What is One Thing You Wish You Had Known?

Reg Forder, at his ACW writer’s conferences, likes to ask the faculty panel the question, “What is one thing you wish you had known before you became a writer?” Since I joined the publishing side of things after being a bookseller and later became a literary agent I have to give the question some thought.

Coming from retail, the hardest thing to grasp was the amount of time it takes to properly get from an idea to print.

As a retailer we saw the instantaneous gratification of our customer when they bought the book. Within minutes a customer’s needs were met or not met depending on our inventory.

As a publisher it was a challenge juggling the 50 new books a years for which my department was responsible. Coordinating acquisition, editorial, production, marketing, and sales can get complicated, especially when overseeing multiple projects simultaneously. I might have acquired and contracted a book but then it had to be written. Then there were marketing meetings to discuss plans, editorial meeting to discuss work-flow, and production meetings to make sure design, editorial, typesetting, etc were all on track. [[The “ease” of ebook publishing for the writer seems to circumvent much of it…but shortcuts are not always the best route to take.]]

As an agent the preparation time with the author to get the proposal just right can take a lot of time. (I pushed back quite hard on two clients this past week challenging them to raise the stakes in the books they were writing. Each appreciated the challenge but it takes time to fix things.) Then we send out the proposal to the publishers and wait. Some respond rather quickly (I’ve received rejections within minutes) and other times it can take forever (the record is 22 months before a publisher said yes). The norm is 3-5 months before knowing whether or not there is interest in a project. And after securing the right publishing partner there are contract negotiations, review of contractual paperwork (sometimes taking 2-3 months to complete discussions), and any number of things that can make the process seem endless.

I guess you could say my answer to the question is “how long the publishing process takes.”

And the lesson learned from it? “Patience.”

What about you? What is the one thing you wish you had known before you entered this adventure of writing and publishing?

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