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Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting Published: With an Agent vs Without an Agent PART 1

Hello gentle readers!

I have finished my internship with Black Dogs Book (sad face) but that is not the last they have seen of me yet. As bdb publicist extraordinaire Jess had a terrible accident last week and can't work at the moment (rest assured, to my knowledge she will recover shortly!) I have been asked to temporarily take over Publicity and keep it running smoothly until she is all mended and can come back to work, which for her sake (not mine) I hope is soon.

Oooh the power. I have lots of ideas, but maybe not enough time to implement them. We'll find out.

Anyway! Today we are talking about getting published, and the two routes you could take.

In today's entry and in the "With an Agent" corner, we have Robin Mellom, fellow Herman Agency client who just this year signed a two-book deal with Disney-Hyperion for DITCHED--in which a girl finds herself lying in a ditch the morning after her prom with no memory of the last twelve hours which includes a disappearing prom date and a punk Tinkerbell tattoo. It's set to be published in March 2012! It's being hailed as "The Hangover for teens" which to me means it will be hilarious.

Robin Mellom

So let's get cracking!

What made you decide to get an agent?

I spent years trying to get through the slushpile. Which, at the time, was through the actual U.S. mail system (i.e. it took forever!!) But after experiencing that whole “close but no cigar” thing, I realized an agent would guide me editorially and be my best bet for finding that right editor.

How difficult was that process?

Lots of form rejections but a couple of agents were willing to work on revisions without a contract. But Jill showed the most excitement. To me, nothing is more important than “excitement.”

How awesome was "the call" and can you tell me about it?

She was so cute…she emailed me with her thoughts on the manuscript as she was reading it throughout the night. “On p. 66. Loving it!!” Then page 132, etc. I was on pins and needles all night, but was so exhausted I fell asleep waiting. My husband came in around midnight to tell me the news that she had just sent an email that said “Offer of Representation!” I slept very well that night.

How did you find contracts and negotiations, with an agent?

Not a problem…her contract was pretty much industry standard, so no negotiations needed.

Do you feel you made the right choice for you, agent vs no agent?

Absolutely. She has pushed me in ways I never would have pushed myself. I think of it like having a personal trainer at a state-of-the-art gym versus using some hand weights in my living room. The personal trainer will whip my butt into shape, but there is a TV in my living room so…flabby butt.

Anything of particular interest happen/things you think were unique to your situation that you'd like to talk about?

I do think it’s important to share that the manuscript that landed me an agent was not the one that ultimately sold. In fact, the one that sold was the third book I wrote since working with her. And she was the one who convinced me I should try writing humor for teens. It simply had not occurred to me. But she was convinced I could do it—thank goodness I listened!

Was Ditched your first novel?

I’ve written other middle grade books, so DITCHED is the sixth book I’ve written.

How many times did you edit Ditched?

Maybe three or four.

Do you have a critique group/partner/go it alone?

In the past I’ve had a critique group, but for this one I worked on it alone. Usually Jill gives me editorial suggestions, but for this one she didn’t have any changes and we went out with it right away. (Sort of unusual for me, as she normally has LOTS of suggestions.)

How many rejections did you get before Disney bought Ditched?

About three or four rejections I think. Then we had interest from three houses.

Are you a pantser or an outliner?

I am both, actually. First I come up with a premise and a problem. Then I just start writing so I can see if I can get the voice and if I have insane amounts of excitement about the project. (Because you have to be insanely excited to devote that much time and energy to a book, right? Or just be insane.) Then when I get to about chapter three, I stop and seriously outline. I don’t detail chapter by chapter, but I outline events that occur from one turning point to the next—I use a screenplay outline and put it on big butcher paper on the wall. Color-coded and everything! (I used to be a teacher.)

How much editing is involved with your Disney editor?

I just finished the first BIG revision, which took me about three months. Then we may have one more smaller revision that I will have about a month or less to work on. Then we move on to line edits and finally copy edits.

If you're working on something new, can you tell us a little about it?

Right now it is “Un-named YA Title.” Fascinating, yes? Ha! I sent in a sample and synopsis and just have to wait for it to get approved before we announce the book. Soon, I hope! But it is another fun, rompy, romance adventure.

Thanks for having me, Sarah! Can’t wait to hear about news of your books selling!!!

Any questions I missed? Anything you wish I had asked? Let me know in the comments!

Tomorrow, in the "Without An Agent" corner we have Shirley Marr, fellow Australian writer who had her first novel Fury published through Black Dog Books. I have a bit of a girl-crush on this lady, but there is a reason you, budding authors, will want to hate her. Find out why tomorrow.


  1. Looking forward to reading it, Robin. Congrats!

  2. What a great interview! I can't wait to read this book and hear more about your new project :)

  3. Hi Solvang, thanks for the compliment about the interview! The super secret new project sounds exciting, huh?

  4. Thanks for popping in, Gtrine! How great does Ditched sound? I look forward to reading it too.

  5. Great post/interesting series! Ditched does sound great, and the entire interview is fantastic. I know for me, my agent has been and will be absolutely crucial to my journey.

    I'm off to read Shirley's side of things, now.


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