The second novel that I wrote was called QUEEN HENRY. It’s about a macho, homophobic, MLB player, Henry Vaughn Jr., who takes part in a clinical drug trial to treat his asthma; and the experimental drug makes him gay. He then falls in love with a man and learns a lesson about what it’s really like to be gay. I wrote it first as a screenplay in 2005, then as a novel in 2011. In my 18 years of being a writer, it’s my favorite story.
When I started querying agents with the story, I got the same answer from many people. The audience (meaning gays) is too small for it to make a profit. The only answer for me is to self-publish, or turn to small, LGBT publishers.
When I sat down to find some LGBT publishers, I was thrilled to find a long list of them. So maybe traditional publication was still possible after all! I sent out a bunch of queries, and yesterday one of the publishers responded favorably after I sent them a synopsis and two chapters. They wrote back to say they liked the concept, enjoyed the writing, and wanted to see the rest of the manuscript! They don’t accept simultaneous submissions, which means I can’t send the novel to anybody else while they have it. Since their turnaround time was only 1-2 weeks, that was no problem for me. Another publishing company posted their times as 14 weeks – also no simultaneous submissions. No wonder I queried this place first right?
I was so happy to wake up yesterday morning to see an email from the publisher telling me they loved my synopsis and chapters and they wanted to see the full manuscript. If you read my Facebook regularly, you know that I keep a tally of rejections vs. acceptances. For QUEEN HENRY, it was 59 – 1. Guess which number is the rejection column? It’s very rare to get a Yes, and I am one to celebrate every small victory. I was ready to post on Facebook that JohnDoeBooks (not their real name…) had requested my full manuscript. I was prepared to get lots of Likes from people that are used to seeing my post my rejections.
I sent the publisher the manuscript, prepared to have at least one week of hope. Sure, publishers reject most of the manuscripts they get and most likely this Acceptance would eventually turn into a Rejection, but I had at least one week to dream while they read the novel.
Within 15 minutes of emailing the manuscript, they emailed me a publishing contract.
If you don’t see anything wrong with this, then step into my office and we can go over the catalog of bridges I have for sale – cheap!
None of it was real.
Sure, it was “technically” a small publishing company in that they do publish online and paperback books. They’re not a vanity press because they don’t charge any money. I don’t think…I don’t know. I didn’t really read the contract. Clearly, any “publisher” that’s willing to publish something they HAVE NOT READ is not legit.
This isn’t the first time this has happened (an “agent” once offered me representation without reading the screenplay). It probably won’t be the last time, either.
But it still hurts. Worse than if they had just said no.
I wanted to believe that someone read my sample chapters and synopsis, liked them, and wanted to read more. I wanted to have at least one week of enjoying a real Yes from a real publisher.
I wrote the guy back and told him kindly but honestly that I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with a publisher that would publish something they hadn’t read. (Seriously, what if the novel was really stereotypical and offensive to gays? It’s not, but how does he know??) The guy wrote back and said:
We read the synopsis and the sample chapters, which show us your writing ability and the story’s focus. We wanted to see the full manuscript for word count only; we had already decided we liked the story and wanted to publish it. You can tell within the first few pages if an author is good and marketable. We’ve published a lot of gay fiction, particularly gay erotic romance, and recognize talent when we see it.
I suppose I should take that as a compliment. I guess they don’t publish EVERYTHING they get (Who knows. Maybe they do.), but it still doesn’t seem legitimate at all.
So it’s back to square one. Again. Maybe I’ll query that other publisher. Sure, they take 14 weeks to review your manuscript, but in that time maybe they’ll actually read it.
On to the next….