No romance in publishing…..
July 14, 2009
There are three types of people: those who wait for him to call, those who call him, and those who get on with life romantically confident that everything always works out, and it usually includes a white horse. I’ve always been the last type of person until two years ago when I started submitting the manuscripts for Arithmetic Village. Now I am girl number one. I wait. Every single time the phone rings, I jump. This is the one.. this is the story about the call.. I was in the shower…I was juggling groceries, I was painting with my daughter, or I just returned from a walk on the beach then… IT HAPPENED…. the call.
There is an official term in the publishing business for this behavior, delusional. We are expected get on with our lives and pretend that calls never happen, that we aren’t wishing or hoping. We are suppose to pretend that we have never worked for most of our adult life creating something and they are deciding what happens to it, if anything. Because of the sheer volume of submissions currently in the industry, a direct rejection is considered too much to expect. So we wait, we wait for the yes, the no or the silence. Waiting for silence is weird. And I mean wait years, not months. It took Lauren Child SEVEN years to get her first Lola and Charlie book published. This is normal. The chances of getting “the call” are up their with winning the lottery, getting stricken by lightening, and finding your teenagers room clean.
For my first submission, I choose the publisher carefully, like choosing a school for my firstborn child. (Every educational philosophy was tediously investigated, every potential campus within a two hour radius, inspected thoroughly) I was just as thoughtful when I was choosing a publishing partner. I found the company that met all of my needs and more. I love the art work in all of their books, I trusted them to give my product a look and feel that served my vision. I admired their ethical manufacturing. I liked their money distribution model. I googled every interview by the founders of the company. I liked them and they were sure to like me. I also had a foot in the door, my friend, is one of their authors -a successful author. I enthusiastically sent off an expensive set of mock ups in a gimmicky velvet sack with a satin bow. I thought it was beautiful. I sent one to each headquarters, in the UK and the US.
Two months later, I received my first form rejection. Dear ____, Thanks but no thanks. Here is a standard blurb about our company, signed (intern ). I was gutted. Who was this person, the gatekeeper of my dream? She was half my age, a recent graduate, had no educational experience, she aspires to be a writer and loves fairies. This person had the power, just like that, to dismiss my last two years work.
Did I take this rejection with the grace of a woman? No, not really. I did what any mature self respecting person would do, I wrote back. I politely asked the assistant if she would kindly put the proposal on the presidents desk like originally requested in my letter as a personal favor from one of their authors- one who did write a book about fairies , thank you very much. I hit “send” and assumed she would delete my request and blacklist me, but I didn’t really care.
I picked myself up and focused on researching the industry and getting together a proper professional proposal. Nine months later I got an email informing me of the first publishers interest. They loved it, it was “brilliant” and they were taking it into meetings. I would know with in a few months. Eventually a year after my original submission they sent me the most delightful rejection letter ever- “whimsical, witty, well written”. They declined it based on their commitment to their established genre and were convinced I’d find the right publisher soon.
That was a year ago. I have since been shortlisted by major publishers claiming to not accept unsolicited manuscripts and flatly rejected by new literary agents. The thought that a literary agent doesn’t feel this project with such a huge demographic is worth representing, is confidence shattering.
So what do I do, wait, wait and wait?
Like I said, I’m not one to wait. In choosing a school for my daughter, I ended up starting a new school with other mums in my community.
So, I have decided: whether the phone rings or not, I will be selling these math kits. Why? They help kids learn math. This product should be accessible. I’m now looking for a graphic artist to sort out the look and feel. Then I plan on getting 1000 kits together with a set of books, bags, jewels, and playsheets in a treasure chest. I’ll sell them at the Waiheke Saturday market and before Christmas, on line. It’s not the path I thought I’d take, but it is naturally the next step.
Unfortunately, there are no white horses involved. Yet.