Read this if you wrote a book.
After the first draft (which took multiple passes of adding layers on layers, printing, reordering chapters, ideas coming at you in the car, on the train, in the shower, at work, at dinner, on a run) was completed and sat in a drawer for a month or two like bread dough rising in a covered bowl, you revised it.
You rewrote the whole thing (more than once).
Shared it with a group.
Revised it again. Shared it with more writers. Revised it again.
Hired a professional editor. Revised it again.
How long did that take? I’m estimating ~2 years.
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want milk to go with it. If a writer spends 2 years crafting an incredible story (one that she didn’t know existed in her heart or mind until it spilled onto the page), she’ll want readers to go with it. Writers want to share with readers who love stories and characters and getting wrapped up in a really good one…those are the humans we writers seek.
Which kind of writer are you? Do you want to quit your job and become a bestselling author, or do you have an inexplicable need to share your story with readers? Either way, you must publish your book. It’s time to make a decision. Will you publish it yourself? Or will you (attempt to) publish it the traditional way?
One huge factor to consider is timing. Here are some estimates for each process.
Traditional publishing requires
1. Writing, revising and polishing a query letter (2-4 weeks)
2. Writing, revising, and polishing a plot synopsis (2-4 weeks)
3. Researching and reading and finding agents (1-3 months)
4. Submission of query letters in batches (2-24 months)
5. Receiving rejections (minutes that feel like weeks in hell–they stepped on your baby’s neck–side effects may include insomnia and eye twitching)
6. Receiving requests for partial and full manuscripts (hope like rainbow bubbles)
7. Receiving rejections (popped bubbles get soap in your eye, but you won’t cry)
8. Receiving Revise and Resubmit requests (sour hope, but only the fringe of the rug is left so grab it quickly)
9. Waiting, waiting. . . waiting (oh. my. god. the interminable waiting)
[All of the above can take about 2 years and you MUST have incredibly thick skin and perseverance.]
If the two years result in signing with an agent, the following is likely to occur:
10. Revisions with agent (1+ year)
11. Submissions to editors at publishing companies (0.5-1 year)
If the revisions and submissions result in a publishing contract, the following has to happen:
12. Revisions with editor, cover design, marketing, book tours, wait wait wait (Estimated range from 0.5-3 years–agents/editors/famous authors? feel free to correct me here)
Overall, from the moment you conceived the idea for your story to the day your first reader plucks it from the pile to read will be ~4.5 years (if the first agent loves the story, submits right away, and the first editor picks it up and does only line edits) to ~9 years (more likely).
NINE years?! All of that work and effort and waiting and hoping and work and work and work and it could take NINE years?
Take a step back and think about this. It is not logical for writers to voluntarily put themselves through this slow process (designed before the digital era) and somehow do it with grace, patience, and no typos, always bowing and grinning to those with the power to rip the rug out from under us, when the rug wouldn’t even be there if we didn’t write the book in the first place. Is the process outdated, battered, slow. . . perhaps backwards?
Think about this too: why do you want to publish anyway? For the writing career or to share your art? (Your craft!) To share your gift of twining words into stories for others to read and feel and know your characters who came out of your brain in a process that is so incredible that you can’t even adequately describe it despite your gift with words? Is that you? Are you an artist? A storyteller? Do you write because you MUST and you cannot stop? Then, maybe the agonizing process of traditional publishing is not for you.
Don’t feel bad. You can still get your story to your readers.
Independent publishing is a wee bit faster than traditional publishing (divide by 3?). Where traditional publishing can take up to NINE years to complete, independent publishing skips almost ALL of the steps above and might take ~3 (THREE!) years from conception, through revisions and all editing, to publication.
Nine years vs THREE years. Think of all the stories you could write in the six years you’ll save. But before you leap to the other side of the fence, be sure to consider reality like this:
You’ll likely not be a bestselling author. Ever.
You’ll likely not be branded (so you can remain yourself–whew!) or forced to write your next novel based on someone else’s idea of what will sell. You may remain a writer of stories that sometimes suddenly appear in your mind, and compel you to bring them to life.
You’ll just be a writer and your work will be out there for readers to choose to read. Or not. But if you don’t put it out there, nobody will read it but you. Consider this option to share your craft with the world–it will let you get back to work writing your next book.
You’re a writer. Be a writer.
2 thoughts on “The other path to publication”
Thanks for addressing all my fears. My worry is at 61, and just now thinking the story I wrote needs to be longer – maybe a novella – the question is will I live long enough to see it in published form?
Best of luck to you on whichever path to publication you take.