This is the second part of a three-part series about the trials and tribulations of landing a book deal with a major publisher. Part I can be found here. The two journal entries below give an excellent picture of what happened to me over the course of a single month, July of 2013. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Well, maybe Hitler. Warning: the July 23rd entry has angry, adult language—which I’ve chosen not to censor—because sugarcoating my feelings that day seems…wrong.
July 2nd, 2013
Sooo…last week I had the kind of week every writer dreams of.
An e-mail and phone call from the agent saying “Hey, someone’s interested.”
A conference call with an editor from New York (Simon & Schuster!)
Hearing a paid professional say “I love this book.”
And finally, “I want to work with you on this.”
All that remained between me and my dream was one final roadblock—the editor had to take the book up the chain of command and get final approval for an offer. This last step is referred to by different names, depending on the publisher—sometimes it’s an “editorial board” or “editorial review”—but generally it involves a weekly meeting where all the different acquiring editors (people who read/select the books sent to them by agents) sit down with senior editors and representatives from sales and marketing, and they cooperatively decide which books stand the highest chance of success—thereby approving offers for the best, and a polite “no thank you” for the others. That’s the business way of looking at the process. I imagine something more like this:
Before an editor brings a book he/she has decided to champion to the coliseum, er, meeting, they typically try to have two or three of their peers read the book also, so they have “buy-in” from multiple people. In essence, they bring allies to the battle. In my case, the acquiring editor told my agent the day prior that he’d gotten buy-in from three other editors and felt confident things would go our way.
Well, at that point, the strangest thing happened to me—my optimistic side took over. I can already hear the people who know me saying, “WHAT optimistic side? Trey HAS one??” To those people, I respectfully retort—yes, you sarcastic d-bags, I have one. And on that day, my tortured, beaten-down optimist limped out of solitary confinement, squinted against the sunlight and said with a serene, toothless smile, “We’re gonna make it.” In my mind, I somehow just knew we were gonna get that damn offer.
So of course, the editor-in-chief said, “no.”
I don’t think I can adequately describe the feeling when my agent gave me the news. This picture is probably the closest comparison:
The only consolation is that the “no” wasn’t a complete rejection—the EIC thinks that the relationship between my two main characters needs a revamp, one that will require a great deal of editing and work, too much work to give me a contract. But, they want me to re-write those changes myself—with no guarantee of acceptance—then resubmit the novel once I’ve finished. At that point, Simon & Schuster will re-evaluate the manuscript and make a final decision on whether to offer or reject.
But consolation or not, because I was so certain an offer was in the cards, I’m devastated. Not only has the rug been yanked out from under me, I am now confronted with making wholesale changes to a novel that I already thought was pretty damn good, a process that’ll take weeks, if not months…and worse yet, the revisions they want are so daunting, I have no CLUE where to begin. And even if I can somehow make the difficult changes they want, the only thing I’m guaranteed is the chance to stand in front of the emperor once more and watch the thumb go up or down.
Dammit, I was so freaking CLOSE. And now the dream feels dead.
July 23rd, 2013
It’s been three weeks since I received my Simon-&-Schuster-generated strike to the testicles, which I now realize was a loving, gentle caress compared to what followed.
I spent much of those three weeks bemoaning my fate, wondering how the hell to make the changes they requested, and undergoing daily rage-fests of throwing my hands in the air and screaming “This is impossible! The book is fine as it is. How DARE those fools question my genius!!” In short, it was three long weeks of being a whiny pussy.
I admit this now because at some point over those weeks, the Fates got together…had a couple of drinks…watched my histrionics while laughing maniacally…and decided, “Let’s show Mr. Entitled what a nut-punch really feels like.”
So they gave me a heart attack.
Not a metaphorical one, either. No, it was an actual “your heart is clogged like dog groomer’s shower and simply can’t go on any longer” attack.
I’m sitting in my hospital room, in the aftermath of being told I need OPEN HEART SURGERY. I still can’t process any of what’s happening to me. I’m 44, for Chrissake. I work out like crazy. I’m not a smoker and I’m not obese. My cholesterol is high, but not that high (196). And now I’ve got a guy telling me I need SIX fucking bypasses, and that there’s a 1% chance I won’t survive the operation, and another 1% chance I’ll wish I hadn’t survived (stroke, coma, vegetable). Two percent, no big deal, right? That’s what he said. That’s what my parents said.
Well, guess what percentage of heart attack victims are under the age of 45? Thaaaaaat’s right, sports fans—TWO GODDAMN PERCENT. I looked it up! Which means I’ve already “won” the shitty-odds lottery once this week…I know damn well it could happen again.
When my family and friends come through the door to see me, I feel like crying every time. I don’t know if I’m gonna be alive in three days. All I can think of is the same angry line over and over again: this is bullshit.
On the bright side, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the book anymore.
Wow, kind of a downer, right? Trust me, it gets better. :) Look for Part III on Wednesday.