How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.
What was your first book?
My first novel was Journey to Aprilioth, a fantasy set in in a time before recorded history. It was published by Ace Books in 1980 as a mass market paperback — the first book of a trilogy based on the building of Stonehenge. Earlier though, I had co-written The Upper Left-Hand Corner, a resource manual for writers in the western provinces and Pacific Northwest. The ULHC is long out of print, and long forgotten — the usual fate of time-sensitive how-to books — but it was a useful introduction to the world of publishing, and in its day it was a Canadian bestseller.
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
My favourite publishing moment has to be the letter from the editor of Ace accepting my first novel — I floated off the ground for days. A career highlight? When The Alchemist’s Daughter was shortlisted for the Sheila Egoff Prize.
Do you think about trends/marketing when you’re developing a project?
I never think about trends, though I know that agents and publishers certainly do. It takes me a few years to research and write a book, and by the time it’s ready for publication, the market has moved on, and readers are caught up in some new enthusiasm. I do think about marketing, though. I may not enjoy it, but it’s part of the job.
How did you find your publisher/agent?
I found my first publisher the old fashioned way, by mailing off a query, outline and sample chapters. It was nine months before I received a request for the whole manuscript — but after that things moved quite quickly. It was my editor at Ace who suggested that I find an agent — it was much easier back then, especially if you had a contract in hand.
Is there a publishing mistake you would never repeat?
My biggest publishing mistake, with my first novel, was assuming that the publisher would take care of all the promotion!