Yesterday I called Katharine Sands, a literary agent about whom I’ve heard a lot of good things, and who also happens to have the prospectus for my non-fiction reptile book. I needed some advice.
On October 30th I submitted “The Swan Harp” to Penguin UK. Penguin has not responded, and they made it clear on their website that they wouldn’t respond to any submission unless an editor was “keen” (their word) to work with the author.
What they weren’t clear about, and I wish they had been, was the sort of timespan we neophyte novelists were looking at. Were they going to blast through the whole pile in a week? A month? Two months? Six? They didn’t say. I emailed to ask when I might reasonably assume they didn’t want my manuscript, and heard nothing.
So I called Katharine, who was extremely helpful. Really, the woman is lovely. She told me right away that she didn’t know how things were done in the United Kingdom, but she said that in New York, after two months, it would be a fair bet that I was out of the running. She also said that it’s considered acceptable in the publishing industry simply not to communicate with authors. While she thinks it’s rude not to talk to authors, she said it’s still, unfortunately, the only efficient thing to do to keep the burden of communication from being overwhelming.
I asked her if she would be interested in seeing my manuscript, and she told me to write her a query letter and send the synopsis, which I have now done. I’d love to work with her – she’s been prompt to return calls, patient with my beginner’s questions and altogether helpful.
So the glowing response I had from my readers has not translated into instant acceptance by the first publisher to see the work. Fair enough. It may not translate into a spot on the Pratchett Prize short list, either, although that is still to be seen.
In the meantime, it’s my hope that Katharine will like the synopsis well enough to want to see my manuscript. I’d like that a lot. I know it’s only a first step to selling my novel, but every step is progress.
This is the year that my goal – among others – is to sell a book. Okay, I’ve done that once already in my life, with Erik the Viking Sheep, but I’d like to do it again.
The Penguin may be dead in the water, but there are other birds out there in the bush. I’ll keep you posted.