I said on Tuesday that I wanted to save today for some cheerier news. That news is that I’ve finished the revisions to Like Herding Cats.
Actually, to be totally honest, I haven’t quite finished. I’ve got one chapter to go, so–barring a total computer meltdown*–I will finish today.
* I really, really hope I didn’t just jinx myself…But what are the odds of four different computers dropping dead at the same time? No, don’t answer that; I’m happier not knowing.
Finishing the book doesn’t mean you’ll be able to read it soon, unfortunately. As I’ve said before, publishing is a glacially-slow business. Let me run through the next steps for anyone who’s curious.
I’m still not interested in self-publishing. That means I’m looking for a so-called “traditional publisher”.
Some of you may be wondering “What about Poisoned Pen?” Well, see, PPP is a mystery publisher. LHC isn’t a mystery. So, even if PPP wanted to publish everything I wrote, they wouldn’t be a good fit in this case. Publishing isn’t just about printing the physical book and formatting the ebook. Just to give one example, publicity and marketing (two different things, though there is some overlap) require genre-specific knowledge, and PPP doesn’t have that knowledge for the sort of fantasy I write.
While some publishers, especially smaller presses, will accept submissions directly from authors, many require–or at least strongly prefer–agented submissions.
So I need an agent.
Finding an agent is like getting an acting job. You have to audition. A lot. Agents get literally hundreds of applications (“queries”) every week. How many are they likely to accept? Depends who you ask, but I’d be surprised if the average was as high as a dozen a year.
Why so few? It’s not because they’re looking for a surefire bestseller. There isn’t such a critter. They’re looking for a book they think they can sell. Or, in many cases, they’re looking for an author they think they can sell. Because they don’t want to just sell one book, they want to sell lots of books. A good author/agent relationship lasts a lifetime.
Which means agents are justifiably picky. And authors have to sell their books multiple times. First with a query letter that introduces the book and the author. It needs to make the book sound appealing enough for the agent to look at the first few pages. Those first few pages need to be interesting enough for the agent to ask the writer for more–sometimes the whole book, sometimes just a larger sample.
This is not a speedy process. A good agent is going to prioritize their current clients over prospective ones, so their query reading time is limited. Most agents need a month or more to respond, and then, if they’ve requested more of the book, they’ll need more months to read that.
That’s grossly undersimplified, but you get the idea. In the best of all possible worlds, LHC might take six months to find me an agent*. In a not-so-good world, it could be a year to eighteen months.
* In the worst of all possible worlds, it won’t find an agent at all. Splat Squad didn’t, and neither did Lord Peter. If one of them had, I wouldn’t be sending LHC out looking.
But let’s be optimistic. I find an agent, and then I can look forward to LHC hitting the shelves, right?
Nope. First, the agent is probably going to recommend another revision. No book is perfect, just like no software is free of bugs. The agent will want me to tweak LHC to make it better (which includes, but isn’t limited to, making it more salable.)
And then the agent has to sell the book to a publisher. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that process takes time. After all, it’s very much like querying an agent.
Let’s be optimistic here as well, and figure it takes six months. Might be more–or never–but it probably won’t be less (there are plenty of stories of agents not selling the book that convinced them to sign an author until years after they’ve established a successful career with other books.)
So now we’re a year out–end of 2019–but we’ve got a book deal. Surprise! We’re still not close to publication. The publisher is going to want a round of revisions. No book is perfect, right? Right. And the publication process takes time as well.
Contracts are being signed right now for books to be published in late 2020.
Sure, PPP did it a lot faster with TRTT. There were reasons to accelerate the process, reasons that wouldn’t apply to LHC.
Bottom line, if everything breaks perfectly, you’ll be getting a copy of LHC for Christmas in 2021. And by that time, I should have three or more additional books going through the sell/revise/publish process.
Someone out there is undoubtedly reading this and saying “How is this cheery news?”
The old saying is “You can’t win if you don’t play the game.” I’m playing the game. Finishing the book and sending it out on query is a win. Small, perhaps, but any victory is cheery.