How I got published, part 1 – Introduction

Chances are, if you like to write you’d also like to be read. While you can throw things onto the Internet and be read instantly, it’s not quite the same thing as a publisher saying, “I like your work. I’d like to invest our time and money into it. I’d like to publish your book.”

Because let’s be honest with ourselves: Blogging is nice, self-publishing is interesting, but the majority of aspiring writers know being picked up by a legitimate publisher is key to making a career of it.

I was fortunate enough to get exactly that response to A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks with the Master of Suspense (Scarecrow Press 2009), a book I co-authored with my friend, Jim McDevitt. How did the project come about, how did we write the book, and most importantly, how did we get published? That’s what I’ll go into over the next stretch of blog posts. As a writer I’m always interested in seeing the inner workings of the process and hearing about the experience of others, so I have to assume other writers do, too. If this helps another writer, even better.

First and foremost, a brief bit about the book. Not as a plug, but to bring everyone up to speed on what it is, because the context is important to telling the story of our road to publication.

A Year of Hitchcock is a film-by-film, chronological look at almost every film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The conceit is in watching all his films in a single year, from his early silents to his final movie, and discussing each with an eye on his ever-evolving talent as a director.

So that’s what Jim and I did.

But it takes more than a good idea to get published. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Hell, they’re worth even less than that. I could toss out 20 good ideas for a book tomorrow, but they won’t do me or you or anyone else a damn bit of good if a million other things don’t fall into place. First you need to execute those ideas. This is where 95 percent of ideas go to die; people dream stuff up but never follow through. Then you need to get your head wrapped around the idea of selling your idea. This is where 95 percent of those ideas that were actually seen through to completion die a much slower, more frustrating death. People either don’t understand what to do after they’ve written their book or simply don’t care to learn what to do.

I’m not fooling myself into thinking that the idea Jim and I had was so brilliant and so well executed that it was destined to be picked up. Oh, it’s a damn fine book, if I may say so myself, but a big part of the reason it will end up on bookshelves is because we approached all the “not writing” parts of the process with just as much professionalism and seriousness as we did the book itself. We did our best to ensure the million other things that needed to fall into place did.

What I plan to do over the course of the next week or two is talk about those million other things. How we went about our work, how we secured a contract, and after that what we experienced between signing on the dotted line and seeing our book go to the printer (because “what happens after your book is sold” isn’t discussed nearly enough in this sea of “how to get published” blogs).

It’ll be cathartic for me, and hopefully you’ll get something out of it, too.

More tomorrow.

Read part 2 (Ideas & Execution), part 3 (The Query), part 4 (The Waiting Game), part 5 (Revising & Rewriting), and part 6 (All That Other Stuff), and take a look at the resulting book. Learn more about Eric here, and find out more about his independent editorial services here.