It has recently dawned on me that many of my close friends and relatives have no idea how the book process works.
Now that I'm represented by a literary agent, I get random emails and comments that go something like:
"Hey, Britney, when can I get a copy of your book?" or, "Hey, can you send me a copy of your book cover when you get the chance?" or, "It's so cool that you have an agent, when can I expect to read something of yours?" or "Oh, are you still writing? I thought you got published months ago?" Or "Are you sure you're still getting published? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure the process doesn't take this long. You should check in with someone, like, seriously." Or, "You're sure--like absolutely sure--that this is still happening, right?"
My response to these questions vary, and I struggle on how elaborate I should be when it comes to informing someone on how this process works.
Then I find myself getting agitated when I have to constantly repeat myself; my tongue literally triple folds into knots, and at some point, I finally realize how glamorized media has made the publishing process. In movies, writers go from drafting a book to being multi-millionaires over night.
That is not how it happens.
So today, I have decided to dedicate my morning to writing about how this whole book process works when someone has decided to take the traditional route of getting published.
This might be a long one, guys, so buckle in.
First, and foremost, a writer must have a finished book. And by finished, I mean it's been edited a gazillion times by beta readers, critique readers, and possibly many random people they may have met in a writing forum going through the same experience as said person.
When the writer feels like their manuscript is free of errors (as much as it can be), they begin doing research on literary agents who might like their manuscript and who represent their genre. (Click here for an older post on how I used to research agents. Also, click here if you're thinking, "what the heck is a literary agent?")
This can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks, depending on the writer.
But before they can send their book to a literary agent, they must complete a query. As many writers already know, queries can take form of the devil sometimes. It's a one page summary of the manuscript condensed into 400 words or less. This query has to be concise, appealing, and close to perfect. (Perfect: an ever-changing adjective that differs from person to person--so yeah, good luck on perfecting that query, my friend.)
I'm not going to lie, though, I've developed a soft spot for queries overtime, and they're not as scary as they seem. (For more about queries and how they haunt writers' nightmares, click here.)
So once they have a polished manuscript and query, they can send it out to literary agents.
This is where rejection hits hard. Depending on the agency, some agents receive hundreds of queries a day. Many of these queries never even see the agent because they might be filtered by the agent's assistant, and most queries will receive a form rejection (for many different reasons) that goes something like:
Thank you for your query. While your project does sound interesting, I'm afraid it's not quite right for me at this time. I genuinely appreciate your email and wish you luck finding an agent who can successfully champion your work.
Yes, this is an actual rejection that I have swiped from my inbox.
To be quite frank, many writers fall under the weight of rejection, and they lose sight of why they began writing in the first place. Some writers stop writing all together, or they choose a different route of getting published.
But, some writers actually hear back from an agent, and if a literary agent is impressed and confident in their work, they will offer to represent them in this crazy world of writing. (For more on how I found my agent, click here and here.)
And yet, that's still not the end of it.
After contacts have been signed, the agent and writer work hard together to shape the manuscript into greatness by going through more rounds of edits. These edits will vary depending on the agent and what condition the manuscript is in. Some will ask to re-work a few chapters; some might ask for a synopsis if one isn't written yet. This process can take a few weeks or a few months.
Once the manuscript has gone through more edits, the literary agent will begin to submit to editors in publishing houses. (You've probably heard of Random House, Penguin, or Simon & Schuster, to name a few.)
Hearing back from editors can take a long time because, just like literary agents, they are getting multiple submissions in their inbox on the daily. They are also looking for specific works that they feel confident in and that they believe will make a hit in the market.
This can be a doozy for many writers because they'll probably find themselves refreshing their inbox on multiple occasions, hoping they've heard back from their literary agent with good news.
And when the time finally comes, the writer will be get a phone call from their agent stating that some editor wants to publish them! (This is, of course, after the agent has negotiated the author's work.) Soon, another contract is signed, and there is it, they have officially began a whole new process.
Even after a writer has signed a book deal with a publishing house, it could still take up to two years before they ever see their book in print form! *gasp*
With an editor, a writer goes through a few more rounds of revisions (and then that version of the book gets edited by many other people in the publishing world) before a final draft is created.
I promise, though, this process grows to be a great one because while all this insanity is happening, many people are making sure the book looks phenomenal across multiple formats, and there's a whole team of people who are working on how to market the book and tailor it to whom they think might be the perfect audience for it. All the while, there's another group of people reading the book and creating a stellar cover for it.
Finally, the book is complete; the book release date has come; and the author finally gets to hold their book in print form.
And this, friends, family, who ever has made it this far into the post, is why I still do not have a book in print form to give you.
I promise, something is happening.
It just takes time. A lot of it, to be exact.
I hope this answers your questions on how the book process works; this whole publishing thing is a bit bonkers.
Still have more questions? Leave a comment below.
Like these posts? Share them in your writing community; it helps me know that I should make more.
Till next time!