Karen Brichoux

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Available Now
"Draws the reader into the story and never lets go." --RT Bookclub
"Brichoux reminds the reader how powerfully the landscape of 'home' can define a person." -- High Country News
Previously Released
"An exceptional novel." --Melissa Senate, author of The Solomon Sisters Wise Up
"A coup. Warm, smart, and original." --Kirkus Reviews


First-Time Publication

September 2, 2004

September 2004 Newsletter from the desk of Karen Brichoux


*Article: “First-Time Publication”
*What I’m Reading

As summer winds down and the cicadas sing from the tops of the tallest trees, childless people like myself enjoy the empty beaches at the lake and the near-empty parks. Yes, I’ve essentially been on vacation. Except for those two weeks where I played nurse to our (incredibly dumb) dog after he swallowed an enormous three-prong fish hook that required surgery to remove from his stomach. This is a roundabout way of saying that there is no news. I’m working on writing the proposal for the second book in a two-book contract with New American Library, but that is life, and definitely not newsworthy. [Yes, the dog is fine. He doesn’t even know what happened. And if he saw that dead fish again, he’d eat it. Fish hook and all. Tasty. Yum, yum.]

*Article: “First-Time Publication”

[I am randomly choosing topics suggested by newsletter subscribers during a recent contest. If you have a topic on writing or the writing life which you’d like to see covered, feel free to email the topic to me at email@karenbrichoux.com.]

Kim asked: After you have finished a book, what process do you go through to get it published? How do you decide who to submit it to? How long do you have to wait for a response? What happens once it is accepted?

There’s a certain amount of cross-over with published and unpublished author submissions. But some elements are very different. First, I think an author without an agent is at a serious disadvantage. Without an agent, the whole submission process is more complicated, and it can take anywhere from three months to a year (or more) to receive a response on a submission--even a requested one. Editors are busy. And they will read agented submissions first and get to those others when they can. So, once again, let me recommend finding a good agent before going to editors.

That said, my experience selling my debut novel, Coffee and Kung Fu, went kind of like this.

After I finished the manuscript, I spent about five months looking for an agent. During that time, I had some 74 rejections from agents and one or two times when I didn’t feel comfortable with the agent. I’d had plenty of experience with rejections prior to this (yay!)--and you can read all about this process in the exhaustive 5-part series on my agent hunt in the archives on my Newsletter page.

Once I experienced the most coveted of joys--being an agented author--I did a quick rewrite to change the setting of the novel to a more saleable location (Boston). Meanwhile, my agent spent a month researching publishing houses and locating suitable editors for the manuscript. “Suitable” in this case being editors who might like the book and editors my agent had a prior relationship with. She came up with a list of about ten editors, then held off making submissions until after the Book Expo America shindig, where she could meet with the editors in person and chat up the book and get them excited about reading it. She then sent the manuscript to four of the interested editors who were her A-list--that is, houses with reputations for good advances, hard cover imprints, or particularly enthusiastic editors.

About a month later--and most agents will get a response to a submission within a month, if not within a few days or weeks--my agent had several rejections (agents get rejections, too) and an enthusiastic response.

A common misconception is that if an editor loves a book, she can immediately buy that book. Generally, every imprint requires that 2 or 3 other editors read the manuscript. If they are enthusiastic, then an initial offer is decided upon in a meeting with the publisher and that offer is relayed by the editor to the agent and author. If the other editors are not enthusiastic about the book, arguments may ensue which may convince the other editors and publisher that they are wrong, but most likely the acquiring editor will have to call and tell the agent how sorry she is, but she’s the only person at the house who feels strongly about the novel. An enthusiastic response from the other editors and the publisher is important for the future of the book--it generally means more publicity dollars and a greater willingness to call in chips owed for things like author endorsements. It really does take a village to successfully publish a book.

Fortunately for Coffee and Kung Fu, the other editors liked the book and an offer was made to my agent about a month after the manuscript was initially sent out. After a certain amount of dignified haggling, the basic terms of the contract were set (things like the advance, bonuses for numbers shipped, foreign/film rights, royalty percentage, etc.) and Coffee and Kung Fu was sold. The contract went back and forth for several months as we nit-picked about various items, and I inked my signature two months later. Sometimes this process takes a little longer--even five or six months. Meanwhile, I was rewriting the manuscript with the editor’s revision suggestions in mind and working on the idea for the next book. After that, the process was the same as it is for every author from debut to multi-published best seller.

Easy as pie, right? Well, if you’ve ever made a pie from scratch, you know that is an incredibly silly statement since pies are anything but easy.

Happy Late Summer,

*What I’m Reading:

Hornblower and the Hotspur and Hornblower During the Crisis by C.S. Forester

The Cabal, by Ellen Gilchrist

In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway

A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

20 Under 30, [a collection of short stories and excerpts by young authors]