A query, to be exact. I had sent it out and almost immediately received a reply, which in itself is unheard of. Turned out the publisher liked the premise and asked to see the whole (in the writer’s vocabulary, that means the entire manuscript).
I sent it, and waited. Not hearing back, I wrote and asked if it had been received. Oh yes, was the reply, and it was in the hands of the senior editor.
Six months later and no word, I wrote again. Not without trepidation, because I have a superstitious belief that nagging editors for a reply is a sure road to rejection.
I got a reply. The manuscript was “workable.” However, the publisher has gone in a different direction. So sorry you were caught up in the middle. But if you would like to take advantage of our services, we will be happy to edit your story, provide a cover, format it and, oh, yes, purchase an ISBN for you. And by the way, even if you take advantage of our services it does not mean we will accept your story for publication. Are you interested?
In a word, no.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been told that if I laid out a sum of money I would increase my chances of publication. Years ago, before the Internet made submitting easier, I ran afoul of an “agent” who, for a sum, would send my manuscript out to a number of publishers. I was a newbie and naive, two strikes against me. I bit.
The upshot was, after sending more money than I could afford, I woke up and smelled the coffee. I politely refused to send any more money for “printing and postage” and terminated our agreement.
Looking back, the story was horrible and unpublishable, and a legitimate agent would have told me so.
I wish someone had told me no real agent or publisher demands money up front before they will accept your book.
This is not to say that if you plan to submit to an agent or publisher, you might want to secure the services of an editor or proofreader before you send your first query out into the world. But if said agent or publisher writes back and tells you they like your story, but it needs work and they will be happy to provide their services for a price, run.
Here’s how it works: if you are self-publishing, you probably need to pay for editing, formatting, and cover design so you won’t come across as an amateur; if a publisher accepts your story, they will pay for these services.
This is a cautionary tale for those just dipping their toes into the publishing swamp. There may be crocodiles lurking beneath the surface.
Or, as early sailors were told before setting out for the horizon, a warning finger tapping the border of the map where the sea disappeared over the edge of the parchment, here there be dragons.