March 15, 2011

A Book By Any Other Name…

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 12:10 pm

…is actually not a book, unless it’s published.

Right? Isn’t that how so many of us feel, even about manuscripts that are garnering great praise, maybe offers from agents, or interest from editors, awards from foundations, even blurbs from authors? That we’re still not quite “real” until that book is, well, being read.

In ON WRITING Stephen King talks about how an unread story is a circle not closed.

Last time I wrote a post in this column, five editors were interested in my on-sub ms. (Sub. Ms. See how I feel the pathetic need to show my knowledge of the industry by using lingo to combat my utter death of closed circles?)

Anyway, all those editors were turned down by their editorial boards. The reasons were, well, crazy. One house said it was too literary for suspense–too much time spent on the characters. OK. That could make sense. Even though that character development seemed to be what was unique about my work according to many who read it. Still, cross-genre can hit a sweet spot, but it can also be a tough sell.

Except that another house called the novel too fast-paced and said they would *see it back if I slowed it down*!!!

I’ve concluded that reasons are tea leaves. They mean nothing and you can read what you want into them. Actually, an astute tea leaf reader can probably derive more from the dregs at the bottom of a cup.

A couple of things happened then. One, I got scared right down to my toenails. I mean here I am, moderating a panel on the Brave New World of publishing, hearing that micro presses and straight to Kindle options abound, while remaining the most die-hard devotee of the Old World as one could find–and yet that old world just would not let me in.

So two, I started contacting authors whose work I loved.

Now authors, especially award-winning, top-selling ones, have mountains of mss to read (more lingo). Their agents send them some. They are contractually obligated by their publishers to read others. In short, they have absolutely no reason to read mine–it’s not like most aspiring writers are lucky enough to be friends with best-selling authors.

But read my book they did, usually after agreeing to look at a first chapter or two, then offering to read the whole thing. And they provided blurbs. One especially kind author even sent his blurb to the entire world, or at least 5000 or so mystery readers and writers in it, so that I wound up getting emails asking, Hey, where can I read the book?

Uh, nowhere. Not yet anyway.

I can only thank these gracious authors for their kindness and their time, and hope that someday a book will be available to be read–with these authors’ words on it, and drawing new readers to their work.

Right now we are poised waiting to hear if another deal will be offered. We should hear any day.

Based on past events, I am just out and out scared.

And I guess that’s where I have to leave my back story. You’re caught up.

I hope I catch up one day, too.

I hope that like the circles that have come before, mine can be closed as well.


  1. Jenny, luck CAN change, and things can happen quickly. Here’s hoping with everything I’ve got!

    Comment by Sara — March 15, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Great post. I, too, often do not feel real. But I remind myself if I keep at it, eventually a door will open. Good Luck!

    Comment by Stacey Gill — March 15, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  3. I’m sure you’ve heard it all by now, Jenny. Hang in there, you’re doing all the right things. Wish I was as close as you are. Your work is terrific, you are a wonderful person, and the door will swing open for you. If I had a little oil handy, I’d dose those hinges so they wouldn’t swing so slowly.

    Comment by G Thomas Gill — March 15, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  4. I (three) don’t feel real. Yes, hang in there–and no, I don’t blame ya one bit for feeling scared. I tell my family every day how much I would be freaking out if I were in your situation. And I’d have nowhere near the grace you show.

    Comment by Savvy — March 15, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  5. Oiling the hinges is a good image. But I’m less patient. I’d be inclined to go get a hammer. You have my admiration.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — March 16, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

  6. Jenny, get used to the fear. Because when you get that contract (when, not if!), it stays scary! Will they like it? How will I promote it? Will I write another one? Will they like it??

    I’ve been where you are, and it felt like it took forever … “no” over and over from publishers until I found the one. It can and will happen. And then you’ll have another big fleet of joys and worries and decisions to make! Which is great … but still scary. :-)

    Comment by Tammy Kaehler — March 17, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  7. Thanks, everyone, for understanding, and sharing your perspectives. Welcome, Tammy, and you’re right–to a certain extent fear is the name of the game, I would think. For me the journey has been such that I’ve spent so much time stuck in this stage, I feel like I’ve skipped ahead in a lot of weird ways–gotten reviews, had readers weighing in, even done some events. So fear notwithstanding, to a certain extent I’m like, Bring it on! :)

    Comment by jenny — March 17, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

  8. Each editor/agent/house is going to be different. And each person reading is going to be interested or enjoy something different. And each person’s mood and thoughts at the time of reading is going to be different. I submitted one story into one publisher and never heard from her. Two years later I submitted the same story to the same publisher and was accepted. Keep trying. Don’t get scared or if you do, use that emotion to work harder and go for the next one.

    Comment by Stephen Brayton — March 18, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

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