The Timeline of a Book

So, you want to write a book. Yay! 

Who doesn’t? 

No really. Who doesn’t? 

It turns out that one of the most prevalent side effects of the pandemic was writer’s block abundance. A real downer for those of us who started writing books prior to becoming a nation of shut-ins. For those of us (and I may be speaking out of turn) writing real books, that was a huge bummer. Okay, yeah, that was rude. Every book is real. 

It’s just that the whole writing circus has caused a huge backup in the publishing industry as everyone and their doggo wrote books about so many things that the dig-through piles of submissions to agents, publishing houses, etc…has been…well… the publishing industry is extremely backed up.

It’s backed up enough to where many of us “we’re so close to being authors!” now feel slightly awful mentioning these works in progress that now seem to be stuck at “on its way!,” or “any day now!”, or “coming soon!” 

I wish I had a Fast Pass that said “I started journaling a thousand emotions ago!!!!” so I could skip the line. But, here I am, unexpectedly guiding a fellow writer on the publishing process and, via those chats, began to journal just what it takes to take a book from notes to shelves.

Which I will now share with you. Please do not comment with, “Wait…you’re writing a book?” because, by God, it’s been two years now and where have you been?

The Timeline of a Book (also known as “I’m out of Unisom”):

  • Write the book: Yes, often thought of as the hard part. Incorrect.
  • Rewrite the book because writing the book made you a better writer and now you have to go back to improve round one.
  • Search Google to find out what the next step is
  • Search Google to find out what the next steps (plural) are. One step? Ha! No chance.
  • Become mildly obsessed with the Association of Literary Agents’ website as this is essentially an online dating pool to find the middle person between writers and publishers and, man, if you don’t find your perfect person, nothing will ever work out forever. 
  • Rewrite the book again because, what’s one more go, right? And also, what if no LIterary Agents like you? 
  • Realize that you actually need to pick multiple Literary Agents and submit proposals to all of them in hopes that just one will be interested enough to request your entire manuscript.
  • Realize that this is a futile effort because, my goodness, this dating pool is FULL.
  • Create a spider web of a chart listing which Literary Agent takes their proposals by email and which by paper mail and which use a query website and which are open to submissions and which aren’t and which are seeking your genre but, oh shoot, they aren’t any longer and just how many proposals should you submit before you just give up because clearly nobody likes the work that you worked so effing hard on.
  • Rewrite the book again because why doesn’t anybody like you?
  • Reopen the spider web of a chart to start sending out proposals again with a better attitude because now you know that each query will take at least a half hour and starting this process at dawn seems to work better for you.
  • Wait for responses from the lengthening list of queries while still ending queries while catching errors in previous queries and crying a little.
  • Wait. Kind of. A few queries will have now been met with a rejection hinting at an auto-reply that reads, “this query was not read by a human.”
  • Feel an odd mix of nausea and excitement when another rejection comes but with a personal note. Your proposal was read by a real person!! Also, it was rejected. 
  • Wonder why you started this at all. 
  • Finally, finally, finally have a great meeting with a publisher kind enough to explain the publishing process as a whole, including the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus hybrid publishing. Realize that this, this! maybe your road to freedom. 
  • Realize that this road will cost you upfront (why aren’t people throwing money at me?!?) and remind yourself that the whole point was to write a book (and you’re going to do it!).
  • Thank all that is holy that your husband is endlessly supportive and that you have the means to go this route.
  • Create a spider web of a chart listing which hybrid publishers will be your best fit and start the query process again from a new angle which includes being the interviewer while also dodging so many slimy sales pitches. 
  • Find your match.
  • Oh goodness, it’s happening!
  • Sign with a publisher!!! Yay!!! 
  • Send the publisher a check. Boo!!! 
  • But also, yay!!!
  • Bravely hit the “send” button to send your entire life manuscript to its new home.
  • Wait.
  • Wait.
  • Wait.
  • Receive your first email from a real-live editor who will “take you through the first steps on your path to publication.” This feels bland and generic. Yes, right, editors do this many, many times a week. You do have to be best friends. 
  • Buy your editor’s book in case they want to be best friends.
  • Swallow your pride through that first editor’s meeting as not-your-best-friend picks through endless items that could be improved. 
  • Rewrite. Again. Perhaps a bit angrily, at first, because everyone else who has read the book has been lovely and now this person, non-best-friend, wants to make changes. 
  • Oh shit. The book is improving again based on those suggested edits.
  • Receive an email from your assigned graphic designer to start talking about book covers. Holy hell.
  • Panic as you now question every chapter’s name, content, genre, page length, and topic. And what about the book title? Is that okay? Is this imposter syndrome?!
  • Interview the first of a few public relations firms to see if you might also want to take that route. Practice saying the word “publicist” because “oh, my publicist…” sounds bougie.
  • Lose an entire editing day making Cider Donut muffins because why wouldn’t now be a good time to start baking?
  • Rise at 4:30 am on a Wednesday to make some final notes to your editor on that first round of updates and JUST PUSH THE SEND BUTTON ALREADY.
  • Round two of edits. Rinse, wash, repeat. But with experience now. 
  • Finish round two of edits and send the current version to the Proofreading Team. Good grief, is this like Grammarly on steroids?
  • Wait.
  • Begin work on the “back of the book” stuff…summary, reviews (What? Where do those come from?).
  • Wait.
  • Combine a visit with friends into a surprise headshot fiesta.
  • Wait.
  • Continue a seemingly never-ending quest to become a webmaster.
  • Wait.
  • Feel the arrival of the Proofreading Team’s email to your inbox as a punch to the gut brought by the glaring 2461 suggestions note. 
  • Pray that your manuscript included the word “y’all” 2400 times so you can simply write “STET” 2400 times while really only needing to address the other 61 suggestions.
  • Spend the weekend (finally) flipping to because, by God, every person involved thus far has said to.
  • Prance throughout the house to find someone to tell of this Information Technology success and how you saved a bajillon dollars by doing it yourself even though it took months.
  • Realize that you now have to hunt down all publications using “” and send an update.
  • Turn on the Phillies game.

I am here

Next up? And I’m just spitballing. 

  • Address those 2461 suggestions
  • Send back a final, final, holy hell it’s the final version to the publishing house – including a headshot, author’s biography, dedication, and all the things that make it a real book.
  • Shite pants
  • Waiting
  • Receive the proposed book layout and approve, including the cover
  • Approve all after (just a guess) spending days wondering if you should really be doing this.
  • Pick a launch date. I think. I actually haven’t read the rest of the manual.
  • Before Christmas? After? January 2023? 
  • I’m assuming there will be a party at this point…
  • Books printed and shipped to my home.
  • Leave the box unopened for (just a guess) days while I enjoy the excitement of having an unopened but important box on the table which drives my family crazy but, hey, I’ll open it eventually when no one is looking.
  • Cry (just a guess) happy tears (also just a guess)

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