Ever since I got the offer on my novel, I’ve felt a mix of exhilaration and crushing fear. I thought it might be fun to write a series of posts explaining the process and how I’ve felt during it. I’m going to call this series “What it’s Really Like,” because when we’re working towards publishing professionally, many of us get an idea in our head of what it will be like, and while I’m only completely aware of my own experience, I’m willing to bet a lot of it is universal.
Despite that universality, however, there are some caveats:
- My experience is mine alone. While I know authors who are further along the path of pro writing than I am, some of them significantly so, and many of them have reported similar experiences, there are also some differences that are pretty important.
- I am publishing through a small press. By definition, this means my experience will be somewhat different than an author who publishes through a large publishing house, and it will also be different than someone who is working as an indie author, self-publishing their work. None of these things are better, but they are different.
I’ll post each entry when it’s time, by which I mean as things happen. Right now I’m in a sort of limbo, waiting for the next step in the process to begin. So I’ll start by telling how it began–or, rather, how I went from “aspiring novelist with a finished book but no contract” to “author with a book contract.”
In 2016, Flame Tree Publishing, a company that had been publishing themed science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies for several years, announced that they were going to open to novel-length works at the end of the year. I submitted my novel, The Widening Gyre, on 10 December 2016.
And then I waited.
The response window had been claimed to be about four months, but I’ve been submitting works for publication long enough to know that was not going to be the case. But eventually, I just about forgot about it.
In March 2018, I remembered I’d submitted the work, and I queried the publisher, expecting that I’d missed a rejection email in spam or something. But I was informed by a helpful staff member that the book was still under consideration.
Then, on 11 May 2018, I checked my email at lunch. I noticed an email from someone at Flame Tree, and I could see in the gmail list that it began “Thank you so much for letting me read The Widening Gyre, and please excuse the delay in getting back to you.”
Now, “Thank you for letting me read…” is how pretty much every rejection I’ve ever received began. So when I saw those words, my heart sank a bit. But I knew I had to read the rest of it at some point, so I clicked to open it.
The next words were “I enjoyed the manuscript quite a bit…” Now, you’d think that would be a good sign, but I’d had a couple of nice personal rejections (as opposed to form rejections), and some of them began with “Though I enjoyed the book,” so I was still convinced it was a rejection. But then I read “… and I think it would make a great addition to the Flame Tree Press line…” and my brain went “Wait, what?”
And then the last part: “… And so I’m happy to make an offer for the book.”
There followed some business stuff to let me know the terms of the offer, but at that point my brain was still stuck on “make an offer for the book.”
In my reply, I tried to play it cool in my response, but the truth was I was practically dancing. My mood had gone from sour in the middle of a bad day with my students to jubilant. Someone liked my book–the same book I’d taken to calling the damned book when discussing it with friends–enough to buy it. It’s really the ultimate “Yes, you are a writer” moment.
Next time, I’ll talk about the boilerplate and the contract.