Cooking Up a Little Mystery: My Book from Concept to Contract
By Cindy Callaghan
It all started with an idea. I thought it was a pretty darn cool and original idea: A SECRET COOKING CLUB.
Think about it:
- COOKING – Who doesn’t love a little fun in the kitchen?
- A CLUB – Who doesn’t want to be part of a cool club?
- SHH … IT’S A SECRET – I mean, hello? It’s got to be better than any old club if it’s secret, right? All the best stuff in the world is secret. That’s why it’s a secret, because it’s awesome, right?
And I had a name: Kelly Quinn. I knew that her name was going to be Kelly Quinn, but I didn’t know much else about her, except that she would have a friend who rollerbladed and her mom would be supercool (you know, the kind of mom I am.
I wrote the original first draft of JUST ADD MAGIC in about six weeks.
Then, I rewrote it for months. I’m part of a critique group, which is a very important part of my writing. They critiqued JUST ADD MAGIC over and over and over. And I edited it based on their comments. My dad read countless drafts. I kept rewriting.
Finally, I thought it was ready to send to a literary agent. But, since I only had one chance to make a first impression, I hired a professional editor. Once I received the editor’s comments, I pulled the manuscript apart again and sewed it back together. It took about a year before I thought it was ready to send out to literary agents.
I spent a lot of time on the Internet researching agents. I wanted a small highly targeted list. I did this in a few ways. I looked at books I thought had a similar personality to mine, and tried to find out who represented those authors. I also looked at who was speaking at SCBWI conferences because I thought they’d be open to reading manuscripts. I also looked at literary agencies and carefully researched what types of genres each agent was interested in. I made my list which included Greenhouse Literary Agency.
Enter the query letter: I toiled over the query for weeks trying to get it just right. I sent out my submissions adhering to each agent’s individual specifications. I heard back from Sarah Davies (founder of Greenhouse) almost immediately, requesting the entire manuscript. In her email I think she wrote, “Don’t get too excited.” But, I did anyway.
Just a few days later, we connected on the phone. She liked the story, but identified areas where it needed work. However, she was willing to work with me on the revisions.
So, once again, with Sarah’s advice and encouragement, I reworked the story. I sent it back to her about three months later on a Sunday night. By ten o’clock Monday morning she called me to tell me that she wanted to represent it.
Things really took off there. Sarah pitched it very quickly and we had a bite from Aladdin, which was what Sarah called “the perfect home for JUST ADD MAGIC.” And that’s exactly where the book ended up!
Come back tomorrow for "Recipe of the Week," when Cindy shares her recipe for Super Swirleys , which are prominently featured in JUST ADD MAGIC.