Anyone who writes a book and dreams of publication knows the odds are against them. The competition for a spot on a publisher’s roster is brutal. Still…we dream. About two years ago, I declared my memoir, Shifting Currents, finished. Sure, I’ve kept fiddling with it, but I started contacting agents and some small Canadian presses. (I never really thought Random House would be interested.)
I had a couple of encouraging nibbles from agents. One in B.C. read it once, made some suggestions, read it again. But in the end, she said no. For small Canadian presses, agents are not usually required, so I made a list of some that seemed possible and sent out queries. They all responded politely within a few months. “Your work doesn’t fit our publication lineup.” I toyed with self-publishing but wasn’t quite ready to give up the dream—not of fame and fortune, not of the Giller, just of the credibility of a real publisher. I looked into the various assisted self-publishing options—of which there are a growing number. But did I want to spend thousands of dollars up front?
Then, last April, I returned home from Mexico to find a letter telling me I’d received a small grant from the Ontario Arts Council. It was part of the Council’s Writer’s Reserve program, based on recommendations from Ontario publishing houses. The previous fall, I’d sent information and an excerpt from my memoir to a dozen publishers, hoping someone would notice me, and one small but prestigious southern Ontario press, Biblioasis, did. I was thrilled. The cheque was nice, of course. But what really sent me over the moon was the hand-written note from the editor: “This looks very promising. I’d love to see more of it when you’re ready.”
Well, okay. If you insist.
I emailed the editor, thanking him for his encouragement and asking if he preferred that I respond directly to him or use the usual submission process. I waited a month for a reply. Probably he was on vacation. Probably my message had drifted to the bottom of his inbox. I tracked down the friend of a friend who had published with him; she assured me he was an approachable guy, so I re-sent the message. By mid-July, it was pretty clear there would be no response to this second attempt either. Annoyed, I submitted the manuscript following the posted guidelines, with a copy to the editor reminding him that he had actually asked for this. The website warns that it may take several months for a response. More than a year later, I am still waiting. I have never received even an acknowledgement to either of my emails or to the submission. Oh, and by the way, the website is very clear: Do not contact us regarding the status of your submission. I haven’t.
I guess this is par for the course. It should not make me boiling angry. It should not make me refuse to read books published by Biblioasis or sneer when I see their Facebook posts. That would be small and petty, which I try not to be.
But what, exactly, did that lovely note from the editor mean? Why did he bother penning an encouraging word? I’ve given up wondering.
Now, before you roll your eyes and say “she just doesn’t know how to play the game,” let me set you straight. I do know how to play the game. I’ve decided I don’t want to. I don’t want to sit on my hands waiting for rejection notices, never ready to give up because there’s still one more chance out there. I know—okay, I’ve forgotten, but I did know—how many publishers JK Rowling approached before anyone noticed her. I know the average number of rejections new authors receive before finding a publisher is in double digits, and I’m not there.
Here’s another thing I know: I’m not forty. I don’t want to be eighty or—well, you know the alternative—before I this book I’ve been working on for five years sees the light of day.
So, be among the first to see my solution—and the solution of several others—at the following website. And stay tuned.
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