I’m seeing lots of Twitter Chatter (Chitter? … Uh) about the Bologna Book Fair, and that’s how I know that my Book Deal is just about one year old!
“So why isn’t it out already?” says all my very well-intentioned family and those friends who are not aware of publishing timelines.
|Why does your book still look like a stack of printer paper?
Is this some kind of marketing thing?
A year and a half ago, I, too, would have been asking this question. I had a very hazy idea of How Huge Word Docs Become Books. It seemed a bit like magic. “See here, in one hand, an agent, in the other, a publisher–I bring them together and ta da!” A puff of smoke, and there you are in a ruffled party dress, sitting on a tall stack of your own books at the launch party in your favorite local indie. Right?
Well. Ask any magician, they’ll tell you that “ta-da” covers the interesting and complicated part.
Unfortunately, in publishing, unlike in magic tricks, the ta-da can take years. (Which is still faster than in musical theatre where the ta-da can take decades…but that’s another timeline!)
So far, my timeline looks like this:
- Mid-November 2012: “What’s this thing everyone’s doing writing books or something?”
- July 2013: “Finish” manuscript.
- August 2013: Finish Query Letter. (Thank you Query Shark!)
- Fall 2013: Querying. I try to send out one letter a week, taking the time to make sure that I’ve got the submission correct–first five pages pasted into the email, or first ten in a pdf? Or no pages at all? I always feel like it shows respect to follow directions and I wasn’t in a rush.
- December 2013: I speak to two agents and sign with Molly at The Bent Agency.
- January and February 2014: I polish the manuscript with Molly–one of the reasons I felt like she was the best fit for me was that she had ideas to edit the MS and her comments were very astute.
- March 2014: Molly takes the manuscript to Bologna. Editors are interested. There is a bit of upheaval at home; I have an out-of-town friend visiting in our tiny studio apartment, I’d just gotten out of the hospital for pre-term labor problems, and some of the editors are wondering if I have ideas for second (and possibly third) books in the series. I’m supposed to be on bedrest but my friend needs the couch, so I lay on pillows on the floor in the kitchen and put my computer on my lap and bang out some outlines for potential future works.
- April 2014: There was enough interest that Molly sent out auction rules. Then multi-book pre-empt offers come in with Greenwillow at HarperCollins and Hotkey in the UK, and we accept happily.
- May 2014: I panic and start working on Book 2.
- June 2014: I have a baby! The birth is very dramatic. Also, I get my edit letter. Good times! If you have never rewritten your debut novel with a sleeping newborn on your lap you are missing out. Does wonders to focus the mind. I get the work done two weeks before the deadline. (I just reread this: it sounds snarky but I am in complete earnest. I was high on hormones and adrenaline and it was marvelous.)
- August 2014: The contract from Hot Key arrives.
- September 2014: I send back my edits, and the contract from Harper Collins arrives. (All this time, my tireless agent had been negotiating behind the scenes with the contract people at both Hot Key and HarperCollins; Molly is like a swan, poised and lovely but the feet are paddling like mad under there. Also, she’s can be dangerous; if you see her heading straight towards you, divest yourself of any buns and get out of there.)
- October 2014: I get my 2nd round edit letter.
- November 2014: I send back my 2nd round of edits. I am asked about my ideas for covers and I sort of shrug and flap my hands to try to indicate exactly how bad I am at visual and artistic design.
- January 2015: I get a few more small notes and make the fixes. I realize that Book 2 is due in another few months and I start freaking out all over again.
- February 2015: I get ONE more note, no biggie, just REWRITE THE FIRST PAGE which was more angst than every single other rewrite thus far. I use nearly the entire allotted time to work on it and get it in just a day before deadline.
- March 2015: I get a couple more edits, I send them back the same day. BOOM. Done with line edits. Uh. . . except now we’re off to copy edits!
And that’s where we are now. Sometime soon, I’m aware that covers will be developed. Jackets and layout will be designed and copy written. Then ARCs will be printed, I think? People will read and possibly review them. “Marketing” will happen. (I think probably marketing is a magic trick of its own.) I will try to plan a launch party, complete with ruffled party dress. Other things too, I’m sure–I’ll keep you posted. But you can see that there’s a lot going on, and even just editing and contracts take a while to happen.
Part of it is that the book is complicated–time travel is always particularly hard to edit. I also did so much research but I have a terrible memory so I have to keep checking notes–for example, I remember looking at reports from Honolulu in 1884 to figure out the phases of the moon (Full-moon parties were A Thing, before electricity was as widespread as it is today.) If we changed things by even a day, the phase of the moon might be off and that Just Won’t Do. (The copy editors might be happy knowing I already looked at that stuff? I hope so.)
The other thing is that we had a little more time built into the contract–a lot of other books that sold around the time mine did were slated to be published in Fall ’15, but Greenwillow’s fall list was already full by then.
But looking back at the past year, I’m quite happy with the process. After all, the “Ta Da” is where all the magic happens. And I need time to shop for that party dress.