On the 5th of July my latest novel, Pride in the Name, had been with HarperCollins Publications for three months…
Not really too sure, but during some deep recollection earlier this morning (who knew there was an ‘earlier’ than 5.30 a.m.?) I recalled posting it to the publisher on the 1st of some month – either March, April, or June, but not February or July. As I lay there contemplating (as I sometimes like to do in bed before 5.30 a.m.) the memories became progressively clear until yes, I recalled commencing writing somewhere around the end of February – either the 25th, 26th, or perhaps 27th, but not the 24th or the 28th – where I must then have written, unabated, through March until, as I recall, 33 days after writing the beginning, I sent the parcel on what must have been the 1st of April.
Alright, conundrum averted.
As lucidity further set in I recalled in fact, some weeks after posting the script, utilising the online tracking feature to, like an overprotective caregiver, check up on its current whereabouts. Regarding that piece of passive-aggressive parenting, in my mind’s eye, the ‘5th’ is burned into the cornea (along with some writing that I can’t quite make out). I deduced that this lone ‘5th’ must have been the date of reception therefore, three months after April, July has to be the month.
Alright, averted conundrum reinforced.
Now, according to what I learned ten or so years ago, three months is, without exception, the longest period any publisher will keep a manuscript under assessment before either accepting or, as is more familiar to me, rejecting the work. Therefore, it’s fair to say that after a script has withstood what I consider the immediate fail period of, say, two weeks to a month, the longer it stays away the better.
In saying that, my 6th attempt, entitled Dictionary, which by all accounts was a spectacular(ly wordy piece of shit) novel, stayed with HarperCollins for six months before I mustered the gumption to give the office in Auckland a call.
“Oh, gosh, Mr Walker -”
“I’m sorry, Kim, but according to our records, it’s still, hang on, yes, there it is, it says ‘Dictionary’ is still under assessment…”
“Oh, shit, well, sorry, Anna, I mean, well, if it’s still under assessment then by all means, leave them be, I was really just checking to see that it hadn’t been lost…”
“Oh, OK, but how long did you say we’d had it?”
“Ah, six months, yesterday … But if they’re still assessing it, please, just leave them to it, it’s fine.”
“Oh no Mr Walker, six months is far too long, I’ll make sure they return it straight away.”
“No no, Anna, please, if it’s still being assessed it’s fine, just leave them to it.”
“No, Mr Walker, I’ll see that they get it straight back to you.”
“No, Anna, please, it’s fine…”
Few days later the yellow ticket turned up in my post box to let me know that ‘Dictionary’ had come home. The moral of that story is, much as publishing companies might like to maintain their ‘three month limit’ on manuscript assessments, it’s not always the way and excited as I was when ‘Dictionary’ surpassed the three month threshold, these days nothing is a certainty.
Anyway, the point of this really, was to let you know that, as of last week, you reached the end of part two – somewhere around the midway point of Pride in the Name. At this point in the story, if I recall, the North Koreans should be drawing nearer and the scene ought to be nicely set for the Walters family to embark on their wartime contribution. I didn’t plan it like this; I’d naively hoped to hear back from HarperCollins within the first month or two to say they were keen to print my work, and only then would I stop posting chapters. Realistically I hadn’t even thought about how far I’d go distributing my crudely edited excerpts, but I guess now is as good a time as any to stick in the proverbial fork. To those who were actually trying to follow the story, I apologise.
We’ll see. If it turns out none of New Zealand’s major publishing houses want to print the manuscript I hope to post it, along with the sequel, Pride in the Land – without which Pride in the Name actually falls a little flat (hah, probably should have told you that before you started but that would hardly have been sales-friendly now, would it?) – which is currently around 22,000 words deep, also myriad other titles I have on file which all require some adjusting but ultimately are all rollicking good reads, including Dictionary, onto my website as one of those e-book things and hopefully sell eleven or twelve copies…
I like to be realistic.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Brie Ten Chase
Photography by Wright Herr