My editor told me it was the best thing I'd ever written. He had called me into New York. We sat at his desk. He told me I should get an agent to negotiate the contract because this book was important. Important! Yikes! We went out to lunch. I went out and got an agent that next week. He loved the book too! The agent negotiated the best contract I'd ever had.
My editor and I worked on the book for a year together, going back and forth on a regular basis, tightening, improving, deepening characters, rewriting complete scenes, complete chapters. After a year of this, he sent me an e-mail saying it was time to start thinking about cover art. We bounced ideas back and forth. I could picture it on the shelves. It was January. He said he thought it would be on the Fall list. Maybe Spring. They were discussing it. Timing was important. Then he called me one morning while I was at my desk at work. "Hey," he said. "No way to say this, but to say it. I've got some bad news."
There had been a change in management. The new publisher who had just come on was reading through all of the books getting ready to launch. She had read through my book. She had some--concerns. She passed the manuscript on to a few other editors to read. The consensus was that there were a lot of problems. No one liked the voice. The relationships among the characters were not believable. The subject matter was too sensitive. I voiced my objections. My editor said he had already made those same arguments. It didn't matter what we said or thought at this point. The book was not going to be published.
My agent went ballistic. He yelled at my editor. Then he reiterated the yelling to me. We were angry together. We would show them. We would bring this gem of an important book to some other publisher who would recognize it for what it was. He tried that for a year. With no takers. The important book sat. I told everyone I knew, the sad story of how the great, important book had almost been published, but ultimately rejected for reasons that made no sense. Finally I decided I would have to publish it myself. It was too important to just sit there. But first I would do a final super-tight edit. I would make it so good no one could ignore it.
As I got into my final, super-tight edit, some realizations slowly emerged. I had been away from the book long enough that I could see some things. They made me queasy. Like the voice. And how it sucked. And how the relationships did not ring true. I began to see the major changes I needed. Major, MAJOR changes. Like listening to the voice of a character who demanded to be part of the story and I had ignored and suppressed because I was too lazy. Like letting the main character be a guy instead of a girl like in the very first draft before I was convinced a girl as main character would attract more readers. There are plenty of other changes too and I am working on them right now.
The bottom line is, I am incredibly thankful for this unwanted do-over. It saved my butt. It's going to be a much, much better book. (Maybe even an important book. :)