So many readers are would-be authors, and many of us are curious about the publication process. How do people with day jobs manage to write an entire book? What is it like for them emotionally while they attempt to find an agent? In a guest post for BookPage, debut author Nelle Davy provides a behind-the-scenes look at her publication experience. Nelle has an interesting perspective, because she works on the other side of publishing, too.
Nelle’s novel, The Legacy of Eden, went on sale a week ago. It’s the story of the dramatic rise and fall of an Iowa family, inspired by I, Claudius.
An insider’s look at the publication process
guest post by Nelle Davy
As someone who works in the publishing industry, the only thing that surprised me when publishing my own book was how challenging I found it. I have worked in publishing for five years now, first as an international sales assistant at Pan Macmillan and then as an assistant at a talent agency in the books department. I am used to getting submissions of my own and seeing them go from a manuscript to a bound book on the shelf. I have even rejected manuscripts before, so of course I knew the pitfalls and the difficulties of the publishing process—but going through it yourself is something else entirely.
It is hard and horrible and personally cutting, especially as I was surrounded by a litany of authors either watching their own dreams come true or fall away.
Inspired by I, Claudius, my novel, The Legacy of Eden, is an epic, sweeping tale of a dynasty rotten to the core, driven by ambition, lust—and hatred. I wanted to take the kernel of the idea from I, Claudius—aspiration and its devastating effects on a family headed by an amoral matriarch—and move it into a modern setting. When I first began writing The Legacy of Eden, I was working at Pan Macmillan, typing it up during my lunch breaks one minute and then working on sales targets for authors the next. But because of where I worked and what I did, I was determined that I would be published on my own merit and not because of my profession. I never said where I worked in any of my submission letters and it was also partly why I wrote under my married name, so I was separated from my work life. That way, if my manuscript was called in by an agent, it was really because they wanted to read it and not because they were intrigued by who I worked for or what I did.
However, I had to experience what it was like coming up through the slush pile (the term publishers and agents give to unsolicited manuscripts, of which they get tons every single day). It was incredibly harsh. It took me just under a year to get an agent and then four months to get a publisher, so in total the process was 18 months. This is by no means the average, and it was also doubly awkward when publishers I was working with started rejecting my book. But I think things happen for a reason, because what I learned going through all that has made me kinder and more understanding to my own authors; I can really empathize with their worries and concerns. But I have been incredibly lucky with my own publishers, who have been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic about The Legacy of Eden.
Thanks, Nelle! Read more about The Legacy of Eden on the author’s website.