Monday, 12 January 2009

Sisyphus - Nick Green

Right now, I hope, my agent is looking at a draft of my latest book. This may lead on to more exciting things, or then again, it may not. The Road to Publication can be a long and rocky one, as well I know from my single successful journey down it (and from many unsuccessful ones). When my book The Cat Kin was going through the arduous submissions process, I kept a log of its progress. Be warned: if I had read this post four years ago, I would probably have chosen a different career.

Part 1: Finding an agent
After more than a year of hard work, in November 2004 I decide my book ‘Cat Kin’ (initially it lacks a ‘The’) is ready for submission. Between November and December I send extracts to six separate agents, one of whom has already shown cautious interest. Come the New Year, already impatient for a reply, I target three more agents.
Part 1a: Result!
It turns out I don’t have to wait long at all. By February 2005 not one but two of the agents are interested in ‘Cat Kin’. For a couple of weeks I work through the manuscript diligently with one of them… and then sign a contract with the other one, Curtis Brown. I’m not especially proud of that, but given the second agency’s reputation it seemed like the right decision. It depends on whether or not you believe in karma.
Part 2: Looking for a publisher
So it’s February, only four months after I finished the book, and already I have an agent. This is going to be easy. My agent gets to work, submitting ‘Cat Kin’ to a long list of publishers. In June, twiddling my thumbs, I ask for an update. No, there are no offers yet (as if they would forget to mention it). August arrives, and I can’t resist another query by email. Any news?
By October I’m getting really twitchy. I want to write another book – I have a barnstorming idea for a sequel to ‘Cat Kin’ – but I can’t bring myself to write it if the first one isn’t published. I contact my agent again. They’ve tried 16 children’s publishers, and not one has expressed any interest at all.
Part 3: Desperate measures
So I give up. I decide that ‘Cat Kin’ will never find a ‘real’ publisher. I search the web for self-publishing options and find the print-on-demand company Lulu. With nothing to lose now, I put together my own edition and publish it in January 2006.
I don’t hope for big sales. Neither do I get them. I sell about 50 copies of that edition, most to friends and family. But I do send one to the Times’s children’s book reviewer, Amanda Craig. And – wonder of wonders – she likes it. She reviews it in the Saturday paper.
Part 4: Finally…
I tell my agent about the review. Barely a month after it appears, Faber make me an offer. It is now March 2006 – more than a year since I signed with my agent, and 17 months since I first began submitting the book.
Another year is to pass before ‘The Cat Kin’ appears in the shops, and the whole sorry saga of the sequel is yet to unfold… but that’s another story. Just to get to this point has been a long, hard slog, consisting mostly of agonising waiting. Yet this experience is hardly unusual, and is by no means confined to first novels.

So, yeah – fingers crossed that the next book has an easier time of it.


Lee said...

My fingers are definitely crossed. You know that I'm not interested in conventional publication, but I do understand that most writers aren't like me ... yet! (My reader numbers are indeed going up steadily.)

Asakiyume said...

Your story of publication is actually heartening to me. I think people ought to embrace all methods of publication.

I have something I may self-publish. I'd continue to try to publish in the conventional manner for other works.

Conventional publication does have the advantage of putting your work in the hands, potentially, of a larger number of people, and so for that reason, I wish you success with conventional publication.

But I'm glad to hear you were willing to self-publish, too.

Lee said...

Hi Asakiyume,

'Conventional publication does have the advantage of putting your work in the hands, potentially, of a larger number of people ...'

Not necessarily. E-books are slowly beginning to take off, and my own Mortal Ghost, for example, is downloaded ca. 50-100 times per day. I would never get that size readership with conventional publication.

Asakiyume said...

Lee: So glad to hear it! I think independent and electronic publishing, whether self-publishing or small presses, just allows for more flexibility and experimentation, and allows readers an opportunity to try something that big, cash-strapped publishers may not be willing to offer them.

I'm **very** glad you're going great guns.

The Ginger Darlings said...

My daughter loved The Catkin and so did her friend.
I have some wonderful rejection letters for some of my texts. Funnily enough some of the publishers who rejected The Snow Leopard as being too whimsical for the current market now have it on their lists as one of the best books of the year. Makes no sense to me.

Lee said...

Jackie, actually, in light of my sense of publishers' so-called good sense (witness what has happened to Nick) it makes perfect sense!