Friday, January 19, 2007

My wait with DAW

Caution: This post is almost as long as my wait.

Ironically, after my last post, I heard from DAW about my trilogy, The Miscria. After 2 years, 3 months of consideration, it was rejected. I want to thank Peter Stampfel, the editor and first reader at DAW, for his kind words and patience. He encouraged me to write the second book in the trilogy and kept me up-to-date on the wait. Even though they will not be publishing The Miscria, it's been a valuable experience.

As I shared this news on writers' groups, the most common response was "Why would you wait 2 years?" Here's why I waited.

DAW is a big publisher and some of my favorite authors got their start with them, so publishing with them would have been the fulfillment of a dream.

I did receive responses from DAW. The first was a request for the second book in the trilogy along with a warning that this was going to be a timely process and a request for patience. DAW is a big publishing house with a small staff. They were undergoing organizational changes. They had been acquired by another company that promised more staff but hadn't delivered…

For a year, I've talked with Peter Stampfel quarterly. On the phone. Peter was a stressed, busy man; I could hear it in his voice. Nonetheless, he took 10-20 minutes to talk to me and answer my questions. He remembered the books and enjoyed them. They were on the top of the second read pile, ahead of others that had been there even longer. The second reader had not even touched the pile. She was also in charge of already-commissioned works and was having trouble with authors not meeting their deadlines. He even put me on hold while he went to find out answers to my questions ("Why did you select this first-time writer? Was he agented? Was he in the slush? How long did he wait?")

It's been an interesting education into the publishing world. Perhaps it's not the most courteous of things to make someone wait so long, but I also went in knowing DAW has a waiting time of 3 years in some cases, and that for some publishing houses, these kinds of waits on unagented manuscripts are not unusual.

There's also a responsibility on us writers. We have an obligation to only send out our best. We've all read laments from agents and editors about the dreck they have to go through to find the gems--and with computer technology, that has only gotten worse. We also have an obligation once we've "made it" to be true to our craft and our obligations. (Once when I called, they were having problems with an author who hadn't even started a book that was slated for release--he or she was spending too much time on the Internet. I know someone who ghostwrites for another author because that person is unable to complete his contract. The contracted author has not even read "his" latest books, yet guess who gets a portion of the royalties?) That's also one reason why so many publishing houses are looking for agented work--they can be reasonably sure the agent has QC'd the manuscript and will watchdog the author about his obligations.

So, despite my jokes about my manuscripts "collecting dust" at DAW, I do not believe I was neglected then rejected. Nor was I sitting around pinning my hopes on an impossible dream. It was a considered gamble that didn't pan out. And you all know I've been busy in the meantime. BTW--I have more interviews out on Infinite Space, Infinite God--check out the web site.

Monday, I begin again, a little less patient and a little wiser. The Miscria will find a publishing home, and perhaps I'll try DAW again later--with an agented contract.

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