We’re so excited to announce that The Last Resort from our winner of the 2015 XOXO Connects Flash Fiction Contest is on sale today! Download your copy now and read R.S. Kovach’s story below!
Most writers go through a fairly laborious and time intensive process to land them their first book deal. They take months (some even years) to write the manuscript, edit and revise the heck out of it, send it to beta readers and then edit some more. They’ll query agents, cross their fingers for a full request and then wait – often months again – for “the call.” Once the author has representation, the agent will submit the manuscript to editors at publishing houses, who will go through their own review process before deciding whether they want to offer a contract.
I’ve tried all of this: written and queried three books in differing genres, while getting to various points within the process. But none of those books are getting published yet because my story to publication happened quite differently than most, thanks to XOXOAfterDark.com
In October 2015, XOXOAfterDark.com teamed up with Wattpad to run a contest in conjunction with their first XOXO Connects event. Entries – to be submitted on Wattpad – had to be no more than 2,000 words with the theme of “Confessions.” The top five stories with the most Wattpad readers’ votes would go to the final round, where Simon & Schuster editors would pick the winner. This winner was going to be announced on October 24th at the end of the XOXO Connects all-day online convention where romance fans could chat with authors, get exclusive sneak peeks of content, and learn about writing and publishing.
I had been on Wattpad since July 2013, using the online writing community that now has over 45 million users to get feedback on my draft stories, as well as to build a platform. I didn’t find out about this contest until three days before the deadline, so at first I didn’t give it too much thought. I felt like I wouldn’t have enough time to put something good enough together, but after checking the contest rules, it kept nagging at me.
Over the next two days, I wrote and polished a short piece about an editorial assistant at a publishing house secretly lusting after her hot boss called LOOK, BUT DON’T TOUCH.
I posted the entry just hours before the deadline and then obsessively watched the reads and votes go up until the first round closed. I was in the top 5! Now it was all in the editors’ hands. I had read the other four finalists’ entries and our stories were all very different. I felt like I had a shot, but I didn’t know what the editors were looking for so couldn’t get my hopes up.
On Saturday, October 24th, I stalked the contest’s Wattpad profile and the XOXO After Dark Twitter feed, not knowing exactly how and when they’d make the announcement. By 7:30pm, I was a nervous wreck. I refreshed my Wattpad notifications until I saw a post by Anna Todd that tagged my user name.
You know that turn of phrase “heart skipped a beat”? Yeah, that happened. I clicked on the link with shaky hands and stared at her message congratulating me as the winner. I had to read it several times to make sure it was real. Yup. That was me. I went on Twitter and saw something very similar. Of course I took a screenshot. XOXO After Dark also made the announcement on their website.
So, what next? I wasn’t really sure! The contest promised a publishing contract to the winner, but I had no idea what that meant in this context. I honestly thought that at the most Pocket Books would put my flash fic into an anthology of similar works or stick it into another publication as bonus content. Either would have made me really happy. But I had to wait almost another week to find out.
After exchanging contact info through Wattpad with a senior editor at Pocket/Gallery Books, I had to wait a few days to find out they assigned me two editors to work with for my book. A few emails later with said editors, we set up a time to talk about my book the following Friday. By then, I was getting suspicious.
They kept saying my book. A 2,000 story was not a book. It was a good thing I was prepared.
During the hour-long phone conversation with these two super enthusiastic ladies from NYC, I soon realized that they really did mean a full-length book for the contract. At this point, there may have been some more heartbeat-skipping! They gave me three options: 1. expand my short into a full book 2. submit a finished MS I already had to see if it fit with their needs or 3. pitch them a brand-new idea.
I knew right away I didn’t want to go with the first option. I didn’t feel connected to the characters in the flash piece enough, and their story was self-contained in those 2,000 words. The two manuscripts I had on-hand didn’t fit into their profile, but there was an idea in my head I thought could work. I pitched and they were intrigued. They asked for an outline. I had it within a week. They loved it.
This was how THE LAST RESORT began.
After a year-and-a-half process, I am still humbled by this experience and will be eternally grateful to XOXOAfterDark.com, Simon & Schuster, and Wattpad for the opportunity. I have friends who were part of the Gallery Books’ IMAGINES book, and I was also lucky enough to have a short story published in the imprint’s ONCE UPON NOW fairytale retelling collection, and I hope that the success of all of these endeavors leads to many more collaborations between this amazing publisher and the Wattpad community.