(or, how to start publishing your book)
Recently, following a writers' talk at the Lake Macquarie Fellowship of Australian Writers, I received an email from one of the attendees asking me how long I should expect a book will take to write and publish.
My first thought is "how long is a piece of string?" It's a valid question though and one I'd like to address right here, on this blog, to spark thought and discourse with any other aspiring or practicing writers.
If you ultimately seek a successful writing career (and there's nothing wrong with that!) then you may need to do what I did after completing my first book, and drastically alter your writing approach - especially if you ever wish to enjoy the fruits of your labours. The idea? To embrace a shorter but more productive writing timeframe; learn the ropes of the digital revolution in full swing; and take control of your publishing destiny.
The following advice has been prepared on the basis of my personal experience and should be taken as my own journey and therefore may or may not be of assistance to you. The Boss - aka my Sar - suggested I add that particular disclaimer, as there is already a plethora of authors out there providing marketing and publishing advice, and while we all have learnings to impart, no one person is the holy grail. That said, Sarah has done a great course recently - led by one particularly cool fellow - that is worth checking as his advice was incredible and, importantly, based on success that was hard won.
Now, back to the basics.
Preparing your book
There are a couple of approaches to consider.
Firstly, you may wish to self publish it as I did initially and, thereby, 'test the waters'. If you do, you can: (1) engage some of your writing colleagues and ask for their genuine feedback - this will help you get a sense of what's working or not, then either (2) find and pay for an editor who is experienced in your genre and will work with you to make the manuscript 'publishing ready' - many available online if you look hard enough, or (3) pay for a complete publishing/editorial package which will essentially give you a one-stop-shop to keep the process simple and, relatively, expedient. In this regard, I would recommend researching the Amazon publishing arm CreateSpace - the people I used when I self-published Defender of the Faith.
If you don't want to self-publish then you'll be on the look out for a publisher who specialises in your genre. That could be a mainstream publisher who is looking for writers producing work in that area, or it could be a genre-specific publisher. This will take research and I wouldn't limit your research just to Australia. Spend some time hunting across the internet and look for writing groups, bloggers, reviewers who are focused on that genre - listen for the buzz on whose work they are reviewing, what they are saying about the biggest writers in your space, and use your sleuthing skills to discover who publishes their work, who agents for them, and so on.
Now, all of the above is something you should be doing while concurrently getting started on the next book!
Publishing is a business. Publishers are looking for writers/books that they feel will sell and that they can market and turnaround reasonably rapidly. Your work is a 'product for sale' in the big bad world. So, you need to be prepared to change your writing approach if you wish to be picked up by a publisher and see your books on shelves in stores or online.
These days, with the explosion of eReaders and eBooks and reading a plethora of stories on all manner of technological devices and (gasp) books, you've gotta keep writing to up your chances of success as an dollar-earning author. A publisher could be looking for a six month turnaround from you if they are looking to publish one of your books per year. That gives them time to undertake the full editing process - structural/copy/final etc, followed by the actual production process and then, obviously, marketing ahead of the release date.
My experience has been in writing a series, so I'm going to stick to that. Map out your entire series so that you have the full adventure planned and organised into the various volumes i.e. Book 1, Book 2, Book 3 etc. Once you've done that, then get started on book two. That means planning your personal writing process around a certain word-count per day or week (up to you). To me, it's all about word count. Books in my genre of action / thriller / espionage normally average around 100,000 words. It would be wise to find an average word count for books in your genre so that you have an idea of what to aim for. Then, it's simply: creativity + maths = book delivered on time.
No one can tell you exactly how to execute this, especially the creativity part. However, I would advise against paragraph-by-paragraph perfection and stay focused on the entire story. Remember, the book will go through a very detailed (sometimes excruciating) editorial process once you have it finished. Honestly, just get the story down. It's your story and your characters that will win over an audience. They won't be too concerned with every single word and paragraph.
I'll leave it there for now. Do you have a view? Leave a comment below.