So You Want to Publish a Book: What the Process is Like

I thought I’d talk a little about what the process is like because, well, I’m right in the middle of it, so it’s kind of on my mind. This is Book #5 for me, so it’s a familiar process, but it’s still sometimes overwhelming, and I can imagine what it feels like when you’re doing it for the first time.

After you propose your book (and we’ll talk more about that in another post, probably not one by *me*, though, since I’m not good at this part), you wait to hear if it’s accepted. This is a good time to clean your studio, maybe paint the ceiling. Work on your taxes for next year. Take a trip to Nepal. Anything to keep you from emailing the editor and being a nuisance.

If your proposal is rejected, don’t despair. This is NOT a rejection of you; it’s the rejection of a specific idea for a particular book. Just because the market may not be there for this book at this time, it doesn’t mean that the work you’re doing isn’t valuable, and it doesn’t mean that you’ll never do a book about it–or about your next series of work. There are other publishers, and they all look for slightly different things. Sit down with your proposal and really look at your ideas, maybe talk to a fellow artist who has good instincts about the business. Think about what it is that you need to do to make this idea sellable and then try submitting somewhere else.

If your proposal *is* accepted, then you celebrate. Have some Champagne, do a little dance, and then get down to work. You’ll get a contract, which you will read carefully and then sign and return, and then you’ll get to work. You’ll have deadlines–usually a couple of these for various parts of your book, and the very first thing you need to do is to make a calendar with all these deadlines marked very clearly. If you have any desire at all to write Book #2, you want to make sure you meet those deadlines for Book #1, every one of them. Nothing is more annoying to the people who are trying to help you through the process than someone who agrees to do things by a certain time but then misses deadlines. If something comes up and you don’t think you’re going to be able to meet one of them, contact your editor immediately. The reason you have deadlines is because your editor has deadlines, too. She can’t meet hers if you don’t meet yours, and that’s a bad way to start any relationship. And that brings us to a really important part of the the process of writing the book: communicate with your editor. Ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. Let them know if you have a problem or something that’s not going as planned. Communication is key–it makes the entire process go more smoothly.

For me, organization is really important:  I like to know what I’m going to do first, and then what’s next. When I start a new book–or any big project–I like to make lists and timelines so I know when everything’s going to happen. Theoretically, that is, because of course there’s going to be change along the way. Still, you want to have A Plan. It doesn’t matter how you organize it, but *do* organize it. However your particular brain works, that’s how you need to outline the process.

And the last thing? Relax and have fun with this. I know that sounds contradictory after all the words about organization and deadlines, but it’s important. Your book is your chance to share your work with the world, and it’s your chance to communicate with people who are going to love hearing what you have to say. A relaxed, joyful attitude will come through on the pages–just as would a tight, stressed-out, unhappy attitude–so enjoy the process. Think about how lucky you are to have this opportunity and how rewarding it’s going to be to hold the finished  book in your hands, and remember to breathe.

Next time I’ll share some of the tips and habits that I use when I’m working on a book–not rocket science by any means, but maybe something that will help along the way.


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