When I tell people I’ve written a book, a common question I get asked is, “When is it getting published?” To which I want to respond, “It’s complicated.”
First, you shouldn’t write a book and immediately publish it. It probably isn’t very good. Even if you’ve already written and published twenty books, your first draft needs to be edited. For some people, the editing takes as long or longer than the writing. And if it’s the first book you’ve ever written, it’s probably exceptionally bad, and maybe you shouldn’t publish it at all. This isn’t because you’re a bad writer. It’s because you’re an inexperienced writer. You need more practice. That first book taught you something. Now go and write another one!
And on the topic of editing, you shouldn’t be the only one looking at your book. This makes the process take even longer, as you have to work with other people’s schedules, but it is vital that you get outside opinions. When you’ve written a hundred thousand words, you start to forget all the details. “Did I say this character had blue eyes or green eyes?” “I don’t think I need this scene with the waterfall. Did I remove all references to the waterfall throughout the rest of the book?” That’s the sort of thing someone else, who is reading the story for the first time, will catch. They can also tell you bigger picture things, like if your characters are believable or if your plot is confusing.
This is just a broad overview of some of the editing that should happen before you publish.
Once you’ve written probably several books and finally think you have one good enough to publish, and once you (with the advice of probably several wise people) have edited said book to perfection, then comes the publication stuff.
Push a button and published, right?
I mean, you could. Amazon lets you do that, pretty much. But if you want to do this for a career, you should probably think about things like cover design, marketing, and building an author platform. But back up a second, because you also have to decide if you want to go the self-publishing route or the traditional publishing route. And if you do traditional publishing, you probably need to get an agent to pitch to publishing houses for you. Publishing houses and agents are picky. They may get thousands of pitches, so you’re not guaranteed a slot. You need to write a stellar pitch to stand out from the pile. You may get a hundred rejections or more.
All this takes time.
So when is my book getting published? I don’t know. I wish it would be tomorrow! But also, it needs a lot more editing first, so I’m only in the beginning stages of pitching. And even if I were to get a contract today, my book might not be published for a year, because that’s how publishing seasons work sometimes.
So the next time someone tells you they’ve written a book, instead of asking when it will be published, try asking what stage of the writing process they’re in. (I’ll answer this question in my next blog post!)