Yesterday I drove up to Mundaring, a little community just outside of Perth, where my friend, artist Frane Lessac, and I spoke to a group of people about how to get published. It was a really fun session, with Frane and me each sharing our journey to publication and then talking about the dos and don’ts of getting published.
When I sat down to blog today I thought it might interest YOU to know just how a book gets published. So, here goes.
First, long before a book is something I can hold in my hands or tell the whole world about or even read, it is just an idea. My ideas come from all over the place – from things I see, things that have happened to me, things I read about, or silly ideas which just come to me.
When I get an idea and decide to write about it, the next thing I do is plan my story. Usually the plan happens in my head – I spend a lot of time thinking about who my main character will be, and what will happen to him/her, and I work out what the main conflict or problem will be, and how it will be resolved at the end.
Once I have a pretty fair idea of what is going to happen in my new story, I write the first draft. This might take only minutes, if it is a picture book or short piece, or days and months if it is longer, but I do try to get the whole first draft written as quickly as possible before I get distracted by the next big idea.
Once that first draft is written, I put it away. I don’t reread it it, or share it with anyone for as long as I can stand. This creates distance between me and the story, and means that when I get it back out a month or more later, I am able to see what needs to be fixed – as well as what works, of course. Then I rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit and tinker until the story is as perfect as I can make it. Sometimes this takes many many months, or even years until I am happy with a story.
But, eventually my story is ready to submit and I send it off to a publisher. Sometimes, the story comes back to me with a letter saying it won’t be published (there are lots of reasons for this) but other times, thankfully, I get a phonecall or email from the publisher to say they will publish my book.
That’s when the hard works starts, because no matter how good I thought the story was when I submitted it, now I have to work with an editor to make it even better. And sometimes this can take a lot of phonecalls, emails and, of course, writing sessions. – which can take months.
When the text is finalised, the publisher chooses an illustrator, who then works on the illustration in consultation with the editor. I don’t tell the illustrator what to draw or how to draw it, though I do get shown initial sketches and have the opportunity to provide feedback.
When the illustrations are finished (which can again take months and months or oven years) , the publisher puts words and pictures together and the book is finally ready to be printed.
Then, at least a year after I had that first idea – but usually two or more years – the postman brings me a parcel, with copies of the new book for me to enjoy, and copies of the book are then available in bookstores and libraries for people to read.
It’s a long process – Head Hog took six years to finally be published – but when I hold a new book in my hands for the first time I always feel really proud.