Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Formspring: Why haven't your books been published yet? It's been like a year!

I get asked this about once a week. I didn't answer before because I didn't have a definite answer to give. Now I do: it will take as long as it takes.

Publishing is a very conservative business. Considering the amount of money, time and effort that publishers put into a book, as well as an investment in the future creative output of that author, it is a very long, drawn out process. I promise I'm not holding out on you guys. I would love to be announcing I've been signed by a publisher right now. I'd like to have made that announcement several months ago. But, that isn't how it works. Yes, there are examples of writers to get offered a huge contract by the first publisher they approach days after finishing the rough draft of their manuscript. These examples are rare near to the point of being mythical. Most of us have to ride the train, and it's a very old, slow train on a really long track.

Luckily, I'm not on the train alone. I have a very aggressive, intelligent, hungry and dedicated pair of literary agents working to see my books published. Remember, they don't get paid one cent until I get offered a contract. They are motivated to sell. But they are also very smart and know the business. Publishers work with creative people, and creative people are notoriously difficult to work with. Anyone who has been in a band or dated a painter knows this. Time is money in publishing, and every minute counts. If a publisher thinks a writer is going to be difficult to work with, they'll pass...it isn't like there aren't a lot more out there from which to choose: starving writers who would sell their soul for a five figure advance and a contract...or less. Agents have to strike a balance between enthusiasm for the sale and appearing desperate or obnoxious.

All things considered, my story is a fortunate one among writers. Maybe it was the quality of my writing, beginners luck, the product of my odd charisma, my obnoxious talent of self-aggrandizement toward strangers or a combination of any of the above, but my road has been far shorter than many. I know writers who spend years, some decades, just trying to land an agent--or, having landed one, changing agents until they find one they feel comfortable with. This is often after multiple publications in magazines and journals--which don't pay very well but help build a resume. I scored one that was a perfect fit for my style and enthusiasm in less than a month and I haven't had a story published in a magazine in over 10 years...and that was a non-paying submission that I didn't even mention in any of my queries because the magazine doesn't exist anymore. Within two months, my manuscript was out to publishers. A month later, we had our first nibbles from publishers requesting partial or full manuscripts. More have come in the following months. I'm now just over seven months into this. I'm not bragging, I'm just pointing out that I have been incredibly fortunate, and that compared to the sacrifices and struggles that many talented writers must endure on the road to publication, my path seems downright gold-bricked.

So it will happen when it happens, and it will take as long as it takes. I appreciate all of you going down this road with me, and your love and support will not be forgotten when (not if) I get there. Thank you all for hanging in there with me. I know many of you want to read the book, and no one wants you to be able to read it more than me.