Fiction Writing Made Easy

#144. Student Spotlight: How She Landed A Book Deal With Her Dream Publisher (With Savannah Carlisle)

May 28, 2024 Savannah Gilbo Episode 144
#144. Student Spotlight: How She Landed A Book Deal With Her Dream Publisher (With Savannah Carlisle)
Fiction Writing Made Easy
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Fiction Writing Made Easy
#144. Student Spotlight: How She Landed A Book Deal With Her Dream Publisher (With Savannah Carlisle)
May 28, 2024 Episode 144
Savannah Gilbo

Have you ever heard someone say that the only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that the published author never gave up?

I wholeheartedly believe this, and my guest today proves it’s true.

Savannah Carlisle writes heartwarming romance novels that transport readers to fun and quirky small towns where friends feel like family. And her debut novel, The Library of Second Chances, is officially available for purchase as of May 2024. 

Tune into this episode to hear us talk about her path to publication—from writing the first draft of this story to breaking up with her agent to working with a developmental editor and #kisspitch mentor to ultimately finding a home at her dream publisher.

In the episode, we talk about things like:

[09:47] How Savannah pulled inspiration from her real-life, You’ve Got Mail, and her dream publisher’s wishlist to write The Library of Second Chances 

[11:37] Why Savannah broke up with her agent (and how, in hindsight, this was one of the best decisions Savannah’s made in terms of her writing) 

[14:10] The biggest takeaway Savannah had from working with a developmental editor (me!)—and how this still informs her writing today 

[16:10] What it was like to work with Jessica Lepe, a #kisspitch mentor and author, who just finished querying a similar story based on You’ve Got Mail 

[22:35] How Savannah found her dream publisher as an un-agented author at Harpeth Road (and why she went this route versus self-publishing) 

[25:50] What it was like to find her current agent—and why she believes having an agent is important (even though she’s a lawyer herself)

Rate + Review + Follow on Apple Podcasts

"I love the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast!" ← If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing this show! Your rating and review will help other writers find this podcast, and they're also super fun for me to read. Just click here, scroll all the way to the bottom, tap five stars to rate the show, and then select "Write a Review." Be sure to let me know your favorite episodes, too! 

Also, if you haven't done so already, make sure you're following the podcast! I'll be adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed, and if you're not following the show, there's a good chance you'll miss them. Click here to follow now!

🔗 Links mentioned in this episode:

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever heard someone say that the only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that the published author never gave up?

I wholeheartedly believe this, and my guest today proves it’s true.

Savannah Carlisle writes heartwarming romance novels that transport readers to fun and quirky small towns where friends feel like family. And her debut novel, The Library of Second Chances, is officially available for purchase as of May 2024. 

Tune into this episode to hear us talk about her path to publication—from writing the first draft of this story to breaking up with her agent to working with a developmental editor and #kisspitch mentor to ultimately finding a home at her dream publisher.

In the episode, we talk about things like:

[09:47] How Savannah pulled inspiration from her real-life, You’ve Got Mail, and her dream publisher’s wishlist to write The Library of Second Chances 

[11:37] Why Savannah broke up with her agent (and how, in hindsight, this was one of the best decisions Savannah’s made in terms of her writing) 

[14:10] The biggest takeaway Savannah had from working with a developmental editor (me!)—and how this still informs her writing today 

[16:10] What it was like to work with Jessica Lepe, a #kisspitch mentor and author, who just finished querying a similar story based on You’ve Got Mail 

[22:35] How Savannah found her dream publisher as an un-agented author at Harpeth Road (and why she went this route versus self-publishing) 

[25:50] What it was like to find her current agent—and why she believes having an agent is important (even though she’s a lawyer herself)

Rate + Review + Follow on Apple Podcasts

"I love the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast!" ← If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing this show! Your rating and review will help other writers find this podcast, and they're also super fun for me to read. Just click here, scroll all the way to the bottom, tap five stars to rate the show, and then select "Write a Review." Be sure to let me know your favorite episodes, too! 

Also, if you haven't done so already, make sure you're following the podcast! I'll be adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed, and if you're not following the show, there's a good chance you'll miss them. Click here to follow now!

🔗 Links mentioned in this episode:

👋 Interested in becoming a book coach? Click here to learn more about Author Accelerator's Book Coach Certification Program!

👉 Looking for a transcript? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, scroll down below the episode player until you see the transcript.

Speaker 1:

You want things to happen fast. When you're writing a book, you can't wait to get it out in the world. But I really feel like now, looking back, I can say like the wait has been worth it, because the book that's coming out I'm so proud of and so happy with and so many people had to touch it to get it there. It's hard to find the right people and then when you do like, you want to hang on to them, and I'm lucky too that the folks at the publisher I had somebody for developmental edits and line edits and copy editing and proofreading, and even after all those hands, there's nothing in there that I feel like I compromised on.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So, whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started. In today's episode, I'm sharing a conversation I had with Savannah Carlyle to talk about her brand new book called the Library of Second Chances.

Speaker 2:

Savannah Carlyle writes heartwarming romance novels with idyllic beach settings, and her stories transport readers to fun and quirky small towns where friends feel like family. In our conversation, we talk about what her writing, editing and publishing journey was like over the past four years, because that is how long it's been since she wrote the first draft of her novel in late 2020. Since then, she's revised it many times and queried it many times before finally finding the perfect home for it at Harpeth Road. So you'll hear us talk about that entire journey, including all the little steps along the way, you'll also hear Savannah talk about how she actually lives two different lives one where she writes fiction under the name Savannah Carlisle and the other where she writes under her real name, christy Dosh, about something completely different the business of college sports. So this is a jam-packed episode with my lovely client Savannah Carlyle, and I'm so excited to share her story with you. But before we dive into the conversation, I want to read you the back cover copy of her book so that you have some context for what we talk about. So here we go.

Speaker 2:

Daily walks along the sparkling shoreline and chats with her best friend are a part of the slow-paced life for bookstore owner Lucy Sullivan, and that's just how she likes to spend her time. She reveres the unchanging character and close-knit community of her picturesque village and works hard to preserve it from development. After the town library is forced to close, lucy stepped in to maintain the Little Free Library in town. Those who leave a book there include notes explaining why they'd recommend it, which Lucy adores, and Lucy herself has gotten a few that have had her smitten. So when she hears Logan Lancaster is brought in to solve the town's budget deficit, lucy isn't at all excited about his vision for growth along the waterfront. To make matters worse, logan and Lucy are appointed as the representatives of opposing views in a series of public forums for the proposed expansion.

Speaker 2:

Representatives of opposing views in a series of public forums for the proposed expansion. They couldn't be more opposite, except for one small thing, unbeknownst to both of them they've been swapping anonymous notes in the Little Free Library. Will their messages ruin everything Lucy has worked so hard to achieve in here on Isle? One thing's for sure the quaint life she's built herself will definitely never be the same. So super cute blurb. I'm so excited to dig into our conversation and talk about how this lovely story came to be. So let's go ahead and dive right in. Hi Savannah, welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. Thank you so much for being here today.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, Savannah. That's not gonna be confusing at all that we both have the same name.

Speaker 2:

I know I was just dying to do this interview because I've literally met like less than five Savannahs in my life, so to have a Savannah on my podcast is really cool.

Speaker 1:

I think you know this. But spoiler alert not my real name. I'm encroaching on your territory because it's your real name. I just really liked it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's okay. We can have the Savannah Club, whether it's real names or you know pen names, that's okay. But I introduced you in the beginning of the episode and I read the blurb of your book, the Library of Second Chances. But I'm wondering if you could tell listeners in your own words a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so my pen name is Savannah Carlisle, but actually my real name is Christy Dosh, and I did not create a pen name because I was trying to hide that I was writing romance novels or anything like that. It's just that in my day job I am a sports business reporter and I have already published under my real name in sports business. And my very wise former literary agent told me that Amazon would not understand that I was writing both nonfiction sports and romance and that I was going to have to have a pin name so that I didn't confuse Amazon. And we all know you don't want to confuse Amazon. So, thanks to Amazon, I had to go out and find a new name, which sounds like fun until you actually try to pick one. And now I'm realizing, now that I've picked it, I have to sign that name when I sign books and I, like my hand, will not do it Like I cannot teach myself to sign a new name, savannah's a really hard one to like.

Speaker 2:

I mean, yeah, it's a great name. I'm totally biased, but it's it's long right.

Speaker 1:

So the double ends. I end up just looking like I have a mountain range, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the club, but OK, so you went from nonfiction sports writing to writing romantic fiction, which is so fun, and before we recorded the episode we were kind of joking about your desk setup, because it's literally like you have two hats. You have Christy who writes the sports, does the interviews for sports, and then you have on your other wall, romance Savannah, which is all things hearts and romance. So it's really fun.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I have had my office set up for a long time as a sports business reporter. I've been gosh a sports business reporter for like 12 years now. I was a corporate attorney before that and I do all this TV and podcasts and all sorts of video stuff. So I have this great video set that I love for my sports work. And then I realized that I was going to have to start doing podcast interviews and videos and stuff for my romance writing and that if I had all that sports stuff behind me, people might think I wrote sports romance and I am never going to write sports romance. I am not mixing my two worlds in that way. So I had to develop a second wall in my office where I can sit when I'm Savannah Carlisle.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and if any listeners can relate, you should totally connect with Christy slash Savannah on Instagram and let her know that you feel her pain, because that's a unique pain.

Speaker 1:

Yes, please do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so by the time this episode goes live, your book will have been out in the world for about three weeks, and that is so dang exciting. So congratulations, thank you.

Speaker 1:

It's hard to believe right now. I'm not sure if I'll even believe it when I'm holding the book, but I'm so excited about it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's super exciting, and to say you've kind of been on a journey with this book might be an understatement that the journey of the century I think that Logan and Lucy and I have been on a roller coaster together for a few years now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, a few years, yeah, and a lot of ups and downs along the way. So a very high level timeline of your journey, and then we'll go into each of these little bits deeper. But you told me, in 2020, you wrote the first draft, or the first version of this in about 45 days, which is crazy in itself. Then in 2021, I think, you had an agent, but that didn't work out. We worked together briefly in the middle of 2021, and then you were queering by the end of 2021. So that's a whole other adventure. And then, if we fast forward all the way to 2023, a whole other adventure. And then, if we fast forward all the way to 2023, this is when you started working with Harpeth Road and your second book also landed a deal. And then, fast forward to 2024, it's published. So anything to kind of add on the high level of that, did I get that right?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So what's kind of interesting is that I wrote this actually for Harpeth Road. I knew Jenny Hale, who's an author. I knew she was starting Harpeth Road before she made it public. I met her many, many years ago on Twitter and we became friends. I loved her books and then I do some freelance writing and I ended up writing about her books in a few articles and so we developed this friendship and I knew she was starting Harpeth Road and I had this one manuscript that was sort of done and ready to go. I had a literary agent. She took it out, unfortunately in March of 2020. We all know how that went.

Speaker 1:

Right and that book did not sell although actually that book is going to be out next year, so we can come back to that in a minute but that book got shelved for many years and I was talking to Jenny about the kind of books she was going to be looking for for Herbeth Road and something about those conversations we had really motivated me to sit down and write this one. I did write it in 45 days and I did send it to her way back then and she said whoa, this needs a lot of work. So although I sort of wrote it for her, it's not like she was ready and waiting to like publish it for me. It went through a lot before it came back to her the second time in early 2023 and actually got her to say yes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, which is really cool, and we can dig into that even more, like it's. It's nice that you knew kind of who you were going for, what kind of book you wanted, but then there were some developmental challenges that we had to work through and I know that you worked with a few different developmental editors and had Kiss Pitch and things like that all in between 2020 and 2023. So why don't we, if we go back to like the very, very beginning, when you were talking to Jenny about Harpeth Road, and did you have the idea before you guys started talking? Or like, how did the idea form?

Speaker 1:

I did so. I had wanted to write something that was a little bit of a take on You've Got Mail. I love You've Got Mail, you know, despite the fact that he puts her out of business and I know a lot of people don't love it.

Speaker 1:

For that reason that does not happen in my book. So don't abandon this book because you think it's going to be just like you've got mail Right. That kind of sparked the idea for these people building a relationship who don't actually know each other and I think it probably appeals to me because I'm 42 and I remember getting in AOL chat rooms and I remember when it wasn't so dangerous to meet trained on the Internet and like I remember I met this guy that I eventually would then meet in person in college, but like I knew he went to the school that I was going to be going to and like we started having conversations before I ever got on campus and met him in person and I also had friendships that formed that way. So I was always sort of interested in that aspect of the story.

Speaker 1:

But I wanted a new twist on it and I sort of fell in love with Little Free Libraries during the pandemic. I had quite a few within walking distance of my house and I just at some point got this idea that what if these people were sort of trading books in the Little Free Library versus meeting online? So I already had that sort of kernel of an idea when I started talking to Jenny about Harpeth Road and you know there were other publishers that I also thought would be a good fit. Like Hallmark, publishing was a big goal of mine before Hallmark ceased publishing books they were another goal of mine and a publishing house where I think it would have been a good fit. But funny that Jenny is sort of one of my wishlist publishers in the very beginning and then that's where it is yeah, it was fate.

Speaker 2:

It was meant to be. So that's so cool. Okay, so you've. You've had this idea. You've written the first draft. You had an agent at the time, right?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so when I initially wrote this, my agent had taken my other book out during 2020.

Speaker 1:

We only took it to five or six houses and then the pandemic happened. She actually had a baby, like all this life stuff sort of happened for both of us. And in the meantime, while we were waiting to hear back from publishing houses on that book, I sent her the first draft of this book and, to be totally honest, she did not love it and that was sort of the beginning of the end for us, because I initially signed with her for nonfiction, for my sports writing, and we we sold a nonfiction book about college football. I have nothing bad to say about my experience with her she is a fabulous, fabulous agent but it became really apparent when I started writing romance that she probably wasn't the right fit for my romance writing. So after she sent me notes on this book and they were extensive and many of them were right and eventually became things that changed in the book, but that's when we decided that we should probably part ways so I could find somebody who was a better fit for this writing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I remember one of your emails to me. You're like so I have an agent, but I'm pretty sure she really dislikes Hallmark and that's kind of where I'm headed, so probably not a good fit.

Speaker 1:

I just didn't feel like the small town romance, sweet kind of romance, was really her thing, although she has clients sort of all over the romance industry. But I can say now that spoiler alert I did eventually get another agent and my agent now loves these kind of books and it's so important Like an agent can be a fabulous agent and really good at selling books and still not be the right fit for you. And so you know nothing bad to say about that agent. She didn't do anything wrong. She just wasn't the right fit for me and for these books.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, especially since you wear two different hats. She was a good fit for one of your hats, just not the other one, which I see happen a lot. You know, I don't think that's an abnormal thing to happen. It could even change to like, let's say, that you were writing romance and you went into kind of a different subcategory. Maybe you wouldn't have the right fit. That you have now, you know. So just kind of being aware and open to that for listeners is super important. But okay, so then let's see. So fast forwarding just a little bit, because after that I think that's when we met and you were like I have some feedback from this agent. I'm not sure if she likes these like small town sweet romances, but here's the feedback. And then we did a manuscript evaluation together and some of the feedback was similar. Right, I know there was some character work that needed to be done and some structuring of scenes and things like that, but overall the story.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that the one thing I took from you that made this manuscript better and has made't like breaking it down into like beats. I get really in my head about what fits in what beat and it just I get stuck and I can't like get out of it. So I don't do that anymore. But what you said to me about what needs to be in every scene and sort of how to move every scene forward really changed this book for the better, and that voice is in my head every single time I write something. Now You're like get out of my head. It's the best voice to have in my head. It helps.

Speaker 2:

so much Well, and you know what's funny is so I have an episode that I'll link for listeners in the show notes about that scene structure. But one of the things that your other agent had said, and one thing in my feedback, was Lucy character. We need to see like her change over the course of the story a little more, and by employing that structure you're forcing them to make decisions in every scene, Right, so that's the primary way we're going to see her shift. You knew what her arc was supposed to be, but it's those like little scene structure moments that help you actually put that on the page.

Speaker 1:

But it's those like little scene structure moments that help you actually put that on the page. So I'm glad you brought that up because I think I think if you but I wasn't getting her, you know I wasn't getting her there in a way that made sense and made her relatable.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, so you fixed that and then fast forward. A few months later you were querying again. And what happened? Because I think you got some bites on that, right? I?

Speaker 1:

did. So I went out and did a very, very small batch of queries I'm trying to think like date wise where that even fell in. But I didn't have any offers that round and I withdrew because I got Jessica's feedback. She had just sold her book and hers also had a little bit of a you've got mail sort of twist to it and she was like OK, the things that didn't work in mind. The editors pointed out you've got some of those things too, here's what you've got to change. And it made so much sense to me so I withdrew and worked with her for gosh, probably four or five months.

Speaker 1:

I made some pretty big shifts and the thing I got from her that I'll take along and maybe this is something you work with clients on too. But another thing that has changed how I write is she had me put together a reverse outline. Now that the whole manuscript was done, sort of go back and, chapter by chapter, put together this outline in Excel, and that was super helpful for me to see sort of all the chapters in one place and made it easy during revision to like. The hardest thing to me about editing is OK, you know, you need to change, like this thing about somebody's personality or you need to change this thing, that happens and then that's a domino effect on all these other things in your manuscript and trying to keep track of that is really difficult. But the reverse outline helped me so much and so now actually I sort of do that as I'm writing and have developed a spreadsheet. That kind of works for me as I'm in my work in progress. But that was the big thing I took away from her mentorship. That helped me.

Speaker 2:

That's great, and so to back up a second. Just for anyone who doesn't know what Kiss Pitch is, can you just describe what that was like a little bit?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think they've changed it a little bit. But when I was in Kiss Pitch it was a little like Pitch Wars and some of the other programs like that that go around where you send in, I think, the first few chapters and something that sort of approximated, I think, a query letter and maybe even the synopsis as well. I can't remember all the things we had to send in and they had this sort of panel of authors who had signed up to do one-on-one mentorships. But those authors get to choose who they want to work with and generally speaking they each pick one. But I think there were actually a couple of my cycle who picked two because they just couldn't make a decision between them.

Speaker 1:

But Jessica specifically picked me because she had a book with some similarities, because it was also sort of built on that you've got mail shop around the corner kind of framework, although if you read our two books very, very different. Her book is fabulous and I really enjoyed it and the similarities sort of end beyond that like very general structure from you've got mail. But she was able to see things that maybe a different mentor wouldn't have seen. So we worked together for four or five months on essentially a developmental edit that got me a much cleaner, better manuscript at the end of it, which allowed me to go try querying again.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, and so you were telling me, before we started recording a few of those things that she had mentioned, that, hey, these didn't work for me. And earlier you said and you've got mail a lot of people aren't too happy about the fact that Joe ruins her business. Right, can you just give us like a little preview of what are those things that Jessica recommended tweaking?

Speaker 1:

So the biggest one was you know at one point, obviously one of them has to find out. So the biggest one was you know at one point, obviously one of them has to find out. Okay, and so much. Like the movie she and I both had the, I think the guy I for sure had the guy finding out first and at like the halfway mark, and then sort of him knowing and knowing that their relationship as it is currently in real life is not conducive to a romantic relationship, and sort of him then going on a campaign to improve her opinion of him so that then he can reveal that it's really him and by that point, you know, hopefully we'll have won her over and can be with her.

Speaker 1:

So we both did that in a manner that was really similar to what happens in the movie. And she said look, I got all this feedback from editors. They hate that. They think that he feels manipulative. So that required an enormous overhaul from like the 50% point in my book on and I don't want to give away too much and tell people how I solved that, but it does not go down like the movie anymore. I had to make some huge changes there. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Which is so interesting just to think about. Like any, you know, we can draw inspiration from anywhere, but sometimes it's not always the best idea to follow it exactly because things change right, you know and it's hard because you want to scream like but that's how it happened in the movie.

Speaker 1:

I'm like, right, and everybody loves it. Yeah, but you've got to get away from that and I've had that trouble. The very first manuscript I ever wrote that was fiction was actually over a decade ago when I first got my first agent for my nonfiction. I knew way back then that would have been 2011, that I wanted to write a novel and in fact I had started one and had a few chapters and I sent it to my agent way back then. That manuscript will now never see the light of day, but it was much more autobi, like many people's first manuscript is.

Speaker 1:

And she came back to me and was like I hate the male character, there's nothing likable about him. And he was based on a person in my real life that I had had a very long, at that point, relationship with. It is not my now husband. I was like what do you mean? He's unlikable. This guy I've been on again, off again with for like the last five years, how can he be unlikable? And so I have had that problem in my writing where, when there is something based on, you know something in real life, whether that's you know a person or a relationship or a movie. It is really hard for me to change it because you want to point to it and be like, but that is what happened in real life and it doesn't matter.

Speaker 2:

Right, and I think you know, no matter what kind of stories people are writing, there's a lot of us that fall into that trap where it's like this is based on a real conversation I had and it's like cool, but we need to curate that a little more and, you know, make it go along with the theme and all the things you're trying to purposefully do. So yeah, I think you're not the only one there, yeah, so okay. So then let's fast forward. You've done the KISS pitch. You've worked with Jessica. You've gotten so much feedback on it at this point, what did that look like from that?

Speaker 1:

point to landing a deal with Harpeth Road. So I decided to start querying again to look for an agent. Harpeth Road does take unagented submissions, so I sent to them and then I also started querying. They were the only publisher that I sent to directly, although I had a list of others. But it wasn't necessarily my goal to like try to land a deal by myself and I had a good round of querying. I think I was up to something like 17 full requests by the time I got the offer from Harpeth Road and in fact I already had two agent offers. And when I got the agent offers I actually emailed Harpeth Road and was like I have agent offers but if you guys are going to make me an offer, I probably don't need an agent. So I'm just wondering on like timing so I can tell these agents.

Speaker 1:

And then I ended up getting my offer pretty soon after that and I still was on the fence about whether I wanted an agent. I'm an attorney and even as an attorney I value the guidance of an agent and having an agent look at the contract, because I'm not a publishing attorney, that's not my area of law and I know enough to know that I want someone else sort of on my side and helping me, you know, fight for things in the contract if I need to. And so I did the calls with the two agents who offered and, frankly, just didn't feel like either of them were the right fit for me. I mean, having already had an agent, I just didn't feel it and I ended up signing up for a call with another agent through Manuscript Academy, linda Camacho, who is incredible. I did actually quite a few Manuscript Academy things with her over the years and I told her about these calls I'd had with these agents.

Speaker 1:

I didn't tell her who they were because I didn't want her to feel like, you know, she was talking about her peers. But I sort of told her how I felt after I talked to them and she helped me realize that I was just going to be signing with them to say I had an agent and I had gone back to all those other foals I had out and all of them either were like I don't have time to look this fast so I'm going to pass, or if you're going to take the Harpeth Road offer, then I'm not going to offer you. Not going to offer you because there's nothing there for them, like Harborth Road is a small press. They don't pay advances and so there's nothing for the literary agent to sort of do or get there. So I ended up passing on my two agent offers and I hired an agent I knew who's also an attorney and just paid her a flat fee to look at the contract and negotiate it for me.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome and it's awesome, but it's probably a little bit scary too. Like, even if you did have someone look at the contract and they gave you the green light, it's still probably like OK, well, now I'm by myself a little bit. So did you feel?

Speaker 1:

that way I did and I had other authors who were unagented. Be like you don't need an agent, like you've got a deal now you'll be able to submit to Harpeth Road for future books if you wanna stay with them. And while I sort of understand the argument that I didn't need one, also like I was constantly having to go to Harpeth Road and ask questions that maybe an agent could have answered or not really knowing what was standard. And even though I've done nonfiction book deals, fiction looks really different and I really felt like I wanted sort of a teammate and I really wanted somebody I could talk to about my career and how to like plan and build a career. And I had started to work on a new manuscript and I wanted to make sure that, like I'm building an author brand and that I'm not like straying too far away and that these books aren't so like wildly different that they wouldn't have the same audience. But I had no one to really talk to about those things and so I ended up querying again.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and spoiler alert, you did find a new agent.

Speaker 1:

I did, Although I queried that time for a nonfiction project, because I do still write sports nonfiction. And I queried for that and I said to myself like I would sign with somebody for just nonfiction or I'll tell them about my fiction and like, if they're interested in both, maybe I would sign with somebody for both. And I ended up with six agent offers, three of which were for both my nonfiction and my fiction, and I ended up choosing Rose Ferreira for both, and so now I am agented for both.

Speaker 2:

Finally Wow that's perfect, the perfect match. And does your new agent like romance?

Speaker 1:

She does. Actually, she is a younger agent and doesn't have you know, I'm one of her early clients, which I see as like a benefit, because I feel like she's got plenty of time for me and I don't feel like I'm bothering her or taking her away from, like this enormous list of other clients, and she's with a fantastic agency over at PS Literary and so I feel great about it.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. Well, congratulations on that, because that was a long road to get there, but again, like, totally worth it because you found the right fit for you and a person that works with nonfiction and fiction.

Speaker 1:

Win, win, win, I know, and now I'm like 50 or 60 percent of the way through a work in progress in the fiction space, and actually she asked to see five chapters of that before she made me the offer to make sure that she was going to feel comfortable representing that side of my work in addition to the nonfiction. And she loved it, and so that was really exciting to be able to find somebody that fits both sides of my life.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. And then you said you got you are working with Harpeth Road on that book as well.

Speaker 1:

No. So the manuscripts that went out in 2020, which I had sort of written off as dead at this point, it only went to five or six publishers, but they were at big houses and I had talked to some agents along the way during these other rounds of querying about whether they would ever take that one out again, and a lot of people were hesitant to take it out because it had already been out, Although again only to five or six houses. So I thought I would find somebody that was willing to champion it somewhere else and unfortunately did not. However, I had that manuscript in my back pocket and now that book is going to come out summer of 2025. And so the one that I'm writing right now. Hopefully I will find a home for it for summer of 2026. So it kind of feels good to like no, I've got something next year, and now I don't feel so pressured to finish my current work in progress.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, all the pieces are lining up and it's just up to you at this point to produce which you will because you're so good at doing that part. So that's like what? Three, four years of working on this same book, library of Second Chances. What would you say like if you had to boil that down to like two, three key takeaways? What comes to mind? Oh, I know that's a hard question.

Speaker 1:

One takeaway is that I hate editing. Now, I love writing the first draft and you know I said I wrote that one in 45 days. The book before that took me a year and a half, so it's not like I always write that fast, but I wrote that in 45 days and then I edited, for you know what will now end up amounting to three years. Wow, yeah, hate editing. No, I understand why editing is necessary. I appreciate the things that other people can spot in my work. I 100% believe the book that is coming out is now so much better than that first draft. I just don't enjoy the editing process.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think for you specifically, because now you have some of the structure tools and you like outlining and you reverse outlines and things like that.

Speaker 1:

I have a feeling you're in for less editing in the future, so that's good, I hope so I'm getting edits back on book number two in about three days, so I'll let you know how that goes yeah keep me posted.

Speaker 2:

But you know, one thing I like about your story is you knew this was what you wanted to do, and so you sought out feedback from a lot of different sources, and it's not like you necessarily did that all at once. You were kind of like, OK, working with this person, I got their feedback made it better. Working with this person got their feedback made it better, Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's tough to know when to stop, like when is enough, because if you just keep giving it to people, you're going to keep getting feedback and you know different people are going to read it and identify different things that didn't work for them or whatever.

Speaker 1:

So that to me is still a tough one of figuring out. Like you know, when are you done? When have you been through enough of that? But I definitely think that you need to have people around you, whether that's critique partners or like. For me, quite frankly, I prefer hiring you or some of the other folks that I've worked with and paying you to read my stuff and give me feedback, because I do have this whole other side of my life where I'm writing about sports all day, every day. So it's actually tough for me to have a critique partner and give feedback to somebody else, and I'm just not confident enough yet either that I know enough to give anyone good feedback, and so I have really taken the route of having, you know, a book coach working with a developmental editor, and you know I am lucky that the other side of my business makes enough money to subsidize this side and pay for those kind of things and to get that sort of professional opinion to make it better.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you know it can be hard to for anyone, but especially when you're strapped for time and you don't know where to go to find a reliable critique partner, I mean, sometimes you get really lucky and you find another writer who's in a similar boat and it just totally works out and it's kismet. A lot of times things happen and it's like you end up wasting time. So you know, not only because I'm a coach and editor, when I'm finished with my fiction book, I will definitely be paying someone to edit and go through my book as well. I want to be able to rely on that feedback I'm getting, you know.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, and I've just I've had critique partners who never gave me feedback or they got busy and it took twice as long as they said it was going to take, and like, because this ends up being such a long process, you know, by the time you add in trying to query and then get a publisher and go through all the editing rounds with a publisher, you know that takes so long. I mean, I've had other friends that have published like three self-published books in the time it's taken me to publish this one traditionally. So knowing that the timeline is long like that, I'm always looking for ways to make it shorter, and hiring somebody like you to help me was the right move for me totally.

Speaker 2:

And on that note of self-publishing versus traditional, why did you decide to go the route that you did?

Speaker 1:

Honestly, I just don't want to be responsible for having to find and hire the right people to put together self-published.

Speaker 1:

I think there's nothing wrong with going that route and, like I said, I have a friend I started writing with at about the same time and I think she's about to release her fourth book and I'm just now releasing my first one because she's been able to publish so much faster self-publishing and she's now grown this audience and is doing really well and I'm just now getting my first one out into the world.

Speaker 1:

But, like she had to find a cover designer and then I remember she had a cover designer that got sick or something and sort of ghosted her and she had like some of the assets but not all of them and her, you know, publication date was ending, you know, and she was right up against the deadline. That's super stressful to me. And then finding the right editors and just all the things you have to either figure out how to do on your own or hire someone else to do. I just didn't feel like I wanted to commit to that and I'm not closing the door forever, but it's just not where I was at right now and I'm super glad that I went with a traditional publisher but also with a smaller publisher like Carpeth Road, because I got a lot of sort of hands-on treatment there.

Speaker 1:

And I feel like I got a lot of hand-holding that I know from being with a bigger publisher for my nonfiction. I did not get on that side. So I think too, being with a small press and you know every press is different and you've got to do your research and find the right one for you and make sure that it's a reputable one, and all of that but I feel like I got a lot of TLC from my publisher.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. That's, I feel, like what every writer would want. You know they just dream of that TLC, but I love that. You knew you were like I don't want to be responsible for this, Whereas other writers they're like I really want to be responsible for this. So it's so funny. There's totally two different camps.

Speaker 1:

It's nuts because I am a type A control freak. I mean, I was a corporate attorney like that. I am a perfectionist and you would think that I would want that kind of control, but for some reason in this space of my life I do not want that. Now, it's hard when you don't get the title you want or the cover you want Like on one of my nonfiction books I did not get the cover I wanted.

Speaker 2:

I still don't like the cover.

Speaker 1:

On this book. I fought a lot over the title we went through I can't even tell you how many titles. You saw it under a totally different title and I wasn't married to my original. But I actually did not like the first title I got from Harbeth Road and props to Jenny and her team over there, I mean, when I pushed back and said why I didn't like it and that I just wasn't going to be happy with it. They came up with more ideas and now I love this title.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love this title. I liked the one you had before that I saw. Do you mind if I tell people what it was? No, I loved it too. I wasn't married to it, but I liked it. Yeah, it was Summer by the Book, right, and that was super cute, but I love Library of Second Chances, that's chef's kiss.

Speaker 1:

I do too, and I can't tell. I know the title for number two but I'm not allowed to tell it yet. But I like it because it has a similar cadence. And it actually was the first title they sent over. It was not one that I came up with, it was the first title they sent over and I was like, yes, because that is going to look so good on the shelf next to my other one.

Speaker 2:

Now you're thinking with your author brand in mind.

Speaker 1:

I love it.

Speaker 2:

That's so cool. Well, you know a long journey to get to this point, but we have to say it's been a rewarding journey because you got where you wanted funnily enough, with the publisher you wanted three years ago, which is amazing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but it wasn't a straight path, like people ask all the time, and you know you want things to happen fast. When you're writing a book, you can't wait to get it out in the world. But I really feel like now, looking back, I can say like the wait has been worth it, because the book that's coming out I'm so proud of and so happy with, and so many people had to touch it to get it there, including you.

Speaker 2:

So thank you, you're welcome. It was so fun and I, like I said, I've read it and I told you before we started recording this that the spirit of the book I saw before is still very much alive. It's very similar. I know there are different parts to it, but it is totally your vision and that always makes me so happy when I'm like I know it's been through so many rounds of editing but it stayed true to what you wanted, so that's super cool.

Speaker 1:

That's all about finding the right people too, because I've definitely worked with editors on other manuscripts and I get their notes back and it's like just don't think you get me, I can't change these things, you know, which goes back to why I don't want to self-publish. It's hard to find the right people and then when you do like, you want to hang on to them, and I'm lucky too that the folks at the publisher you know I had somebody for developmental edits and line edits and copy editing and proofreading, and even after all those hands, I still love everything.

Speaker 2:

There's nothing in there that I feel like I compromised on, yeah, and so let's just let me recap what you just said. Because in 2020, you wrote the book, you took it to your agent in early 2021. And she was like this doesn't work. We went through it together. Then you did Kiss Pitch and worked with someone else for a couple months on it.

Speaker 1:

Then you took it to harpeth road and they you said you had two developmental edits while you were there, right, yes, and the second one was was kind of a like checkup edit I guess on the first one, but technically it was two rounds of developmental edits yeah, usually the second one's like smoothing things out more and just kind of saying do we feel good?

Speaker 2:

is that kind of how it was?

Speaker 1:

yeah, and it was two different editors, which which was interesting too because some of the things the first one got hung up on that like I wasn't totally game to change. Then the second one was like no, what you've got works like, so it was good to have more than one person go through it with me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and that's a question people ask me all the time, Like if I work with you, should I go to a different editor next? And I'm like, really, you can choose your own adventure. You know, I think it's sometimes wise to have a different set of eyes on things. Other times people are more comfortable. They're like you were there for the idea and I want you to help me take to the finish line. So I think your story is a good example of how multiple eyes on something can really be a good way to go.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so that is so fun. I love like revisiting all of this because for me, since I haven't worked on it in three years, so for me it's such a treat to go back and like reminisce on all the things we did together and just to see where it's where it's at now. But we will link to where to get the book and all that will link to your website and your Instagram and all the fun places in the show notes. But, parting words of wisdom, do you have any like any aspiring authors who want to be where you're at someday? What would you tell them?

Speaker 1:

I used to say this. I owned a PR agency and I would say this about the entrepreneurs that I worked with I said the only difference between the ones that were successful and the ones who weren't were the successful ones just never quit. And it's the same way with authors. Like I got my first feedback on my first manuscript in 2011, and my agent eviscerated it. I mean, that will never see the light of day, and then I didn't do anything for years. I was.

Speaker 1:

I had two back-to-back nonfiction deals and just got kind of caught up in that.

Speaker 1:

And then, when I came back, even the manuscript she took out for me in 2020, you know, I had gotten tons of notes on that one from her that I had to work on and then I sent this one and she didn't like it, and we parted ways and like I could have, you know, and I did for a minute feel like, okay, maybe I can't do this, maybe I'm just supposed to be a nonfiction author, but like I just believed in this story and wanted to tell it and really wanted to make this, you know, sort of adventure into fiction and not just be a nonfiction writer, and so I just kept going.

Speaker 1:

So you know, from the time I wrote that first manuscript to now, it's been 13 years now. Hopefully it doesn't take everybody else listening 13 years, but I'm a firm believer that, like you, have to just keep going and you have to take the criticism and sort of the spirit in which it was meant, which is to make you better, to make the story better. It's not an indictment on who you are or on your abilities. It is truly meant to be constructive, so that instead of you know, I would rather hear it from my agent and say all these things that doesn't work, or hear it from you, savannah. Then go read reviews on Amazon next week and have readers telling me why it doesn't work.

Speaker 1:

Now I'm sure I'll still get some of those, but hopefully less than I would have with the first version.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's. I love that. You said all that, because I tend to tell people you get to choose the discomfort you want to experience. It's either the discomfort of the unrealized dream of being an author right, if you give up, that's what you're going to feel or it's the discomfort of getting the feedback and learning how to be better and eventually accomplishing that goal. So I think we're kind of on the same page there. Don't quit. We all have it in us to write a book, and Savannah slash Christy is proof of that. So I love that. I know I said we're going to put your links in the show notes, but tell us where's the best place to find you on the Internet. Yeah, savannah.

Speaker 1:

Carlisle dot com should have everything there. I review other people's books, so if you like reading romance, and particularly closed door sweet romance, I, that's what I write and so that's what I really love to read, and a lot of women's fiction as well. So I'm always talking about other people's books on there and then obviously have information on both this book and soon I'll have information on my second book that's coming out, so that's probably the best place.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you're really active on Instagram and your Instagram is very cute, so we will link to that as well. But thank you so much for coming on the show. Maybe we can have you come back and talk about book two when it's out in the world, because this was such a pleasure. But thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for having me, savannah, and thanks for all your help along the way, of course.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help get this podcast in front of more fiction writers. Just like you. As always, I'll be back next week with a brand new episode full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer and craft a story you're proud of. Until then, happy writing.

Author's Writing Journey With Savannah Carlisle
Author's Dual Writing Journey
Publishing Industry Without Agent
The Writing and Editing Process
Successful Writing Journey