Back when I was engaged in the humbling process of querying, I held a keen interest in other Back when I was engaged in the humbling process of querying, I held a keen interest in other people’s publication stories, especially if they were full of initial angst and failure. I wanted to know this: how long did it take, and how hard was it? Because for me, it took forever, and it was hard as hell.
I can state with confidence that all debut writers are intensely curious about other people’s timelines, both for the querying process and the process after you’ve been accepted for publication. I can also state with confidence that you’re making an error of catastrophic proportions if you look at someone else’s timeline and think that yours will mirror it. It won’t. Someone else’s manuscript is always going to get picked up faster than yours while hogging more attention and resources. Her manuscript is not as good as yours, of course—in fact, it’s crap—so, obviously, that writer must be dating the publicist’s cousin. Nevertheless, that’s how it goes.
Being an ER doc by training, I am highly primed for action. I like to zip around as if I’m on fire, so the geologic pace of the publishing industry, while not unexpected, did cramp my style a bit. It will have taken me nearly four years from the time I finished writing the manuscript to the time of publication. I can no longer remember exactly when I started The Queen of Hearts, but I did come across this exuberant Facebook post from mid-2014:
Oh, the sweet naiveté! Just finished my book!!! Ha! I had no idea.
As best I can remember, it took about nine months to arrive at that first draft. So here’s a reconstructed timeline, from typing the first words in 2013 to the glorious date of publication: February 13, 2018.
Mid-2013: Initial Draft Started
June 11, 2014: Initial Draft Finished
—Beta-reader opinions sought and rendered
—Local editing help acquired
—Multiple revisions of the manuscript
—First of many incoherent queries sent
—Attended first Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC
—Query revised multiple times, followed by another substantial overhaul of the manuscript.
—Here’s a tiny sampling of my query responses to demonstrate how they evolved over time. Most of the time I reviewed no response at all—even from agencies who claim to respond to all queries—so often I was left wondering if my query had gotten through. (Please, literary agencies, take note: set up an auto-response to indicate you received the query!)
This is also a pretty good illustration of how query responses can vary. You might think I made up this first form letter, but I swear I didn’t.
Dear Writer: Not for us. Thanks.
Dear Ms. Martin, Thanks so much for writing me about your project. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t quite right for my list. All My Best.
Dear Dr. Martin, Thank you for taking the time to send us the query for your upmarket women’s fiction novel, which we have read with interest. Though the premise sounds compelling, we are sorry to say the project is not right for our list. We wish you luck with your work. All best.
Hi Kimmery – Thanks for sending these pages along. As you know, I was intrigued by this concept, so I was eager to take a look. Unfortunately, however, I had a hard time connecting with the writing here. You have a very funny voice and there are some hilarious moments but ultimately, the narrative just didn’t feel immediate to me. This is purely a matter of personal taste, of course, and not an objective criticism, but you deserve an agent who is over-the-moon for your writing. With that in mind, I’m going to step aside and wish you all the best of luck with this project. Thanks for the opportunity to consider your work. All best.
Dear Kimmery, I started your manuscript last night and am very much enjoying it — you’re a terrifically witty and engaging writer. So I will try to get back to you on our end as soon as possible. All best to you.
Dear Kimmery (what a terrific name!), I would very much like to work with you on selling your novel. You are a fantastic writer and this story is very reminiscent of the kinds of books written by Liane Moriarty, I think. I am in my office all day today to talk – so, please let me know when you and I may chat. I very much look forward to next steps. Best.
January 7, 2016: Full request from multiple agents, including Jane Dystel of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.
February 4, 2016: Accepted offer of representation from Jane Dystel after conversations with multiple agents.
March 1, 2016: Manuscript sent on submission after minimal revision.
March 16, 2016: Accepted offer from Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, contingent upon major rewrite to include an additional specific plot line.
March 28, 2016: Deal memo received from PRH.
April 2016: Official contract signed.
April 27, 2016: Deal announced in Publishers Marketplace.
May 25 2016: Initial revision completed.
July 5, 2016: Revision accepted, suggestion received from PRH editor for second round revisions.
November 2016: New Title
December 2016: Final Revisions accepted
January-February 2017: Author’s Note and Acknowledgements Due
February 2017: First galleys printed; publication date set for February 2018
March-April 2017: First-pass and second-pass pages due and accepted
April 2017: Cover Art finished
May 2017: Metadata uploaded to retailers, Goodreads and Amazon profiles set up, cover reveal on social media
June 2017: First foreign rights sale, marketing plan shared, author photo due
July 2017: ARCs printed
September 2017: First Goodreads Giveaway
October-December 2017: A few interviews, reviews, and press mentions
January 2017: TBD at this time
February 2018: Publication!