The agent has questions; the purchasing editor has questions. I have questions.
My first question is about sending flowers. One of my friends who has sold several books always sends flowers to his agent after a deal. I said to my husband, "Do you think I should do this?" He says, "Flowers? Doesn't she get a commission?" Well, yes. Yet, to me it still sounds like a nice thing to do.
My second question is: When? When does the next thing happen? I remember writing my first magazine story and finding out that it would be slated for an issue six to eight months later. This made the publication date fall in the next calendar year. I thought, "That's too long to wait. My life will be over by then." Very dramatic. Now I know that everything in publishing takes a really long time. Still, I want to know. How long do I have to write? How long until it's published? How long until we get paid? There's no real point in asking any of these questions because no one has the answers, really. It's true.
The editor had questions right away, and these must be answered. We had a phone meeting with her on Monday, in part to prove that we exist, and she made it clear right away that she is smart and passionate about the book. These are new sensations for me. Magazine editors are usually smart. However, their passion about any one article comes and goes. Sometimes it doesn't exist at all. Meeting someone by phone who is all over this project, and who is conversant on every point in the book proposal was just stunning. Or do I mean daunting? It's a totally new level of scrutiny.
Her second questions were: What word length are you thinking about, and how soon can you finish? We had been warned about the second question. She wanted us to say six months. We wanted to say nine months (which is still writing at a high clip). We settled on 7.5 months. OK. Compromise is good. (Plus, embedded in this discussion is her understanding that writers always blow deadlines. When you pick a steep deadline, it allows you to kick the writers down the shame spiral quickly, meaning there is a chance in hell of them meeting the real deadline. I've been an editor. That's the only play on the board.) Also, we will meet this deadline or I'm pretty sure our agent will have us killed.
Next question. How long? I guessed 40 to 50K words. She said, "That's really short. How about 75K?" And I found myself saying yes out loud, while internally saying "holy, holy sh*t," over and over again. My math may be fuzzy, but I'm thinking that's about 10K words per month of finished copy, or about one feature story per week, every week, between now and November.
As my friend, Jack, would say, "Welcome to the NFL."