Monday, March 17, 2008

What, Me Worry?

I was on an airplane most of the day today (Hi Boston!) and didn’t have an e-mail from Lisa in my mailbox. So I’m assuming the poor thing is still sick. That being the case, I thought I’d share a story I mentioned briefly in my last blog. Those of you who are published or aspire to be published should be able to sympathize and maybe even get a laugh or two.

Unlike what you see in movies or on TV, the process of getting a book accepted for publication can be quite time consuming. It’s not like ripping the pretty paper off a Christmas present, more like watching grass grow. Very, very slow grass. In my case, I sent Lisa the typical query package—first three chapters and a synopsis in the fall of 2006. She asked for more (after having my query inadvertently lost in the slush pile for awhile.) later that year. Over the next three or four months, she read it, recommended some changes, then sent the updated ms. on to Chris.

So far so good. Except there was a slight miscommunication with my regional publisher and in late April, Chris sent me a letter saying that while he’d received my manuscript, he couldn’t consider it because of my contract with the other publisher. Of course I got the letter Friday after work, when I couldn’t reach anyone and could only stew. By Monday morning, I was a raving lunatic. Fortunately the publishers worked everything out, order was restored, and Chris agreed to read the manuscript.

Fast forward several very long months. Finally Chris gets back to me and suggests I have lunch with him and Lisa on the 19th of June 2007. This sounds great right? Except that I’d already received the one rejection letter, and I knew that both Brandon Mull and James Dashner had their first books rejected.

My wife is saying, “Don’t worry. They wouldn’t ask you to lunch if they didn’t want your book.”

And I’m going, “Of course they would. It’s practically a sure thing they will. How can I even stand to wait the two weeks until the lunch, knowing they’re going to turn me down anyway? Couldn’t they at least have been humane and told me right up front I stink?” Have I mentioned authors are kind of neurotic? Thank goodness for calm spouses.

Finally the two weeks went by (with the speed of frozen molasses,) and I get an e-mail from Chris. It turns out he needs to reschedule the lunch from the 19th of June to the 28th. Is that a problem? No of course not. I’ll just gnaw my fingertips off while I wait. (And still no hint about whether he likes it or not.)

So we reschedule. Then the day before the lunch, he e-mails to say he won’t have as much time as he thought. Should we push the lunch back another week? I think he could tell from the screams that echoed all the way across the city that I would prefer we go ahead and meet even if we don’t have a lot of time.

At last the day comes. I am meeting with the two people who can truly launch my career in a restaurant at the top of a downtown hotel. The stuff movies are made of right? Except in the movies they don’t show how you can’t sleep at all the night before, because you are so sure tomorrow is going to be the worst day of your life. (Did I say I’m not fond of rejection?)

I told my wife I’d call her as soon as I knew anything. She told me if I thought I was going to the hotel without her I was crazy. She’d wait in the lobby so she could see my expression as I got off the elevator. No pressure or anything.

I take the elevator to the restaurant a full 45 minutes before the lunch. I mean it pays to be early just in case the elevator gets stuck or something right? It could happen! Of course they end up running a little late, so for sixty terrifying minutes I sit in front of a little fountain watching my hands shake and wondering if any of the other people going in and out of the restaurant could possibly be going through anything like what I am suffering.

At last they show up. I’ve met Lisa before, but this is my first time seeing Chris in person. Turns out he is not ten feet tall with eyes of fire. But . . . he is carrying what looks like my manuscript with a whole bunch of little red flag sticking out of it. What does that mean? Is it good that he has marked things? Does that mean he wants to make changes and publish it? Or are those all the reasons he is going to turn me down?

I try not to let them see my legs have turned to Jell-O as we walk to our table. It’s possible I may even have smiled—although it was actually a rictus of fear pasted to my face. I did manage to keep somewhat regular breathing which was good. Passing out would not have helped my cause.

As we studied our menus, I tried to read something from their faces, but I might as well have been sitting at the world series of poker. They gave away nothing. I think I ordered the salmon, but it could just as well have been the lemon soufflé. I didn’t think I’d be able to taste anything anyway. After ordering we talked all about my book right? Wrong. We talked about Disneyland. Our families. Vacations. Everything BUT my book.

Then our food comes and Chris finally picks up my manuscript. Without any preamble, he opens it up and starts talking about things he liked and things he thought could be better. Then he starts talking about school presentations. And editors. Then he puts my manuscript back on the ground. Meanwhile I am mindlessly pushing food into my mouth and trying not to spill anything.

At last I couldn’t take it anymore. Trying to sound even a little calm, I ask, “So, then . . . do you think . . . you might want . . . to, um, you know . . . publish this?”

Chris gets this funny little smile and says as if it should have been obvious all along, “Oh, definitely.”

I tried not to scream like a little girl at the table. I think I actually held it in until I reached the lobby and saw my wife. I didn’t even need to tell her. It was written all over my face, and she did enough screaming for both of us.

Now when people ask, “Were you nervous about whether or not they’d take your book?” I smirk. “Of course not. I knew it all along.” And my wife kicks me in the back of the leg.


Irish said...

Boston says Hi back!

BTW: cute story. =) I always did like a happy ending.

In response to your poll...I tend to get drawn into a new book first by its cover and then the synopsis. If the synopsis doesn't instantly snag me but sounds interesting then I'll open up the book and read the first few pages before deciding or not. Although usually at that point (once its in my hands) its a pretty sure bet its coming home with me. I hardly ever pay attention to author blurbs and don't really notice them until after I have the book at home. Nor do I read a book just because its won an award. There have been many an award winner that I have not liked so if anything that might put me off initially.

Brian said...

Hi Scott-
I'll ask my cousins if they would say hi back too when I see them in Savannah, Georgia over Spring Break. (They're from Boston too.) I didn't think that having a book accepted would be as easy as to sent a letter, the first few chapters, and a synopsis, and then to wait for a few weeks in pure agony and impatience. I thought that it would require a lot more sweat and blood. Then again, you probably used the rest of your sweat and blood writing and editing the book. At least you know that you won't have to undergo that again. Well, not quite anyway. You have to have at least one of your manuscripts for book 2 accepted now that book one has been accepted. Hopefully though, they'll go for the first manuscript again though. I just hope you have enough sweat and blood left to write the rest of the series.

By the way, I have been checking online at the Shadow Mountain website every once in a while to see if there are any new fantasy books they are trying to get published. If you can, whenever you get a "special update" on a new Shadow Mountain book being worked on, do you think you could tell us. I'm always eager to learn about any new fantasy books that I can be franticly waiting for. (You have no idea how annoyed my family was when I learned the release date for Harry Potter 7.) Either way, I'm sure we'd all be happy for news of a new book.

Anna said...

Even though I chose cover, I also look at the synopsis, and I research the book. I find out what it's about, more about the characters....I was on the verge of putting a book on my fantasy list and after researching it changed my mind. So, if it's a fantasy book, modern, the cover and sometimes the author capture my interest first. Then I read the synopsis and find out about it. :-/

Worldbuilder Robin said...

As someone whose manuscript is on the verge of being sent out to find a home, I appreciate having a glimpse of what sort of anxiety I am likely to look forward to in the very near future. Now I can't decide if that's a good thing or not.

Good grief, I'm already feeling anxious, and I haven't even written a query letter yet...

Tamra Norton said...

What a great story--I love happy endings!