…I was waiting on a piece of news which is simultaneously the most exciting and most terrifying thing an agented but unpublished writer can hear.
My book, which had been submitted to Random House Children's Books a couple of months before, was going to aquisitions.
The acquisitions meeting is where The Decision is made about your book. The decision about whether a publisher is actually going to make an offer for it. Even when the commissioning editors and other teams have fallen in love with your novel, it still has to get over this final hurdle. Of course, I was thrilled to have gotten this far – especially as my previous novel hadn't sold – but it was torture, too. Because the thought that my novel could get so close and yet there was still every chance it might be rejected… well, that wasn't the easiest place to be in.
Even worse, at that point, hardly anyone knew I was a writer – let alone a writer with an agent and a book out on submission that was about to go to acquisitions at a major publisher. So I had to go to work that day and pretend everything was normal, even though inside, I was just about ready to explode. I had to smile at people and make conversation when all I wanted to do was to stare at my computer screen, finger hovering over the refresh button on my email inbox.
Not that I wanted any emails. 'If you hear from me today, it's bad news,' my agent had told me. 'If you don't, it's good.' As soon as I finished work, I rushed home, fired up the laptop and logged on. Nothing. I checked again ten minutes later. Nothing. I choked down dinner. Nothing. Saw hubby off to teach his art class. Nothing. Tried to write a bit more of my new novel. Nothing.
And although I'd told myself I wouldn't get too optimistic – that there was still plenty of time for my agent to email me – I began to feel the first glimmerings of hope. Of what if they said yes?
And then, at about quarter past seven, I checked my email one last time, and saw a message from my agent sitting in my inbox.
My heart sank. At arm's length, I opened the email, the same mantra running through my head that I always repeated to myself when I got a rejection: It doesn't matter. Perhaps the next publisher will say yes. Or perhaps it'll be the next book that sells. You'll only fail if you stop writing. And all the while, disappointment sat heavy inside me. My book had got this far, and they still didn't want it.
But it wasn't a rejection. It was a forwarded email from the commissioning editor. The response to my book at the meeting had been positive. They were going to make an offer.
My book was going to get published.
Okay, I admit it, I cried. I may even have screamed and scared The Hound. And I know I re-read that email about a hundred times, not quite daring to believe it was real. But it was. And it was still there the next day. And the next. This was actually happening.
Now, with all the edits and copyedits on ACID done, and the manuscript waiting to go to the typesetter, I can hardly believe that just one year ago, I had no idea if my dream of publication was still books and years away from coming true. That can be the worst thing about trying to get published, I think – the waiting, the not-knowing, the knock-backs which drain your confidence no matter how much you try not to let them.
But if ACID hadn't sold? I'd still be writing, without a doubt. Because you never know when everything's going to change. And a year ago today, that was what happened to me.