Countdown to Publication
It took me thirteen years to get published. Actually, I’m not published yet—my first novel comes out 25 days from now. But who’s counting? Well, I am. After all, it took me thirteen years to get to this point.
I thought I would share with you some of the mile markers that can happen after a mystery or suspense novel is finally picked up:
- 21 Months from Publication: You receive an offer on your novel. You go jumping around the room, or the bus stop, or the dentist’s office, or wherever you happen to be. You thank your agent and your partner and your mother and your kindergarten teacher. You pinch yourself black and blue to make sure this is true.
- 20 Months from Publication: You see news of the offer in Publishers Lunch. People start calling. It’s official. You’re going to be an author.
- 20 Months from Publication: You’re going to be an author, but…when? You start to accept the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the
same, for a while at least. Your book still doesn’t feel real. You’re not even sure when it’s going to come out.
- 20 Months from Publication: The famous editor’s lunch. You get to meet your editor in person. You try to eat despite your stomach having turned into a butterfly sanctuary. If you’re lucky, you clink champagne glasses. If you’re really lucky, you fall in love.
- 18 Months from Publication: It’s lucky you’re in love. You get your editorial letter. The word ‘letter’ should not imply that this is anything like a brief exchange of thoughts. This is a missive. This is a creature that renders email with all its brevity and speed utterly irrelevant. Hey, wait, wasn’t my novel good enough to be bought? Wasn’t it, um, done?
- 17 Months from Publication: Or 16. Or 15. This part can take a while. You’re back in love. That was the most brilliant letter ever written. Thank goodness the previous version was never published. How did it sell at all? Boy, are you lucky to have an editor with this vision. Life is good. You’ve finished your first round of edits.
- 15 (or 14 or 13) Months from Publication: First round??!! Yup, another letter arrives. Don’t worry, this one is shorter. Rinse and repeat the above.
- 11 Months from Publication: Your final edits are approved and your manuscript is accepted. You get a pub date. You can now tell people when your book will be out.
- 10 Months from Publication: This varies, and in truth can happen both sooner and later than this. But take as a rough estimate that you may now start hearing about foreign sales, and thus have the tremendous privilege of walking around, murmuring your book’s title in words you do not understand, while picturing publishing lunches over schnitzel and fondue.
- 8 Months from Publication: Your agent might tell you that an audio version of your book will be made. Ditto above experience, except now you’re walking around, murmuring your book’s title in Sir Lawrence Olivier’s accent.
- 7 Months from Publication: You get to see your cover for the first time. If you have a terrific agent, you will have gotten something called cover consult in your contract. If you have a terrific editor and publisher, you will not need cover consult. You will simply gasp and say, “Thank you for managing to distill 95,000 words into one beautiful image.”
- 6 Months from Publication: Your book will have an Amazon page. If you are tech savvy (or obsessive-compulsive), you will find this out for yourself, maybe from a Google alert, or constant checking of the site. If you’re naïve like me, a kind reader will let you know that your book can be ordered now, should anybody wish to do so.
- Exact same 6 Months from Publication: You will be distressed due to any or all of the above: A) your cover and flap copy aren’t even on the Amazon page so why would anyone ever want to buy this thing? B) you don’t have 50 zillion ‘likes’ yet C) how does anyone ever figure out what sales rank means, even after you’ve wrapped your head around lower being better?
- 4 Months from Publication: A box of galleys will arrive. You get to see your book for the first time. ’Nuff said. No, let me repeat that slowly. You. Get. To. See. Your. Book. It may look more or less like the Real Thing, especially if it doesn’t yet have a cover on it, but still. There are your words and they are on pages.
- 3 Months from Publication: Marketing options will begin to be discussed. These will range depending on your publisher, your book, and your deal. You might have to get creative, reach out to bloggers, start frequenting as many bookstores as you can drive to within a day’s radius (or after work hours or after the kids go to sleep), and hire an independent publicist to help with all of the above. Your publisher will submit copies for review. They may also decide to send you to trade shows, help with or plan a tour, ask you to appear for interviews. The more you do the better, so there are two tricks. First, figure out what you genuinely love doing so this phase isn’t a burden. Second, understand that there is no end to what can be done, so make time to have a little cheese with that whine. Things are at last starting to heat up.
- 2 Months from Publication: Reviews will start to come in. These are very, very, very nerve-wracking, unless you wrap yourself up like a mummy and say things like, “My shoe? Did you say something about my shoe?” whenever someone mentions the word review within a few feet of your cotton-shielded ears. If you know a good way to cope with the nerves, please let me know.
- Also around this time you will start to arrange events, face to face and online. Like this one. Which is why I’d say that in this time frame begins the real joy of the countdown. Because a writer can finally begin to connect with readers…like you.
Best of luck with your own journey, and thank you for joining me a little bit on mine! I very much hope you will come find me a month from now, when the countdown will be over.
Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, will be published by Ballantine on January 15th . Read more at her website: jennymilchman.com