Well, sort of.
Last Saturday I finished the first complete draft of Transitions, my third novel and the first in a three-book series! It is a draft because, while much of it has been edited, the last part (which I wrote during NaNoWriMo) was not. In addition to basic editing, I am having it critiqued professionally. Once that is done, I expect substantial re-writing will be needed. But I’m determined to give this one every possible chance to be published through a commercial publisher – preferable a major one – and that raises the bar significantly. If that doesn’t happen and I self-publish again, at least I will be confident that it is the best it can be for my readers.
So what comes next? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the publishing process, I’ll give you a quick lesson. If an author is not a famous person, it is not a quick process. First, no major publishers will accept un-agented submissions. So step one is to secure an agent – no small feat.
Agents must wade through hundreds or thousands of submissions to find the gems they will choose to represent. The first step is researching what agents handle the kind of book I have written. Then each agent’s website must be studied to determine what they want to see on a first introduction to an author’s work. Often that is a one-page query letter only. That means I need to write a one-page letter that is powerful enough to move the agent to request more.
Then, often, the “more” is five or ten pages, sometimes fifty. If the book doesn’t grab them right from the first page, the rejection letter is in the mail (or email).
If you are really lucky, and initial pages grab the agent’s attention, the author may get a request for the full book.
By the way, the time frame between each of these submissions and the response often is 1-3 months!
So let’s say the miraculous occurs, and the author is offered representation – and the chemistry between author and agent works – then the selling of the book to a publisher begins.
Occasionally this step moves quickly – if an agent has great connections and is very persuasive, a publisher may make an offer on the book, and maybe even multiple publishers express interest and a bidding war is spawned (an author’s dream). More often, the manuscript works its way through multiple prospective publishers and – with luck and a great book – an offer will eventually be made. Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff happens, and eventually there is a contract between author and publisher.
At that point, assuming the author isn’t a famous person whose book is pretty much guaranteed to sell well and is rushed to publication and sale, you’re looking at 18-24 months from acceptance to seeing the book on bookstore shelves and on-line lists.
Therein lies a down side of choosing to publish commercially. When an author self-publishes, the book can be out there for sale in three months or less, depending on the process chosen. However, it competes against hundreds of thousands of other self-published books and against the stigma that self-published books aren’t as good as those published by the major publishing houses. And it is significantly less likely to make a big splash, no matter how well it is written.
I self-published Autumn Colors and In Her Mother’s Shoes (both available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble). Sales have been steady but modest. I’ve received lots of positive feedback. But I always wondered how the books would have done if published by the likes of a Random House or other major publisher. So, while there are lots of down sides to going this route – not the least of which is not seeing the book published for at least a couple of years – the upside is if I can succeed in getting an agent and a commercial publisher, I will feel the quality of my writing has been validated by the hardest-to-please audiences.
And meanwhile, I will begin work on Book Two of the Transitions Trilogy – after, that is, I wish my readers a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays – whatever you celebrate this season!