Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Things I Wish I’d Known: Getting Published Can Take a Long, Long Time
By JS Watts
It’s taken me six posts into this Things I Wish I’d Known series to get around to acknowledging the length of time it can take to get a book published, which is apposite – it can take a very long time.
When I say it takes a long time, I don’t meant the process of writing, submitting, getting rejected, re-submitting, getting rejected again, re-submitting again and eventually (hopefully) getting your MS accepted by a literary agent (in which case, time-consuming submissions to publishers will then follow) or a publisher. No, I am referring to the process that starts when your MS is accepted by a publisher and ends with you holding a copy of your long awaited book in your eager, clutching hands.
I have always known, in theory, that big publishers take their own sweet time, sometimes upwards of two years or more, to get a book into print, but my poetry and novels have always been published by indie publishers and, as a result, I’ve been spoiled and lulled into a false sense of comfort regarding publishing timescales. I don’t think any of my first six published books took more than a year to come to fruition and many were printed and published far more swiftly than that. Then I embarked on my paranormal Witchlight trilogy.
The first book, the eponymous Witchlight, was published in 2015. To be honest, I’d initially written it as a stand-alone story about Holly Jepps and her belated discovery, at the ripe age of thirty-eight, that she is a witch and now has to come to terms with the uncertainties of an alarmingly magic-fueled world where nothing is necessarily as it seems, but it had potential to be developed. So, when my publisher enquired in 2016 if I was thinking of writing any more stories about Holly, I’d had so much fun writing the magical Witchlight that I said, of course.
To be fair, the first chunk of time eaten up in the creation of the trilogy was down to me. I didn’t get the MS of Old Light, the second book in the trilogy, to my publisher until January 2018. In my defence, I’d had a full collection of poetry finalised and published in the interim, written a further, then-about-to-be published (and subsequently published) poetry pamphlet and guest edited a dark fiction anthology, (Volume 6 of Ink Stains, should you be interested). Nevertheless, I rashly assumed the book was going to be out by the end of 2018 at the latest. While waiting, I wrote Elderlight, the final book of the sequence, and patted myself on the back when I emailed the Elderlight MS off to the publisher in February 2019. However, by that stage, Old Light had still not made it into print.
I was, I admit, a little concerned about the length of time things were taking, but my publisher assured me that all was good, they were very much committed to Old Light and the book would be out in the spring of 2019. When the publication date slipped into early summer I twitched a little, but was patient. When June came and went, however, and then July, my metaphorical twitching upped its pace. Eventually, the publisher confirmed there had been unavoidable delays in the publication process for reasons unconcerned with my book, but we were still good for publication in 2019: a launch date would be confirmed in due course.
The months continued to drift past and I took to flinching whenever people kindly enquired when my new novel was coming out. I didn’t know. And so time passed. By September I was gnawing my way through my fingernails. I continued to flinch and seriously began to wonder whether Old Light would ever be a real book. My publisher was reassuring and I trusted them, but, well, once the wondering sets in, it’s difficult to stop.
Now its January 2020. Old Light isn’t published yet, but I’ve almost stopped fretting. Old Light is due to be published in just over a month, at the end of February, and I will soon be able to hold a copy of it in my anxious hands. It’s taken two years since I completed the manuscript and four years since its creation was first mooted, but it’s almost out there in the big bad world. Yay!
Of course, I’m hoping that the publication of Elderlight will be less drawn out, but at least I now know, and can appreciate from first hand experience, just how long getting a book into print can take. Indeed, in subsequent discussions with writer friends, I’ve discovered that postponed and extended publication dates are par for the course with many publishers, both big and small, and many of the delays make the one I’ve experienced pale into insignificance. It’s just that I hadn’t experienced it before. Hopefully, next time round, there will be less twitching and fretting on my part. You live and learn (well, I certainly have). I just wish I’d known upfront. I’d have saved myself a (magical) world of worry.
Next month: No one really knows what marketing works.
Old Light, a novel by J.S.Watts is published by Vagabondage Press (2020). ISBN: 978-1-946050-20-5. There is a link above to Amazon, another for J.S. Watts' web site.