! What a great story! Tell us about your book!
Isaiah: The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is a humorous MG story set in 1961 about a twelve year old kid from Alabama who has to dodge the CIA, escape from Cuba, and face off against the Klan to prove his father didn’t sabotage the Bay of Pigs invasion. The projected publication date is Fall 2014.
And it’s written by me, Isaiah Campbell!
Many thanks, WriteOnCon!
Thank you, Isaiah, for sharing your story with us! We hope WriteOnCon 2013 will do the same thing for many others!