Some regard it a virtue, and if there’s any one thing I’ve learned since embarking upon my journey into the publishing world, it’s that you need it in spades.
Many are of the impression the most difficult part of being a writer is the actual writing. And yes, crafting a good novel can take years, and the process may be fraught with numerous ups and downs and interrupted by the vicissitudes of life. But for me, writing the book was the easy part; it’s what came after that tested my mettle.
Column by Lindsay Brambles, author of BECOMING DARKNESS
(Oct. 2015, Switch Press). Brambles has worked in a variety of fields,
from construction to childcare while pursuing a vocation as an artist
and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or his website.
It took me a little over a year to complete BECOMING DARKNESS, my YA alternate history novel. That was in 2008. I’d been writing since my teens, back in the Dark Ages, before the advent of home computers, word processors, and the Internet. In those days I cranked things out on a manual typewriter, employing liberal amounts of Whiteout and filling trashcans to overflowing – all in pursuit of a novel worth publishing. It would be decades before I finally felt I’d achieved that. (I told you this was about patience.)
The explosive force of self-publishing – which has completely transformed the publishing landscape – was just beginning to gather steam in 2008. Yet even had it been in the state it is today, I would still have sought traditional publication. There are many reasons for this, not least of which being the fact that in order to succeed at self-publishing you require skills that have little to do with writing. Skills I felt I lacked.
So, with a novel in hand, I sought out an agent. If you’ve gone through this process recently, I suspect most of you will agree it’s becoming an increasingly difficult nut to crack. With so many submissions crossing the transom these days, agents are more selective than ever. But even seven years ago, acquiring one was no picnic; rejection was de rigueur, and I ventured into the process fully aware it could be months or (possibly) years before I landed representation – if I landed it at all.
I began by sending out six queries to six top agents. (You might as well start with the best and work your way down.) Anticipating a lengthy wait before responses started to roll in, I was flabbergasted when a few weeks after I mailed my first query, it produced a positive result.
Over the next few months a succession of communications passed between me and the agent who had expressed interest in my work. This culminated in a request for the full manuscript, and by the fall of 2009 I had secured representation. You might assume that by then, some six months after I’d been contacted, things would really start rocking. They didn’t.
My newly acquired agent loved the premise of my novel, but she wanted changes. Not least of which was a considerable reduction in word count and some significant alterations to style. I wasn’t averse to any of this and immediately set about rewriting the novel from top to bottom. It took me at least three months, after which the book was passed on to beta readers.
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More rewrites ensued, during which some unexpected bumps in the road resulted in a series of unfortunate delays. Suffice it to say, I spent many, many months waiting. Many.
Finally, in the summer of 2013, my agent began shopping the novel around to publishers. It didn’t take long to find a home for it at Switch Press, the new (then) YA imprint of Capstone Publishers. A contract was signed in October of that same year and from there I expected things to advance swiftly. Yeah, you guessed it: They didn’t. (By now, I’m betting you realize I really wasn’t kidding about this whole patience thing.)
Initially there were hints BECOMING DARKNESS might be scheduled for release in late 2014, which would have been a pretty quick turnaround in the traditional publishing realm. But those hints were vapor, and the spring of the following year looked increasingly more plausible.
In June of 2014, I began working with the editor at Switch Press, a process that was surprisingly painless and quiet brief. Before long, BECOMING DARKNESS entered the copyediting stage, and I had my last look at the manuscript (prior to publication) in December of 2014.
ARCs of BECOMING DARKNESS were issued in April of 2015, and the novel appeared at the spring Book Expo of America (in New York). I was beginning to get excited. Five months later, on October 1st, my novel officially launched. By then it had been more than seven years since I’d typed the first words of Sophie Harkness’ story. To say I felt some measure of relief that the book had finally reached the hands of readers would be an understatement.
As I said in the beginning: patience. Even if everything goes perfectly, debut writers taking the traditional publishing route can reasonably expect a couple of years to pass before their novels release. So, if you’ve just completed your book and are now dreaming of the day when you’ll see it in stores, keep in mind there may be a little gray in your hair by the time that occurs. Believe me, there’s plenty in mine.
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- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
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- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How a Critique and Accountability Partner Can Help Your Writing Career.
- Agent Spotlight: Rachael Dillon Fried/Greenburger Associates.
- Writing Across Gender: How I Learned to Write From a Female POV.
- Character Development: Finding a Friend for Life.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.