Pub Rants

Story Of An Underdog

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STATUS: Yesterday got away from me so I’m blogging “early” today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUNSET BOULEVARD by Charlie Robison

Hum, I’m wondering if championing an underdog that then goes on to be successful might be the story of my career.

Either that or I simply have strange tastes most of the time (with the occasional hitting the market square on with a project that generates lots of initial excitement from the get-go).

So here’s another tale of an underdog–a novel that I absolutely loved but had trouble selling. And I can tell you that agents often delude themselves; I seriously expected an auction when I went out on submission with it. I was totally flummoxed when that didn’t happen.

But finally, after much work, this genre bending, doesn’t-fit-into-an-easy-category novel sold. I would call it a dark gothic Victorian historical romance with an unusual paranormal twist.

And I’m always telling aspiring writers not to do what I just did with my description above. LOL. Everything but the kitchen sink!

Given the nature of the story, the editor, author, and I all agreed that we needed to give the novel the best chance possible and one facet of doing that is going after established authors for praise blurbs to hopefully start the early buzz.

Now, the blurb process is not an easy one. In general, you’re lucky if maybe you get one or two blurbs out of 10 or 12 blurb read submissions. Established authors are on deadline, they get asked to blurb a million times, the story isn’t their cup of tea. There are a hundred reasons why established authors pass on reading for blurbs so you don’t go in with high expectation of the response. You’ll be happy with anything that comes of it. And a lot of times that means just one blurb.

Well, in this case, every established author we sent the novel to read it, loved it, blurbed it.

I’m still stunned. This never happens.

“If the word FIRELIGHT sounds cozy–think again. Both characters and plot are literally ON FIRE!! Tremendously, engagingly sensual.”

–Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander 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

“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

“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

“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 sexy, resplendent debut with a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”

— Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“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

“Utterly phenomenal! Sword fights, magic, 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.”

— Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author of Unraveled

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”

— Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.”

— Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“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 His At Night

“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

Gosh I hope the reading public feels the same! And if you are one of those readers that loves unique romances that don’t fit into neat square boxes, then all I can ask is that you add this one to your To Buy list because it almost didn’t happen. Editors WANT to take chances on unusual stories but it’s a tough argument for them at the editorial board meeting unless they can point to titles that were successful and sold well. That’s the cold, hard truth.

I’ve got high hopes that FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan will do just that.

And speaking of authors who like to tackle unusual but powerful stories, if you haven’t had a chance to read a Sherry Thomas romance, well, you are in luck. You can’t try her out in ebook for only $3.99. Random house is doing a special promo.




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27 Responses

  1. The Original Drama Mama said:

    Wow! You sold me. The blurbs are amazing, the comment from DG would be like winning an Oscar for me…everything that was said makes it sound too good to resist, and I can only hope one day my WIP sells to an agent like you that inspires another author to say this: “Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.” What an incredible compliment!

  2. T. Tate said:

    I read the generous excerpt on the website and I LOVED it. Dear Kristen, if you’re reading – I am SO glad your book sold, and am so very excited to read all of it when it comes out.

  3. Jen Daiker said:

    I love when a beautiful story that so many wonderful people think highly of comes through! I’ve heard stories of the underdog so it’s really nice to see this one pan out the way it did.

    It makes us as writers appreciate agents all the more. You want the agent to love your work as much as you like it, and it was clear you did!!!

  4. Cassandra said:

    Wow, the buzz is on — and judging from the excerpt on the author’s website, deservedly so. Now, how do you get the publisher to move up the release date?

  5. Suz Korb said:

    Wow! That book sounds awesome! And I didn’t even read the blurbs, just the bit after you said it was genre-less. Psht! You silly 😉

  6. Angela Brown said:

    This is a great example of the rules needing a bit of bending sometimes.

    Blurbs aside, it sounds like a great read. Can’t wait for it to come out. And way to stick to your guns and by your author’s side.

  7. Kristen Callihan said:

    I just wanted thank everyone for the well-wishes; they’re very kind!

    I am extremely grateful to the authors who provided me with a blurb, doubly so because I’m a fan girl of their works.

    And I do thank my lucky stars that I have Kristin in my corner. She has been both encouraging and tenacious throughout this whole process. An author cannot ask for more!

    Good luck to my fellow authors who write outside the box.

  8. Elyse Chantal said:


    I’ve been following your blog for almost 6 years now, but rarely comment. Even though I am no longer planning to pursue a career as a literary agent, I still follow your blog avidly. It’s posts like this one that keep me coming back.

    I so admire your enthusiasm for your clients. And when you gush about them, I listen, because EVERY TIME I read a book by an author you represent, they become an instant favorite. And not just in the whirlwind romance kind of way when six months later you can’t even remember the author’s name. No, they become authors that I seek out, actively await their next releases and reread because their stories continue to call to me.

    So this is just to say, thank you for this blog, and thank you for having my exact reading tastes.

  9. Stacy said:

    The blurbs totally sold me. I love historical fiction, and adding the paranormal really makes it appealing. I think it’s very cool you’re pushing so hard for your client. It’s good to know there are agents out there that believe so strongly in their authors.

  10. A. M. Hooper said:

    Those blurbs are genius! Even the sound of this book inspires me to write on a higher level- I’m adding this to my list!
    It’s nice to know some agents will fight for their authors!