I believe there are certain key moments during the “break-in” which all aspirant fiction writers secretly dream of: the first acceptance letter, the first contract, the first paycheck… the first galleys.
Today I got a copy of my galleys for my novelette, “Outbound,” which I had originally submitted to Writers of the Future for Q1 of vol. XXVI, and which did not Place, but which went on to sell to the very next market: Analog Science Fiction & Fact. In many ways, selling “Outbound” feels like an even bigger victory than winning Writers of the Future — no dis on WOTF, it’s just the first time I went up against long-time pro competition, and got a W! — so I was greatly anticipating being able to peruse the galleys. In fact, I’d deliberately not re-read the manuscript, following its submission to Stan Schmidt in November of 2009, just so that I could read it ‘fresh’ in galley form.
NOTE: for those who aren’t in the publishing-geek world, a GALLEY is like a prototype copy of your book or story, formatted roughly in the same fashion as it will be formatted at final publication. Copies of the galley are sent to the author for proofing: the author reads the galley, checks spelling, looks for mistakes, missing words or sentences, and so forth. Corrections are then returned to the publisher, who then proceeds to make fixes prior to actual publication.
Having rubbed up against established authors, I’d always been envious of the nonchalant, almost cavalier way in which they often said, “(sniff) Oh, yeah, I’m so behind, I have to buckle down and go through my galleys. What a chore!” Wow, how greatly I coveted having such a problem as that!
Well, lemme tell yah folks, looking at the galleys for my novelette, I am tickled baby blue all over again. This is more fun than human beings should be allowed to have. Oh, I am sure after the tenth or the hundredth set of galleys, yah, it gets old. But this is my first set. Mine! And later this summer, I should get a second set for my Writers of the Future story, which is going to hit store shelves at almost the same time as my Analog story. So it’s turning out almost like having two stories sold and published at the same time. In world-class publications. That will be across the U.S. in Big Brick stories like Barnes & Noble, and show up in mailboxes of subscribers.
Like I said, more fun that humans should be allowed to have.
For all my aspirant fellow travelers, friends, compatriots… This is worth it. It’s worth all the rejection and the waiting and the nervousness and the depression and all the years spent wondering if I’d ever make it. I’ve got printed copies of my galleys, and I’m just giddy. And satisfied all to heck, in a way I am not sure I’ve ever been satisfied before. I feel like running to the roof of my office and waving my galleys at the sky and yelling, “Yeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhh!”
Keep working, you all who don’t yet have galleys. The only difference between a writer who doesn’t ever have galleys, and one who does, is that the writer who does have galleys never gave up, never quit, and never stopped putting in the hours or trying to get better.
It can be done! Never let anyone say otherwise. It can be done.