It’s hard for me to believe… Last January I started writing a book proposal. Eighty pages outlining what I envisioned, a few sample chapters, and plans for marketing. I studied books and read web articles about writing book proposals. I learned as much as I could about the publishing industry and how it worked.
I read books by authors like Steven King, Mary Karr, and Dani Shapiro about their writing processes and experiences with the publishing industry. I found and hired a Dan Janal, a Developmental Editor, to help me shape the book and tell my story in a way that was clear and interesting, but also entertaining and light.
Four months later, I finished the proposal. It’s definitely one of those things you could tweak and edit for years. It’s never really finished. Never ever perfect. But, once Dan began responding to my emails with, Haven’t I already read this part six times?, I realized it was time to send it out to agents.
I clearly remember the moment I sent my first query letter. I sat in a little coffeeshop in Appleton, Wisconsin. (This place made THE BEST avocado toast I’ve ever eaten.)
To find potential agents, I scoured the Acknowledgements Sections of my favorite books and top-selling titles in the self-development field, noting when authors went out of their way to rave about their literary agents. I scanned agent websites, looking for those accepting query letters and interested in work like mine.
Everyday in Appleton, I ate my avocado toast and sent out five more queries. Some agents only accepted a query letter. Others wanted a bio and a sample chapter. Most warned me at the outset I oughtn’t expect any response, as they receive hundreds of submissions and cannot possibly respond to them all.
Slowly though, I did receive some responses. Thank you but this is not for us. Even a few words of encouragement, which surprised me given the rumors I’d heard. After my 50th email, I received my first call.
My Developmental Editor had a meeting with a publisher, and mentioned my book…
They wanted to read my proposal! Amazing!!
A few days later, I received another call. This one, from an agent. He was interested in representing my book. He warned me though, because of my low number of followers and subscribers, he was fairly certain no big firm would publish my book, no matter how good.
He could get me a $7,500 advance, he said. Since I’d just started to send out my inquiries he told me to wait and see if someone else might offer me something better.
In the end, I received no other calls or offers and felt between my two offers, Morgan James Publishers was the best fit for me. Contracts were signed and I was free to focus on writing the manuscript. (I learned that until it’s published, it’s not called a book.)
For the next nine months, I wrote and wrote. Mostly in coffee shops, sometimes hotel lobbies like the one I’m in now (in Jacksonville Beach, Florida). Before leaving each city, I’d print out the entire manuscript and toss the old one, which felt very strange and kind of like leaving a child behind. Then, on the next flight, I’d begin reading my new clean copy, only to start shaking my head and scribbling all over it with corrections, additions, and deletions. Just before Thanksgiving, I finally sent it all off to my Publisher.
But, it doesn’t end that easily.
There was the round of 50 line-item corrections, then the debate about the cover art, then the back cover copy, then another five corrections to the manuscript…. Until yesterday.
Yesterday I approved the FINAL MANUSCRIPT. No more edits. No more corrections. I’m sure you’ll find a typo or two, despite all our efforts to find and fix them all. Oh my! Wait! I haven’t mentioned Alison yet. Alison Cornford-Matheson was amazing! She is a copy editor. You need her. I need her. We all need an Alison in our lives. She did three rounds of edits on my book, kindly pointing out the awkward sections, the grammatical problems, and removing about a million extra works like “just” and “very”.
In fact, I should send her this blog post too because I cannot even remember if that last period should be inside the quotes or out. I could look it up but the kids are hoping to hit the beach and the rain finally stopped. So, if you’re a grammar-king or queen (Tara!) and it makes you queasy to read this, I’m sorry… but, maybe you should be a copy editor!