Today’s post is a guest post from Nanci Schwartz, a recent #SFFpit success story.
Nanci Schwartz is an instructional writer by day, a science fiction author by night, and a mom 24/7. Her debut novel ROBBER BARRONS (September 13, 2022) is the first installment of a trilogy from Aethon Books. In her small amounts of free time, she can be found gallivanting around Disney World, flailing about her favorite space opera movie franchise, or taking refuge from the heat in her pool. She lives near the Most Magical Place on Earth with her husband, son, dog, and cat. You should follow her on Twitter.
My Unexpected Path to Publication
The most recent SFFPit event was held on August 25, 2022. Organized by Dan Koboldt and Michael Mammay, authors pitch their manuscripts on Twitter in hopes of gaining attention from editors and agents. Like all pitch events, this one has exploded in recent years, and it can sometimes seem impossible to rise above all the other amazing pitches. That’s the mindset I had when I participated in 2019.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Let’s rewind four years. I had a finished manuscript, ROBBER BARRONS, and was preparing to query. I was on my sixth year of querying various books, and my hopes were not high. After seeing that Pitch Wars applications were opening soon, I decided to give it a go. (Pitch Wars was a program in which authors worked with mentors to revise their manuscripts and craft a pitch designed to garner requests during an agent showcase.) I told myself if I didn’t get in, I’d just query anyway, right? I only got one mentor request from Pitch Wars, but that was all I needed. Paris Wynters selected me to be her mentee! I couldn’t believe it. She had great ideas and advice for how to restructure my novel. In doing so, I fell in love with the story all over again. And when the agent showcase came around, I was ready. THIS was going to be the payoff I’d been waiting for.
Spoilers: it wasn’t.
The agent showcase is hard for adult science fiction. In my year, there wasn’t a lot of participation from agents who specialize in that genre. I was happy with my requests, though, and began cold querying as well. I knew my MS was solid and Pitch Wars was a great addition to my resume. I made amazing friends in my class, and we supported each other through the querying process. Still, it was still hard to see friends get agent offers and book deals while all I got was some full requests and crickets on outstanding queries. As the year went on, I prepared to start a new MS completely unrelated to ROBBER BARRONS.
Then, I read about SFFPit. They had an event earlier in the year before Pitch Wars ended, so I was unable to participate. Like my decision to apply to PW, my decision to participate in SFFPit was pretty much based on the theory of YOLO. If nothing happened—as I fully expected—I’d be in the same position as before.
Once again, I was wrong. One of my pitches got a like from Aethon Books! I did my research on them and submitted my MS. And then they offered—not just on one book, but on THREE.
It was not the outcome I expected from Pitch Wars. I always envisioned going on the path to traditional publication: get an agent, then get a 1 or 2 book deal. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to navigate the book world without an agent. But I DID want this series to be a trilogy, and I knew that was unlikely with traditional SF publishing at the time. And Aethon seemed like a great publisher who knew the market well.
Another complication was being 6 months pregnant when I got my offer. With a baby on the way and a full-time job, I wouldn’t be able to finish a trilogy any time soon. Aethon, however, told me to take my time; the benefit to being a small press was that they weren’t beholden to years-long schedules. The books would release when they were ready.
With all that in mind, I signed my contract in September 2019. I expected my books to release in 2020. Obviously, that did not happen. I did not expect to have such a hard time adjusting to new motherhood, nor did I anticipate a global pandemic that completely squashed my desire to write.
But eventually things got back to my new normal, I finished Books 2 and 3, and I fell in love with my story all over again. Publishing with a small press was not the path I imagined taking, but I am so grateful to be where I am right now. ROBBER BARRONS was the first book I wrote in 2012, and now, after a lot of rewriting and crafting two new books, it’s my debut trilogy. I couldn’t be more grateful to Dan and Mike for organizing SFFPit, or to Aethon for believing in my story and supporting me during the past three years.
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