Kids, this strange device was known as a ROTARY phone!
This is the first part of a three-part series of posts detailing the twists and turns of getting a book deal. For other writers, this will be informative, scary, and maybe inspiring...if I can do it, so can you. For regular people, hopefully it's an entertaining look into a strange profession, one that can bring you to your knees, and then lift you to unimaginable heights...or vice versa. This first part was written last summer, July 2013.
Last week, I was relaxing at my weekly writer’s group meeting when my phone buzzed with an incoming email from my agent—and for the first time since my novel went on submission back in February, the email from my agent did NOT have the word “rejection” in the header. The subject read “a nibble” which has that subtle whiff of promise…enough to make me open the email right then, despite the fact that one of the other members of the group was preparing to read.
As my eyes scanned the text, it became quickly apparent that my agent had undersold the content; this was more than a nibble—it was outright interest. An editor at Simon & Schuster had been given my novel, read the entire thing in one night, and loved it. The editor went on to tell my agent that he had a number of thoughts, questions, and suggestions, and wanted to know if he could contact me directly to discuss them.
I stepped out of the meeting immediately.
In the parking lot of the St. Louis Artist’s Guild, I had an impromptu conference call with my agent—one where the words “awesome”, “great sign”, and “is this a cruel joke” were all said more than once. The incredulity spread into the next afternoon when I actually spoke with the editor for a half-hour. The short version: he wanted to acquire the book.
Those are the magic words, folks. Writers toil for years in painful obscurity, often pulled through the lonely, soul-sucking hours by the infinitesimal hope that one day…one spectacular, wonderful day…those words will be spoken by someone who gets paid to edit and publish books. And this guy said them to me.
But of course…there’s one more hurdle to jump. I guess that’s the most frustrating part of the entire traditional publishing process: there ALWAYS seems to be one more hurdle. One more chance for someone to say “no.” In this case, “someone” is the Editor-In-Chief of Simon & Schuster—the Big Boss. When a junior editor wants to acquire a book for the company, he/she has to make a final pitch to the powers-that-be, and convince them that this book (my book) is a worthwhile investment of the company’s time and money. If the junior editor makes his case: congratulations! Your agent receives an offer, and your book—that collection of thoughts and dreams distilled into keystrokes—becomes a reality. And of course, the nut-punch of an alternative: the Big Boss says “no,” and it’s back to square one for you, aspiring novelist.
So in the next few days, it’ll happen one way or the other. Dream fulfillment or racked in the balls? I’m gonna hope for the best while I go look for an athletic cup.
Spoiler alert for next week's Part II: I shoulda looked harder for the cup.