It occurs to me that I’ve never actually said how I got published in the first place. I mean, this whole blog contains the story, but I’ve never actually sat down and spelled it out. So, without further ado, here’s the story of Night Shift:
- Write lots of writing that never goes anywhere, probably because it’s not very good
- Finish some of the former; get into the habit of finishing, and editing, and editing again
- Join a writing group – a proper one, one that suits me and can pitch criticism at the right level
- Write the first draft of Night Shift, receiving regular feedback on chapters as they’re written
- Edit said first draft. Edit it again
- Get beta-feedback from my small coterie of loyal friends, for whom I return the favour, and re-edit
- Enter the whole ‘submissions’ market. Approach agents. Make lots of mistakes. Get lots of rejections…
- Work on other material: first Night Shift’s sequels, then Oneiromancer
- …but Hark! What’s this? Receive a request for a full manuscript
- Receive a request to meet with an agent. Get all excited. Research not only said agent but also sensible questions to ask of her
- Attend meeting. Get lots of notes/criticism – what basically amounts to what I now see as an ‘R&R’ (revise and resubmit) request
- Overpromise. Rush the job in order to try and appear professional. Get embarrassed by some of the mistakes that were pointed out. Return manuscript to agent
- Get another R&R request (from the same agent) as the first was a disappointment
- Revise. Take more time. Really break the novel down before resubmitting
- Get rejection. Take it on the chin. The novel is now much better than it was before the agent got her hands on it
- Be grateful
- Prepare to self-publish
- …but Hark! An email arrives, offering to publish Night Shift pretty much as is! From a publisher I’d submitted to eight months earlier and had all but forgotten about
- Sign contract
This is, of course, the briefest of brief canters though the process. I could write a whole lot more about every stage I’ve listed here – indeed, I have, many times over, in these very pages. There’s also surely things I’ve missed; I haven’t mentioned, for example, the great Writing of the Synopsis and the Writing of the Cover Letter.
My memory is also fallible. Nothing I (ever) say should be taken as gospel.
It’s also worth emphasising that this is not the best way to publish a novel; it’s not the quickest, or most efficient, or even most guaranteeing of quality. It’s simply the path I took. Your method will almost certainly vary.
The timescale is also worth mentioning. It took comfortably over seven years for me to get from first draft to finished book-in-hand product, and that’s disregarding the first early novels that even I have given up on now. I live in hope that this period will shorten with time, but evidence is yet unclear.
What’s the most important step? Probably #1 and #2, which almost go without saying, and #8. Never stop moving forwards. Never stop swimming.
As for point #20… well, we’re talking very (very) modest sums here. A small advance which I’m just a little shy of earning out of.
Which is part of the reason I don’t post things like this very often, I guess. I’m still a baby author – I have no publisher, no agent, practically nothing to show. I consider myself to be a learner and an apprentice; certainly no-one to be giving advice.
But I have achieved two commercial publications, which is not nothing. And this is how I did it.