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Publishing: Hurry up and wait by Gary Craig

Who knew getting a book contract would be so easy?

After wrapping up the proposal for my planned book about the 1993 robbery of a Brink’s depot in Rochester, I sent it off to the agent, Rob Wilson, who’d agreed to represent me and the project. Within days, we had a bite from a small publisher, which is where I expected the book to land, if it landed anywhere.

The staff at the publishing house had a few questions, but were generally supportive. After one discussion at a weekly meeting, they sent these notes to Rob:
“Pub board went reasonably well. There was a belief that this had the potential to be a break-out regional true crime paperback and Gary’s credentials and connection to the story were well-received. There was some concern that those who have been following the case – potential buyers – would have read everything on it.”

We went back and forth to resolve some of the lingering concerns, and the deal was ready to be signed.

But that moment did not come. Instead, the day before we expected the book to be accepted, a larger publisher purchased the smaller publisher, a few people lost their jobs (including those interested in my book), and I was back to square one.

And then the real wait began. And this time it was not a matter of days. The days became weeks, the weeks became months, and the months became more than a year, as publisher after publisher took a pass.

I could have scrapped the idea, and moved on. Instead, I used those days, weeks, and months to continue to research the robbery and its aftermath, chasing down sources whom I’d been unable to previously find, securing records from as far away as Northern Ireland, constantly fine-tuning the proposal as Rob contacted prospective buyers.

Finally, in 2015, the University Press of New England took an interest In the project, and we signed a contract. Two years later, my book, with the somewhat unwieldy title of Seven Million: A Cop, A Priest, A Soldier for the IRA, and the Still Unsolved Rochester Brink’s Heist, found its way to the market.

I’m still new to this book-writing stuff, and do hope to do more in the future. But my first excursion into the publishing world did teach me a lesson: Be patient, and, while being patient, be productive.

Gary Craig is a reporter on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Watchdog team, focusing on public safety and criminal justice. He has followed and written about the Brink’s depot heist for over twenty years. He has won numerous state and national journalism awards.

Learn more about Gary’s upcoming workshop, Nonfiction Book Proposals by clicking here.