Friday, November 6, 2009
Book Report: Not Quite Ready
In the post My Marathon, I shared how I wrote a book, my first book. It took four long months to type but I finished it. I did it. I hit spell check, made the corrections and then patted myself on the back. Way to go, you're finished!
Not so fast. Before I started writing the book I knew very little (a cousin of nothing) about the publishing world. Let me sum up what I thought I knew about publishing: write a good book, get a publisher, see your book on the shelves and take your picture beside it. Honestly, I kept myself in the dark about the facts of publishing because I didn't want to get discouraged and quit writing before I started. My goal was to write the book and figure everything else out later.
Later is now. Here is what I now know about the big, bad world of publishing and my slim chances of surviving in it. For starters, my book is not finished. It's probably better than a rough draft but not much better than a first draft. It's good, lots of friends and family said so, but they aren't in the publishing world. In that world it has to be great, well-written, relatable yet unique, fit into a genre but offer something new, have an established market yet reach a market that's untapped. Like it has to be the same as other great books but different. Good grief!
After I work my book over and make it great, perfect, best I can do, then I need a literary agent. The agent knows the road to the publishing houses. Now I could send my super-duper book to the publishing houses myself and it would sit unread in the mail rooms. Doesn't sound like a good way to get my book on the shelves for that photo op. So I need an agent and the agent needs authors who wrote incredible stories that the agent wants to represent without pay until a publishing house pays the author who then pays the agent. Easy to see why agents are a selective bunch. Who, except writers, wants to do a load of work for nothing?
The agent will shop my book to the publishers with no guarantees any of them will want to publish it. And while my agent does this, I am allegedly writing my second book. Good grief part two. If a publisher wants my book, I will likely be told it needs work. My perfectly done, best-it-can-ever-be book will need another edit to make it the best, best ever. And then there's other stuff like cover design, layout, marketing plans, etc. This process sounds overwhelming yet I day-dream about being up to my ears in edits on a book that is going to make it.
So back to today. My book needs work. What I thought was really good is really good, at times. But it can be so much better. I have enlisted the help of a friend, a writer friend, to point out the strengths and weaknesses of my book. We're doing this via email and snail mail. I haven't seen this friend for two decades. In fact, the last time we collaborated on a project, we were high school juniors and I had spilled nail polish on the floor during math class. My friend tore paper from his notebook and attempted to soak up the mess. Painting my nails during math class? Yes. Future writers don't need to know math.
I asked my writer friend if the stress I'm feeling is normal. And the doubt, the insecurity, the feeling that what I've written is boring and typical and why am I spending all this time on nothing? He assured me this is all very normal and that what I've written is something. "Why do we do this?" I asked, meaning writing and the attempt to get published. "Because it's fun," he said. Fun? Yeah, it is fun. To work, to learn, to stretch, to wonder, to try.
So when people ask, "How's the book going?" my reply is, "It's not quite ready." But it will be and it's going to be amazing because I know a little bit about same but different. Publishing world look out, here I come! Uh later, not today, just need a little more time, but soon.
Check out that clever poll I added just for this post. Do you have a book in you?