Now that the Labor Day holiday is over, my literary agent will begin shopping MY LIFE WITH SHELLEY to editors of publishing imprints in (I assume) New York. (Go, Ms. Evans, Go!)
During the years I spent writing—even though publication was always my goal—I didn’t think too much about agents or publishers. I spent my precious early-morning hours each day with Mary Shelley and her world, studying books on the craft of fiction, and of course writing (revising, writing, revising, writing, revising). Until I actually had a completed manuscript, delving into the publication process seemed foolhardy and premature.
Last summer, after my instructor at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival said the sweet words, “You’re ready—seek publication now,” my research hours shifted to agents, agencies, and publishers. When I wasn’t paging through agency websites, I was reading current fiction, checking each novel’s spine for its publishing imprint, reading its author acknowledgements to find the author’s grateful nod to her or his agent.
In JEFF HERMAN’S GUIDE TO BOOK PUBLISHERS, EDITORS & LITERARY AGENTS, I learned about “The Big Five,” a term I’d heard mentioned here and there, but didn’t fully grasp. In case you don’t know, the familiar publishing brands many of us lifelong readers recognize (Penguin; Scribner; Knopf; Little, Brown and Company; St. Martins; William Morrow; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, etc.) are now all owned by just five huge publishing conglomerates, each using these and other imprints for the various types of books they publish. There are also independent presses, but only a few (Grove, W.W. Norton) have the name recognition of those encompassed by The Big Five.
I have no idea what the perfect imprint for MY LIFE WITH SHELLEY may be. I don’t know much (yet) about how Ms. Evans works, but I’m guessing what she’ll be doing in the coming weeks is looking for an editor who will love my novel as much as she does, a “someone” who thinks thousands of readers will love its characters, too—from my exterior-story protagonist Grace Zacharias and the other modern-day people that surround her (including the antagonists, of course), as well as Mary Shelley herself—the nineteenth-century novelist whose real life was fraught with more tragedies than most creative writers could make up.
I hope one day, Dear Reader, you’ll have the opportunity to love my novel, too. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for Ms. Evans and me!