Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

For The Book That Almost Didn’t Sell–Happy Release Day FIRELIGHT!

STATUS: Another phone conference in 20 minutes! Must blog quickly.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LOWDOWN by Boz Scaggs

Blog readers, have I got special treat for you today. If you ever wondered what the editor rejections looked like for a book that has shown every sign of coming out of the gate wildly popular, well today is your lucky day.

Today is the official release day for Kristen Callihan’s FIRELIGHT.

I’ve blogged before about the fact that I almost could not sell this book. And today, Kristen has given me special permission to share her rejections.

But let me preface this.

This debut novel has received two starred reviews (Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) and top pick at any number of romance sites, too many to list here.

When we sent the novel out to already established and successful authors to read with an eye for a possible blurb, we had our fingers crossed that maybe we’d get one or two responses.

Every author on our list read and blurbed it:

“Callihan has a great talent for sexual tension and jaw-dropping plots that weave together brilliantly in the end.”
—Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

“A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.” —Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider

“Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page.” —Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series

“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”
—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr

“Kristen Callihan delivers a dark, lush offering to fans of gothic and paranormal romance. With a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page, Firelight is a sexy, resplendent debut. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”
—Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“This book has everything: sword fights, magic, despair, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that’s hot enough to burn the pages. I couldn’t stop reading. This book is utterly phenomenal.”
—Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Unraveled

“Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.”
—Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Weaver

“A dark, delicious tale of secrets, murder, and love, beautifully shrouded in the shadows of Victorian London.”
—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of If He’s Dangerous

“A dazzling debut, sexy and thrilling. Callihan now has a place on my to-buy list.”
—Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Enchantment

“A fantastic debut that has everything I’m looking for in a story: compelling conflict, beautiful writing, gripping sexual tension, and strong, intelligent characters.”
—Sherry Thomas, RITA-award winning author of Not Quite A Husband and His At Night

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.” —Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”
—Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“Combines romance, wit, and suspense in a fabulous retelling of Beauty and the Beast…with a supernatural twist.”
—Colleen Gleason, international bestselling author of The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

“I LOVED the book! Fabulous writing, great characters, innovative plot. It held me from the first page. I was so drawn in by the quality of the writing. She’s sure to become a fave of mine. I have already raved about the book to my readers group.”
—Gail Link, 2010 RWA Bookseller of the Year

And yet, the editors did not feel the same love.

–I’m afraid I didn’t love the voice, which felt a little bit overdone to me, and this kept me from getting immersed in the story. I’m therefore going to pass; I’m sorry. But thank you for giving me a shot at this, and I hope you will find the right home for it.

–I love your description of the story, but for me, the writing itself doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

–Thanks so much for sending this! I liked the reimagining of the beauty-and-the-beast story, but didn’t quite love the voice as much as I’d hoped

–I do love a great gothic, so I was really hoping to love this. Unfortunately, I just didn’t connect with the voice as much as I wanted to.

–Many thanks for thinking of us for this, but we’re going to pass. Gothics are very hard to sell right now

–I’ve been reading this, and I’ve enjoyed the appealing voice and the strong element of mystery. But while I liked this novel perfectly fine, I just didn’t feel the level of enthusiasm necessary to make this a success. Ultimately I just didn’t feel the strong emotional connection I’d hoped for.

–I really tried hard to get emotionally attached to FIRELIGHT because the atmosphere is so beautifully written. I just couldn’t connect, I’m sad to say,

–I did find plenty to like in the manuscript: Miranda makes a great heroine, and I absolutely loved our introduction to her in the opening chapters. (In particular, the scene where Miranda is having the ethical dilemma over whether to steal or not really hooked me.) The main problem I have, though, is that I never really connected with Archer as a hero. Miranda won me over, but she alone wasn’t enough to make me believe in the romance.

–Here’s the thing-I kept hoping I could make this work, but increasingly we’re having a hard time making new historical romance authors grow in the market.

In the end, it’s so so true that you have to find the right editor with the right vision who is the right fit. When you do, even for a book that almost didn’t sell, it can be magic.

And I think Kristen’s holiday gift to me is the perfect end note!

Happy release day Kristen!


32 Responses

  1. Jude said:

    I pre-ordered this book after reading your blog post on it. It arrived last week on the 25th and was a very good read with some nice twists on some hoary cliches.

  2. Fiona Paul said:

    Congrats Kristen and Kristin. And what a brave and selfless thing for the author to do 🙂

    I’m curious. Did you guys pull the MS to do revisions? Or did you remain confident the whole time that the book would eventually find its perfect editor match?

  3. Anonymous said:

    Good luck to all involved – hope the book kills. That said, 2 observations:

    1) Anyone who thinks editors know everything (or ANYONE knows anything for that matter) in publishing are smoking something. Harry Potter got rejected numerous times as did many others. Perseverance is your best friend in this business. Some editor will ‘get it’ if it’s a good book. It might take years, it might not be the advance you want and it may never earn out, but someone, somewhere is bound to ‘get it’.

    2) Not to be a downer, but that is about the worst cover I have ever seen! Hope it just didn’t come out well as a scan or something. Yuck!

  4. Keisha Martin said:

    Kristen/kristin < ---agent lol I had to do that at first I kept mistaken the spelling. What a great ending I can imagine the emotions that were involved during this process.
    This was heart warming for me because when I get an agent I too want that individual to believe in my vision, even when doubt grows when hit with rejections.

    Although I have somethimes loathed this word Subjective, I have come to terms that when my time comes I will have to be patient and hope someone will be subjective to my novel and actually love it…although I will be prepared for plenty of no we don’t love it and other things like you mentioned above that editors may say.
    Kristen wishing you plenty of sucess=0)

  5. Sarah (saz101) said:

    SQUEE! Congrats Kristen and Kristin! I remembered seeing your ‘Story of An Underdog’ post months ago, and when this one popped up on NetGalley I JUMPED on it. I LOVED this book! I think I was expecting something akin to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, but no! It’s something completely different–and just as fabulous! So, SO pleased this one found a home with an editor who loved it,so I got to read and love it, too!

    Thanks so much for sharing this story–it’s so encouraging, and inspiring, and I kind of want to hug you both!


  6. Kaye Draper said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I needed some encouragement today 🙂
    Also thank you to Kristen C. for allowing you to share her story. It takes guts to put that out there. Best of luck!!!
    PS: I actually really like the cover, I thought it was quirky and gothy. 🙂

  7. M. Dunham said:

    Hearing about this story just makes me so glad to hear about agents who fight for their clients.

    This story sounds interesting. I can’t wait to read it. 😀

  8. Khanada said:

    Congrats!! It’s funny to see editors say they’re afraid it won’t sell well (but then, I have the luxury of seeing it done with all these great blurbs!). Even I am going to seek this out, and it’s not normally what I read.

    Special thanks to Kristin for allowing us to see snippets of her rejections. Somehow, that helped a lot – to see what that looks like. Seeing all the comments about the voice makes me very eager to read it and form my own opinion.

    (Oh – and I liked the cover, too!)

  9. Anonymous said:

    Thank you for posting about this process. I’ve been seeing rejections very similar to these on my own book and it’s started to get me down. Luckily my agent hasn’t let it get her down, and seeing that it is possible to still sell after so many rejections gives me hope I might sell this yet. We just need to find that one right editor.

    Congrats on finding that right one and I hope the book does very well.

  10. Colin Smith said:

    I think it’s interesting that these editor rejections sound a lot like agent rejections! Of course, the parallels are real because, as we can see, the reasons an editor will pass on a project are very similar to the reasons an agent will pass. And this only goes to underscore the point that this business is subjective. In the end it’s about writing the best novel we can write, and then finding that one agent and that one editor that’s right for the book.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but this encourages me. Thanks!

  11. Huntress said:

    The list of rejections made me ill. What does a writer do when people can’t (don’t) see the worth of a submission?

    Ah well. I must stop whining and get back to writing now.

    *still a little sick but checking on the book :)*

  12. Marianne Mancusi said:

    Kristen, I’m so happy this story had a happy ending! I remember hanging with you at RWA Nationals in Orlando and hearing all you’d been going through with this book at the time. I had my fingers crossed for you and I’m so glad it all worked out! Can’t wait to read the book.

  13. Shannon Chamberlain said:

    I think the annoying thing for a writer would be the way that these rejections aren’t couched in very subjective language. (That’s the annoying thing for this writer, anyway.) Everyone speaks with such absolute and utter authority, like they’re using friggin’ palantirs or something. I get “I didn’t connect with the voice” as an agent’s critique, because you’ll have to be the book’s biggest cheerleader. But an editor should know better than to make his/her subjective tastes equivalent to what will sell. As someone earlier in the thread pointed out, editors did this to Harry Potter and you have to wonder if–and why–they still have jobs.

  14. June G said:

    I’ve been fascinated with this book since your first post about it. I’ll definitely been picking it up! Thanks for the peek behind the scenes. Once again, it confirms how subjective this business is.

    You must feel like a proud mama 🙂

  15. Kristen Callihan said:

    The cup hath spoken! lol! 🙂 I admit, it is very nice to see a Happy Release Day post for Firelight. Thank you, Kristin, for your tenacity and unfailing belief in this book -and me!

    I also wanted to add that I agreed to put my rejections up in public, in all their blunt glory, because I thought it might give other writers some comfort. Rejection is a part of our lives, be it during the query stage, submissions, or a negative review. There is no shame in rejection. Opinions are not fact but taste, and we should not let anyone end our dream because of them.

    Best of luck to my fellow writers!

  16. Barbie said:

    So of course i’ll read this book. But what in the world is more subjective, apparently, than the world of agents, editors and publishers? Oh, maybe the judging world of ice skating….I don’t like her costume, or her lipstick or her too wide hips….oh! you mean I should be judging her skating??? I am sooo grateful for your blog and for showing these rejections. Sounds like the world of children….I don’t like the green crayon, or watercolors, or india ink drawings….never mind that there’s great work to look at…I feel no shame in rejection. I do admit to shaking my head at the reason. Or reasons. I’ve chosen to frame and hang my rejections. In the bathroom. Thanks so much for hanging in there with this author and for your dedication to your own belief in her work. It is so encouraging to the rest of us that somebody does believe in something. To all of us who find this weird world daunting: find the laughter, people. Much of it is just a joke to work through to find the one who gets what you’re saying.

  17. Anonymous said:

    It’s amazing how those editorial rejections all focused on the same two things — the voice and the lack of connection. I’m not a reader in this genre, but frankly, if I was, I’d rely more on the editor’s responses than the responses of the authors, who could be blurbing only out of professional courtesy. Saying that, though, I wish this book and its author all the luck in the world.


  18. Farmer Kidd said:

    Perseverance and belief: this is where I see the correlation between being a writer with being an athlete. It’s the mental journey that truly distinguishes those that succeed from the rest. Inspiring. Congratulations to you both in receiving your due validations.

  19. Heather Kelly said:

    Thanks to both of you, but especially to Kristen for allowing the airing of these rejections. I imagine it is painful enough to read them once, let alone post them publicly.

    That being said, it really encourages those of us in the trenches to see that such rejections are par for the course–even in the case of books which are embraced so enthusiastically by peers, which this one so clearly is.

    I can’t wait to read it, now that it is on my radar, and I wish the book a LOOOOONG shelf life!

    Happy book day, Kristen, and Kristin!


  20. Deb said:

    Unfortunately, in our world, “I didn’t like the voice” or “I couldn’t connect with the characters” is editorese for “it won’t sell.” Even if it will.

    I recently saw a senior acquisitions editor at one of the Big Six houses claim that “we don’t listen to what our readers say they want.” Q.E.D.

  21. Cholisose said:

    Such a challenging road to publication! Thanks for sharing all these snippets, showing just how far everyone had to go to get this published. Best of luck with the book–it looks great!

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