Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Avery Aames on Perseverance

Avery Aames
The Long Quiche Goodbye
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: June 2010
Agent: Kim Lionetti


(Click to Buy)


A Writer’s Journey: Say Cheese!


Getting published is hard work. It takes tenacity. It takes passion. It takes friends who won’t let you give up. J. A. Konrath says: "What do you call a writer with perseverance? PUBLISHED!"

Are you just about to give up? Don’t!

Over the course of fifteen years, I wrote a number of books, both traditional mystery and suspense thrillers. I submitted these books to agent after agent and received a number of comments, like “This is so close, but it’s just not for me.” [Sound familiar?]

Two years ago, when I was ready to give up, my critique partner, Krista Davis (who writes The Domestic Diva Mystery series), suggested I write to the market. "Cozies are selling," she said. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a whirl.

But before I wrote another full book, I wanted to make sure that the cozy hook that I’d chosen was a good hook. I approached agent Jessica Faust at Bookends, whom I had met at a writers’ conference. She had given me encouragement on previous work. I asked if I could submit cozy ideas to her to see if they would fly with a publisher. She agreed. I submitted professionally crafted bibles [my bibles included sample chapters, an overview of the series, character sketches, and a basic outline], but none captured her fancy. After a few tries, we agreed that maybe we weren’t of like mind, so I asked if she’d be upset if I approached her fellow agent, Jacky Sach, whom I had also met at a conference. Jessica gave her blessing.

I approached Jacky with the same request. Jacky agreed. I tried three, but she didn’t think any would appeal to a publisher, so I tried three more. Mind you, each of these took me a while to write, and mind you, Jacky was such a good sport! Again, I received encouragement from Jacky, but none of the ideas were “just right.” Because I knew of people who had been “hired” to write books based on a bible created by the publisher, I asked Jacky if she would keep me in mind if she heard of an opportunity. [Note: I used to write in Hollywood. I created the format for a series on TV called Out of This World. I had no qualms about writing somebody else’s idea.] Jacky said she would.

I didn’t waste another moment thinking about the possibility, and I returned to what I had been writing before I changed track – a suspense thriller. Note: I was still considering giving up writing, but I hadn’t decided what I would do next with my life, and sitting on the couch day in, day out was out of the question (for me). I polished my new novel and started the quest again to find an agent who would think it was the most brilliant piece of writing ever. I received requests for full manuscripts and was feeling pretty sure that something was going to break for me this time . . . soon. [Perseverance requires that you see the rainbow behind the clouds!] At the same time, I took a cozy writing class and a suspense writing class. I polished new chapters and ideas through my critique group. And, yes, I had the occasional mini-pity party. [Note: Don’t let pity parties last longer than twenty-four hours. It takes grit to stop a pity party, but you can do it.]

And then one day, out of the blue, I received an email from Jacky. She had a work-for-hire possibility. Would I be interested in auditioning for A Cheese Shop Mystery series? Of course I would! A cheese shop sounded tasty, fun, and felt like a perfect fit for me. I loved to cook. I used to cater. I almost sold wine and The Cheese Shop, per the publisher’s bible, had a wine annex. Last but not least, the grandmother who raised the protagonist was a sassy character who managed the local theater. It just so happened that I had acted in local theaters and on television and in film.

To audition for the job, I was asked to provide three chapters. I set to work, researching, tasting, and writing. Working within the publisher’s parameters provided a freedom I’d never felt before. I was writing something that had a strong hook and was already “wanted” by the publisher. In a matter of weeks, I turned in the chapters.

But I didn’t kid myself that I would be hired. I’d been rejected before. So I returned to my regular job of writing the next book.

When I was offered a three-book deal, I just about fell off my chair. I was going to be published, writing something I truly enjoyed!

In the future, I hope to sell one of my own stories, but for now, I write as Avery Aames, author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m thrilled and proud.

My advice: If opportunity knocks on your door, open it and: Say Cheese!

*

Avery Aames, the author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, is the pseudonym for Daryl Wood Gerber. Daryl created the format for the popular sitcom Out of This World and has won awards for her screenplays. She also writes short stories and suspense novels. Both Avery and Daryl like to read, cook, garden, and do amateur photography. Avery blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, www.mysteryloverskitchen, a blog for foodies who love mysteries, as well as at Killer Characters, www.killercharacters.com. You can visit Avery at www.averyaames.com.

28 comments:

Kate Douglas said...

What a great story of the road to publication--and you're right about the perseverance part! (20 years for me) The thing that stands out is that you didn't quit writing or learning your craft, which is really one of the most exciting things about this business--the fact we're never through learning how to do it better.

Best of luck to you with your new series!

Heidiopia said...

I love the stubborn persistence and the fact you continued learning and honing your skills along the way. Inspiring. All the best!

Avery Aames said...

Yes, Kate and Heidi, the learning is a huge part of it. Luckily, I love to learn. I've never been one to think I know it all (though my son might tell you differently...and even my husband...but that's another story). There are so many wonderful teachers out there, and supportive groups like Sisters in Crime Guppies (an online group) that help guide and instruct. Also, lest I forget, Chris Roerden writes a great book called Don't Murder Your Mystery--a terrific reference book prior to submission.

AveryAames.com

Avery Aames said...

Yes, Kate and Heidi, the learning is a huge part of it. Luckily, I love to learn. I've never been one to think I know it all (though my son might tell you differently...and even my husband...but that's another story). There are so many wonderful teachers out there, and supportive groups like Sisters in Crime Guppies (an online group) that help guide and instruct. Also, lest I forget, Chris Roerden writes a great book called Don't Murder Your Mystery--a terrific reference book prior to submission.

~Avery

AveryAames.com

Kristan said...

Wait wait wait! Out of This World, like, the sitcom about half-alien Evie and her high school hijinks?!?!??!! If so, I LOVED that show!!

(And if not, oops, haha. I'm sure your Out of This World was fabulous too!)

Anyway, great post about perseverance. You obviously have it in spades!

Erika Marks said...

Avery, a wonderful story--thank you for sharing it. It's always so valuable to be reminded of the long road and the importance of sticking with it--no matter the goal!

Kate, 20 years is my magic number too--if someone had told me that when I submitted my first query 20 years ago, I would have said: It's going to take HOW long to sell my first book? That's a lifetime! But then again, most of us would say there's no question we will keep at it as long as it takes. I think the key is to keep working at your craft and staying focused on the growth, day to day, book to book.

Congratulations, Avery--I look forward to following the series!

Nancy said...

I'm waiting to hear from my agent about my first romance novel--she's shopping it now as she reads my second one and I work on the third one. I've been with her since November and I find myself wanting to get whiny about how long this seems to take. Well, no more whining for me! I'm learning patience and all of your stories, you Avery and Kate and everyone who posts here are helping me--thank you! I think the key is keep writing...no matter what...keep writing and keep learning...

Kathy said...

You are amazing. With your many talents, you could easily have stopped writing at any point and pursued something else with much success. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm printing it out and keeping it where I can re-read it each time I think of surrendering.

Pauline Alldred said...

Avery, that's an amazing journey. I know it takes persistence to get published but it's good to have proof. Congratulations and I'm sure the future is going to be a whole lot brighter for you.

Sandra Parshall said...

Avery, I don't know anyone who deserves success more than you do or has worked harder to achieve it. As your friend, I've always been impressed by your productivity and total dedication to writing. You're with a great agency and a great publisher, and you're off to a flying start on what I hope will be a long, long career!

wry wryter said...

I quit.

I was working on a short story about a woman who wanders around our town, she’s not homeless but she walks everywhere. No one knows where she is from or where she is going. Before I left for work I checked my email, rejected novel query, again.

That was it, I quit.

On the way to work I asked God for a sign, should I continue my journey or park my wagon and plant crops.

A few hours later at work a voice behind me made a humorous comment about the stock I was putting out. Turning to focus on the voice, God slapped me upside the head, there stood the wandering woman.
I remember little of what she said but I sure as hell have not quit.

Perseverance is my crop. We all know what fertilizes it.

Congrats Avery

Avery Aames said...

Yes, Kristan, that show! With Evie and stopping time and all that! :) So glad you enjoyed it.

Kate and Erika, 20 years is a long time and that would be enough to scare even the most stalwart writer off trying to get published! Good for you for sticking with it.

Nancy, Wry, Pauline and Sandra, thank you for your great thoughts and support. Love "perseverance is my crop." Love my pals.

~Avery

Kim Lionetti said...

Congrats to Avery for hitting #7 on the Barnes & Noble mass market mystery bestseller list!!

Jen J. Danna said...

Congratulations on your newly released book and thank you for sharing your story with us. I'd heard bits and pieces of it from your colleague, Janet Bolin, but it was fascinating to hear a more fleshed out version of your journey. Your perseverance, and how that perseverance paid off, is quite inspiring. I think that same perseverance will serve you well in the future as you strive to publish your own stories. Best of luck!

June Shaw said...

Girl, I never read your story before but loved it! I also persevered -- don't even want to stop to think of how long -- but it's finally worth it after you sell. I am so proud of you!

Avery Aames said...

Thanks, Kim, for the shout out. I'm not sure what all of that means, but it sure sounds good to this debut author.

And Jen and June, thanks for your good wishes, as well. June, we've been "Guppies" for a long time. We have witnessed so many success stories, haven't we? I can't say enough for having a good support team around you at all times...and yes, that may include your family.

~Avery

Norma Huss said...

Avary, you have perseverance in spades, but I knew that. Did you win the Queen of Rejection contest once, or did you just come close? Last time I was at the bookstore your book wasn't there yet. I must go more often!

Patg said...

I remember every word of your story, and remembered when you thought about quiting. So glad you didn't.
Very good luck with your series, and may you get a contract for one of your own stories.
Patg

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and encouraging story, Avery/Daryl. Sometimes I feel like I'll never get published, either, but reading your story, I know I CAN. YES, I CAN! Grin. Gloria Alden

Sheila Cull said...

OMG! That was exactly what I needed to hear today, right now. I get (present tense) SO many rejections that reading your Post was a miracle for me. Thank you.

Avery Aames said...

Sheila, I'm so glad I could inspire you. Stick with it. This is a tough business, but you CAN do it and you will.

Gloria, Pat and Norma, you are all my sisters in crime. :)

~Avery

Debra Lee said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Avery. All of your fellow guppies knew this day would come for you. Congratulations!

Alli said...

I love this story and will bookmark to read every time I feel like throwing in the towe. Congrats Avery and thank you for inspiring many!

Florence said...

Avery: Once a day I visit Jessica and a half dozen writer's sights.

Today I was so down, feeling discouraged about the work. It happens ... I know. I love to read Joe Konrath.

I've already been rejected by Jessica and still love to read her and listen to her advise.

You came into my day and lifted the gloom. I started with mystery series featuring a tough photographer who uses her camera "Third Eye" to solve murders.

I moved on to a nebish, older invisivle sister and a romantic comedy and then since I always need to write new stories ... I wrote about LIzzie Brogan and the Moon Goddess. I love romantic comedies about New York City urbans ... Maybe like Keyes but not in Dublin.

Now I am once again in a mystery series, Tessie, a tiny, tough gal who owns a hauling and strip salvage business. Each of my women are New Yorker ... Brooklyn, or crazy Washington Heights.

I have written one book query twenty times.

There is no point in giving up. I can't help it. I had a career and it was great ... have children and grandchildren ... I think I'll keep them ...

this is my time and thanks for reminding me ... there is no giving up.

I'll visit you often as well.

http://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/ ...

why not visit me?

Avery Aames said...

Florence and Alli,

I'm glad you could find hope in this blog. That's why I wrote it. To inspire...

Remember to turn to critique groups, writers' groups, and other means of support when you're feeling low. Writers can be the best friends in the world when you're feeling like you want to give up.

And again, I can't recommend the Sisters in Crime Guppies enough. Support beyond belief.
sinc-guppies.org


~Avery

Martha Ramirez said...

THis was an awesome story! Yes, getting pubbed is a hard task and only perseverance will get you through it.
CONGRATS!

Redleg said...

Out of This World was a pretty incredible show. Couldn't she blink and pause time?

Anonymous said...

OMG if it's this hard for someone of your caliber and pro background, what hope is there for the rest of us? LOL I don't do trendy "hooks"--I just want to write an intriguing mystery that people want to read and editors want to buy. Congrats!