“Will you accept this rose?”

by Debra Chappell

The time between Tuesday and Thursday drug on for an eternity.  I decided to talk one more time with Ms. [So-and-So] from [La-Dee-Dah Media Group], thank her for her advice, and promptly e-mail my manuscript to the other agents who had requested it.  Though my trigger finger was itching and anxious to click ‘SEND’, as a courtesy I resolved to wait until after I’d spoken with her.  Needless to say I woke very early Thursday morning just wanting to get the whole damn thing over with. My husband asked me what time I thought she’d call.  He was surprised when I told him I wasn’t waiting – I was going to call her…immediately.  After all, New York is 3 hours ahead, I could reach her in the middle of her morning coffee and bagel. 

Taking a big gulp of coffee myself, I pressed the number that had been displayed on my cell phone.  She answered personally, “This is [So-and-So].” Surprised it didn’t go through a receptionist, I quickly dispensed with any natural inclination toward cheerful small talk and said directly, “This is Debra Chappell, I have some questions about our conversation on Tuesday.”

She paused and replied, “Okay… I’ll answer them if I can.”  I could hear her quietly shushing someone out of the room.  The fact that she didn’t tell me she was busy, say she was in a meeting, or ask to call me back bolstered my confidence just a teeny bit.  Though I had prepared a lengthy list of questions regarding my novel, the professional editing process, and the book’s general progression, I surprised even myself when I opened by getting straight down to brass tacks. (What was the point of slogging through all the other stuff when there was only one question that mattered to me…)

“So, are you saying that if I work with a professional editor, you’ll represent me?”

Expecting her to back pedal with some convoluted explanation, I was taken aback when she simply replied, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

I paused momentarily and finally exhaled.  I certainly hadn’t expected this! I’d obviously misinterpreted our prior conversation after all.  THIS changed everything! I felt my outer armor fall away, replaced again by building optimism and excitement.  She qualified her remark, “that is, if you’ll work with one of the people I recommend.”  Of course, of course, I told her secretly reveling in the sudden realization I was getting the final rose after all. I assured her that I was absolutely up for the challenge, ready to roll up my sleeves, re-commit, dig in, put in the hard yards… blah, blah.  She seemed satisfied and pleased that my ego wasn’t attached to the pages that would have to be reworked, re-organized, edited, and quite possibly thrown out altogether.  I then admitted to my confusion over our prior discussion, and how I thought she had dismissed my manuscript entirely with some parting constructive advice to soften the blow.

She said, “Look, (she used that word again, so NY!) I don’t call people at home and stay on the phone for half an hour if I don’t think they have a lot of talent and the end result will be beneficial for both of us.”  She went on to explain that my book had very “commercial” appeal and she had no doubt about its potential, if I was willing to do the necessary work.  Saying that it was very common for first time authors to work with a professional editor, she had a few people in mind for me to consider and thought I should get on it right away.  Unlike the intimidation I felt in our previous discussions, this time our conversation flowed. At one point I laughed when she asked, “where do you live anyway – I don’t even know what area code I’m talking to.”  She didn’t seem concerned that I lived in a smallish town in Nevada, and thankfully didn’t ask if it was near Las Vegas.  (She gets bonus points for that!)  I felt comfortable enough to broach every question on my list and she patiently and thoroughly answered each.  After talking some more about potential editors, the process and her expectations, she finally said, “so…I’ve answered all of your questions, just to be clear, I have one of my own…”

I held my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Shall we walk down this path together then?”

Trying to maintain at least a hint of professional demeanor, I responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” while the little voice in the back of my mind exploded with YES! YES! BLOODY FLIPPIN’ YES!!!!!!

“Good then, let me make some contacts for you.”

She got right down to business and threw out some names.  She said she would make the initial contact with the editors for me, more or less paving the way.  She suggested I then talk with each one over the phone to see who would be the best fit.  She explained that it was a very important decision as we’d be working closely together over several weeks, maybe even months, and the chemistry had to be right.  It wasn’t just a matter of technical expertise, but also a matter commitment and enthusiasm for the project.  I told her I understood, was ready to get right to work, and thanked her once again for spending so much time with me on the phone.  As we were hanging up, a little “have a nice day” slipped out of my mouth before I could edit it.  🙂

Over the following two weeks I spoke with the professional editors she recommended.  Without exception, each reminded me what a prestigious agent I was working with and how lucky I was.  (Nothing like upping the ante!)  Each professional editor had different strengths and there were several factors to be considered.  In the end, I narrowed it down to two.  After discussing the options at length with my agent, (I am here-to-fore dispensing with the [So-and-So] moniker) she suggested I come to New York to meet with them both personally before making the final decision.

Oh darn, a trip to the big apple (sigh) – the sacrifices one must make for one’s craft…