My debut publishing ride – Sara Donovan

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By Sara Donovan

You’ve submitted your manuscript to publishers and now you are playing a waiting game. Here one Australian debut author explains what it feels like when The Call finally comes. ♥

The First Email Contact

Two strange things happened the morning my publishing experience began. Firstly, I lost my voice, which was pretty ironic because I’d been sprouting off the night before that getting rejected for publication felt like being put on mute. And secondly, (and even stranger), I momentarily stopped thinking about my book. But only long enough to solve my immediate problem of having no voice while being interstate to teach a corporate training program.

But that’s what it’s like when you’ve sent your first few chapters off to publishers and are playing the post-submission waiting game. It takes quite a bit to get distracted from the multiple choice question that follows you around like a hungry German Shepherd.

A) Will a publisher want to read more?
B) Will I self-publish if they don’t?
C) Is my manuscript destined for a box in the garage, only to be found by the person clearing up after I’ve died? And will they like it?

But for once, I wasn’t thinking about my book as I checked my emails and took a double take when I saw an unexpected and shockingly familiar name in my inbox. HarperCollins – my dream publisher and the glam Mad Men of the book world – were communicating with me!

‘It’s a good sign if they’re willing to talk to you about anything,’ my writing mentor had said. ‘Even if they’re telling you why they’re rejecting you.’

I clicked and stopped breathing. ‘I would love to read the rest of your manuscript. If you can send it, then I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Submissions editor’, it said. I wondered if I would love the mysterious submissions editor for the rest of my life.

The Call

Six weeks later an unknown number appeared on the message bank of my phone (which I now obsessively carried with me everywhere). Was this another telemarketer or could this be – THE CALL?

It was. A pretty English accent told me that my book was fresh and engaging and it would be good to chat. I had to listen to the message three times and phone-a-friend before I was sensible enough to call back.

I feigned a sense of calm as we discussed my story, the cover concept, a new name, the deal – but it wasn’t working. I went from gushing to blank staring as I tried to manage the excitement of my first book having made it this far.

‘Thank you, thank you so much for the opportunity,’ I kept saying when I met my editor for a celebratory drink a few days later.

‘Thank you for coming to HarperCollins,’ my editor said.
I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Being Digital First

Because so many women read commercial fiction on digital readers and because I’m a first-time author, I always thought my best chance of gaining a significant readership was with a publisher that had expertise in ebooks. So I was delighted when this was the offer.

The other advantage of a digital contract is that a lower-cost digital model allows publishers to have a longer-term view of success – which is especially important for a new author as it can take several books to break through.

Months into the process, with lots of support and direction from my editors and the marketing team, it’s obvious that HarperCollins are making a significant investment in my book and we’re in this together.

I detect surprise and sometimes let-down from others when I explain that I have a digital rather than a print contract. But then the next response usually is – ‘Oh, like Fifty Shades of Grey, right?’ Well…

Sara Donovan is a corporate facilitator and instructional designer who delivers training programs in neuroscience and communication skills. She draws inspiration for her writing from psychology, science and her accidental rom-com life. Love by Numbers is her debut novel.

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