MadWoMan Chronicle #3: A Novel Experience

It was such an exciting time in my life. I finally completed my non-fiction book proposal. I created a Youtube video to tell the world, I posted the news on Facebook and I told all of my family and friends. My head was gassed up and I thought I was super cool. At only 19, my book proposal was not only complete but I just got signed to an agent! I was on the ride of my life and the feeling was grand. So then it was time for my new savvy agent to pitch my proposal to prestigious publishers in both Canada and the United States. The plan was to pitch then wait and wait and wait … and wait some more. It was agonizing to say the least. There I was at the edge of my seat, biting my nails and curling my toes because I was so anxious to hear back from these “big wigs.” After a few months, feedback came pouring in. Only, what I thought would be an out-pour of praise and admiration, was actually barely a pat on the back for my efforts. In total, I received 22 rejections. There were a few book deal offers, but nothing that made sense or was worth exploring. At the advice of my agent, we weren’t going to settle. How did I feel? I was devastated. I was sad. I lived under a rock for about 2 months after my dreams of becoming a published author were shattered. One by one, each editor said no, no and hell no for a couple of reasons. Your first assumption is that my storyline was weak right? No.

Here are a few slivers of what some publishers [who will remain anonymous] had to say back in 2010:

1. “I agree that there is a place in the market for this book but I don’t think this book is for us. Her platform is growing but not quite large enough for us and I think we would have a hard time getting the book to the right audience in any sizeable numbers.”

2. “Thanks so much for sending this project. I thought it was nicely done and certainly a very powerful story, but this is a very difficult and crowded category. I love memoirs but think this would be tough to get out.”

3. “I noticed that Pauleanna is also interested in reaching the teen market. It’s clear that she’s had a harrowing journey for someone so young, and she deals with her experiences with incredible candor. That said, we don’t feel that this project is right for our list. The market for these kinds of intensely personal stories has become very crowded in the last few years.”

4. “Thanks for sending me this powerful and harrowing proposal. There’s a lot to admire here, but I’m afraid I can’t move forward we’re doing very little memoir on this list, and I’m not sure I’ve got a good plan for how to position and market a book like this. But I appreciate the submission and I wish you best of luck in finding a great home for it.”

5. “A painful, frank and gritty memoir. There’s an audience for this for sure, but it’s not a book that would fit quite right here.”

So as you can see, my story was loved by most, but there was much hesitation to market a book like mine. But I couldn’t understand why. I actually asked God why, many many times. These were the words from all of the publishing houses that some of my favorite authors were born out of, yet in a blink of an eye, my momentum came to a screeching halt. I met with my agent again and we went back to the drawing board. I was not giving up this fight even if it killed me. We realized the general flow of these emails was pointing into a new direction; YA [young adult] fiction. The market was [and still is] buzzing with fiction novels and the feedback hinted that it was an avenue to explore.

My non-fiction book proposal was now garbage. After a year and a half, I had to start again from scratch. [Cue sad and depressing music now] I had no choice but to suck it up. It was either I throw in the towel or continue hiking up this steep hill. So I strapped my hiking boots on tightly and away I went. I was going to dedicate most of my waking hours to working on my fiction novel. Please note: When writing a work of fiction, publishers want the entire manuscript submitted, NOT a just a book proposal. Every weekday evening after work, I chained myself to my kitchen table at home and I treated my weekends like another work day too. I would either pull an all-nighter or I would wake up bright and early; and that’s not even the roughest part, on average I wrote in 6-12 hour sessions. I am not even kidding you and I have the battle wounds to prove it: Butt cramps, back aches, headaches, crippled fingers, and sore eyes. Trust me, I was hurting in every part of my body, but I was determined to complete this novel. What kept me motivated was the fact that I could see the finish line in the distance. I now understood what many novelists before me had to go through and it gave me hope to push harder than ever before. What also kept me motivated was my storyline. I flipped the script and turned my true events into a work of fiction, which gave me the opportunity to add more twists and turns. My spirits were now lifted and I was regaining my momentum.

2012, 2 years later, I finally finished my 300-something page novel. Yes, I did cry and yes, I did do a happy dance then I took a break for a few days to let my mind rest. Following this rest period, I sent my manuscript to my editor [and it most definitely wasn’t free, she was a pretty penny but well worth it] and agent for review. We later had a meeting and discussed the final steps before re-submitting to the same publishers who shut the door.

Today, I have finally arrived where I have always envisioned. My novel, Everything I Couldn’t Tell My Mother, will be available online and in stores March 2014. Dreams really do come true.


  1. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    I have recently begun to write…again. I start, things are great, and then I fall into fear that my ‘work’ may possibly be a waste of time.
    NOW I have someone to hold me accountable.

    This was very encouraging; thank you again!!

    1. I am so glad to hear you found a solution to keep you going and now I can’t wait to read the final product 😉 Happy Writing!

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Since 2005, Sandra has worked with entrepreneurs around the world to start, launch, promote and grow their brands. Using signature Business Consulting and Brand Strategy programs, Sandra coaches entrepreneurs to clearly define their business and brand to effectively position them in their markets, communicate with their audience and build a trusting and loyal community.

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