I was sitting at my computer, working on my second book like a good do-bee, when the phone rang. I sighed and thought "Sales call" and resolved to give him two seconds to get to the point.
"Hello, Celeste, this is Mr. Editor from Respectable Publishing. I've read your manuscript and I liked it very much, and I'd like to make an offer on it."
I am very proud of what happened next. I didn't squeal in his ear and I didn't pee in my chair. Instead, I said, "That's wonderful. I'm so glad you liked it" in my best radio contralto.
He then proceeded to rattle off the high points of the standard contract, none of which I heard at all. I was too busy scraping my soul off the ceiling and stuffing it back into my body.
I said, "I'm so pleased" and asked him to repeat the terms so I could write them down (i.e. hear them for the first time). He did, then waited one moment, during which I wondered if I was supposed to say something.
Then he said, "Well, why don't you think it over, and call me back tomorrow."
Oh, that's right, I was supposed to say "YES!!" I said, "Thank you, I will, and may I have a number to reach you directly?" (I have no idea who I was channeling in this conversation, but I suspect it was Captain Janeway!) He gave me a number, and I said, "I'm so glad you enjoyed my story" again, and we hung up.
THEN I squealed and almost peed my pants! I did an obscene sack dance around my tiny office, breaking a nail and stubbing a toe, then grabbed the phone to tell my husband.
The next day, after contacting every published writer I know for advice, I sat down with a list of ransom demands and called him back. And left a message on his voice mail. I had some coffee. Some TV. Defrosted the fridge by standing in front of it. Had some more coffee. Flipped some channels. Coffee. TV. Coffee.
So, of course, when the phone rang, my nerves went postal and I couldn't remember a thing I had wanted to say. Which is why I had made myself an itemized list, beginning with saying "Good morning." Four hours later I got the revision letter on my email. Add a few scenes, change a good half of the POV, no problem. Oh and by the way, cut thirty pages.
Well, appalling as that sounds, it was even more so to realize how little those pages would be missed. It turns out I have a tendency to say things three times. In one paragraph.
A month later, I was still carving and rewriting, and wondering why two months seemed like forever then and a serious hurry now. But the contract has been sent, signed and sent back. The book is turning out to be something much better than it has a right to be. And my life is returning to normal.
And I've come to understand that selling a book isn't so much the end of something as it is the beginning of it, much like the birth of a child. You walk around as big as a house, impatient for the day when it will all be over. Then when the baby (or book deal) arrives, you realize that the future is now, and the real work has just begun.