Friday, November 22, 2013

From Mystery Agent to Real, Live Book!

The most exciting M.A. success stories for me are the ones I get to see become real, actual books! From pitch to agent to publisher! Nancy Herman's ALL WE LEFT BEHIND didn't follow that path exactly. After our very first Mystery Agent Contest, in which Nancy won a runner-up spot with her pitch for a story about a young girl in the Donner Party, I was optimistic that this unique, haunting story would someday be sold. Sure enough, Mandy Hubbard signed Nancy as a client! In my mind it was only a matter of time. But things don't always work the way we anticipate, and a year passed, then more time. Nancy was awesome to keep us posted on the status of their efforts, and when I learned the submission round had stopped I was afraid Nancy's book would disappear. 

At the start of September, however, OA was pleased to reveal the cover of ALL WE LEFT BEHIND by Nancy Herman! With her agent's blessing, Nancy was going ahead with indie publishing.

And now Virginia Reed's story is out in the world for you to read!

Goodreads  Amazon

It is 1846, and thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed is pioneering two-thousand miles from Illinois to California with her parents, younger sister and brother, and the Donner family. She’s proud to ride ahead of the wagon train each day beside her beloved father, James.

But enthusiasm turns to alarm when her father and other party leaders make decisions that put the families dangerously behind schedule. Provisions dwindle. Hardships mount. Anger erupts. In a frantic effort to reach California before winter, the Donner Party takes an untried shortcut, with heartbreaking results. 
Virginia painfully realizes the fallibility of the adults in her life and begins to rely on her own judgment. When the party becomes trapped in the Sierra by early snows, she must find the courage to defy her father in order to save the rest of her family.

We are so thrilled to see Nancy's book out and about! Congratulations, Nancy!

In her own words:

I asked Nancy for the highest and lowest points in her journey: 

There were so many of each. But the highest point was receiving the very first copy of my published book in the mail and actually holding it in my hands. It was a moment I had imagined for a long time. The lowest point was probably the very first time an editor told me my manuscript (first draft) wasn't ready for publication. And I thought it was perfect the way it was! What a reality check. I had so much to learn. I've lost count
of the rewrites and revisions that followed!

Advice for other authors?

The most valuable thing I did when beginning to write fiction was to join a critique group. We were all members of SCBWI, and we learned and evolved together by analyzing one another's manuscripts in a very supportive atmosphere. The surprising advantage of the critique group is that I learned just as much about
where I needed to improve by critiquing others' manuscripts as I did by getting helpful feedback from them about my own.

LOVE THE COVER! Who designed it?

Yes, isn't the cover fabulous! It was designed by Victoria Faye Alday of Whit&Ware Design. She really nailed the emotion of Virginia's story in that illustration.

Now that Virginia's story is out in the world, what's next for you?

Marketing this book! My career background is in marketing communications, so I actually enjoy this part of the process. And I'm researching my next novel, also based on California history. 

Awesome! Thank you for spending some time with OA and CONGRATULATIONS!!! 

Mandy Hubbard thinks you should read it!

Happy reading, everybody! And don't forget to get primed for December 1st:

Contest Basics: 50 entries, with one-line pitch and first 250 words. M.E. (Mystery Editor) is currently seeking Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult contemporary romance. Not currently interested in YA paranormal. Grand prize winner gets a 10-page critique, and M.E. will request at least 2 full manuscripts for consideration. The contest opens on December 1st at 10am Eastern Standard Time.


  1. I can't believe I missed that tweet from Mandy, even though I was looking for it! Yay, Nancy!

  2. An absolute must read!! I am so happy for Nancy. She is a true talent and amazing person :-D

  3. CONGRATULATIONS Nancy! What a pretty cover. Glad to see you stuck with it and made this happen.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  4. Congrats! And what a fascinating but heartbreaking story to write about, Nancy. I was just reading this account to my kids the other day.


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