I can’t even believe it’s true, but it finally happened – after 3 attempts, 3 different publishers, 3 rewrites and just one incredibly determined agent, the book I wrote when I was pregnant with my first child has finally been published!
It all started way back in 1999, a couple of years after we started Barleywine Herb Farm in the spring of 1996. We had built it up fairly slowly, starting with an old wooden greenhouse frame, zero experience, and less capital, but a lot of chutzpah. By 1999 we had a greenhouse and gift shop, and I had taught myself how to start seeds, make compost, and create different styles of herb display gardens, along with making many of the herbal items in the gift shop, like teas, dip mixes and sachets. My husband Steve, who was writing books when he wasn’t helping he, had a wonderful literary agent who heard that the publishers of the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” books were looking for a humorous take on starting an herb garden, funny but with real-world advice, information, and recipes.
I can’t remember the exact timing, whether I was already pregnant or not, but I accepted the challenge and sat down at my computer and got to work. I somehow continued operating the farm that spring and summer, and churned out a finished manuscript about an hour before I went into labor, in August, 1999. [pic]
Again, the exact chain of events is murky, but Jeanne called to tell me that my publishers had been bought by the publishers of the competing series “The Dummy’s Guide”, and since they already had an herb book, they didn’t need mine so it wouldn’t be coming out after all. It was a crushing disappointment but thank goodness they let me keep the meager advance.
Long story short, Jeanne never gave up on that book. A year or so later she called again to say she had a new publisher interested, and it would just take a little reworking to tone down the highly comedic style of the first version. I agreed and got back to work. We had a problem though, because I did not have copies of my original hand-drawn sketches of garden designs, and the first publisher was long since shuttered. They were lost. No worries, they’d work around it she said. and so rewrote the book with a toddler running around an another on the way. I finished it and turned it in and guess what? The publisher went under and would not put the book out after all. Not again!!! Oh well, again they let me keep the advance.
Years pass, and I had completely switched careers, closing the farm in 2001 after the birth of my daughter, and switching gears to web design and marketing. In 2015, the phone rings and it’s Jeanne again – I told you she never gave up – and she finally had what should be a stable publisher, and they were very interested in publishing the now teenage manuscript. I was working full-time as a marketing consultant so I couldn’t devote time to re-learning everything from 1999 and didn’t even know if I still had the original computer files, but miraculously I did find it all and sent it off to them. They were so understanding and didn’t ask me to do any rewrites or anything.
My husband and teenage kids and I were all wondering how long it would take to fall through again, but lo and behold, it DID actually come out in June, 2016! A huge thank you goes out to my wonderful agent Jeanne Fredericks, who never gave up on my little herb book that could. She had more faith in me that I ever did and I’ll always be grateful. Huge thanks also to Norton and Countryman Press for giving me another chance.
So drum roll please:
Herb Gardening by Melissa Snyder
And here I am in a cute little bookstore in Boothbay Harbor ME, finding the book on the shelves for the first time: