Over the last few months, lots of people keep asking me why my books (or books in general) don’t come out faster or why, when I finish writing a book, it isn’t in the shops the very next day. Because I worked in publishing before I was a writer, all of the reasons for this are stored away in my brain as accepted facts but I, and I imagine lots of other writers, forget that most of you wonderful people don’t get to see the ins and outs of the writing and publishing process. Because I am me and my default setting is to feel guilty about everything all the time, I always feel awful when you think I’m withholding book joy so THANK SWEET BABY JEBUS FOR THE INTERNET! I can explain!
Given that it’s coming out in ONE WEEK, let’s take About A Girl as an example:
The process started January 2012 when I had a call with my agent and editor, chatting about new ideas and what I was going to write as soon as I’d finished I Heart London. Which probably should have already been finished by then. Anyway, we tossed around ideas and I came up with a rough sketch for About A Girl (although not a title) and then had to wait until I’d finished all the unfun stuff on I Heart London. I finally sat down and wrote out a synopsis around April/May time which was sent to my editors. They then send it to the art team so they can start on a cover, the marketing and sales teams so they know roughly what they’re dealing with and the rights teams so they can send it out to foreign publishers so they can buy the book or ask for more info if they like it!
Because I was busy promoting I Heart London (and waiting for my brain to return to normal) I didn’t start writing About A Girl until September, which gave me three and a half months to write a 100,000 word book*. This is not a long time. Usually, my writing process involves doing very, very little for the first couple of months and then freaking out and writing 10,000 words a day for the last month, fueled by sugar and artificial colourants, and usually getting some sort of terrible illness in the process. In this instance, I tried to write 8,000 words a week in order to not go mad. And it kind of worked! So while I beavered away writing, the publishers were busy making marketing plans, dealing with the book stores and making the cover – lots of things you don’t see but that take ages. Most bookshops select which books they’re going to stock nine months in advance so there has to be a good reason for them to take it at that point. Ideally, the book is finished and the sales people have an ‘advanced reading copy’ or ‘ARC’ to give them. In this case, they didn’t. Because nine months ago, I hadn’t finished the book and I’m not sure there was even a title then, BUT I’m lucky because I’ve had other books so the shops knew what to expect. YAY.
Anyway, I kept writing, through my birthday, through my research trip to Hawaii – you can ask my travel buddy, I worked almost every day we were there! – and basically, on and on until I was done. Sometimes I have to take myself off to write because working in New York can be tricky. It’s so distracting! For About A Girl, I went to stay in a deserted beach town in New Jersey to get it started and spent five days in LA to get it finished. LA is not deserted, that was an error.
Once the first draft was done (December 18th!) I sent it to my editor and my agent to read and also to my best friend who has been my first reader ever since I Heart New York. About a month later, my editor came back with her notes, my agent came back with hers and I sat down to do the rewrites. Once the second draft was finished, the book went to a copy editor for a few weeks who makes sure everything in the book is factually correct and that I haven’t made any libelous cock ups and generally kicks my arse for bad grammar and using colloquialisms that she doesn’t get but I’m usually sure you will so we have a little fight over that. Once the copyedit is in, I have a couple of weeks to go through it and make my final changes. By the time all that was done, it was the end of March and the book went off to a typesetter to be typed out all pretty-like and then to be proofread by a proofreader to pick up any last minute errors.
Now you’d think we’d be done right? At this point, all the production team come in and take over, printing the book, working out the fancy finishes on the front and generally making the final thing real. While that’s happening, the marketing people are setting up events and working with retailers to make sure you can get the book when it comes out and the PR people are sending review copies out to the magazines and bloggers so you all know when it’s going to be out and generally pimping me senseless. Please note that while all this is going on, I am on Twitter, talking absolute nonsense.
Now it’s a week until the book is published and I’m getting ready to come to England, do some signings, some competitions and events, meet some awesome people and do some interviews and shiz. This is a really fun part but it’s also nerve-wracking. I’m not a celebrity! I don’t know how to deal with these situations! I just write books! But thankfully, every event I’ve ever done has been amazing because of all you people. Fingers crossed that trend continues and no one decides to egg me this year.
This year, as soon as I finished with AAG, I had to start working on I Heart Christmas. So while everyone at my publisher was hard at work actually making and selling About A Girl, I was writing another book which, coincidentally, I finished last Saturday night, at one am, the very same day that my finished copies of About A Girl arrived. And while I’m in England, promoting About A Girl, my editor will be reading I Heart Christmas. And when I get home, I’ll start writing the sequel to About A Girl which my editor will be reading while I’m in England promoting I Heart Christmas!
IT’S THE CIRCLE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE.
And even though all that sounds like quite a lot, it isn’t even the half of it. There are all the international publishers, the warehouse staff and distribution team, the rights teams, export peeps, the audio book teams, the digital publishers, the illustrator who makes the covers, my agent, my digital agency and honestly a THOUSAND other people who are involved in making the book in your hands the most incredible thing it could be and I wouldn’t be sat here, telling you I just finished writing my EIGHTH book without the help a single one of them.
Now I’ve explained the process (very badly) I really hope you agree that books are worth the wait.
*Now, in all honesty, I make myself very unpopular with my writer friends because you might not believe it but I write really, really quickly. It’s pretty unusual for a writer to publish three books in twelve months, mostly because it sends them crackers. Luckily for me (and you, if you’re so inclined to read my work) I’m already mental, I don’t have any children – save a cat in England that my mother looks after – and my relationship status is complicated and long distance at best. This gives me SO MUCH TIME TO WRITE. Plus, I can do 1500 words a day when I’m full of Diet Pepsi, Sour Patch Kids, good ideas and on a deadline. That helps. Not my sanity, admittedly but it does mean there will be a book this summer, this Christmas and next summer. PHEW.http://0