It may come as a surprise to learn that I have never submitted unsolicited writing before today. I’ve always sold partials for my non-fiction, the idea for a book based on a detailed outline, sell sheet, and writing samples.
I mailed off my first YA novel this morning. I wanted it out of my hands before Christmas, even though it will be stuck in the mail over next week and then will likely sit on an editor’s desk unopened until early January. I printed it out on Wednesday in twenty-page increments, watching it to make sure it didn’t go haywire somewhere along the way. The cover letter was finished and as good as I could get it. I checked and double-checked the submission guidelines and squared it all neatly, slipping an elastic band around the inch-high stack of paper.
This morning I bought a padded envelope, slipped it all in, addressed it, and mailed it off. Twelve dollars’ worth of postage. One customs form: just paper of no monetary value, only immense sentimental value. Also, lots of hope. It’s a good thing hope doesn’t weigh very much. Here is your tracking number, good only until the envelope itself is delivered, no further for the manuscript itself as it makes it way through various piles on various desks. The SASE must make do for the beginning of that journey, and beyond this, darkness and the unknown.
I’ve mailed proofs and manuscripts back and forth with my NF publisher before, so a lot of this was mechanical. Nonetheless, I was almost paralysed with anxiety as I wrote the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, despite knowing that the things I was worrying about — presentation, am I doing things the right way, can ‘send cover letter with plot synopsis’ be any more vague? — didn’t really matter as much as I felt they did. What matters is the writing. And still, as I was sealing the envelope I was thinking, It’s not too late to take it home and shred it because it is awkward and clumsy and dull in places and I think my message is too pedantic and did I mention clumsy?
But I didn’t. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I made a promise to myself this past January that I would get this novel out, come what may. And I did.
I like that the first day of its journey takes place on the day of the longest night. From here, it only gets brighter. A nice symbolism, I think, and completely unplanned. Consciously, at least.
And so it is gone. Have a safe journey, little YA novel. And a successful one.