Slow Down--Turtles Crossing: On the Perils of Publishing

Jan 11, 2012

The baby has arrived. (Yay!) Well, sort of (Boo!)

Yesterday, I got word that my newest book, Lake On The Mountain, was printed. Now all I have to do is wait for it to be delivered from the printers to Dundurn's warehouse--via turtle express. There are few industries where the adage "Hurry up and wait" applies more surely than in publishing.

Let me take you through the various steps (if you have the patience, that is...)

Year zero. First, you get this fantastic idea that already looks like a book in your head. It's brilliant. So brilliant, it burns a hole right through your brain. So now all you have to do is write it. Right? Sure, go ahead.

Year one. Writing a book can take time. A lot of time. And that time varies according to your expertise and dedication to the cause. My first book, A Cage of Bones, took me five years to finish. It's a coming out story that takes place in the fashion industry in Europe. (Nope, not a horror story, despite its title.) It was an industry I was familiar with, having worked there briefly before I started writing. The research was done, but learning to craft my story took a bit longer.

Year two: Being in a rush to get published ("Hurry up and wait!"), I started contacting agents before the book was finished. To put it politely, none of them had time for a first-time author knocking on their doors with an unfinished manuscript.

Year three. I had a messy but mostly coherent script. So I started contacting publishers instead ("Hurry up and wait!"), so sure was I that they would want my book. A word to the wise: selling an unfinished book is nearly impossible unless you're Stephen King.

Year four. I had exhausted every known publisher in Canada--seems no one wanted to take a chance on a newbie. ("Hurry up and...hmmm, give up? Never!") Time to start looking at international publishers.

Year five. Once I got a publisher interested (in England of all places--who would have thought the wide world would be interested in my book?), I still had to polish and revise the book to their satisfaction.

Year six. Only then was I offered the golden ring: a publishing contract. All of which took another year, and the publication date was still a year away, and all the time I was growing older...

Year seven. Happy endings! Despite everything, my book came out and sold very well at home and abroad. In fact, it's still selling more than a decade later. Was it worth the wait? You bet!

So this recent book (my sixth) was a bit of lark, all things considered. By now, having a track record and knowing how to structure a story, it takes me less time to create and sell my work. So only three years later, here I sit, waiting to hold my new book in my hand. Okay, I guess I can wait another week. In fact, I'll have to.

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