Have you ever thought about what goes into getting a book in your hands? I have had a fleeting thought about it in the past, but must admit, I never put much thought into it…until I decided I wanted to write a novel. But, even at that point, my knowledge was low. My method was just to write and figure out the next step later. I knew that I would freak myself out with the requirements of the process if I looked it up any sooner (you know, the whole actually getting it ready to be published part, AKA the most important part). So, I just wrote the first draft of The Difference and when starting edits investigated the process. Thank God I waited because anxiety may have gotten the best of me.
Recently I finished my first round of content edits for my publisher. Content editing means analyzing anything that needs to be changed to make sure the story makes sense developmentally, including deleting, pulling a switch-a-roo with parts, or adding to the story. During my edits, I thought about how I have to share this behind the scenes experience with you! So, now you will know a little more of that burning question of “What is a book’s life before I read it?” I bet you always wanted to know.
Let me give you a general overview of the process, or at least my process. I created the manuscript, edited, revised, asked what we call in the writer world “beta readers” to read it (mine are 3 close friends who also are brilliant for various aspects of what I needed in a reader), continued to edit, oh and then edited again. Basically, think about continuing edits infinitely, or until publishing, but more on that in a second.
Once the draft was sent to my beta readers, I started working on establishing my website and social media. This is a necessary component of the process in this day in age because agents and publishers want to see more about you, want to see how many followers you have, and the platforms also show how marketable your book may be if they sign with you (more followers = more interest, logically at least but not always in reality). I am glad I started when I did because it does take a long time to build the connections. I’ll have to write another blog on this topic because I have had some fascinating and surprising situations.
Anyway, I then created my query letter, which is a cover letter in the general world, but it has a specific format in writer world. Us writers call this part “querying.” Letters need to include the word count of the book (oh yes, different genres have different word counts and they REALLY matter), a hook-type description that states the central theme and stakes of the character if they don’t solve some sort of problem, and anything of note about you as an author (awards, past successful novels and such). The letter must be 1 page, usually, and written in the tone of the book. Writers need to make sure the person reading it wants to continue reading, meaning the synopsis of the book the writer may have included or some of the first pages (submissions all have different requirements).
Speaking of the synopsis, writing that was next…and the absolute hardest part of my whole process to date. This document needs to be 2 pages max (sometimes 1) and tell the main points of the story, without any flare of fun in it (straight up facts only). Fitting a novel into this amount of space was a nightmare. Part of my outstanding beta readers’ help was reading the query letter and synopsis, oh, a thousand times (Nah, really 999).
So, once all of that was done, guess what. I edited and edited (and edited) the documents. But also, I listened to the beta reader feedback and edited my manuscript more. During this time, I also started to build a list of agents who I wanted to submit my documents to in the future. At that point, I wasn’t open to going straight to publishers (usually an agent helps you navigate the field, but going this route also means a writer needs to be ready to add yet another step. Publishers need to accept the mauscript from the agent “selling” it; so that’s 2 people to say “yes”). Luckily, my next step brought me to where I am today.
I decided to do a pitch party as another means of querying. These parties take place online where writers could pitch their book to gain agent and publisher interest, usually on Twitter. If the industry professional hearts (likes) the tweet, a writer can see their submission criteria and send them their documents. Many more rules exist, but that’s the gist. There are a few different pitch parties out there, but for my Women’s Fiction genre at the time, only PitMad was an option. So, I worked diligently on my 280-character pitch. Let me tell you how difficult that little task was, BUT extremely worth it. The tiny tweet needed to convey the hook and stakes of the character, plus leave room for comps (comparable books in some manner; topic, writing…), hashtags for the pitch party (#PitMad), and elements of the book, such as if it is a story including mental health (#MH).
I was all ready to go on the first PitMad date on June 6, 2019, having newly “finished” my manuscript (I had be ready to send to industry people right away if requested). I received wonderful interest that day, my official first day of querying. How exciting that my new Twitter friends helped me by retweeting my 3 different pitches I carefully crafted ahead of time, as well as real-life friends signing on for that day only in some of their cases. But, after sending my materials to the interested parties, I got the dreaded rejections.
I ended up sending my documents to more agents in the field, not just the people from the pitch party requests, but continued to receive a big fat “No.” I am sure I can write more on this specific section of the process in the future, but for now, I’m going to keep moving…as I had to do last year in querying. Like that transition?
So, I continued to, you guessed it, edit and query agents. It wasn’t until the second PitMad that my eyes opened to more possibilities for my book baby. Well, I actually took a webinar with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and learned about the different publishing paths. The combination of the two events allowed more flexibility in my thinking. By the second time I participated in PitMad, September 5, 2019, my lucky tweet from the first time around brought even more of a gift to my life; my current publishing contract. Here’s the golden tweet:
EAT PRAY LOVE feel + SHOPAHOLIC quirkiness: Rachel has “it all” but feels empty. Going on an ancestry journey to reveal a family secret has to also bring fulfillment (right?) or she may lose her relationship and worst yet, herself. #PitMad, #A, #WF, #CON, #IMM, #MH
I submitted to the requests I received and then waited for the rejections, but held out hope for a resounding “Yes.” Both results came from the interest from PitMad day, but all that mattered was that I got an offer from one of the requests; a small publisher named Kindred Ink Press, which turns out to be a perfect fit for me. I only queried 5 months total, so in the author world, that is nothing! I expected years of querying. I had put in so much time and effort by that point so don’t get me wrong, I worked for it, but also did not expect publication to happen so fast. I definitely feel blessed.
And after the signing of the publishing contract, on November 15, 2019, I’ve been in the true publication process. My content edits came last month, and I submitted the corrections in the manuscript a week ago. Now, I will have more rounds of edits until publication later this year. Yup, it takes a year to get in your hands from the point of the publisher contract. That doesn’t even include all the other elements I laid out for you above, plus many more details and querying paths, if you could imagine. Here are the main areas of editing:
Yet another topic of a future post (or two or three…) will be marketing my book. That’s a huge part of bringing it to you, obviously. And that part of a book’s life is open ended with boundless possibilities. But there you have the life of a book before it gets to you as a reader. Can you believe the amount of steps and hard work involved? Can you believe I will be starting it all over again with a second book? LOL! Well, what can I say; the writing bug has captured me. I’ll catch you soon with more of my journey, you know, between edits.
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