How Long Does One Wait?

Back in the 1990’s when I first started writing my non-fiction history book and my novels I was disappointed when doing the rounds of Literary Agents and Third Party Publishers I began getting “knocked back” by every single one of them in Australia, England, and even the USA.

For years my manuscripts were “lost” in a box in a cupboard until last year when I decided to upload them onto soft copy onto the computer. One by one they got done.

The first of them was “Beneath Southern Stars” – the 2nd novel I had written. I hesitated about approaching 3rd party publishers again, but then thought what have I got to lose? I should have known better… After the 3rd rejection I said “sod it!” and self-published it through Smashwords.

I did the same with my non-fiction history book: “Smithy’s War” and children’s fiction book “To Tell Three Tales” – both also published through Smashwords.

With my Mum’s novel “A Tangled Web” and our poetry anthology “Poetic Whispers” I didn’t even bother attempting 3rd party publishers – you could say by then I was truly disillusioned by the game and just self published as with the others.

However, as much as I have sold copies of every book – not all to friends and/or family: in fact the majority of my friends and family haven’t even bothered to download the free samples let alone buy a book! – A self-published author is not regarded “published” unless he/she has signed a contract with a third-party publisher.

I hope in time this narrow-minded view will change, but for now whilst the big corporations hold the monopoly and power over Independent publishers we have to grin and bear this stupid stigma.

My Novel “The Sword and the Rose” when I initially wrote it in 1999 had taken me two years to conduct all the research needed to turn this story into a Historical Saga.

How it came about was when many years ago my father’s elder brother, Edwin, told me a story of how our ancestor came to arriving on the island of Malta in the early 1500’s. It seems he and his brother had an argument which flared into a duel. The brothers lived in Valencia, Spain and as duelling was an offence punishable by death the young men fled. One was captured and hanged. The other changed his name and arrived on the island of Malta to start anew.

In a way therefore I have my uncle to thank for my version of how my ancestor came to being on Malta. The difference being is that I begin my story some 100 years later.

Having invested so much time on this saga consisting of over 100,000 words and, as I believe, it is a lovely story [perhaps even romantic – there certainly are romantic elements in it] I decided to go against my gut instinct and submit it to a 3rd party publisher.

My first choice was Allen & Unwin [not sure why I picked them – perhaps because they might have been one of the smaller publishing houses appealing to my nature] but as per their guidelines stated after 3 weeks it became apparent they weren’t interested. I moved on to the next one.

Harlequin said they would review manuscripts between 8 – 12 weeks. I submitted the manuscript in full as per their submission guidelines in mid-May 2013. The deadline approached at the same time as the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Fremantle during August. It was also my birthday weekend and I didn’t want to spoil it with another rejection so I let it well alone.

During the conference, which incidentally was sponsored by Harlequin, I raised the question of waiting times for manuscript submissions with Sheila Hodgson, Senior Editor, Harlequin Mills & Boon UK. She confirmed it would be 90 days but emphasised that agented material or previously contracted authors would receive priority.

When I returned from Fremantle I sent an enquiry email to Harlequin and was told they were still to review my work as they had an exceptional back log.

Fellow authors [who I also list as friends] told me that I have no loyalty to publishers and should submit it to others at the same time. Personally I dislike multiple-submissions as I feel as though I am being dishonest in some sort of way. But having waited some 4 months without an answer, I approached Momentum Publishing. Their guidelines advised that if I didn’t hear within 30 days then they were not interested.

As they did not get back to me either, I took it as punishment for having submitted it whilst I hadn’t heard back from Harlequin. Being honourable I emailed Harlequin at the weekend just gone [5th October 2013] and told them that as I hadn’t heard back from them that it was obvious they weren’t interested and for them to withdraw my submission to protect my copyright.

I received the following reply:

Hi Robert,

We have not yet reviewed your manuscript, and I really apologise for this. We are trying to get through hundreds at the moment, and because we want to make sure we properly consider each submission, it is something that is taking an unprecedented amount of time.

We understand that you may want to submit to other publishers, and we have removed your submission from our system.

Thank you, and we wish you the best of luck!

This response only seemed to strengthen my suspicion of what Sheila Hodgson had said in August that agented material or previously contracted authors received priority and hence pushing my work to the bottom of the pile.

So after five months I pulled the plug on them… stupid? Maybe, but then how long does one wait for a third-party publisher to say whether or not they want to take on your manuscript?

The manuscript has since been submitted to another publisher. I shan’t name who as I don’t want to tempt fate.

Meanwhile however, I have also submitted my romance novella to a 3rd Party Publisher – their waiting time is allegedly 2 weeks. I will wait three before moving on to someone else…

The joys of writing AND publishing…. why do we do it?

The answer to that is simple: because we love it!!

RLB – Tomewriter

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