I Discover Alice Petherton
I am Discovered by Lake Union Publishing
My hand hovered over the spam box. I’d already had an offer from ‘A Keen Raeder’ who said she could ‘tranlate the novel’ to our mutual advantage.
This email said: Interest in A Love Most Dangerous.
Another scam, I thought. But just before I dropped it into spam, I paused. I looked at the email again. There were no spelling mistakes or wayward punctuation. I read it more carefully.
Dear Mr. Lake,
My name is Jodi Warshaw, and I’m a Sr. Acquisitions Editor here at Amazon Publishing. I wanted to drop you a note to tell you how taken I am with A LOVE MOST DANGEROUS. It’ beautifully written with a deftly woven plot. I was particularly impressed with how you portrayed Alice’s complex, conflicted relationship with the king. And to top it off, it’s a real page-turner!
I would love to talk to you about possibly forming a partnership and republishing the book under our Lake Union imprint, which is the home to our historical fiction and commercial literary fiction.
I sat back and read the rest of the email. Three times. Then I got to work.
I’d never heard of Lake Union Publishing. I did an internet search and realised it was one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints. I bit my lip. This must be a dream.
I did a search for Jodi Warshaw. She existed, she was real and I was able to confirm that she was who she said she was. Not only that but she talked enthusiastically about my book, and had clearly read it. And she was not pushy, far from it. I called my wife over to read the email. We were too stunned to speak.
I sent Jodie an email and we arranged to speak by phone. Seattle is 9 hours behind French time and I had a complicated time figuring out the movements of the sun, testing my geography and arithmetic skills to their limit. But we finally agreed a time, had to reschedule but talked on the 8 July. It was the first time that I learned that there is a comparatively small window of time when the clocks allowed us to speak.
It was a wonderful conversation. I was delighted at Jodi’s enthusiasm, her knowledge, at the way she had thought things through. Most of all I was delighted by the respectful way in which she spoke to me. Until now my dealings with publishers had shown precious little of it. A new author such as me seemed definitely to be at the bottom of the food-chain and publishers and agents appeared to think that the most important part of their role was to make quite clear that I was aware of this.
Not so the folk at Lake Union Publishing. I was wildly excited when I came off the phone. I danced across the room. Fred Astaire would have been nonplussed. (I’ve always seen myself as more of a Gene Kelly type to be honest.) I kept repeating what we had discussed, in my mind, and to my wife – who’d been in the room when I spoke so probably had a pretty good idea what was discussed.
‘She’s going to send me a contract,’ I babbled. ‘She’s going to send me a contract to look at.’ Which she did, the very next day.
I read the document early next morning. I had seen a couple of publishing contracts before and they had been written in arcane language. They emphasised that the author was even lower in the food chain than they had hitherto believed (plankton level) and were replete with mealy-mouthed provisos and slightly ominous threats. I would need considerably more courage – or more accurately fool-hardiness – to sign these.
The Lake Union contract on the other hand was written in plain English. Sure there were things I did not understand, technical terms but they were not written by the firm of Marley and his ghost.
And then I saw it. I read the clause again and again. I was devastated.
It looked as though I would have to sign away all my rights and freedoms as an Indie writer. I would never be free to publish what I liked, when I liked, how I liked. I would be a slave to Lake Union Publishing to my grave and far beyond it.
But not the noble Spartacus at the moving finale of the film. I would be the Spartacus at the beginning, forced to slave in a quarry, punished for biting the Roman guard’s Achilles tendon and being rescued by Peter Ustinov.
Then I read the contract again and realised that I was mistaken. The whips and bonds I thought I had seen were merely a requirement to give Lake Union publishing the first opportunity to consider my next novel for publication. Phew!
I spent a few days getting clear on dozens of questions to needed to ask. Jodie spent a great deal of time in patiently taking me through them all. I felt I was being dealt with in a marvellously professional and supportive manner. And I knew that my book was going to benefit from a comprehensive range of editing, something which I was keen to happen. Equally excited, the novel would be published as an e-book, as an audio tape and as a paper-back (which would please my Dad.)
Happy as Larry, I signed the contract and sent it back.
I am not Spartacus. I am not a slave. I’m going to be published by Lake Union Publishing. I am not, to be honest, an Indie author, any more. I am a hybrid.
The new edition will be published on 27 January, less than a week. There is a Goodreads Giveaway of 20 books in the USA books running 12/30-1/27 at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/121047-a-love-most-dangerous
The Joy of Editing.