Before I begin, please give me a moment.
I got a publishing offer! AAAAHHHHHHH!
More than twenty months ago, Harper Voyager (the science fiction and fantasy branch of Harper Collins) had an open submission window. For two weeks, one of the major publishing houses was going to accept manuscripts from authors who didn’t have agents. The link is still active, harper-voyager-guidelines-for-digital-submission/, for those of you interested in reading the details. I submitted The Stolen (previously titled Stolen Child) with high hopes. The initial assessment was that over 4,500 manuscripts were submitted. Truth to tell, I expected they’d receive many more, but as it turns out, they were expecting many less. The original plan was to have a list of twelve new authors to release digitally, with the possibility of print publication, in three months. For the next fifteen months, updates were posted every two to three months. Eventually Harper Voyager decided to notify everyone if they were accepted or not, instead of just letting authors assuming after a certain period of time that they were not accepted.
So I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited some more.
In fact, my wait is how this blog came to be. I’d been planning for awhile on setting one up and decided this was the perfect time. If I was selected, I’d have the basis of an online presence to help in marketing. If I wasn’t, I’d have the basis of an online presence for if/when I decided to self-publish.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how hard it was sometimes. With no word meaning The Stolen was still under consideration, I began to panic that perhaps the rejection had gone to my spam folder and I’d deleted it. In the updates submitters were told we could check on our status by emailing Harper Voyager. I did, and didn’t hear back. As you can imagine, that didn’t help. After two months, I sent another message and received a reply in less than twenty-four hours: I was indeed still under consideration! I was hopeful, but after so many rejections before, staying positive wasn’t always easy. When it was hard though, I reminded myself that every day I wasn’t rejected was one day closer to making it.
The final update came on December 19th. They were down to 295 submissions, and everyone would be notified one way or the other by the end of January.
Luckily the end of the year was busy for me. I started a new contract for my day job as a consultant in the utilities industry and tried, often unsuccessfully, not to think about The Stolen still being under consideration.
Then the email arrived. I saw the notification light on my phone blinking, and when I checked my email, I saw a message from Harper Collins. Now, all this happened in half of a tenth of a second, but I remember thinking that when the message arrived, how hard I might find it to open because it could be either a rejection or an offer. In fact, until I opened it, it was both. It was Schrödinger’s cat. Well, as it turned out, the email program on my phone shows the first two lines of the message along with the title and the sender. I read “Dear Mr. O’Connell, We are delighted to offer you—” and my brain stopped. After a while of taking it all in and utterly losing my mind, I recovered enough to start thinking clearly. That meant, I started planning what to do next.
Of course I replied to the editor, thanking her for her offer, and I did NOT accept it. If I had, there would be no negotiation, just me accepting the first offer they made.
Next, I sent out emails to agents. I don’t have one and I want one to negotiate my offer for me. I’m not stupid, but I know very little about the publishing industry. I want, in fact I need, someone there who can ensure I’m not taken advantage of. That’s sound advice for anyone signing any kind of offer. Now, as I’d exhausted the list of possible agents in my genre by having submitted my manuscript to them over the last couple of years, I had to send messages to those who’d already passed on my book, sometimes more than once. I will admit, this gave me more than a bit of satisfaction. I am, however, mature and reasonable, so I restrained my inner child.
As I’m writing this, I’m waiting to hear back from a few of the agents. I also contacted a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, specifically the publishing world. From the responses I’ve received, this is what I learned.
An agent charges a percentage against all profits made from the title(s), and apparently, it doesn’t matter if they found the publishing offer or you did. Lawyers charge by the hour. So, a lawyer will cost more up front, but then the costs are done. An agent costs nothing now, but gets a piece of every dollar you make on those titles (15 percent is the normal rate I’m seeing).
I won’t post the details of the offer, but I will say it was for The Stolen , and its sequel, currently titled The Forgotten. I’ve also been told I need to change the title as there’s already a book with that title that achieved some level of success (that change has already happened). I’m disappointed, but I knew that was a possibility.
What happens next?
I have no idea. Well, I have very little idea. This is new to me, and I’m guessing it might be to you as well. I admit, I’ve never quite understood, or was at all interested in the more personal blogs, those akin to digital diaries for the world to read. It’s fine if that’s your thing, I’ll withhold any judgment, but I just can’t get myself to believe much of what happens in my daily life is worth reporting. Having said that, this journey unto which I’m venturing might in fact be of interest to others, so I’m going to make more of my blog entries hence forth, a sort of travelogue of my journey to publication. To be clear, I’m not an idiot. I know full well something could come up and scuttle this whole process. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen, but if it does, that’ll be part of the journey, and I’ll tell you about it. Then, I’ll choose my next path and go from there.
I don’t ask for your adulation, praise, or envy. Congratulations are welcome and appreciated, but not necessary. I worked hard to achieve this. I spent years crafting the book, working with editors, and improving my skills as a writer. I also know that I was more than a bit lucky. People say “I’d rather be lucky than good,” I rather like knowing (in this instance at least) I was a bit of both.
To those of you still querying agents, sending out samples, and searching for publishers who will read your work, I salute you. Keep the faith, stay on the path. As I said in my first post, Your Baby is Ugly
“I know one day my book(s) will sit on a shelf and I’ll make a living on my writing. I know this because I also know that you’ll never succeed if you give up. The people who succeeded say you can too, the people who gave up say you can’t. Who are you going to listen to?”
Some might be confused by this since I posted the release date not long ago. That’s understandable. You see, this post was written in January, when I got the offer. However, when I was, almost literally, about to post this, I got word I needed to keep the offer quiet until Harper made the official announcement. Since they have I can now post this. I did consider rewriting it, but decided not to since it really captured my joy, shock, and mind-blowing delight at getting the offer. Posting it brought me back to that moment, and that’s why I posted it, to share that joy with others.
Here are some links to the official announcement: