Skype meeting

When Astrid appeared on my monitor, I was immediately starstruck. There I was, conversing with the CEO of Ylva, the woman behind all of my favorite novels. She gently suggested I save my breathless fangirling for real celebrities, such as Amber Tamblyn, whom she saw at a recent engagement (I think this was meant to put me at ease). Then we began to discuss the book. 

I tried to appear poised, but Astrid must have sensed the underlying neuroses, because she put me out of my misery early on, before asking any questions. She said something like, “Maybe this will lower your blood pressure. I would like to sign with you and publish the book.”

Internally, I was squealing and losing my shit, but knew it was important to remain composed, lest she think “Hmmm, not sure I want to deal with this.”

I may never know what Astrid wanted to ask me before officially extending the offer, but based on the rest of our conversation, I believe she had planned to start by determining 1) if I was planning to write more books, and 2) if I was open to editing, or if I’d be difficult and argue over suggested revisions.

She had nothing to fear because the next book is underway — and I am incredibly, almost pathologically easy to work with. My people-pleasing tendencies date back to early childhood. In the end, I just want everyone to be happy with me, and that is far more important than any opinion or preference I may have. Furthermore, I attack each task I am given with energy and drive that my teachers fondly called “excessive.” Frankly, I’m a delight.

And I am seriously, genuinely grateful for any and all editing. Since submitting the manuscript, I have ruminated expansively on everything that is wrong with it, to the point where I now feel personally betrayed by my friend who told me it was good.

But even if I thought I had produced God’s gift to the genre, I am well-aware of the value of editing. All of my favorite writers rely heavily on content and copy-editors, and it’s not because they suck. I don’t know if other publishers offer editing support (see: did zero research) but I am so happy that mine does.

Plus, in grad school, I managed to write and revise a 350-page dissertation that ultimately satisfied four cranky committee members — including a qualitative researcher (you know how they are). Y’all don’t need to worry about me.

Submitting to Ylva

From the beginning, I knew I would submit my book to Ylva, a lesbian publisher based in Germany. My friend encouraged me to shop around for the “best deal,” but I had solid reasons for my loyalty.

  1. Ylva publishes my favorite lesbian romance novels.
  2. The submission process is easy and accessible to all.
  3. I wouldn’t have to do stressful research on alternative publishers or “book agents.”

So I typed up the submission, created and then discarded a bunch of overachieving “extra” materials (including a cringey PowerPoint presentation about the book… what was I thinking), and finally hit send.

After a few weeks, I heard back from the CEO, Astrid Ohletz. She asked to speak over Skype and said (this is a direct quote), “I have a few questions I would like to discuss.”

Cue epic, flailing freakout. Holy shit, I’m actually talking to Ylva. This is probably a good sign. But what in gods name are these questions, and what if I get them wrong???

A top student for 27 years, I knew what to do. I needed to think of every possible question and prepare perfect answers in advance. Pacing the living room, I enlisted my wife to help.

“Imagine that you’re a publisher. What would you want to know?”
Wife: “Uhhh, maybe she’ll want to know what inspired you.”
“She’s not going to ask that! You’re terrible at this.”

After an evening of frantic brainstorming, a new thought occurred. “What if she says, I’m interested in your book… but first, can you name ten facts about Germany?”

We started with “It’s in Europe,” and a few minutes later we arrived at number ten: Heidi Klum is from there. We didn’t check our phones once. I raised my arms in triumph. I was ready.

So I wrote a book

I should probably explain how this happened.

Last fall, I was having a hard time. My wife was in an accident, so I had to take care of our baby by myself — in addition to taking care of her, doing the housework, and working full time. I was always exhausted, and I had very little time for myself.

I started reading lesbian romance novels on my phone. I was already addicted to social media and news apps thanks to ADHD, so I didn’t really increase my screen time — I just decided to read a few pages on my e-reader app when I otherwise would have been checking Reddit or Twitter.

Then, I started writing on my phone. I used the Google Docs app and created documents with innocuous titles (“Cat vaccination record” and “Shopping list”) — but I was secretly outlining and writing a lesbian romance novel.

I finished the first draft in four months, which is a sobering indication of how much time I spend on my phone. Then, I sent it to two beta-readers and spent a couple of months revising the draft.

This spring, I submitted the manuscript to my favorite lesfic publisher, and they actually accepted it (more on that later). The book will come out some time in 2020. So I started this blog to document the publishing process, and because eventually (like, a year from now) I will need a website anyway.