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2018 Highlights

This year at a glance was pretty amazing!

2018 started with a lot of amazing things for me. We’d ended 2017 with a family trip to Dubai and India with my brother, his fiance, our parents, and her parents to shop for their big, fat, Indian wedding. From there, my husband’s doctor put him on a Keto diet for health reasons, and I decided to join him in support. There was no point in cooking 2 meals every time, and once I understood the concept, it came naturally. 2 months later, we’d each lost 25 pounds by the wedding time…which meant I had some serious rushing around to do to get my outfits tailored. I’d also gotten into weight-training. To note: ladies, don’t feel shy or intimidated at the gym. If you don’t know how to do something properly, you can look it up and/or ask someone at the gym. If staff is busy, other gym members are happy to help. Also, no one is looking at you. More likely than not, they’re looking at themselves (sure some just want to watch their own eye candy bodies, but most are watching their techniques), others are into their music or concentrating on their routines. And another note: weight-training is not just for men. Don’t let anyone tell you it’ll make you manly or too muscular. I’d like them to say that within kicking distance when you can leg press more than their body weight.

Five days into 2018, I received a job offer for a space research company that I, kid you not, tried to get into for 3 years. Persistence pays off, people. I had the privilege of speaking with and meeting a lot of inspiring people including astronauts (like the one and only Buzz Aldrin!) as well as space professionals from around the world.

Two days into 2018, I queried a YA and within a couple of weeks had 3 offers of rep. The first offer came the quickest. An agent requested the full after 3 days and offered rep a day later. I’d sent out 66 queries, received 33 full requests, 6 step asides, and 3 offers of rep. I signed with Katelyn Detweiler of Jill Grinberg Lit early Feb, just before my brother’s big, fat, Indian wedding. 

My brother’s wedding was straight out of a Bollywood romantic movie! A week long festivity. Move over Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. He had 5 grand events during the 3-day wedding weekend, and we were partying and getting last minute things done doing 17-hour days. It was the biggest party of my life, and an event no one will forget filled to the brim with dancing (I was in cultural shock), music, choreographed dances, traditional touches big and small, and guests from around the world. I could write details, but it would take literal pages. Believe me, because I started to describe the highlights and thought nope. No one wants to read a book in blog form! And best of all, my brother married a wonderful woman and I couldn’t be happier for him and our families.

The following month, after a few minor revisions and edits, we went on sub with my YA. Meanwhile, I wrote an MG. Around this time, an editor who had a romance from the year before popped up to ask for an R&R for a book that I thought was dead. We did the R&R, but then she left editing and we decided to sub widely. 2 weeks later, we received a 2-book deal offer right before Thanksgiving. I ended up signing with Forever/Grand Central/Hachette! I adored the enthusiasm and support from the entire team! I couldn’t be happier!

A week and a half after the romance sold, my YA sold right before the holidays!

I also participated in PitchWars and mentored an author, attended many book events and festivals, and went on writing dates, meeting lots of authors and making new friends. I was able to spend a lot of time with my family in 2018, and I’m so, so grateful for that. 

In 2019, I look forward to keeping up with a healthy diet and continue weight-training, cultivating my spirituality, peace, positivity, and personal relationships. I hope to write more books and look forward to announcing new deals and keep the momentum going.

Book Deal Announcement!!

As the title of this post suggests, I have a book deal to announce!

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Simplified version: 

At the end of October 2018, I went on sub with my romance novel sort of out of the blue about an opinionated, strong, anti-traditional Indian woman who falls for the man she never wanted to fall for. And 2 weeks later, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, I was offered a 2-book deal from Hachette/Grand Central/Forever!

Long version:

I’ve waited so long to write this post, y’all don’t even know! My journey to publication has been long and tumultuous, filled with jagged crevices full of negativity. I could give you pages of detailed distress and how often I’d found myself amid shady situations…but there’s no point. Except to say that perseverance matters, as does learning from mistakes. Glancing behind is a reminder of how far I’ve come, how hard I’ve worked, and a test to true friendships. Now, I’m looking ahead.

I signed with my agent in early 2018 for a YA. A couple of months later, a long lost editor popped up to say that she’d really enjoyed my romance novel that I’d pitched to her an entire year earlier during DVPit. She wanted an R&R but getting notes to me took her MONTHS because life happens. She was busy with work and vacations and injuries and illnesses. Finally, we had a great phone call to discuss some wonderful, small revisions. I turned those in quickly.

A month after resubmitting, I asked my agent if we could sub widely. But there was a slight hitch. Remember aforementioned tumultuous publication journey with shadiness? Without going into details, things had happened before, which led to our conundrum: had this book really been subbed? In which case, it couldn’t be subbed again, at least not without significant revisions. I thought the book was DEAD, except for this one last editor who’d asked for an R&R. But my agent is wise. She loved this book, and we took our shot.

We agreed on a submission list but I was wary of a positive outcome. So I decided to let things fall where they may and let submissions float to the back of my thoughts.

We checked in with the R&R editor, who hadn’t gotten around to reading yet, and went out on sub at the end of October. A week later, the R&R editor notified us that she’d changed publishers and left editing. Nearly 2 years waiting and/or working with her was gone. But oddly enough, I wasn’t distraught or even disappointed. It happens, and in line with my publishing journey, fit the norm.

A week after that, merely 2 weeks after going on submission, on a Friday before Thanksgiving mind you, the editorial director at Hachette/Grand Central/Forever emailed us to let us know how much she enjoyed the book and had passed it on to Lexi, and that we would hear from her shortly. 

My author brain went down a rabbit hole of “But what does that even mean??!!” Did it mean that she really liked it but hoped another editor took it on because she couldn’t? Well, what if that editor didn’t fall in love with it? Or did it mean that even an ED had to get second reads? I don’t know! But in the end, whatever I thought would happen, didn’t happen…and nothing that I thought could happen, happened!

After many calculations and consulting with the cosmos, I let it rest. Except, half an hour after the email, another popped up. Lexi gushed about how she much fell in love with the book, as had her entire team, and how she couldn’t turn the page fast enough and all the elements, and…and… It was a wonderful email that made my heart swell. How long have I waited to hear such words from an editor? And from one of my top imprints at that! I adore their books.

Lexi wanted to chat about a few editorial notes. I was like, I’m available ALL day today, ALL day next Monday, etc… I figured she was very busy, and it was the Friday before a holiday, but she was able to chat that day at 4! I’d calmed down by then and joined a conference call with Lexi and my agent. I knew it would go well, seeing how her enthusiasm bounced off of her emails! I’d just hoped this wasn’t another R&R. 

The call went superbly. We meshed so well, and the editorial notes were not huge, giant, endless revisions. We quickly went over them and then…she began discussing book covers! So, while we chatted, I was looking up the covers to a few of the books she’d mentioned and liked her idea. Then she started asking about a second book. Which I didn’t have one in mind, but she did! Before we hung up, she told my agent that she’d get in touch with her in about an hour.

My agent and I were very excited and impressed with Lexi. The fact she loved the book so much and we shared the same vision and that her entire team had read and loved the book within the last 2 weeks! Wow! But, again, it had only been 2 weeks so there were all the other editors who hadn’t responded. Forever had been the first.

About an hour later, and it was now 5:30 on a Friday before Thanksgiving, we get an email from Lexi. I expected an expected timeframe of when they’d go to acquisitions. I was glad to make it even this far. An editor loved my book and second reads loved the book and the entire team loved the book. But books sometimes die at acquisitions, so I’d calmed myself. Until I read the email. It was a 2-book offer!

Finally, something was happening and it was happening fast! But, we had the weekend to contend with and the following week was only half a week because of Thanksgiving, so we expected to wait a bit longer than usual to hear back from editors.

By Tuesday after Thanksgiving, we’d heard back from all the editors and it was done. I already knew no one would match the enthusiasm and vision that the Forever team had. I’d even outlined the second book. In my head, I was already a Forever author. And now, in reality, I am a Forever author.

Query Success! The One That Landed THE ONE!

I’m very excited to share the query letter that connected me to my agent, Katelyn Detweiler of Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Although things moved quickly for me (this time), just remember that the success others see is simply the iceberg tip and there’s a huge mountain of work, sweat, tears, determination, and progress below the surface that isn’t always known. Querying can be difficult, but keep moving forward. You’re not alone. Below is my successful query:

Dear Ms. Agent,

If you’re going to humiliate and alienate yourself from the entire Indian community, you might as well do it gloriously. At least that’s what seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is telling herself now that she’s come clean about being a Muay Thai fighter—and landing an invitation to the US Open, which could lead to a spot on the first ever Muay Thai Olympics team. Besides, she’s never felt Indian enough, despite pleasing her parents, studying hard, earning college credits, and making plans to get her family out of financial debt under her father’s illness.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for the likes of Amit Patel. Amit could possibly be the world’s most perfect Indian: a model son, student, and temple-goer. He’s also a genius-level programmer whose abstract mind may have just unlocked the next biggest tech development since the smart phone. As far as Indians go, he’s a gift to their community, practically wrapped with a (very handsome) bow. 

Catching feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride—she’ll have to face his disapproving parents, manipulative girls trying to keep them apart, battle her own insecurities, and endanger her focus before the big fight. Still, with his unfailing support and the encouragement of an ever-growing circle of female athletes, Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history—if she has the courage to conquer her inhibitions and own who she really is.

THE KNOCK-OUT is an #ownvoices, feel good 77,000 word YA contemporary with a southern flair and a side of humor taken from my days in MMA and computer-science. This novel will appeal to fans of Sandhya Menon, Jenny Han, and Nicola Yoon. I attended UW for my BA in creative writing with a minors in computer science, was an editorial assistant for a small publisher, currently an editor in aeronautics research, a PitchWars and DVPit mentor, and a freelance sensitivity reader. Thank you for your time, Ms. Agent, and please let me know if I may send additional material.

Sincerely, 

Name
Email
Phone #

Query stats:
Queries sent: 66
Full requests: 33
Offers: 3
Amount of time querying before an offer: exactly 3 weeks
Amount of time from query to first offer: 3 days (she read the full in 1 day!)
Huh, just noticed…3 seems to be a theme here. 
Amount of agents who bowed out due to time: 6

I asked my agent (still squeal when I say that!) what she liked about my query and she said: “I loved so many things about your query! It was *very* well written for one, and I think summarizing your own book well, teasing the key threads without telling too much, is one of the hardest things an author has to do. I was so intrigued by the girl power Muay Thai fighter vibes, especially balanced with the idea of not being “Indian enough” (Kareena) vs. being “the world’s most perfect Indian” (Amit). So we have a fierce girl athlete, unlikely romance, and some really interesting cultural perspective and commentary on what it means to be Indian American in today’s world. It just hit so many fabulous points in a few short paragraphs!”

Technical reminders: 
~Queries can be dry, so add some of the book’s tone in there.
~Don’t get weighed down with too many details or terms the agent won’t know about (world-building words, for example).
~Keep it brief but exciting. Make the agent want to read more! Request more!
~Personalization. Address to the right agent, correctly spell their name, and mention any bits of info that you’d like to include such as having met them at a conference, being recommended by their colleague or client, having been requested from a contest (like PW), or maybe an interview or wishlist where they said they wanted something in particular that your book offers.
~Don’t forget genre, word count, target audience/recent comp titles.
~Include writing credits or anything about yourself that gives you a platform such as publishing credits, an MFA, work/experience that helped you build your ms (for example my background in MMA and computer science for this book), and publishing organizations. If applicable. Don’t include a super long list, just the ones that might give you a platform. If you don’t have anything, that’s fine! Don’t include anything.
~Sign-off! Thank the agent for their time, let them know you’d be happy to send additional material, and end with your name and contact info.

Querying tips:
~Query agents whom you’ve thoroughly researched. Ones who rep your genre and those you’d like to pursue in the future. 
~Query agents whom you really want to work with. None of this, I’ll just throw my query at anyone and hope it sticks. You have to find the right agent for you.
~Don’t get disheartened. You will receive rejections and no responses, things that don’t make sense, things that were so close…Agents have a lot on their hands and many times you might not get more than a “This isn’t right for me” without any real insight. It’s okay. Shake it off. You’ve got this. You’ll write the right book and get the best advocate for you and your career.
~Get others to read and critique your query. It’s essential. This is your first impression to an agent. Make it professional and enticing. Imagine it’s like going to a bookstore and the agent has hundreds of books to choose from but can only buy a few. Those back cover blurbs can make or break a deal.

I hope my little corner of success helps you build an amazing query! Write on, guys!