Saturday, October 21, 2006
i had to walk ten miles through six feet of snow to mail my first manuscript
i've been thinking about how much publishing has changed, especially when it comes to information and relationships.
i sold my first book -- a paperback original -- in late 1986 to Pocket Books for $7,500.00. my agent at the time told me that i didn't have an editor. I was to write the book, mail it to the publisher, and it would be given to someone to edit. i had zero contact with anyone at the publishing house. i wrote the book and mailed it in. Never heard anything. Months later I received a revision letter from the editor who'd been assigned my book. I couldn't even tell you her name. There was nothing about getting the revision back by a certain time. Nothing about discussing the revision. I revised the material, returned it, and heard nothing. about a week before the release date a cover flat arrived in the mail.
(cover by the amazing and wonderful morgan kane)
the book was supposed to come out "in october", so in october i started checking stores. no book. every week i checked every store within driving distance. well, maybe it's not coming out until November. Maybe not until December. yep, i was an idiot. i called my "agent" and told her the book wasn't anywhere. she just said that's the way it was in the business. if i wanted a book to be in stores i should write category romance. I asked what the print run had been. She said there was no way to find out.
later i figured it was around 5000 - 7000, but i was never able to get any figures. somehow the book generated fan mail and gained a cult following through word of mouth. the fan mail was sent to Pocket Books where it was opened and read and forwarded to me months later. Just an envelope filled with tattered, opened letters that were up to a year old.
my experience wasn't unusual for the time. friends who were getting $30,000.00 advances per paperback original had limited contact with editors. it wasn't unusual for an editor to take two months to reply to a question, if at all. the degree of editor/author contact varied depending on the house.
the publishing house was also supposed to be a buffer between writers and readers, and readers didn't know much about their favorite authors.
now there is no mystery. i think that's one of the reasons booksignings have lost popularity. readers pretty much know all there is to know about the writers all the way down to toilet paper preference, so there's no curiousity to simply see the writer in the flesh. today there is no us and them, and i LIKE that. but i wonder if by killing the mystery we've killed some of the magic. i think this also goes back to what we were talking about last week: more people are writing and realizing that getting published isn't something remote and uattainable. we're all in this together.