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The Reasons Why I Let a Good Publishing Opportunity Slip

collateral tales

collateral tales

I’m not quite sure whether to return to to my mystery novel, which I pitched under the working title Make-Up several years ago.

It’s still written in German, and the manuscript’s already been in the editing offices of a major publisher (Publikumsverlag, as it’s called around here). Eventually, the opportunity slipped away. And I let it. Here’s why.

Of course I was delirious to see my manuscript requested by a major publisher. But then, within the course of about a year, all of the following happened: 1) The publisher merged with another publisher of roughly equal size. 2) These newly-weds were bought out by the biggest player in the German publishing market. 3) My editor resigned. 4) The chief editor resigned. 5) Two written inquiries/reminders of mine went unanswered.

So why did I let it slip, after that? I could have knocked on their door a bit more energetically, and I’m sure that’s indeed what everybody would’ve expected. Or, I could have sent the manuscript to a second publisher, albeit a smaller one, who had also strongly signaled their interest. Or, simply, I could have fired off another synopsis volley.

What kept me was this: 1) I started to tackle my finals at the university, followed by writing my doctoral thesis, both of which kept me busy for years. 2) Together with friends, we set up a freelancer network for advertising professionals, which kept us busy for years. 3) I began to make serious money as a copy writer. 4) I sold my soul (well, not really) for a couple days per week to an advertising agency as a Senior CD (Concepts, Copy, Communications, Coding). 5) My love life became increasingly logistically complex, not to speak of demanding, for exciting and challenging reasons. 6) The third chapter didn’t quite work, and for many years I had no idea how to justify its existence even though it definitely had to be there. 7) I began to have second thoughts about surrendering all of my distribution rights to a publisher for a fistful of cash. 8) The publishing house that came out on top after this merger & acquisition roulette was the publishing house I despised most.

So much for the past. Now the present: 1) Checked. 2) Alive and well, but more relaxed. 3) Still the case, but with more professional leisure. 4) Ditto, but ditto. 5) Still complicated, but fine. 6) I know now what’s wrong with that third chapter. 7) Creative Commons, pleased to meet you.

Sounds good, right? Except that what’s wrong with the third chapter is that it’s completely incompatible with the rest of the novel—back then, some subtle differences between sub-subgenres had yet to appear on my radar.

So putting more work into it would amount to a major effort. I can still sell it, I’m sure. However, it’s the only major work I’ve written in German, which I’m nowadays not too enthusiastic about, and I’m much more interested in writing science fiction in any case.

So maybe it’s time to move on. It was fun to write at the time; but maybe it’s not the kind of thing I want to commit to in the future.


If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at Mastodon!

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2 Responses


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