Occasionally when I tell people I wrote a book I get a comment like this: "That’s cool. So now you just send it somewhere and they print the book and put it on the shelves at the bookstore, right?" *Sigh* If only it were that simple. I then go into a 15 minute explanation of the publishing process. Aprilynne Pike has a fabulous post about this subject on her blog http://apparentlyaprilynne.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-does-it-take-so-long.html. But Aprilynne's post deals with what happens after you have an agent and sign a contract with a publisher. I thought I would post about what happens before you have that contract.
First, you have to write the book. In my case, I started Eternal Starling as a way to relieve the stress of wedding planning. I was pretty stressed because I wrote a 350 page novel and outlined the next two books in the series in three months, writing only at night. I started writing in June of 2008 and was finished with the first draft in September of 2008. Yep, only three months to write a 95,000 word book; three months, and it showed. I was using writing as an outlet to deal with wedding frustration and the thought of trying to get the book published didn’t come until after I started getting feedback from people I had let read the early drafts.
Once I committed to getting published I spent hours on Google trying to get as much information about publishing as possible. I started following several agent blogs and began the horrible first drafts of my query letter. I'm a perfectionist so I chose 15 beta readers, including one who is an English Literature Professor and another who is a fabulous copyeditor, to give me opinions and help me improve my book. The thing that kicked my butt was the editing process. Waiting for my beta readers and editors, as well as doing revisions for the book took me another eleven months. Seven drafts later and over a year after I had started writing the book, I finally began sending query letters to agents. Even then I wasn't done editing and don't think I ever really will be. I started sending queries in July of 2009 and decided to send the letters in rounds so I could improve the query as I received feedback from agents. I'm not finished sending query letters and I'm still waiting to hear back from a lot of agents, which is pretty normal. Getting published is like a really long job interview with more rejection than you can imagine.
The query process goes like this:
-When your book is completely finished you send a query letter to an agent and hope you hear back from them in 2-8 weeks with a request for your partial manuscript.
-If you get the request for the partial, you send the agent your first three chapters which should be around 50 pages. Then you pray you hear back from them in 4-12 weeks with a request for a full manuscript.
-If the agent likes your partial and wants your full, you send it off with the commitment to sell them your soul if they'll decided to represent you. It takes another 4-12 weeks to get a response (the soul selling part doesn't take nearly that long).
-If the agent decides they like your book enough to represent you, you'll sign a contract with them and then you work with the agent to get the manuscript ready for the agent to try and sell to publishers.
And that's just the beginning! It's definitely not a fast process but hopefully this post will give you a better idea of how it all works. :)