Publishing: The Long and Winding Road
Many of you are familiar with the long and often circuitous route to publication. From when you first decide, “I think I’ll write a book!” to the time you have a book in the bookstore, years can elapse. I had a startling reminder of this recently when I saw a book by an author whose name was very familiar to me. I’ll call her Ms. Writer.
Back when I was an in-house editor, we looked at a non-fiction proposal from Ms. Writer and thought it was a bit raw, yet had terrific potential. Our editorial team decided to take a risk on her.
Several months later, Ms. Writer delivered her manuscript. I was the editor, and unfortunately my first impression upon reading it was, “Uh-oh.” I tried to begin editing, but the work that needed to be done to make it publishable was too much for me with my full load of authors, so I ended up assigning the project to a freelance editor. Eventually the editor came back to me with the distressing news: she felt the manuscript was simply not “ready for prime time” and Ms. Writer wasn’t yet a skilled enough writer to accomplish the changes the book would need. Sadly, we had to cancel the book. We were contractually allowed to do this; Ms. Writer had failed to deliver an “acceptable” manuscript. We’d also had two editors attempt to salvage it.
Heartbreak all around; we didn’t like the situation and neither did the author. But Ms. Writer decided it was for the best. She was going to devote herself to improving her writing as well as continuing to build her platform. We wished her well.
Four years later: I’d just started agenting, and I got an email from Ms. Writer, who was shopping for an agent. She’d come a long way in four years, and was now ready for publication. Her platform had grown; her writing had improved by leaps and bounds. She was also speaking with other agents, and eventually she ended up going with my friend, Ms. Agent.
Ten months after that: Ms. Agent sold Ms. Writer’s book to a major publishing company.
Fourteen months later: The book came out.
Nearly seven years had passed between her first submission of a proposal to a publisher, and finally getting a book on the shelves.
Everything in its time, right?
Don’t underestimate the importance of having all the pieces in place. Your writing skill, your platform, and all the undefinable things in your life that spell your personal readiness (or lack thereof).
I want to encourage you… if it’s taking longer that you’d hoped… take stock, be honest in your self-assessment, and keep moving forward.
Do you have a story that involves publishing and timing? Tell us.