About a decade ago now, I had an idea for a children’s novel (young adult perhaps), that I used as the basis of my submissions to my Publishing Prose (Creative Writing) class at college. I don’t have kids, and don’t spend much time around them, but for some reason, the idea for this story popped in my head so I thought I would run it. I guess the fruits of always having an active imagination from childhood to, supposed, adulthood are finally starting to ripen.
I wrote the first 60 pages in 2 weeks, mostly at night at my desk in the loft space I rented as my apartment in college. It was above a chiropractor’s office, and the scene of the scariest moment of my life. Once the course was done however, like most writing projects, I just let it slide into oblivion. It took me close to 3 years to finish a first draft. Some minor editing later, and on the urging of friends, I shopped around for an agent or a publisher. Both searches yielded little in terms of tangible results. And as is the norm, I grew frustrated and left the manuscript to gather electronic dust on my computer desktop.
After a visit to the UK, where I picked up some writing magazines to bring back to Saudi, I stumbled across an advertisement for a publishing company I hadn’t seen on my Google search. Since they didn’t require submissions to be sent in by an agent, I thought I would give them a try. I sent my entire manuscript (with 3 page overview as requested) and waited. The waiting is, without question, the hardest part. And I didn’t even have to wait long. Within about 6 weeks they had emailed me back. It took me another day to open the email if I’m being honest. And when I did, they had provided me a Reader’s Report with their appraisal, using snippets from my manuscript as evidence. Here is some of what I found:
I have now had the opportunity to read and appraise the manuscript and as expected it proved to be of great interest. As you may be aware I receive many works for consideration but I do feel that yours stands out in terms of quality, publishing potential and readability. If I may, I will use extracts from the Reader’s Report that I have had prepared to illustrate my findings:
This exciting and original young adult fantasy tale tells the story of what happens when an overactive imagination combines with ancient magic to produce a terrifying mythical creature, who gradually takes over the lives of his creators. Weaving science fiction with fact, myth and reality, the subconscious and stark reality, and comic book superheroes with real-life gangsters, this action-packed story truly has it all.
This is a great story, full of humour and surprises. Michael is a likeable hero, a nerd with a personality, who bonds with his father in creating a comic book superhero, with no thought to the consequences. He feels responsible for his creation, and is blissfully naïve about what will inevitably happen, when the deadly creature outgrows his pet status and seeks domination and power.
The novel is well written, with plenty of detail and a nice way with words. After Michael has been hiding in a coffin, to escape the baddies in the museum, the author describes how “his lungs felt like wrung out washcloths, tight and twisted, unable to absorb a single drop”. The way Aaric is described gives the reader a clear picture of what the creature looks like, and with some good illustrations, this novel could become something quite special – a grown-up kids’ book that teenagers interested in fantasy and horror stories will thoroughly enjoy.
As you can see from the Reader’s Report, we found Aaric to be a work of considerable merit that has many things in its favour, not least the quality of writing and the inventive narrative of the work. Any resulting publication would have a potential target readership amongst a wide audience. For all of these reasons I would be delighted to make an offer of publication for Aaric as a most worthy book would result, which could generate a great deal of interest.
Naturally I was excited as Hell. Sent them an email and arranged to fly to the UK to meet with them in person (I was planning on visiting the UK anyway). We agreed a date and time, and I was there early (but not too early). The editor came ambling in about 45 minutes late. He wasn’t in meetings or anything, just coming in from working at home. That didn’t sit well with me. Neither did other things discussed at this meeting.
In the end, I decided against publishing with this group. It wasn’t for me. You need to have a good relationship with the people you are working with; especially if you are a first time author and novelist. Your name can’t command respect or guarantee sales of millions of books. And I just didn’t get the right feel from these guys. Maybe that is stupid. Maybe I missed a good chance. But something just didn’t feel right to me.
That was 5 years ago now. The manuscript that they liked so much has been gathering electronic dust on my computer desktop since that date. I don’t know if it has put me off from trying to shop it around again, but maybe the cold hard reality slapped me in the face. I don’t want fame and fortune. I don’t want global book tours and guest spots on Ellen or anything like that. I wouldn’t turn them down, but that’s not why I wrote the book or why I write. What I would like is for one kid to put my book down and decide that he wants to be a writer too, like the Lord of the Rings did for me. To have some kid inspired by something I wrote. That is my dream.
But I just can’t shake the reality that overwrites the dream. And it can be a cold and cruel reality.