how long does it take - What The Woods Keep's journey

That question I used to dread...

"So how's your book going?" is the type of question I used to/get a lot these days, but has been struggling to answer for a while.

"Which one?", as in "Which one are you referring to" has been my first reaction response ever since my 2018-debut-to-be WHAT THE WOODS KEEP sold to Imprint Macmillan in 2016 (along with my book # 2, OASIS).

I've been evasive in my responses, true, but only because it takes energy and time to explain the difference between 'I have a book contract' to 'I am a published author/You can buy/read my book NOW' to my friends, family and an army of acquaintances curious about the status of my writing career but not involved in the publishing in any way themselves.

The truth is, it can take years for a book to be published. Factors affecting the book publishing process are many and, guess what, they are rarely in your control.

When I first signed with my agent, she asked me if I am a patient person. She told me that traditional publishing tends to be slow. That's true: and it's not a good or a bad thing, it's just how things are.

Let me give you an example...

I first started writing my debut-to-be WHAT THE WOODS KEEP (WTWK) in 2011-2012. The earliest complete manuscript of WTWK I have on file dates to April 2012!

My dear test-readers must've read an early version of WTWK sometime in 2012/13... I had feedback from them by April 2013.

Hey, it took me (at least?) a year to write the book! And then another year has passed between me writing the book and me deciding to query the book to agents!

A side note: What the heck was I doing between April 2013 and March 2014...? Ah, wait, I was finishing my PhD, so that's where that year has gone.

Agent querying... 

I first queried WTWK in March 2014, pitching it to 19 agents. I had minor success in terms of interest and requests to read, but no offers of rep.

After 19 agent rejections, I've undertaken a major self-directed revision throughout 2014-15, before starting to query WTWK 2.0 again on 1st March 2015.

Hey, another year has passed!

Between 1 and 31 March 2015, I've queried 33 agents.

Amy was the fifth agent I've queried. She requested a full the same day (within an hour after I emailed her!), and as I've sent off my manuscript, my fingers were crossed and my heart was fluttering. (I had some more reading requests from this round, but I heard from Amy in the early April and it was an offer of rep. The rest is history!)

So in April 2015 I signed with Amy/Signature Literary Agency for rep. Amy didn't waste any time and after guiding me through a round of minor revisions, very soon (within the same month), WTWK was on submission with editors.

I shall spare you the story of many-a-rejection that happened throughout 2015/2016 and get to the good part:

16 September 2015 - Amy pitched WTWK to Imprint Macmillan

We waited... (a minor existential crisis on my part...)

And then...

16 November 2015 something miraculous had happened... Erin Stein of Imprint did not reject WTWK. It wasn't an offer either, but... Erin was interested, but wanted to see me do some revisions first. There were some specific and super-useful notes. I SAID YES,  A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

17 November 2015 - editor notes received. I've embarked on my WTWK's major revision # 1 (or #2 if you want to count my earlier self-directed round).

Dec 7, 2014 - I finished revisions and send those off


Jan 5 2016 - Oasis pitched to the same editor (yes, while WTWK was still being considered)

Feb 29 2016 - nice note from editor. My revisions worked, and while more work was definitely  needed, things were looking good. (Meanwhile, OASIS was still being considered).

Mar 4, 2016 - another miracle... Editor would like a phone chat with me! OMG?! What?! YES, PLEASE.

Mar 9 2016 - we chatted. As in, on the phone. Could this be real?!

And so, drum-roll please, here's what we've been all waiting for:

Mar 19, 2016 - 2-book offer!!!

Mar 22, 2016 - offer finalised

Mar 23, 2016 - deal announced on Publisher Monthly

Jun 7, 2016 - contracts received by my agent/me

Aug 10, 2016 - my first Editorial Letter received - major revisions are due end of the year as per contract (this would be revision # 2, or #3 depending on what we're counting here)

Sep 8 2016 - I had the luck and pleasure to meet my Imprint editors in NYC in person.

Here's me geeking out in a Flatiron elevator as I make my way to the Macmillan offices:

The author on the way to meet her editors at NYC 2016

Nov 25, 2016 - revised WTWK sent off to editors

Almost a year has passed. Patience is a virtue. I knew my turn would come, so I was just writing other books, as you do. 

Sep 26, 2017 - happy day! Received my Line Edits - (big-ish revision # 3 or #4).

Oct 6, 2017 - revisions returned to editors

This was my turning point in terms of plotting and character arcs and basically everything that made WTWK's essence - I finally got it then, what I wanted WTWK to say and how I wanted it to say it. It's a nice feeling, I must say. And, honestly, WTWK needed all those revision rounds, because while the ideas were there, the book needed more fleshing out and together with my editors, we got it there in the end. I mean, there could be more revisions, of course - between now and the publication date - but for now, WTWK is pretty much there.

Sometime around then I was also instructed to draft my acknowledgements, dedication and 'book curse' - this is starting to feel REAL now!

WTWK has a publication date! (18 September 2018)

I'm starting to find WTWK listed on some retailers' websites! It's kind of/almost available for pre-order (?!)

16 Dec 2017 - I had a glimpse at the cover art! Blown away. It's everything I imagined it'd be and MORE, SO MUCH MORE. Same day, received Copy Edits to work on - due early Jan 2018!

Also Dec - book description for Advanced Reader Editions is drafted!

It's happening, people!


How long did it take?

Let's say from April 2012 to 18 September 2018 it's going to be SIX YEARS, people. Out of these, from 19 March 2016 when we got the offer till the expected publication date, it'll be two years.

I guess, where I'm going with this: if you're an aspiring author or if you just got your offer of rep or your book sold - it might take a while before you can actually call yourself a published author. So be patient and use the time wisely - write more books, get your social media sorted, blog, whatever.

Or if you're more of a reader and you have a friend who writes, maybe go easy on them when they get weird and evasive in response to a question of  'so, how's your book going?'


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