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The Journey From Self-Published to Agented Authors: Examining the Path of BRANDED

When we decided to write Branded, it was for fun, like a hobby for us. We had never planned on publishing it until we sent it to an editor and she told us that it was a really good story, and we should definitely publish it. So, we went the self-publishing route. We went in with the mentality that whatever happens, happens. But then we heard from readers…

They loved it! We were really caught off guard. A few bloggers gave us good reviews, and posted about how much the loved the book. This was even more astonishing.

We were self-published for about a year, and spent that time trying to reach every possible person who might want to read our Young Adult Dystopian Romance and just figuring out the business of publishing. It was a lot of hard work, a steep learning curve, and lots of fun. We enjoyed connecting with readers from all over the world and were shocked by how many starting tweeting us following us on Instagram.

(Querying? Read advice on how to find the most target agents to query.)

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Guest column by Missy Kalicicki and Abi Ketnerauthors of BRANDED,
a YA dystopian thriller. Missy received her bachelor's degree from Millersville
University in 2003. She married, had two boys, and currently lives in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. Abi Ketner is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the
beaches of St. John, and her Philadelphia Phillies. She currently resides in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The sequel to Branded is HUNTED. Connect with
them on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

And then, we thought we’d give traditional publishing a try. After all, if we were getting such a positive response to the book, we figured it was the right time to get an agent. So we compiled a list, wrote queries, and sent them out with our hopes attached. It was nerve-wracking.

After over one hundred rejections from agents and lots of gut-checks along the way, we finally got a “yes” from Stacey Donaghy. She totally got Branded. Stacey’s encouragement is exactly what we needed. When you have an agent who loves your story as much as you do and truly believes in you, it makes all the difference. And Stacey was that person. She and was passionate about Branded from day one. We’ll never forget our first phone call with her in which she talked about Branded and how she was going to find us a publishing house.

But Branded still needed some work if we expected to be traditionally published. We each wrote a list of things we wanted to improve upon from our original manuscript, talked it over with Stacey, and then got to work. By the time we resubmitted it to Stacey, we had added over a hundred pages to the book. It was truly satisfying to make it better, more powerful, and cleaner. And with Stacey’s guidance, we all felt ready to submit to publishers.

We held our breath.

When we received the offer from Georgia McBride at Month9Books, we were shocked and thrilled at the same time. It truly was hard to digest. Once we accepted her offer, things started happening so fast. The transition went pretty smoothly, and all of a sudden, we were part of a family. And when we say family, we mean family. No time was wasted getting Branded out there.

(What does that one word mean? Read definitions of unique & unusual literary words.)

All of a sudden, we had the support we needed in the form of an amazing publisher with a dedicated team of publicists, editors, sales, and distribution. Branded, being a YA Dystopian, was already up against some great competition. But that didn’t stop Georgia. She loved it with all her heart. And we knew without a doubt that Branded was in the best hands possible. Georgia includes us in decision-making, all the planning, and her goals for Branded. We love that we can contact and talk to Georgia anytime. We’re fortunate she’s so accessible.

The past three months have been insane, but in a great way. Not only has Branded become the #1 Dystopian on Amazon, cracked Amazon’s Top 20 Teen Dystopian category for the first time, and is the is the only current book in the Teen Dystopian category that isn’t a film or TV show! But perhaps more importantly, we have been able to reach amazing fans and readers who have helped spread the word about our book. Without Georgia, we wouldn’t have the opportunities we have now. Getting Branded into bookstores, libraries, and signing an audio deal feels like winning the lottery! If that wasn’t enough, we’re hopeful there will be more to come. We never imagined we’d have the opportunity to write for Writer's Digest, yet here we are!

Everything that has happened so far is beyond our wildest dreams. We’re just two best friends who wrote a book because we loved Lexi and Cole’s story. It’s surreal, especially when you’ve been told over and over the book wouldn’t make it, that the market was saturated with Dystopians, and no one would want it.

The critics were wrong. Someone did want Branded.

Stacey and Georgia loved our story and saw its potential. Sometimes hard work pays off, and transitioning over to traditional publishing with Month9Books was the best decision, not only for Branded, but for us as well.

In conclusion, the best part of our journey is being able to look back at the lessons we’ve learned through the hardships we faced, and know we made the right decisions for us in the end. It was worth it! So, if being traditionally published is your goal, never give up. We are living proof that you can find an audience with your words.

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