Monday, August 20, 2007

YMMV – Part Two – How Long Is Forever?

I never guessed how long things took in the world of publishing, but you’d think I would have.

Before managing to “Go Pro” myself, I regularly interacted with the publishing industry only as a customer or a retailer. I worked for a local comic and game chain Lion & Unicorn (long gone now, unfortunately) for roughly eight years. For several of those years, I was in charge of ordering comics. We’d place orders roughly three or four months in advance and try to equal our invoice amount in sales by the close of business on Wednesday and double our invoice by the end of business on Saturday. By the end of my tenure there, I think the order gap had narrowed to more like two months in advance.

Being on the creative end makes that two month wait seem like a coffee break. Which isn’t a complaint, exactly, but waiting was stressful until I realized a few key facts. Publishing has a few unique rules all its own. If your agent or editor manages to get anything done for you in or around November, December, or the first half of January, they have accomplished something spectacular and rare. You should be very thankful.

Be patient with them. You are not the only iron they have in the proverbial fire.

On the other hand, if they need something from you, get it to them quickly. They are balancing many different projects and when it’s your book's time in the attention queue, you don’t want to slow things down. There is (at least for me) a great deal of “hurry up and wait” in publishing. My suggestion is that you use that time to WRITE. Writing is the one thing that you can mostly control. It also means that if *gasp* your series bombs and they want another book anyway, just not in the same vein as the one they bought first, you can say, “How about this one?” instead of “I’ll get back to you in a few months.”

At any given time, I usually have one novel that I’m seriously working on, one I’m poking around at, and a third in what I call the brain storming phase. I plan to be prolific.

[Authorial Aside: This doesn’t count all the little notes that wind up in various sections of my hard drive detailing enough of an idea so that I can go back to it and start working later. One of these notes is how I arrived at my first publishable novel, STAKED. You see originally, I was going to write about magicians. I wrote two novels about said magicians before I realized that they really weren’t up to snuff. Some of the mages were perilously one-dimensional and in the climactic throw down in book one, the people who showed up to help the main character had literally no motivation for being there at all. *I* knew why they were there, but I hadn’t shown the reader enough to give them any indication other than a) I guess those other mages really like that guy or b) I guess Jeremy wrote himself into a corner. Rather than go back and rewrite the novels from scratch (which still may happen one day) I started paging through my idea documents, examining scraps of texts and found a note I’d left myself: “Maybe the Eric idea would work better in first person… with a I don’t know what to call it… a co-tagonist. Can I include two alternating first person points of view in a narrative? Meh.” It was followed by a secondary note about how to handle Eric’s potty mouth: “Might work best if you just write it how he says it. He can be censored later.”]

But back to the topic at hand, the process of publishing takes a long time. A very long time. I’ve often wished for a sort of guideline giving approximate gestational periods and steps for a book. I've started such a list in one of these blogs, but won't be able to finish it for a while yet.


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