I Wrote A Book. Now What. Part Deux.
If you missed Part One, go here.
The process of publishing a book is magical, because it does things like move lightning fast and molasses slow at the same time.
Here’s what happens: First, you finish the book and immediately have an 80s dance party in your bathrobe. Then, you roll up your (faded, pink, terrycloth) sleeves and get to work! You will need to revise the heck out of that book you just finished, and by that I mean examine it and manipulate it until the very sight of it on your screen makes you ill. You will take huge swaths of text that took you years to conjure and throw them out the window. Next, replace them with something better! Because that’s super easy. Meanwhile, you must keep the larger story in the forefront of your mind so the whole narrative will flow and make sense. Always remember – perspective can really mess with you. Like when I had my first baby. I looked at her all the time because I couldn’t believe how perfect she was. I just stared and stared at her tiny nose! Her tiny fists! The tiny bubbles escaping from her tiny mouth! Then my husband walked in, and I nearly screamed. His head was GINORMOUS. When this happens, it is time for beta-readers.
Beta readers are people who don’t know you from Eve who read your book and give you substantial feedback. Their directive: try to be constructive, but mostly, be brutal. Most writers prefer brutality pre-publishing so our future readers don’t wince (and then give zero stars on Goodreads).
Betas will say things like, “I loved your story! All except pages 43-177. Were you on a Big Gulp bender when you wrote that part? I felt like I was reading a transcribed Chipmunks album. Slow down, crazy lady. I also didn’t care for your main character in the beginning. And the ending was pretty meh. See the attached notes for suggestions. But hey (thumbs up emoticon), congratulations on your accomplishment!”
More revisions. At this point, the story you wrote about endangered cheetahs surviving in the tundra despite the crippling damage of human encroachment might be the tale of an unlikely romance between a grumpy dolphin and a promiscuous unicorn (Love child = narwhal, baby!). Don’t worry about losing the essence of your story. It is probably still an improvement over what it was.
Once you have incorporated beta feedback and are sure the manuscript is as excellent as it can be, you must surmount your largest hurdle – silencing the inner critic. Actually, this hurdle must be cleared regularly throughout the process, from start to finish.
The book sucks.
You have wasted your time.
Nobody will care.
If they’re nice it’s because they feel bad for you.
You have no talent.
You will never have talent.
Now you must decide if publishing your book is worth the humiliation of exposing something terrible that has your name and picture on it. Are you actually going to reveal to the world this idiotic piece of your soul that has feasted on your energy and taken you forever and a day to create? It turns out that you definitely do not have the capacity to do anything well and it is sort of hilarious that you even thought for a second that you could.
Stop that this instant! *Smack smack!* Of course it is worth it! Publish the darn thing. After all you have done, it is too late to turn back. Therefore, you must be brave. You must own it.
Think of the book as your wayward child. This child did not turn out so great. She was never very smart, she has hideous manners, and she looks like a clown. When you ask her to dress up for a cocktail party where she will meet all of your friends and everyone you have ever known or care to know, what does she do? She scarfs down a medley of jalapeno black beans, garlic hummus, and Jerusalem (F)artichokes, and then squeaks herself into two inner tubes – one to cover her chest and one to cover her butt. Unfortunately, the tube that covers her butt is so tight that it keeps popping up to her waist. She laughs and tugs it down to the correct position, until it has endured so much friction that it finally makes a poof! sound and deflates, floating down and encircling her feet. She then shuffles and trips around for the rest of the evening (with nothing covering her nether regions) because she is too lazy to reach down and pull the flat tube back up.
You may not be proud, but you can’t say she is not your child. You did everything in your power to make her amazing. But here she is, World, love her or lump her.
Rest assured, someone at the party will love her. She may even have a whole little fan club of people who are dying to talk to someone just like her. So, then, is this book. Go ahead and expose its privates at the cocktail party! I promise you, someone will pick it up, hug it, and then take it home and feed it waffles with chocolate syrup.
Moving on from that inspired analogy, how will you expose publish? Will you self-publish, traditionally publish or some combination of the two? There have been scads of changes in the publishing industry. Like taking a train from Antarctica to Brazil, every time you look out the window the landscape is different. I won’t go through how to decide which publishing method is right for you. Pick one and move forward. Remember, your inner critic does not get a vote. (Tell her you live in the library and therefore she must forever be silent.)
I am working toward traditional publishing. This is where you will find me today. Meaning, I am somewhere between being published and the fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man (Cue Middle Child cranking out Twilight Zone on keyboard).
To proceed in this vein, I created a blog (Thank you, Francine Hardaway, for knowing all things BLOG and sharing your knowledge with The Great Obsolete). The Fishheadology blog is my avenue to speak of random things and allow people to decide if they dig it. Now look at this time piece I swing before your eyes. You dig it. A lot. You LIKE what you read at Fishheadology and therefore you will SUBSCRIBE and SHARE it with everyone you know. Now wake up! *Snap!* How was your little nap? It’s cute how you nodded off like that. You’re sort of like a newborn.
Friends who share, many thanks for perpetuating the illusion that I am important and popular. Because in the world of traditional publishing, life emulates high school, and apparently I need a bazillion prom dates. A throng of Awkwardness, stuffed into poly-wool blend pants and pinned with cold carnations, is said to attract literary agents and publishers, and these are what I’m trolling for.
Publishing consists of much more than a popularity contest, of course. A well-written manuscript is paramount. That and perfect query letters (For more on the perfect query letter, go here for my guest post about it at San Diego Writer’s Network). Market timing is also essential. And astrological assumptions and the precise alignment of talismans, along with several other considerations that are equally predictable and comforting.
Will I persevere through the perfect storm of traditional publishing? Or will I grease the chain and switch gears to self-publishing? As of today, it is unclear, even to me. In the world of lightning and molasses, the book could be available tomorrow, or you may not see it for several moons. What is clear is that when the book is out, I will tell you, many times. Until then, be like Casey and keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. And if you reach for the star that I am already holding, I will SHARE it. Because I’m your favorite pal in the sandbox and I’m great at SHARING. Just like you.