Inkpop Blog

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Breaking into the Publishing World: Inside the Mind of Sara Bennett Wealer

Posted by inkpopbecki on February 9, 2011

Finding an agent; landing your first book contract; these are all pretty daunting task. Some people feel like it takes knowing the right people or living in New York City, but Sara Bennett Wealer can tell you that is just not the case. Having gone through all the standard processes for getting published, she landed a book deal with HarperCollins. How you ask? Well ask her yourself. Join us for a live chat with Sara Bennett Wealer today at 6 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events. In the meantime check out this Q&A we did with Sara about her experience getting published.

How did you come up with the idea for Rival and when did you start writing it?

It’s hard to remember when I started writing RIVAL, because I usually have a couple of projects going at any given time. But I believe it was almost 7 years ago that I started the first draft. I wrote another book while I revised and worked at getting RIVAL published, so it’s not like I spent 7 years straight on just that one novel.  I do remember that when I started RIVAL I was in the middle of a really busy period with the Symphony chorus I was singing in at the time, so I had music on the brain. And I’ve always remembered how crazy things felt when I was in high school, singing in a music program that could get pretty competitive. Rivalries are always juicy, high-stakes situations so I decided to explore the subject from both sides.

What was your background in writing before submitting to agencies? How did you find your agent and what was the experience like working with your agent before submitting to publishing houses?
I’ve been fortunate to make my living as a writer—I started off as a reporter for daily newspapers, then moved into experiential marketing, copywriting and PR.  It pays the mortgage, but it’s not always my creative calling; that’s where the novel writing comes in.
I actually had another agent before signing with my current one. My first agent was the first one I ever queried, and was something of a big name at the time. But the agency was in transition and, for several reasons, I came to feel like we weren’t a good match, so I started my search over. I did it the good old-fashioned way—through queries. I submitted the book I’d written after RIVAL, and that’s the one my current agent signed me on. She sent it out without making me do too many revisions, and ultimately that book didn’t sell. So we started showing RIVAL instead.

As a first time book author what was the experience like submitting to publishers? What were some of the questions they had about your manuscript or you as a professional writer? How did you ultimately end up with HarperCollins?
I found the submission experience pretty similar to the agent-hunt—you send the novel out, then you wait, then you get feedback, either in the form of rejections or in some level of interest.  The rejections never get any easier, let me tell you! I ended up with HarperCollins because Erica Sussman, who eventually became my editor, believed in my book. She had some revision notes and asked if I would mind working on them before she showed the book to her team. I agreed because I could tell she really got the story, and I could tell her ideas would make the story stronger.  Erica ultimately was able to sell the book internally, and Harper made an offer.

The teen market is pretty packed right now with a lot of paranormal. How do you make a contemporary romance really stand out on the shelves?
This is a tough environment for contemporary novels—I would go so far as to say it’s brutal right now!  When I started RIVAL, chick lit was still the rage and people were just beginning to write paranormals, so I didn’t really think about the market as I wrote the book (if I had, I might have made Brooke and Kathryn witches or sirens or something – I’m only half joking about that!). Now that the book is about to launch, there’s not much I can do about what’s *in* it, as far as making it stand out.  What I’m trying to do is highlight angles that have a popular appeal – for example, I’m getting


ready to go after “Glee” fans in as big a way as I can from my little corner of the Midwest. I’m also trying to work with word of mouth – the majority of people who’ve read RIVAL really seem to love it, including a couple of big-name authors, so I’m hoping that will help spark people to pick up the book.

Want to hear more from Sara Bennett Wealer? Join us for a live chat today in the inkpop forum events.

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