Monday, July 23, 2012

1,254 days from query to contract. But who's counting?


The publication trek can be exhausting, discouraging, debilitating, frustrating, and yes, even exhilarating. As so many of us grind through an emotional and consuming submission process, I decided to pause for a moment, to look back in time.

Fogg in the Cockpit was released a year ago, after a long publication journey. Were our travails abnormal or fairly typical? From rejections, to no responses, to referrals, to a contract offer that faded to naught, to a lost manuscript, to multiple offers, everything seemed to happen. Ultimately though, we landed a contract with Casemate, a terrific, supportive publisher.

My husband and I started working on this book in 2004 and completed the first 60,000 word draft in early 2007. It was time to send out queries!

  • 1st Query 03/24/07 Talbot Fortune Agency: Rejection
    2nd Query 04/02/07 Dystel & Goderich Literary Management: Rejection 
  • 3rd Query 05/07/07 Stackpole Books: No response 
  • 4th Query 07/30/07 Potomac Books: Rejection 
  • 5th Query 05/08/08 University Press of New England: Rejection 
  • 6th Query 05/08/08 Naval Institute Press: Rejection 
  • 7th Query 05/11/08 Carlton Publishing Group: No response 
  • 8th Query 05/11/08 Burford Books: 06/12/08 Burford requested sample chapters, 06/20/08 sent sample chapters, 06/21/08 declined 
  • 9th Query 05/11/08 Westholme Publishing: No response
  • 10th Query 05/11/08 Camroc Press: 05/13/08 Camroc requested sample chapters, 06/20/08 Camroc requested full manuscript, 07/03/08 declined and suggested we try a university press 
  • 11th Query 05/18/08 WW Norton: No response 
  • 12th Query 05/28/08 Skyhorse Publishing: Rejection 
  • 13th Query: 05/29/08 to Hellgate Press: No response for 21 months (see below) 
  • 14th Query: 05/30/08 to Schiffer Publishing: Rejection 
  • 15th Query: 07/08/08 to Utah State University Press: 07/09/08 USU requested two copies of full manuscript, 07/10/08 USU acknowledged receipt of manuscripts via email, no further response 
  • 16th Query7/25/08 to University Press of Kentucky: Rejection
  • 17th Re-query 11/21/08 to Stackpole (referral from one of their authors): Rejection
  • 18th Query 03/09/09 to University of Oklahoma Press 03/16/09: requested full, no further response despite several follow-up emails
  • 19th Query 05/01/09 to FPP Aviation: 05/03/09 FPP requested full manuscript, 05/05/09 sent full manuscript

Months passed. Who said silence is golden? I would rather receive a rejection than no response!

We decided to self-publish, read Lulu’s guidelines and registered with them. Then dogged determination visited and we decided to send out a few more queries. Just a few.

Our last salvo:

  • 20th Query December 29, 2009 to Norlights Press: Rejected
  • 21st Query January 3, 2010 to Casemate Publishers

I have to pause now to re-visit the 19th Query that we sent on 05/01/09. On 02/18/10 we received an email from FPP stating they wanted to make an offer. (Happy dance!) On 02/23/10 we met with publisher, received a verbal contract offer, and were told that a contract would follow. On 03/27/10 we sent a follow-up email re: status of contract.  No response.

Yet again that dreaded no response.

But then everything happened at once.

  • 03/29/10: Received a charming response to the 10th query we’d sent 21 months previously. In summary, our query and sample chapters had been misplaced by the press during a move. Hellgate requested a full manuscript which we sent 03/30/10.

One day later…

  • 03/31/10: Received an email from Casemate (21st query) expressing interest. “We would be very interested to discuss this project further as we feel this is a very interesting story and perspective on the war.” 04/06/10: Casemate scheduled a conference call with us. 04/08/10: Received a verbal offer from Casemate contingent upon increasing word count from 60,000 to at least 75,000, but preferably over 100,000. 04/09/10: Sent additional material to Casemate to show that we could, indeed, increase the word count.

But wait, there’s more!

  • 04/13/10: Received an offer from Hellgate, the press that had moved their offices and misplaced our query for 21 months.

Now what? Casemate was interested but we had a bird in the hand. Two, if you counted FPP, though we were now skeptical about them as they hadn’t responded to our emails.

  • 04/15/10: We let Hellgate know that we had an offer from Casemate. The Hellgate editor was terrific. He assured us his offer would stand while we decided who to go with. He complimented Casemate, said they were a great press.

We debated the pros and cons of the offers. And then debated some more.

  • 04/21/10: Let Casemate know that we had an offer from Hellgate.

Paranoia reigned. No word from Casemate.

  • 05/14/10: Casemate scheduled a conference call to review contract terms.
  • 05/25/10: Back to the 19th Query, FPP. Still no response to our follow-up emails or a voice mail, so we sent a letter and email withdrawing our manuscript.
  • 05/25/10: Let Hellgate know that we were going to accept Casemate’s offer.
  • 06/20/10: Sent additional material to Casemate with estimated new word count. 07/08/10: Still no contract draft from Casemate, sent follow-up email.

We were now considering going back to Hellgate.

  • 07/26/10: Phoned Casemate and left a message re: status of contract. 07/28/10: Casemate phoned us, explained the delay, and reinforced their interest in the manuscript. Reviewed terms, deadlines, and estimated publication date. They would need the bulked up manuscript by 11/01/10. Yikes! We asked if we could have one more month, until 11/30/10. 09/01/10: Received the contract.

We received the contract!

  • Deadline for submittal of the bulked-up manuscript was 11/01/10.  

Wait! What happened to the extra month we requested?  Oh well, we can do it!

  • 09/03/10: Mailed signed contract to Casemate.

Time for champagne! Pop!!

This might have been an overly verbose way of reminding everyone, including myself, that it takes stamina, persistence, and determination to get published. To borrow from Galaxy Quest, a shorter message might be, “Never give up! Never surrender!” 

by Janet Fogg
Janet Fogg is the author of Soliloquy, an award-winning historic romance, and co-author of the military history bestseller, Fogg in the Cockpit.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Janet, it's helpful for new authors to see these timelines and realize how long it takes from idea to publication. No wonder more and more writers are taking advantage of the self-publishing option.

Laura K. Deal said...

I remember those dramatic days! You ended up with an absolutely beautiful book that honors a fine man and his friends. Persistence was definitely worth it! Thanks for the reminder as I prepare my first salvo of queries on my current project.

Janet Fogg said...

Pat, you're right, the timeline can be daunting for new authors. That, plus all of the new and improved choices for self-publishing, have certainly enhanced that option. (I'm going to self-pub some short stories soon!)

Laura, you helped get me through those days! Thank you again! Salvo away - I've got your back!

Terry Wright said...

Wow... I thought 19 months from query to book in hand was a long time to wait for my novel "The 13th Power." You guys are rock stars of persistence. Then I waited 8 years for my agent to make a sale, which he never did. Does that make me a rock star of desperation? I fired him and haven't found another agent yet.

Chiseled in Rock said...

This posting should be required reading for any pre-published author. It's a perfect snapshot of how this business works.

Gusto Dave

Mary Gillgannon said...

An amazing tale, Janet. But at least it had a happy ending. I've waited up to two years to get responses from editors and by then the line has folded, the editor no longer acquires what I write or in one case, the publisher had folded. Sheesh! Patience is a virtue...especially in this business!