Persistence Pays Off: Jenny Milchman's Happy Ending

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to get to know then-aspiring author Jenny Milchman through her comments on this blog. We've e-mailed back and forth a bit, and I learned she had a good agent for her own suspense novel, but in the way of marketing efforts, things were proceeding more slowly than expected.

On her blog, Suspense Her Disbelief, (which I am sharing with permission) Jenny shared that she'd survived the excruciated ups and downs of 11 years, 3 agents, 5 novels, and 14 almost offers, and not surprisingly, this was beginning to get old. Old to the point where she'd about decided she'd had enough of playing by the traditional rules and was going to take the alternate route expressway, as so many other authors have done of late (some with amazing success, others not so much.)

Enter award-winning mystery novelist/fabulous person Nancy Pickard, who was touched by Jenny's story when she wrote to ask for her advice. Nancy did something authors almost never do (for reasons involving both time and legality) and asked Jenny to send her manuscript, COVER OF SNOW. After reading and absolutely loving it, Nancy recommended the manuscript to her editor, the highly-regarded Linda Marrow at Ballantine.

As rare and generous as personal recommendations are (I've made a few myself over the years), what happened next is far, far rarer. Linda Marrow loved the manuscript, it survived the myriad hoops that new acquisitions all must jump through, and was contracted for hardcover publication by Ballantine and in trade paper, with world rights, to follow via Random House. Can I hear a HUUUUGGGGEEEE hallelujah out there, BtO readers! Congratulations, Jenny! I'm looking forward to sharing more about COVER OF SNOW before its release.

What Jenny Did Right:

1. Had a talent, a dream and a belief in the stories she has to offer that enabled her survive the many ups and downs inherent in the journey.

2. Had the mental/emotional strength to keep writing and improving despite many setbacks. (Anyone who's had an agent and editor love a manuscript, only to see it die in committee, can tell you it's its own special level of Hell. Been there, done that, on more than a few harrowing occasions.)

3. Had the humility, self-confidence and professionalism to enable her to reach out and build a support group of more experienced (published) authors. Asked politely for advice rather than demanding or feeling entitled to special favors.

4. Approached the publishing dilemma as a large but solvable problem, one to be tackled by breaking it down into measurable steps.

5. Never, ever gave up.

Again, congratulations, Jenny Milchman on the sale of your debut novel, COVER OF SNOW. We wish you all the success in the world with your suspense!

Comments

Barbara Sissel said…
This is such a great story. Thank you for sharing it here, Colleen. It's so encouraging to hear of the kindness of others to mentor those of us who have yet to solidly break into print (You're one who is so generous!) and to hear of a happy ending.

I add my congratulations to yours on Jenny's behalf and wish her all success with her novel, Cover of Snow. What a great title!
Jeanna Thornton said…
wow!! Now this is a success story!!! The best ever!! Congratulations Jenny Milchman!!! You have my praise and respect for sticking to the *story* and seeing your dream through!

I am about to pitch my first completed manuscript at conferences this summer. YOU know what I am up against. :)

Colleen, thanks for sharing in your very gracious way!!
Joni Rodgers said…
TAWANDA! and congratulations, Jenny! So thrilled for you! Have a great ride, kiddo. This is a happy beginning!
Mylène said…
How this brightened my day! Sending reflected happiness back to Jenny, and reminding all of our still-to-debut friends out there that fairytales happen, if (sometimes) slowly. But that's okay. There is no stroke of midnight at which your writing stops being writing. Love to all!--M
jenny milchman said…
Colleen, how wonderful that you wrote this piece--I can't thank you enough. It's funny how you describe Nancy--and every word is true--because you are exactly the same kind of author yourself. Always extending a hand--and an ear--to writers who are coming up (in my case, it was more like plateauing for a while there :)

And thank you very much, Barbara (for liking the title--wow), and Jeanna, and Joni (whose THE SECRET SISTERS remains one of my oft recommends) and Mylene, for all your congrats. The best part of this long road has been meeting people like you.

Jeanna, best of luck with pitching--I teach at a Pitch conference for NYWW and if there's any help or advice I can offer, I'd be happy to. Big congrats on finishing your first book :)

Mylene said some true words about no stroke of midnight. Keep at it, everyone. And thank you again.
Robin Haseltine said…
A wonderful story. Thanks for posting this, Colleen, and CONGRATS to you, Jenny!
Congratulations, Jenny! And thanks so much for sharing this, Colleen. Stories like these are what give those of us still-to-debut (I love that terminology, Mylene)authors hope.

That, and I can't wait to buy Cover of Snow! It sounds amazing. :)
Heywood said…
Dearest Jen,

As a friend and writer enthusiast, I share a vicarious thrill for and with you. Your determination as well as strength of character not to edit out what some have suggested you do to make your story more appealable - that is the component to define success. Cheers, yassou and all good things your way!

Much love,

Woody
Thanks so much for the kind words, everyone! I love hearing stories about perseverance and generosity, and learning of Jenny's and Nancy's really made me smile.

We all need these beacons of hope. :)
jenny milchman said…
Thank you, Barbara, and Kathryn, and Woody (wow! Woody's here! Woody's known me all my life :) for coming by and leaving some words of your own. That fine line--knowing when to revise and when not to; and COVER OF SNOW contains the germ of a novel that had to be totally scrapped, so revising and I are no strangers ;)--is a very big issue in a writer's life, as you all know. I am excited to see the people here share their own stories when they ultimately triumph! Thank you again, Colleen, for sharing in this time with me.
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Jo Anne said…
Beautiful story. Congratulations Jenny on COVER OF SNOW. And congratulations for surviving the amazing journey we've all chosen as our path. Life is such a trip!

Thanks, Colleen, for sharing. A reminder for us to never give up. :-)
jenny milchman said…
Thank you, Jo Anne. You're right, the journey can be amazing, hard as rocks, high as heavens--congratulations to all who are making it and I can't wait to hear about more happy endings--or beginnings!

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