Before I continue this story, I need to step back a bit and clarify something, particularly for those of you who know nothing about publishing and then for those of you who do. It was pretty bold – insane – downright silly for me to say at the end of the 2006 that I was going to sell a book that wouldn’t actually be ready until April. Selling a manuscript to a publishing house is not easy. Even the best manuscripts are rejected. Then there's the waiting. Publishing has got to have the slowest response time of any business on the planet. I've had friends wait a year to hear from a publisher. Editors receive hundreds of queries every month. Wading through the good, bad and ugly is time-consuming. I knew this when I made my declaration, but I’ve got this crazy faith thing going and honestly, it’s been working for a sistah, so it was my faith talking…not my lack of knowledge about the industry.
So, here I am, it’s the end of August. I only have four months to sell my manuscript. I set my sights on another publisher. A small house that does a real quality job with their line. I send two emails; one to an author buddy who is already with the line and one to the acquisitions editor. I ask both to advise the submission process. The editor responded first. I’d just missed the quarterly submission deadline by two days. They wouldn’t be taking new submissions until January. Then my author buddy emailed me and said the same, but guess what? She called her editor and requested an extension for me. I had a week.
Lesson #3 – Network. Develop relationships with other writers and authors. People will help you.
I’m excited now, but I have this huge packet of stuff to do. They want a competitive analysis, a marketing plan, a longer synopsis, egads, another synopsis. I wanted to give up then. But I’m no quitter. I hunker down for the weekend, get it all done, mail my package (I don’t think I took a picture that time) and then I do what? You guessed it…wait.
Now, I’m a proactive girl, I know where my editors live, or at least work, so I’ve already found out the area code this publishing house is in. I always give my cell phone number. Heaven forbid I should get "the call" and it goes to voicemail at my house, or better yet, my husband or son take a bad message. No way. I know what I’m looking for, so when my phone rings on November 1st at 2:15 in the afternoon my heart nearly comes out of my chest. It’s “the call”, “the call”! I slow down because I’m doing about 80 miles an hour on I-85. (Getting dead before they print the book would be like an Afro-Greek tragedy.) I push the talk button, and try to contain my excitement which instantly becomes easy to do when I realize the person on the other end of the phone is NOT the acquisitions editor. Surely she makes "the calls". If I was in charge, I’d make "the calls". It’s an editorial assistant, and she’s calling to tell me they thought my manuscript was strong, but they’d like me to rewrite the first chapter. (No surprise there, I’d always hated the first chapter). Her exact words were “African-American readers like drama and we just need a little more of it in the first chapter.” My tongue’s hanging out, because I mean who can’t rewrite one chapter. I’ve heard of writers having to rewrite a quarter of a book. This is it, it’s my big chance! They want me! Almost. She gives me more instructions and follows up with an email. I’ve got until December 28th to get it to them. The only disappointment is I won’t sell by the end of the year, but by golly I’ll sell – so I think…
To be continued on Tuesday!
Lesson #4 – I’m a real stinker to leave you guys hanging this way. No seriously, the lesson is if you don’t like a chapter, why would you think anyone else would? I knew chapter one had issues, but I could not, would not dig in and get creative enough to fix it. The entire manuscript could have been rejected on a bad chapter one. I should have made it perfect.