Friday, October 14, 2011

The Little Book That Could

Once upon a time a girl wrote a novel.

A strange novel.

A short novel. Maybe it wasn't even a novel. One agent replied, after receiving a query, "this isn't a novel. It's too short. What you have here is most likely a novella."


It started out like this:

A Day of Black

I've never been
to a funeral
until today.

I see
dazzling arrangements of
red, yellow, and purple flowers
with long, green stems.

And so it went.

Page after page like that.

Only one agent was curious enough to read it. Lucky for the girl, that agent loved it and said she wanted to try and sell it.

It went out on submission to about ten editors.

Before long, the rejections started rolling in.

Editor after editor said, "not for me."
"Not for me."
"Not for me."

And so it went. For three long, excruciating months.

But one of the editors sent it to a different division of the publishing house. It landed in a pile. An editorial assistant picked it up out of that pile and took it home to read on the train. The next day, he passed it around. He didn't have the ability to acquire it, but he worked to garner enthusiasm for that strange, little book.

And eventually, many months after it had been submitted to editors, when almost all hope had disappeared from the girl's heart, the book sold. The editorial assistant was given his very first book to edit. The girl was pretty sure expectations for that book weren't very high, but it didn't matter. She'd finally achieved her dream of having a novel published.

The book came out in January, 2008. A month later, the editor called the girl, back from vacation, and said, "All I've heard since I've come back is how well I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is selling."

Over and over, agents and editors said no.

But readers, oh those dear, dear readers, they said yes. They said, I don't care if it's a little different or a little short or a little this or a little that. (Well, you know, maybe a few care, but we won't talk about those).

Today, almost four years later, the book is in its tenth printing. It's still selling. AND a few months ago, Scholastic picked it up to sell in their book fairs and clubs.

Too strange? Too short? Apparently not:

When I wrote this book, my heart told me I had something special. And so today, I just want to say, if you are writing something or submitting something that you think is special, and you keep getting no's, remember:

It only takes one yes!


  1. This is such a special post. And such a lovely one :)

    I'm so happy for you, for bringing that book to us.

  2. Lisa, I love that story. What a great reminder for writers and everyone, really, about the power of a little belief in yourself. Congratulations on the 10TH printing and Scholastic partnership!! - Gigi

  3. Wow, this is awesome. Thank you for the hope!

  4. This post is my favorite of the day. No, the week, the month- including my own.
    I’ve printed it for my refrigerator* to hold onto.

    *The door, not the inside.

    THANK YOU Lisa.

  5. Aww...such a good story! And a good pick-me-up for a Friday:)

  6. And again, you inspire me. Thank you!!!

  7. Wow, wow, wow. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. and congratulations!

  8. This is the best story EVER. Congrats on its success!

  9. I'm so happy someone said yes-I love this book! I remember being a new teen librarian who just discovered verse novels and learning about I Heart You on the class of 2K8's website. I rushed out on release day to buy it and read it in one sitting. Never did I ever imagine I would someday meet you in person, read your blog, or Skype chat with you at my library. Like I said, I'm so, so glad a publisher said yes!!:) Here's to many, many more!

  10. Congratulations on your novel doing so well. You're a great inspiration!

  11. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful comments!! Sarah, your comment made me tear up. I can't even tell you how much your support means to me.

  12. Love, love, LOVE this post. So inspiring. I needed it. Thank you.

  13. Lisa, Thanks for sharing your story of the little book that could, and CONGRATULATIONS on the Scholastic best sellers list! It's a beautiful and heartfelt book. I can see why it's still going strong!

    Ani (a.k.s. sruble)

  14. What a lovely post.

    Yay for mss that don't fit the norm.

  15. Yeah yeah yeah. there is always hope! love this. thanks for posting.

  16. Lisa, what an inspirational post--and what a great story. Thanks so much for sharing!

    HUGE congrats! :D

  17. Ooh, I needed that. Poetry has a big part in my first middle grade book. Though it's a boy book, I want both sexes to read it & enjoy the verse along with the adverse. Somewhere over the rainbow now seems possible.

  18. What an AMAZING story, thank you for sharing it.

  19. Thanks so much for this much needed pick me up. Self doubt has been harassing me lately. It helps tremendously to hear about your journey to publication.

  20. I sure needed to "hear" this right now. Pretty discouraged after almost 15 years. Thank you!

  21. Oh, what a lovely story! I'm so glad you got that yes. It really does make all the difference. Conga Rats!

  22. Beautiful story :) I'm so happy the book is doing so well--it certainly deserves the success!

  23. I love this story and am so glad it has such a happy ending (that isn't really the end, either).
    Yay you, Lisa!

  24. I dont care how short your story was.. but Its some thing that gave me goosebumps that made me feel like I wanna cry too I felt every inch of what Anna felt in the book.. Hats off to you Lisa

  25. Wonderful post! Hooray for your ultimate success, Lisa. =)