Waiting to hear from a publisher is a nail-biting business.
And sending a book-length manuscript to a publisher is an act of bravery, especially if, like me, one does not have an agent.
Nearly a year ago, I tried to attract an agent, but I discovered the hard way that agents (like publishers) can take many months to decide whether or not they can make money from your book. After I’d spent almost twelve months on that venture, I decided to try my luck by taking a more direct route.
Since my first book was published, that book’s publisher had been taken over by a much larger firm; the person who had nurtured me (and my book) through the maze of publication had moved elsewhere and she said my new manuscript ‘did not fit her list’.
I really understood her position: my memoir, a romance of sorts, would not suit her readership. Although my new memoir is about falling in love and marrying when I was a few months short of my seventieth birthday and my husband was already seventy-one.
As I said, the story is a romance ‘of sorts’, even if we did elope to escape our families. The memoir is also about the aftermath of marrying in what some people consider to be old age.
The next publisher I contacted required a three paragraph synopsis of my work; a sample of the manuscript (up to the first 5000 words); and my writing curriculum vitae or a summary of my previous publications/awards/recognition for my work.
That was easy. I had a completed manuscript that had been read by a couple of my adult granddaughters whose opinion I trust, as well as by a handful of knowledgeable friends. On the whole they had liked it, and made constructive suggestions about what would make it better. Gratefully, I incorporated many of their suggestions and then self-edited it to within an inch of its life.
My first memoir, Other People’s Country, was long listed for the Walkley Best Non-Fiction Books Award and short-listed for the Western Australian Premier’s History Award in the year it was published. It is on the reading list of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation organisation and used in several Autralian universities.Writing my CV was not too hard.
Less than a fortnight after the initial contact, I was invited to send the whole manuscript. Such a joyful, half-forgotten memory!
That was three and a half months ago. Such a long, long time when I’m waiting, waiting. I’m wondering what my next steps will be.
I’ve started a new piece of writing and like what I’m doing well enough. My heart is not really in my new project yet, and real life keeps getting in my way.
Publishers are usually clear about how long it will take for them to assess a manuscript; it’s often three months or more. Some also admonish writers, sternly, not to contact them, but to wait until they hear.
So, like Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett’s Godot, or the character in the AA Milne poem, ‘Fishing’, that’s what I’m doing. I’m waiting!