My publishing journey: From chick lit to chilling suspense – Laura McNeill

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By Laura McNeill

I’m often asked how I found an agent and landed a two-book deal with HarperCollins/ Thomas Nelson for Center of Gravity and Sister Dear. Though I’d love to share that it all happened overnight, in reality, it took a little under a decade to reach my goal having my novels traditionally published. ♥

After leaving the TV news business after six years of anchoring and reporting, I decided to try writing novels, which was a much bigger challenge than I EVER imagined! While attempting to finish two (terrible) manuscripts, I sought assistance from a talented and knowledgeable freelance editor from Texas to help me through the process. It was a good thing that I did, as learned invaluable lessons about the craft of novel writing and the art of revision!

In 2006, I wrote the first version of Stay Tuned, which I sent out to more than forty agents. The response was positive, and I had several requests for the full manuscript. It was agonizing waiting for responses and disappointing when I received the many rejection letters, but overall, it proved to be an invaluable learning experience about the publishing industry.

As my children were small and life was busy, I took a break from writing for about a year and a half. When I started back, in 2008, I decided to try a different genre from chick lit — something darker — with domestic suspense elements. I wrote two manuscripts (which would become would become Center of Gravity and Sister Dear), both of which I revised with the help of another freelance editor from New York in the spring of 2010. Her experience included extensive work for several major publishing houses.SisterDear_art

My new editor challenged me to think critically about my writing, expand out of my comfort zones, and have fun with my novels. She introduced my work to several literary agents, one of who liked my domestic suspense manuscripts well enough to offer me a contract. After my agent shopped the story around to publishing houses in the fall of 2010, I was fortunate enough to be invited to chat with the VP of Hyperion, but no offers were made on the book.

Meanwhile, the indie publishing movement was growing and gathering support, and I began thinking about Stay Tuned again. While my agent wasn’t interested in shopping my chick lit stories to editors at major publishing houses, this allowed me the opportunity to release the novels myself. After much investigation, I hired a small publicity company to help me indie publish Stay Tuned under the pen name Lauren Clark* in November of 2011. Buoyed by Stay Tuned’s modest success, including a few awards and recognition, I wrote and released a second chick lit title, Dancing Naked in Dixie, in May 2012, followed by Stardust Summer in 2013, and Pie Girls in 2014, all under the pen name Lauren Clark.

In 2014, I was approached by a new literary agent who had read Dancing Naked in Dixie. She also inquired about domestic suspense manuscripts, and I shared what would become Center of Gravity and Sister Dear. My first agent and I parted ways, and I soon signed with agent #2, who, after eight months, sold Center of Gravity and Sister Dear to Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins.

To date, I’ve just finished edits on a new domestic suspense manuscript, set in New Orleans, and am hoping to release it in early 2017.

Looking back, it’s been a wonderful journey and worth all of the effort. I’m indebted to my author friends, review sites, bloggers, and fabulous readers for helping to spread the word about my novels. I couldn’t have done it without all of you…and I treasure every email, note, comment on my website, and review that I receive!

*Funny Story: I chose “Lauren Clark” after I discovered that my married name (at the time) matched that of a very prolific erotica author. Considering all of my options, I determined that the “safest” route to publish my fun and frothy chick lit books was under a pseudonym.

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura McNeill moved near the Alabama Gulf Coast to write full time. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter. Laura is passionate about books, coffee, travel, family, and yoga. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is pursuing her Ph.D. in instructional leadership from the University of Alabama. Sister Dear is her second domestic suspense novel.


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