I was practically rubbing my hands together with glee as I anticipated writing this post. Publishing emergencies…publishing emergencies?
Have I got some publishing emergencies for YOU!
Okay, it’s not so wild as all that. Before I signed a contract with my agent, I thought that every rejection was a publishing emergency. Eventually I realized that each rejection was like a little piece of disappointed gold, because though I badly wanted my efforts to result in a giant book advance, I also knew deep in the squishy cockles of my heart that my first attempt at a novel truly, madly, and deeply sucked. Also, every bit of agent advice scribbled in the margins of my returned queries ultimately fueled the development of Novel Number Two, now known as Driving Sideways. (Novel Number One? Currently undergoing major reconstructive surgery to have the clots of suckage removed and hoping to make an appearance at a bookstore near you in 2009.)
By now you’ve probably realized that I’m the kind of person who could turn a relaxing massage therapy appointment into a frenzied, adrenalin-drenched episode of panic. So despite being just twenty days from the release of my first novel (oh my, I can actually type that! In a public forum! And not be lying!), I’ll try to step back and tell you, with a little objective perspective, about the biggest publishing emergency I’ve met thus far.
We sold my novel in early December of 2005. Back when Richard Pryor, Wendy Wasserstein, and Don Knotts were still alive. Now, you may have heard that the average book sails down the production pipeline and appears in bookstores roughly one year after being sold. So, you may be wondering, what happened? Did I take a wrong turn near Albuquerque? Well, in the summer of 2006, I was nearly orphaned. My most excellent editor, which any writer would have a mad writerly crush on because she’s just that fantastic, left her position at my acquiring house, HarperCollins, for a new one at Random House.
Nearly two chaotic weeks ensued in which I waited to hear my fate. Every publishing-related ‘worst case scenario’ piece I’d read basically told me that if your editor leaves your publisher, you may as well make tiny book-shaped nooses and get some small shovels to have a teeny funeral in the backyard for your brilliant writing career. (Which, since it was too young to be baptized, may simply end up in limbo).
Much cheese and a raft of baked and fried goods were consumed. And wine. Wine consumption was definitely up that week. Lest you think I was celebrating my perilous predicament like it was a fundraiser for the local humane society, I should clarify that much of the cheese and wine consumption occurred while I was in my pajamas, unshowered, and possibly crying.
But the publishing fates smiled on me that month: I hadn’t yet truly entered the production pipeline at Harper (three cheers for extensive revisions!), so I got to do the paperwork shuffle and move with my editor to Random House. I hadn’t read about this happening in The Scary Publishing Story Books, so it was a little like discovering that your sneezes suddenly smelled of lavender and turned Kleenex into ten dollar bills.
Why would you want to stay with your acquiring editor? Because he or she was the first one in your publishing house to read and (hopefully) fall in love with your story. Your editor had enough enthusiasm for the book to convince the rest of the team to join your Book Parade, too. He or she will be your primary in-house advocate, lighting fires under posteriors, or putting them out as the case may be.
I was incredibly lucky to change houses so I could stay with my editor, and I continue to be relieved and grateful. I am also thrilled with the book, a real, final copy of which I got to hold in my hands for the first time this week. (Surreal squee!) Things could have turned out very differently; for example, had things not gone as I’d hoped, EVERY night at my house could have been Depressing Fundraiser Night. So upon hearing that my entire first print run will be missing the author photo (whoops!), I was like, Pshaw! You call that a publishing emergency? We are rolling with the punches here, people. And loving every second.