There’s a limbo period after you turn in a novel manuscript. If the contract was contracted ahead of time it’s not a question of selling it. The question is, is it acceptable to your editor and his or her bosses.
It’s a nerve wracking time, and there’s not one thing you can do about it. After months or even years of pouring sweat and blood into the story, you must stand aside and just wait for a verdict. This may take a couple weeks or even months. During that time you try not to think about it too much. I personally forbid myself from looking at the manuscript while I’m in this limbo.
A thumbs-up from the editor will be full praise. The letter will also contain a list of issues the editor would like to address. These can be minor or earth shattering. It does happen sometimes that an editor will want a big change. It also happens that the editor wants a change that you absolutely do not agree with. That’s when negotiations become tricky. Most usually the list you get contains thoughtful and reasonable observations and suggestions.
So you work through that list, make changes, and off it goes to the next stage in the process.
When I handed over The Endless Forest, I hunkered down to wait for three or four weeks. Editors are busy people, is what I told myself. Don’t look at the manuscript. Don’t look at the calendar. Don’t think about it.
The big surprise was that I heard on January 12 — less than two weeks in — and not from my editor. I heard first from Nita Taublib, who is a Big Cheese at Bantam. The following is via Publishers Weekly:
NITA TAUBLIB is appointed Executive Vice President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief, Bantam Dell. Formerly Deputy Publisher and Editorial Director, Nita joined Bantam in 1982 and became Associate Publisher in l990. In her new role she will direct the hardcover and mass-market publishing programs of the Bantam Dell imprints—Bantam, Dell, Delacorte, Delta—as well as remain the editor of Danielle Steel and Luanne Rice. The Bantam Dell editorial department continues to report to her, as do GINA WACHTEL, who has been promoted to Vice President, Associate Publisher, and KATE MICIAK, editor of Lee Child and Lisa Gardner, promoted to Vice President, Editorial Director.
Nita has been closely involved with the Wilderness series from the beginning. She is the person who called me way back when to congratulate me on joining the Bantam family, and she’s the ultimate decision maker. So when I saw I had an email from her on January 12 with the subject line Endless Forest, I started to hyperventilate.
It would be bad manners to reproduce the email, but I’ll quote one line, because it is the nicest thing any publishing executive has ever said to me: “I have to tell you that in the last month I have not felt like reading — anything. Its been such a trying time, but […] you brought me back from the brink of not wanting to read — to being so happy to be in your pages and living with all the Bonners.”
Reading that was a huge boost, of course. All my worrying could be put aside; I could wait for my editor’s letter in the certain knowledge that the news coming my way was good, and that the changes would not be very many or large. And that’s the way it turned out. About ten days ago I got the editorial letter, with a short list of questions and suggestions. If I concentrate hard, I can take care of the whole thing in one day.
But I haven’t. I find it really hard this time, and the reason is pretty obvious. For the first time it really became clear to me that I’m at the end of the series. Really at the end. My goal is to take tomorrow to make all the changes, and then to send it off and sit down and get used to the idea. I think the process may require chocolate. A lot of chocolate.