Friday, August 16, 2013

So When's Your Book Coming Out? Part 2

Thank you all for the well wishes on my last blog entry, about my recently completed manuscript. Now the question on everyone's lips seems to be, "So when's the book coming out?"

Since you've stuck with me this far, and since many of you have told me you're vicariously living through the bumps and triumphs with me, I will fill you in on what's next.

The immediate next step is finding myself an agent. In the US, you can't just go knocking on publishers' doors on your own as a newbie writer. Why not self-publish, you ask? In a word: marketing. I could self-publish but I simply can't self-promote the way a publishing house can. I can't get my books out past California let alone to Norway or South Africa. A dear friend, you remember, the one who won the Commonwealth Prize for her debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors (available next spring), told me this very thing. So that, in a nutshell, is why I'm starting with the traditional publishing route and if that fails, there are other options I won't go into here.

So on August 14th, I send out my first batch of queries (quite apt, as it was Pakistan's Independence Day and that is the setting of my novel). This process was years in the making. I had begun crafting the perfect query letter 1.5 years ago, which, in less than 10 sentences, must encapsulate my 100,000 word novel in a way that's enticing enough for an agent to ask to see the whole manuscript. This letter, this one paragraph of this letter that does this, took me two years on and off. I read countless books on how to draft the perfect query letter and even paid someone to critique it. The last three weeks were spent showing draft after draft to my live-in marketer (hubby), who kindly but firmly pushed and pushed till we were both happy with it.

I then turned to my list of agents. This process alone took me 8 weeks, as I had to find people who were a) suited to my type of novel b) had actually published something in the last year or two and c) were taking submissions at this time. Many reputable agents simply don't take submissions, especially unsolicited ones.

This list of carefully researched agents had been made 1.5 years ago. Some were no longer agents. For the remainder, I had to personalize the second paragraph of the query letter, telling them how I know them, which of their clients I've read and loved, etc., based on my research.

August 13th, I was ready to submit. I got to work, logged onto Facebook and made a big proclamation that today was the day. It was not the day. Without going into too much detail, that was the day I broke up with Hotmail, which took all my careful formatting and blew it to smithereens. So I called tech support (hubby) and that night we got me a gmail account like most grown-ups.

August 14th, letters went out. Nails were bitten. Email was compulsively checked.
Visual approximation of my life at the moment.

August 15th. Two responses. Hallelujah. Clouds parted, angels sang, harps strummed.

At least that's how I had pictured it.

In reality, because of the way gmail is formatted (remember, this was my second day with gmail), it shows you the first sentence of the email on the main page.

Both emails were very sweet in turning  me down.

This was very exciting. I have two rejections under my belt. I'm a real writer. And they actually wrote no, instead of leaving me wondering forever more.

These two rejections really made it official. I had been hiding from this process for months, years really. I posted that my MS was done last week. It was done in July. I just lingered and procrastinated because I knew the worst was yet to come.

And it's here. And it's not bad. At least not so far. I know it'll get worse from here because Stephen King had his first FOUR novels rejected and J.K.Rowling got 100 rejections etc. But I can't worry about that right now. Right now I can only take it one day at a time, one rejection at a time. I've been planning for this phase for so long, I know just which holey shirt I'll spend my days and nights in, I know just what I'll mutter under my breath as I walk around the house in a daze, and I know just which bugs will begin crawling around in my unwashed hair.