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  • Justin Arnold

How I Got A Book Deal (and the horrible mistakes I made while doing it)

Updated: May 5



Hello, all!

Since the announcement of Wicked Little Things selling to Tiny Ghost Press, I've been getting questions on the book itself, how it came to be, and the ever-fascinating topic of querying, pitching, etc. So I decided to make a post of it! (After all, 1 book makes a helluva journey on its own, and I personally have always loved others' posts on this, too.).


Wicked Little Things is the result of so many influences and life-composting that I would need a separate post to delve into all of the ingredients that made it and its world. But at a glance, think The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina with a (much) gayer lead. Or Mean Girls smashed with old-school Stephen King. Yet another very long post would be how I created and wrote it.


While the book's setting of Jasper Hollow is still surrounded with yellow police tape and we can't enter it quite yet, I'll talk about finding its forever home with Tiny Ghost Press!


Presenting:


THAT TIME I QUERIED BEFORE THE NEWEST DRAFT WAS DONE


I wish that was only a joke, but it's true. I made a few embarrassing mistakes during the submissions process and I can't believe I'm about to admit to them. If you are currently querying or about to, please avoid these at all costs.


The submissions process for Wicked Little Things began in March of 2021. Entering those waters was a nerve wracking process that included a lot of manifestation, googling, 2nd guessing, and inner-bargaining (Ever thought "If I don't check my email for an hour, then there'll be a Yes in my inbox"? Or "Don't open it just yet. It'll be a no. Give it five minutes so it can be a yes"? Or am I the only irrational queryer?).


I started slow with this process. Very slow. In fact, I only sent one query at this time. Just one. I wanted to get the rejection sting out of the way. So I made the mistake a lot of writers make, one that I promised I would never make- I sent that one query too soon.


Yep. I did it. I sent that damn query while I was still wrapping up a revision. About 15k short. And I thought the same thing that other writers think- "I'll be done by the time they respond".


HA. HA.


The next morning- the next morning- that agent responded with the most exciting- and terrifying- email I had ever received at the time-


A full request.


This agent wanted to read the entire book. Even the last 15 thousand words. Which weren't there.


I jumped. I danced. I panicked. I freaked out. I smiled. I frowned. I was like Rapunzel after she leaves the tower in Tangled. Back and forth. Celebrate. Panic. Celebrate. Panic.


And then I sat down and got to work. I finished that 15k. I gave the new edit a pass. And then I clicked 'send'.


You think that's the last of the mistake, right? I wrote with the mad fury of a steam engine, I did the impossible, and I wrote it so fast that my keyboard was smoking afterward. It's fine.

Right?


2 Days later, I realized I had sent the wrong version. He had received the first draft.


I can hear your cringe from here. I know. I was an idiot. But writers are humans, as are agents and publishers. I composed a quick, professional email that didn't sound like I was panicking, and explained my mistake, and sent the correct version. That fellow human was very gracious about it and all was well.


In the meantime, my confidence was bolstered by the request. It got a full on the first try! It made total sense that if I sent 4 more queries, I would get 4 more requests. And this time not only was it done but it was polished. It was perfect.


It was gonna blow up! And then-


THAT TIME THE UNIVERSE SAID "SIT DOWN, MR. ARNOLD"


I think you can tell where we're going here. All 4 were rejections. Well. Actually, there were 2 rejections and 2 silences. But gosh darn it- I'll send 4 more because that's how I roll. But these 4 new people will realize that I AM A STAR. I know it's happening because I said it's happening.


So I hit send.


More rejection. More silence.


In the meantime, while doing my research and thinking of places to submit, I discovered the indie co-op Midnight Tide Publishing and thought they might be a fit for this little fairy tale I wrote a while back. I dusted off The Prince and the Puppet Thief and went back to focus on WLT. But that's just me. I like different streams of possibilities.


Life is funny like that, though. You think it's time for one thing and it's time for another. As detailed elsewhere, The Prince and The Puppet Thief is now published with Midnight Tide and was my debut. It was what I focused on and worked on for the better part of 2021, and for that summer, I was no longer concerned with rejections and silences and all that. And I realized that Wicked Little Things needed way more work.


THAT TIME I GOT SERIOUS ABOUT IT


So I worked on it. And I worked on it. I bled on the page, and then when I thought I couldn't bleed anymore, I made a new slit in my finger pads and bled a little more.

It was exhausting.


I finished each draft with my eyes half-closed, completely drained, and slightly rocking back and forth. After finishing one draft, I slept on the floor next to my desk (More on that in my next post). I worked hard on this.


Meanwhile, I discussed releasing it through the Midnight Tide name. I later decided not to (there's no drama involved there, I just decided to submit it some more and like always they were the greatest about it. Side note: Go check out Midnight Tide, please!).


Submit it, I did.


And then, I got another full request.


And then another.


And then another.


And then-


I received an offer.


I was elated and very excited, of course. For that first discussion, I was a sweaty, nervous wreck. I asked a lot of questions, but at some point in the discussion, I felt a weird downturn in my stomach. Some part of me wanted out of there. I will not say who the publisher was, but I personally felt too many flags pop up. While everything was fine on paper, I just felt that this would not be the best home for Dane and his friends.

So I slept on it, and promptly turned the offer down.


Soon after that, I received another full request.


Then one day, I received a very long and very lovely email that ended as a Revise and Resubmit. This particular agent was a dream agent, and not just that but most of his notes were spot on to my vision for the book. I celebrated. I panicked. I called up a beta reader and discussed the feedback. And then I got to work.

While working on it, I received another offer from another small publisher. Again, I will not say who but I will give the reason I turned this one down:

They couldn't tell me why they wanted the book. Just "Here's a contract. When you've signed we'll start editing."


It was the literary equivalent of a tinder booty call.


I said "no", kept the offer to myself, and kept rewriting. Meanwhile, the book was taking a shape I didn't think it could. It was tighter and better than it ever had been. I got two more R&R's while doing this revision, and all pretty much said the same thing and hit the nail on the head. I knew I was going in the right direction now.


THAT TIME THE SEEDS SPROUTED


All of this was happening in the span of about a month. A lot of my brain power was spent on not letting myself be too excited or too wishful with how quickly it was all happening this time around. It was a rare timeline that in no way represents the typical querying process. Some people wait years (Years) to hear back on a full. I was incredibly lucky and I don't want anyone who is querying to think that's normal.


But there was one part of the story I haven't mentioned:


I discovered a book titled The Alpha's Son up for pre-order on Amazon. It looked not only cute, but like a great read, and the cover was to die for. Because I'm me and I'm always researching and learning, I looked up the publisher, who I had never heard of, Tiny Ghost Press.


And there they were. Every bit of my gut told me "Submit this to them.". But I was doing this R&R for an agent and I had 2 others with the same feedback. Shouldn't I stay the course? Besides, this Alpha's Son book is their launch. They are brand new. This might not be legit.

But in my gut. I knew this was the real deal and that this was a plausible and possibly ideal home for my gay witch boy book.


I think, through the rest of this story, we've learned one thing about me- If my gut says to go ahead and do it- I tend to go ahead and do it. What can I say? I rely on instinct.


I submitted my query and sent the first few chapters to Tiny Ghost, and returned to my revision.


"You...you WHAT?"


Yes, friends. I made the same mistake that I made with that very first query. I swear, I didn't think about it this time. I'd been in this process of "Submit-revise-submit-revise-get offer-say no-submit-revise" for days on end. I would not recommend that approach to anyone.


And- you guessed it! They wanted to read the manuscript. This time, however, I didn't panic. I did the traditional little happy dance, and then explained that I'm wrapping up an edit and would send it before the week was out.


I finished the revision the next day, then gave it another once over, and I sent it on. Meanwhile, I added a couple more things to the manuscript which were exclusive to that agent (and they will always be exclusive and between that agent and myself. Sorry.). I sent the exclusive version over to them and called it a day.


The next morning (you see a pattern?) I had an email. Re: SUBMISSION- WICKED LITTLE THINGS. From Tiny Ghost Press.


That email was the offer that I wasn't going to turn down.


THAT TIME I SIGNED A BOOK DEAL


I was very emotionally conflicted for a full minute. I was elated and happy and it felt so good. I was upset with my own timing and felt like a horrible person for submitting the exclusive the day before. Here was an offer from a publisher that I knew I wanted to work with. And there was the question of someone that I knew I would want to work with- if they felt the same way.


I took a deep breath, I did a much bigger traditional happy dance, and then I asked a few questions. I read over the contract, I noted anything worth discussing, and it continued on. Meanwhile, I explained this whole messy business of submissions and publishers and agents and all possible risks with my partner, who is not a writer and didn't understand half of it (But listened and loved me, anyways!)


With Tiny Ghost based in the UK, emails were coming in around 6:30 am my time. I woke up, read the latest, and we talked. This ended up being perfect, as I was my freshest, most intuitive self this early. I could hear my gut. I knew what I really wanted, and what I wanted was for this to work out with Tiny Ghost.


In my discussions with Tiny Ghost editor Joshua Perry, I could clearly see his passion and care for his company, for their mission, and for my book. I felt it in my gut that Dane needed to go with him and that I needed to be part of Tiny Ghost and it's insanely awesome direction. So one morning, at 6:00 am, I woke up and I signed the contract.

I had a very emotional reaction to this, and sent a pic of me getting emotional at 6am to one of my closest friends who had read the book (and who the character Ada is modeled after and who gave me permission to do that and not sue me lol).

Idk If I'll share the picture. It's kind of embarrassing.


Later that day, I sent an email to that agent who had received the exclusive and explained I had accepted an offer and politely withdrew the submission before putting them through reading any of it (to which I received the most sincere and warm and fuzzy response!). It was very hard to send that withdraw, but at the same time I knew I'd made the right decision, and anyone who signs with them is in fantastic hands. I sent the other withdraws without much fuss.


By the end of its off-and-on submission journey, Wicked Little Things received 27 rejections, 10 full requests, 4 R&R's, and 4 offers.


I think that's pretty damn good, personally.


I feel 250% that I made the right decision. Working with them has been wonderful so far, and we've got a bit of a way to go before November and Beyond. If you haven't yet, be sure to check them out, check out their books and fellow authors, and stop by the new store for Merchandise! (And then come back when the Wicked Little Things line drops)


(But most importantly- My book gets merchandise! How frickin' cool?)


Once more information about the story is publicly available, I'll talk about it and the little bits of inspiration and all the writerly-good-stuff.


Until next time! Go be wicked! (I'm trying a sign-off. Too cheesy? Let me know in the comments!)




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