When I decided to write my first mystery fifteen years ago, my sole focus was getting it finished. It took me four years. But I finished it. Then I had to figure out what I wanted to do next. My dream was to become a published author. But I had no idea how to make that happen. Luckily for me, I worked in the library field and had numerous resources at my disposal in which to figure it out. I found out I’d need a literary agent to shop my manuscript to publishers. Someone referred me to my local public library where they had a handy dandy directory called the Literary Marketplace that listed agents and what kinds of books they represented.
So, I got busy putting together query letters to about a dozen agents. As luck would have it, I struck gold in that first batch of queries and landed an agent at a well-known agency in New York. I thought I had it made. I thought it would only be a matter of time before my phone rang and my agent would be telling me the good news—that my book had sold. I was wrong. My agent shopped my book for a year and a half and we had one nibble of interest from an editor who loved it. Unfortunately, that editor left the company soon afterwards and we could never get a yes or no from her replacement. Around this time, there were some new imprints popping up on the scene that I thought might be a good fit for my manuscript. My agent disagreed. We parted ways. For the next year I tried in vain to find another agent. None of them were interested in representing a book that had already been shopped around.
Finally, I got fed up and self-published my first book to less than stellar sales. The one good thing that did come of self-publishing was winning an honorable mention in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Book Competition. That gave me the validation and motivation to keep trying. In the summer of 2003, I decided to give it one last shot. I bypassed getting another agent and started submitting my book directly to publishers. One of those publishers was BET Books, a division of Black Entertainment Television, one of the publishers my former agent refused to submit to.
Six months later—two weeks before Christmas—I got a call at work from editor Glenda Howard at BET Books. She’d read the sample chapters I sent her on the subway on her way home from work the night before and loved them. She wanted me to overnight her the rest of the manuscript. Remembering my last experience with an editor who loved my book, I was cautiously optimistic. However, two weeks later I finally got the “call”. Glenda offered me a three-book deal for my formerly self-published book and two sequels. It was a long hard road from completing my book to getting a book deal and truth be told, it’s still hard. But in looking back on all I’ve learned and achieved along the way, it’s been well worth it.
Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she's a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She's the author of four mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, and is also the founder of the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, and was named a "Hot Site" by USA Today.com. When she's not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline. Visit her on the web at: