I published my first book in 1997. It doesn’t seem so long ago, but in publishing terms, 1997 was back in the stone age. My, how times have changed. Before then, when my book was nearing completion, I’d mail out a few queries, both to agents and editors. Occasionally I’d receive a reply with those magic words, “I’d like to see the complete manuscript.” Oh, the excitement! I would print out the book, never without some sort of foul-up with the page numbering (I used Word Perfect back then). Then I’d get the package together: manuscript, synopsis, cover letter, return postage. Haul the package to the post office and mail—no small expense for a struggling writer. Then wait. And wait. And wait some more. Months later, the rejection letter.
“Although I liked certain elements in your story…”
“Unfortunately we recently published a book with a similar plot…”
“Interesting plot but cardboard characters…” (Ouch!)
Finally I found an agent who said she’d like to represent me. Another wait, and then “The Call,” that wonderful moment when the agent phoned with the news she’d sold Lady Semple’s Secret to Ballantine. Soon after, the Ballantine editor sent me the manuscript with lots of little yellow Post-Its sticking out the side. My heart sunk. It looked like I’d have to rewrite the book, but most of the Post-Its had to do with comments and questions, and very few typos or requested changes. I revised the manuscript, sent it back, and that was it. I had nothing more to do except revel in the glow of being a published author and wait for the book release.
Thank goodness, those costly days of printing and mailing a manuscript are long gone. I wonder if our newer writers appreciate being able to send a manuscript to an agent with one quick click. The Post-Its are now replaced with MS Word tracking, so that editing is so much faster and more thorough. (Not that you’ll find many writers who love tracking, including me, but it’s a good tool, nonetheless.) And then there’s the marketing. If you’ve written a good book, that’s only half the battle. Facebook—Twitter—my own website and blog—Linked—and a lot more. Do a Cover Reveal. Do a One Day Book Blast. Oh, for the good old days! But no, wait. The good old days mean having to lug my manuscript package to the post office, pay double postage, then wait eons for the mail. So, no, I’ll take this electronic age any day, and excuse me while go do my Blog.