For Sale: One Manuscript

“Publishing a book is one accomplishment you get to celebrate over and over.” That’s what my friend Karen’s mom used to say.

You finish the first complete draft. YAY! You finish editing it. You sent it to your agent. YAY! The agent likes it but suggests changes. You finish editing it. YAY! The agent sends it out for sale. A publisher accepts it but suggests more changes. YAY! You finish editing it again. It goes to the printer. It is released. It gets noticed and reviewed. YAY! It sells well. Your advance pays out. You get a royalty check. YAY!

That whole cycle can break down at any point. It often takes years to complete — unless you’ve really pissed off Donald Trump, in which case you zoom straight through to Massive Best Seller, Who Gives a Damn About Reviews, and start negotiations for the mini-series on Netflix, complete with discussions of casting like, What if we can get Harvey Weinstein to play Steve Bannon?

Here’s where Unremembered Lives is right now: My agents sent it out to publishers on Wednesday.

This whole process is a lot like real estate. You decide you’re ready to sell your house. You clean it up, stash stuff in the closets, and call a real estate agent. The agent suggests taking down all the family photos, cleaning out the closets, and getting rid of all the kitsch. You KonMari the hell out of the place.

The agent takes another look and bangs a For Sale sign into the front lawn. There might be an Open House. People who do not love you or your house or your pets or anything about you are now free to troop through it. They open drawers and doors, peer at every aspect of the property with very narrow eyes, and make unflattering remarks about your taste in curtains and flooring.

If you’re lucky, however, someone sees Potential and makes an offer. If you’re even luckier, two or more people make offers, and you have a bidding war. Your agent brings the offer to you, you say yes, a deal memo is drawn up.

There are still a whole bunch of ways the deal can go south. There are details to work out and hoops to jump through, on both sides of the transaction. It can fall through entirely.

I’m a long way from popping corks on champagne bottles at a publication party for Unremembered Lives. I’ve already gone on gone on to something completely different. So, when the time comes, if it comes, the celebration will be a nice gin and tonic at dinner with Don and an early night.




15 thoughts on “For Sale: One Manuscript”

  1. It disgusts me that YOU have to go through all this to get published! You’ve already been published, and your past novels have been excellent. You are one of my go-to authors, i.e., I can safely buy your novels without waiting to read the reviews. I would think publishers would be coming to you, not vice versa.

  2. SENDING UP A LOT OF PRAYERS, Mary!!!!! I have so many books to read…but ALL of them will be totally forgotten once I have my hands on YOUR new one!!! And I hope I can make it to a talk when you hit the road for this one! AAAAHHHH!!!!! SO EXCITING!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. I love the real estate analogy, but it is striking also to read this knowing you are an international best selling author and yet still, the manuscript flies solo out there awaiting its fate in spite of your outstanding track record. I look forward to reading your next work, knowing of course, it will find a publisher.

  4. Well, I’m thrilled that there is progress. Soon to be 87, waiting a long while is a chancy matter so I pray for speed from here on in. Love, Mary

  5. Mary,
    So good to hear that your research and writing has again produced one of your fascinating reads that some lucky publisher is going to get into our eager hands. Can’t wait! Thanks for all your blood/sweat/tears to get to this stage.

  6. Yay! One step, but a big step. I’ll join you and Don in a congratulatory g&t when a publisher buys it.

    My burning question, though, is: what are you working on now?

  7. Congratulations! Finishing a work always leaves a sense of accomplishment, a bit of adrenaline let down, and a feeling of now what? You have gone from strength to strength. The editors and publishers will recognize this.

    Many, including myself, await this work with a sense of high anticipation. Thank you for your many outstanding works and the many hour of surprise, joy, and pleasure you have given us.

  8. Ms. Russell,

    My resolution this year was to finally write the authors of the books that I fell in love with after reading. As a new sci-fi author, I also appreciated your blog post about the lengthy and sometimes painful editorial process. While perfectionism might make us be better writers, it can really keep newbies like myself from putting ourselves out there! Thanks for the inspiration–I just sent out my first query yesterday.

    When I read The Sparrow and Children of God a few years ago, all I could think was that if I possessed even an ounce of the imagination in those books, I’d be a fine world builder one day. Thank you (belatedly) for giving me such pleasure. I enjoyed turning many friends on to your work but was remiss in following up with your other novels. They are now on this winter’s reading list!

    Maria Calidonna

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