We writers, for the most part, are driven by one goal. The hallowed prize to beat all others… to be published! If writing was a journey, it’d be fair to say that most people regard getting a book published as the final destination. Only the reality, when it happens, feels very different.
The highs… and the lows
There’s no denying that the initial buzz is incredible. I remember when I got the email through from Amberjack, three years ago, telling me that they were going to publish my book. I was very near tears, because it had been my dream for so long, and I’d presumed it would never happen. Not least because I was so nervous about actually showing my work to anyone back then, ha!
This moment is amazing, and should be relished as much as possible. A few friends of mine recently bagged publishing deals and it’s been a total thrill to share in their excitement. It’s such a cool thing to celebrate – to actually see the words that you wrote, appearing in print!
However, I’d be lying if I said it was all a bed of roses. I’d also be telling major porky-pies if I said it had made me a fortune. The hard, cold fact of the matter is that I still have a day-job – I have to, in order to keep the family chugging along. PS – there’s no shame in this! I personally wish authors would speak more openly about it, then there’d be less people imagining that getting published would automatically change their lives.
What happens after you get accepted for publication?
After you’ve signed the contract, everything goes strangely quiet. In fact, it’s quite common for authors to feel a sense of anti-climax at this point. Suddenly, the wait for publication seems longer than ever, as it usually takes at least a year to get the book ready!
Then the editing notes come through. Eep. I was fairly lucky in that the first of my books didn’t need too much serious editing. However, the second required some fairly major overhauls, and in the end, I think I rewrote at least a quarter of it. This phase is daunting, and occasionally exhausting. It’s also the time to let go of the ego – someone will basically be picking your book to bits. But it’s for a good cause, so try to roll with it, unless there are some editorial comments that you radically disagree with.
The high of the book cover reveal
This is easily one of the best parts of getting published – seeing that cover for the first time! There’s something so epic about that feeling; all of a sudden, your scribblings have become an actual, real, proper book! The cover is usually sent over well before publication (perhaps six to eight months or so).
Another high is undoubtedly receiving the proof copy, which usually comes in a few months / weeks before the release date. Holding your book in your hand, thumbing through the pages, then putting it on your book-shelf – these are all tremendously good feelings!
The kindness / brutality of strangers (and friends)
It’s likely that your book will be sent to trade publications and bloggers before it’s released, for review purposes. Brace yourself for this bit, as it can be a bumpy ride. A good review will leave you feeling elated. A bad review, unsurprisingly, not so much!
When you get your first bad review (as you inevitably will, as we all do; even Dickens and Shakespeare have some stinkers on sites like Goodreads), accept that it will sting.
Authors tend to react in different ways to the situation. If you’re like me, you’ll start angsting like mad, panicking that your book is actually complete dross and that everyone will hate it. Others get depressed. Some even get angry! Always resist the urge to get in touch with the reviewer to give them a piece of your mind. Just let it go; it doesn’t matter, and it does get easier with time. These days, I don’t even read my reviews very much (an occasional glance every three months or so is about it) – and this is a stage you’ll get to as well. People have opinions and not everyone will like your writing style. It’s no big deal.
You’re likely to get plenty of support from your family and friends (or at least, I hope so). Be prepared for some savagery too. I’ve experienced my fair share (from fellow writers, sob), and the important thing is to keep smiling and take their comments with a pinch of salt. Ultimately, when you get a book published, you’re putting yourself out there for commentary, and it’s all part of the business, I’m afraid.
The release itself
The day of release is quite strange. It was probably weirder for me than most, as it wasn’t even released in my home country, so I felt very removed from it all. You’ll probably shout about it on social media, then sit quietly at home, wondering what happens next.
The answer? Not much, really! You might have a book signing event, which is always good fun. If you’re the partying type, you may hold a gathering to mark the occasion. If you’re anything like me, you’ll hide away in a darkened corner, scarcely daring to mention the book in case someone thinks you’re gloating about it. In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m TERRIBLE at over-thinking these things.
Finding out about the sales
The temptation, after a few weeks of the book being out, is to contact your agent / publisher to find out how it’s selling. Avoid doing this. For starters, shops operate on a sale or return basis, so you won’t get an accurate idea of actual numbers of copies sold anyway. Also, publishers and agents are busy folk, and don’t really want to be chased by their authors all the time.
You’ll get royalty reports at set times of the year. Mine are twice-yearly, in the spring, then in the autumn. These tell you how the book sold in a certain time-frame – and don’t show you the sales figures for the latest few months. So effectively, you’re always working on past figures, if that makes sense.
In the money?
Now I’m going to bust the biggest myth about getting published – no, you won’t get rich overnight! Well, perhaps a few people do, but they are few and far between.
Firstly, you’ll need to pay off your advance, if you had one. This comes out of your royalty payments, and can take a while. You won’t get any royalties until the advance is fully cleared. Then, it’s more likely that you’ll be getting small amounts of money – unless your books really take off.
But there is money to be made. Sub-rights can generate much better sums of cash, and that’s where an agent comes in very handy. Again, you’ll have to wait… this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, and these things take time.
Be prepared for some ‘nearly but not quites’ as well. The Dr Ribero series had some interest for a TV series, but to date, this hasn’t happened for me. It’s disappointing, but that’s part of the job, and something you just have to suck up. Also, you never know what’s around the corner.
Is it worth it?
Ultimately, if you love writing, you won’t be able to stop doing it, regardless of whether the reviews are tough or the money tight. There’s a great pleasure in writing, and I always regard it as a privilege that someone actually wants to pay me to do it. It’s not my main job yet (at present, it’s more 60% day-job, 40% creative), but one day, hopefully, this figure will change.
When you’re submitting your manuscript for publication, remember that the hallowed publishing contract isn’t the end of the road. It’s not the Holy Grail, nor the final goal. For most, it’s just the next step along a long, twisty-turny, bumpy path!