Several years ago, I received material from a mother and daughter who wanted to write a joint memoir about their harrowing experiences involving the daughter’s dramatic emotional breakdown and subsequent recovery at a boot camp-style school in
With high hopes, I did a wide submission and received a tremendously positive response from editors whose opinions I valued. They, too, felt it was among the best proposals they’d seen. And yet, no offers came in. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I was getting a ton of positive feedback. Editors told me over and over how much they loved the project…and how they couldn’t buy it. There were a variety of reasons cited, including lackluster sales on competitive titles and no guarantee of publicity. Publishers are looking for bestsellers, and this wasn’t a guaranteed big seller, despite the quality of the material.
But I refused to give up. I worried that if I couldn’t sell this book, I might not be able to sell anything. I just believed so strongly in the project and that it deserved to be published. So the submissions continued. Fifty-four of them, to be exact. I started to think about throwing in the towel because I just couldn’t come up with anywhere else to go. Then I met the daughter in person for the first time when she was visiting
Then it happened – just a few days after I met this charming young woman, an offer came in. That offer was suddenly followed by two more, all that time after we started the process. Before much longer, we had sold the book to ReganBooks, a then-prominent and commercial division of HarperCollins. Meanwhile, the daughter did work with us that summer, and became one of our favorite interns. She was (and is) smart, articulate, mature, and a very hard worker, and we were all sad to see her go at the end of the summer.
When the book, COME BACK by Claire and Mia Fontaine (you can visit their website at claireandmia.com to learn more about it), was published in hardcover in April 2006, sales were modest, though the authors worked tirelessly to spread the word. Then, the publisher scheduled the paperback release for February, 2007, and we soon learned that the book had been chosen by Target’s book club and that they were taking 40,000 copies. It’s since gone back to press several times, and the book has now sold over 100,000 copies! Claire and Mia and their publisher are working hard to continue promoting the book. We’re hopeful that the Target sales will help get it into other outlets and word of mouth will continue to work its magic to get it into the hands of parents and teens everywhere who will benefit not only from a good read, but from the positive messages the narrative has to offer.
I reflect on this when I get frustrated that a great project isn’t working — which unfortunately happens more and more in this market — and it gives me hope. Sometimes, it pays for a publisher to take a chance and for an author and her agent to never, ever give up.
Endnote: One person integral to Mia’s recovery, Mike Linderman, has his own book just out (referred to me by the Fontaines, of course, for which I am grateful) this fall entitled THE TEEN WHISPERER, intended to help parents and teens in need. The authors are very much looking forward to cross-promoting and spreading the word about both titles. Oprah, here they come!