I gave a talk for a local Rotary Club this week. Public speaking is not my favorite thing to do, but I keep telling myself the more I do it, the more comfortable I’ll become. So, when a friend asked, I said yes.
I have to admit, I really knew nothing about the Rotary until this week. With the help of Google, I learned that, among other things, their purpose is to foster goodwill and provide humanitarian service. A community of people doing good works.
On the other hand, I write crime fiction. I spend my days thinking of ways to kill people.
Why would they want me to speak at their luncheon?
I decided to talk about the writing community, using my path to publication as an example. Since those of you who read my posts are all readers, I thought you might enjoy it too.
Part of the whole attraction to writing—and I think this is true for most writers—is that it’s something we do by ourselves. Unless you are co-writing, it’s a solitary occupation. Again, for most of us, that’s perfect. But once you have something written, you need someone to read it and give feedback.
So, I joined a writers’ group, and it was great. I learned how to give and accept criticism. And I learned I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of us hoping to find an agent or publisher. After doing another revision, I did find an agent, and she took me though another round of revisions. Then we got an offer from a publisher for three books!
That scared me to death. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t give me two years to write each book. But I really wanted to do this, so, with a little push from my agent and reassurance from my husband, I said yes and signed my first publishing contract. Gulp!
From that point on, it was on the job training. Publishing is a big mystery. At least from an author’s perspective. It seems to run on faith, somebody’s gut feeling, serendipity, and maybe a little magic. I don’t mean to present publishers in a bad light. The industry has been chugging along since Gutenberg. I’m sure they know what they’re doing, but apparently, they cannot share that information with their authors. When I asked my editor for a schedule, he referred me to my book’s release date. After a little back and forth, I learned that anything between that moment and that release date was all a matter of chance.
Meanwhile, my second book was due in just a little over a year. A year sounds like plenty of time to write a book, doesn’t it?
Except, you’re not just writing a book. I was given two weeks to send in all my ideas for the book cover and the cover copy and of course my author bio and photo along with an 8-page questionnaire.
I finished everything and started working on book 2.
Then my editor asked for an outline for the second book. As I was Googling, How to write a book outline, I got an email from a writer friend. You need to join a debut author group, she said.
A debut group is a private Facebook group of authors who are all launching their first novel in the same year. This is where you find people who are going through the same experience. We were there for each other’s highs and lows. To help each other with promotions, or edits, or ideas, and to crack the publishing code. Obviously, some of the authors would publisher earlier than others and since they were farther ahead in the process, they could provide the rest of us with what our publishers wouldn’t, some idea of what to expect.
A little research told me there was no such group for my publication year. So, I created one. Did I mention I’m an introvert? I had to find newly minted authors and invite them to my group. We ultimately ended up with 125 members, authors who wrote across all genres. It was the best support group ever.
Then, as the clock was ticking, I got back to writing book 2.
After a few months, I was emailed a big file with my copy edits. I had three weeks to get through them. From the debut group, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like this. I had thought I’d delivered a clean manuscript, but my copy editor managed to find multiple errors on almost every page. After a few days of correcting my grammar errors, I began to wonder if English really was my first language.
I finished the copy edits a far more humble person and returned to making all new grammar errors in the next book. Meanwhile, 2018 arrived. That was pub year and in the debut group our books started releasing! It was joyous. We were so excited for one another. We celebrated with the newly pubbed authors and cheered each other on.
Around February, a big package came in the mail. Page Proofs. This is a mock-up of what the interior of the book will look like and it’s the last chance to find any errors before the whole thing goes to the printer. I had two weeks to find those little buggers and the debut group came through again with proofreading tips.
The next distraction to writing book 2 came in March. I received a box from my publisher. The Advanced Reader Copies! These are super cheap, soft-cover versions of the book. They’re meant to be given out to reviewers and bloggers. By the time I got back to writing, my deadline was only about three months out. I sent the manuscript to my writer friends to get their feedback. And since they were reading for me, I returned the favor. So, I spent about a month reading and editing friends’ manuscripts.
At the same time, I started working with my publisher’s marketing team. This mainly consisted of more writing. Lots of interview questions, articles, and blog posts. I got my manuscript back from my friends, made a few changes, and sent it off right on the due date.
Four weeks later, the first book released. I held it in my hands! All my debut author friends celebrated with me! I had a big launch party. I could have floated on cloud 9 forever, but there wasn’t time. The outline for the third book was due in two weeks.
And there were more debut author books to celebrate. It was about that time that I realized I was no longer that solitary author. I was part of a community. I’m now writing my 7th mystery and I have to say, I have never been part of a work environment like the writing community. In an industry where there can be only so many products (books) produced each year, you would think we’d be competitive and cut-throat. Instead, we’re very nurturing.
Other authors have reached out and helped me every step of the way. Each time that’s happened, it made me reach out and help someone else. I love writing. I adore being an author. I still don’t know how publishing gets done. But I’ve learned that like every industry, it’s not the job that’s fulfilling, but the people you get to work with and the community you create.