There are many great moments in the life of a published author: seeing the book jacket for the first time; holding the first printed edition in your hands; seeing it on the shelves of bookshops. But one of the first and most memorable moments has to be the phone call. You know the one I mean. The one in which you hear those immortal words, ‘We would like to publish your book.’
In the case of Pariah, I had almost written Macmillan off as a potential publisher. I did not send it via an agent, but directly to them under their Macmillan New Writing scheme. The guidelines on their website say something along the lines of ‘If you do not hear from us within 12 weeks, then you should assume that your submission has been rejected.’ Six months later, I had still not heard anything. It seemed time to move on.
Then I got an email from Will Atkins, Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan. He made some very positive noises about Pariah and said he wanted to arrange a time to call me on the telephone. So we picked a mutually agreeable time on the following day. I’m glad we didn’t make it any longer than that because sleep suddenly became an unattainable luxury.
When the call came, pretty much dead on time, Will made lots more positive noises, but was still hedging his bets. He liked the book, but the decision wasn’t his to make alone. Others would need to be consulted, and that process would probably take about a week or so. I started to wonder what was the longest anyone has survived without sleep.
In fact, the next call came only a couple of days later. Everyone at Pan Mac had moved much faster than expected, and they all loved Pariah. Which meant – yes, you guessed it – I finally got to hear those words: ‘We would love to publish your book.’
I think my cries of joy could be heard in the next county as I raced up and down the stairs of our house, much to the surprise of the engineer who was fixing our boiler at the time. He remarked later that he had never met such a grateful recipient of his services.
Sometimes the cost of a phone bill can seem well worth it.