Tuesday 22 February 2011

Nothing to Blog About Except...

We interrupt these Publishing Month proceedings with a word from the blog owner.

I am hereby tired of Publishing Month. I've blogged about getting an agent. I've blogged about the editing process and I think these two topics are the only things I really know anything about. If you have an agent, the nuts and bolts of getting a publisher are quite mysterious to you. All I know is that one day my agent told me my book was on submission (i.e she had sent it to editors at many publishing houses) and the next, a publisher was interested. Till today, I still don't know how many editors she sent my manuscript to; I don't know how many rejections I got; I don't even know what synopsis she put of the book.

However, I do know that during the submission process she asked for a nice photograph of me, which I found very amusing. Why would you need to see a photograph to know if you liked my writing? It seems that the magazine culture has invaded even the world of books. I asked my editor recently if she were the one that asked for the photo and she denied vehemently, which means someone out there saw my face and declined THE SPIDER KING'S DAUGHTER. And I thought I was a fine girl.

It was a good thing that my agent kept me in the dark for most of the process I think. When my current editor at Faber asked for a meeting, my agent didn't even want to tell me where we were going. Our conversation a few days to the meeting went something like this.

'So where is the place?'
"I don't want you to get your hopes up.''
''R we are going there on Monday. It's Friday, I need to know where the place is.'
'I know but don't get excited.'

It was very sensible of her to control my excitement levels. A meeting with a publisher doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to offer you a deal. It's the same way a date with a girl doesn't mean she's going to marry you. If you set your expectations to high, a disappointment can crush you.

R also didn't tell me about the editors who rejected my work. Once, after we'd signed the contract with Faber she mentioned one of these editors but when I pressed she wouldn't tell me more, not even what house they worked for. And this was also good. It's very hard to take rejection for a manuscript you've put so much work an effort to. I've read some writer blogs that say that their agents tell them every single house they submit to, every rejection they get and worst, the feedback from all these rejections. I'm glad I didn't have to go through that. God is good.

My meeting with my editor was shockingly normal. Faber is quite a cosy publishing house and I like that. Their building was empty when I went because it was December and most people had already gone for their Christmas holidays (work in publishing. They get the longest vacations). Me, my editor and my agent sat around a desk and we gisted for about an hour. We barely talked about the book. We just gisted about my childhood, about my editor's childhood, about my agent's childhood, about the publishing industry, about who had a nice cover and who didn't, who'd one the prizes that year, who didn't, who should have. Then about twenty minutes to the end, we talked about the book and the changes my editor would suggest and we were, excuse the pun, on the same page. So I was happy when Faber made an offer but thanks to my agent, if they hadn't made an offer, I would not have been shattered.

So it turns out that I did have something to blog about after all.

Kudos to Teju Cole who is making tsunamis in the literary world with his debut novel, OPEN CITY. Read his New Yorker review here.


  1. >> And I thought I was a fine girl.

    Oh, you are ;-).

    The whole getting published route sounds like a lot of trouble.

  2. Well it can be a lot of trouble but I don't think you should know too much about the length of the journey before you start or you might get discouraged. Hmm. Maybe I've revealed too much. Or maybe I've revealed just enough. I don't know.

  3. There are so many stories flying around. An agent was just blogging somewhere about not writing about submissions, wait-times and rejections. My blog is not really about all that, so I don't have to worry about that.

    And yeah, pictures matter o, lol...

  4. Thanks for Publishing month. A lot of it, especially the Teju Cole series and the things you learnt from your own journey have been very inspiring.

    It's great that you talk about the 'length of the journey' because it helps to prepare for it.

    Now you can officially retire publishing month!


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