My Writing Journey: After the Phone Call [Part 4]

My name is Stephanie Chen and I am a 2nd generation Taiwanese American. Like many of my peers, I followed a prescribed path towards success: studied hard, got good grades, went to an Ivy League college. I studied finance and after graduation, started a job at a top-tier investment bank. I then joined an investment fund, where I eventually became a partner. However, if you had asked me when I was in the 6th grade what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said “a writer”. In early 2017, a post on this very website took me down the path to following that dream. In just a few short months, it felt as though my life had changed completely. Follow me on my journey–the new challenges, the overwhelming uncertainties, the small, but cumulative successes–to becoming a published author.

Revisit Part 1: How It Began.
Revisit Part 2: Is It Good Enough? Dealing with Self-Doubt.
Revisit Part 3: The Need for Approval and Praise.

I held my breath as I made the call.

He was the marketing manager for the publisher, and he said his editors were very interested in my query. He asked if the full manuscript was ready. I answered, excitedly, “Yes!” and said I’d send it right over. Then he said after they had a chance to read through it, I should come in to have a cup of coffee with his team to discuss my vision and motivation for the book. I thanked him, and raced home, nearly forgetting about my dog, who was, you may recall, at the groomers.

I was ecstatic, of course. I drafted an email, deliberating over the words.

“It was a pleasure chatting with you,” I started. What should come next, though? Should I suggest a date and a time for a meeting, or was I getting ahead of myself? I recalled the age-old professional tip that one should always offer two time slots when trying to book an appointment with someone. But when I wrote the sentence out, “Which works better for you, Friday at 10 or Monday at 11?” it definitely sounded too presumptuous.

Finally, I settled on, “Would be very happy to meet you and your team to discuss. Just let me know what day/time,” and sent the email.

An hour later, worried I had sounded too flippant, I went back to re-read what I had written, and realized I had forgotten to attach the manuscript. After I sent a sheepish “Sorry, forgot to attach” message, I started to agonize over what steps, if any, I should take next.

Did this mean anything, the telephone call and suggestion to meet for a coffee? Or was it not a real invitation, the equivalent of a “we should get together sometime” comment that we’ve all said to someone, and never actually followed up? Was it simply a more personal request for the full manuscript, which was merely one step in the marathon to publication?

I called in a friend for a consult, and together we analyzed the situation in a dozen different ways. They hadn’t even read the whole thing, she said, what if they read it and hated it? (She’s a friend that doesn’t sugar-coat, as you can see.) Sit tight, she suggested. This was, of course, impossible for me.

I did get a little boost later that afternoon, when I received a reply to my email; he said they were looking forward to reading my script, ending with “Do let me know when you can swing by for a chat.”

OK, so they did really want to meet. But that led to even more questions. What date should I suggest to meet? Was later that week better, or should I give them more time? What should I be doing in the meantime to prepare for the meeting? Practicing my pitch in the mirror?

I convinced myself that I had a publisher that was “interested” in my book, and potentially a short time window, so I started sending out emails, trying to (a) secure an agent and (b) “nudge” the other publishers I had already queried to see if I could drum up a little competition for my book. This was no doubt risky, and as I wrote the emails opening with, “I have a publisher potentially interested…”, I wondered if perhaps I was jumping the gun.

My fears seemed to be well-placed, as one publisher responded, almost immediately, “Our editorial meeting is once a month. Please do go ahead to meet other publishers if opportunities arise.”

From the other publishers and agents: silence

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