As an unpublished author I did not have an agent, and I suspected that as an unpublished author I was not likely to find a reputable one if I tried to, so I decided not to bother trying. Instead, I decided that I would submit my manuscript to various publishers directly. But to which publishers, and how?
I went to my local bookstore and wrote down the names of all the publishing companies that had books on the science fiction shelves—Ace, Tor, Baen, Daw, and several others. Then I went home and looked up every one of those companies on the Internet, found their websites, and read their submission guidelines. I discovered that some of them would only accept manuscripts submitted by literary agents. Since I did not have an agent, I crossed those companies off the list. When I finished, three names remained.
Though similar, those companies’ guidelines did differ in some ways. One thing that all three had in common, however, was that they did not want concurrent submissions. I was unsure as to whether that meant that they did not want submissions that had also been submitted to other publishers, or that they did not want more than one submission at a time from any one author. Being a new and unpublished author, I decided to err on the side of caution and not risk upsetting anyone. I submitted my manuscript to one publisher at a time.
I submitted my manuscript to the first of those publishers on October 23, 2002. Just over a month later, on November 29, I received a very professional and polite rejection. Refusing to grow discouraged, I prepared my manuscript for the second publisher and submitted it on December 16, 2002. This time the turnaround was much longer, but on June 27, 2003 I received another rejection letter. Refusing once more to give up, I prepared and submitted my manuscript to the third publisher two days later, and fifteen months later, on October 2, 2004, a representative of that publisher—I believe associate editor was the person’s title—notified me that my manuscript was good, and was being passed up to the next level. A real editor liked my manuscript! It was being passed up to a higher level!
And there was much rejoicing.
I eagerly awaited the next communication. I knew my story was good, but I could hardly believe that in an industry that is so difficult to break into, my manuscript…my manuscript…had made the first cut at a major publishing company! Then on December 30, 2004, I received another rejection. However, that rejection was different. The letter didn’t simply take a paragraph to say, “no thank you,” the way the others had. This rejection gave me much more. It stated that although my manuscript had been rejected in its current form, it was both well-written and deserving of detailed feedback. Naturally, I was disappointed at having been rejected again, but this particular rejection had brought with it a spark of hope. Someone who worked at a higher level for a major publishing company, presumably one of the editors, had told me that my manuscript was well-written.
I read the feedback with enthusiasm. The editor questioned two relatively minor story points and made suggestions as to how best to address those points, and then addressed one very important matter relating to storytelling on a large scale. I saw the editor’s point very clearly and agreed completely. Filled with the hope that the “well-written” comment had instilled in me, I contacted the publisher and asked them if they would be willing to reconsider my manuscript if I addressed those areas of concern. On January 17, 2005 the publisher responded to my inquiry with a pleasingly enthusiastic invitation to resubmit, which I have since been told by others is a rare occurrence.
I addressed the areas of concern, the most important of which required that I add a significant amount of material in order to tell a more complete story in the first book than I had told up to that point. Ten months later, on November 19, 2005, I resubmitted my newly expanded 875-page manuscript to the publisher. Then I waited…and waited…and waited.
When nearly a year had passed and I hadn’t heard from the publisher—this was a resubmission, so I expected the process to flow much faster than it had the first time around—I contacted them, but I received no response. I learned much later that they had good reason for their silence, but at the time I was unaware of what they were going through internally, so did not understand their silence. Like any aspiring author in my position likely would have, I started growing impatient. I really wanted that specific company to publish my manuscript, but how long was I expected to wait? I started looking for alternatives, and I soon found one…unfortunately.
I stumbled across a website that belonged to a company that I had never heard of. I browsed the site, read up on the company on that site, and reviewed the submission guidelines very carefully. The company promised a relatively quick response which was exactly what I was looking for, so on November 10, 2006 I submitted my manuscript to them, telling myself that I would have to be patient because its length would likely force the publisher to take more time than advertised to review and consider it.
And then it happened. On December 14, 2006 I received word from the new publisher that they wanted to publish my manuscript. I was elated. I had always believed in my story. I had always believed in myself. Now a second publishing company believed in me as well. I went through the contracting process with the new publisher and notified the one I had been waiting on for so long that I had signed with someone else, and in April 2007 my first Solfleet novel was published and released.