April 18, 2010

WRITING ADVICE: Nathan Bransford 1 – How a Book Gets Published

Nathan Bransford is a West Coast agent with the New York literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd. For the past nine years, he has been writing a popular blog reflecting on and illuminating the publishing world. Humorous, serious and ultimately enlightening, I’ll be looking at how THE ESSENTIALS (PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU QUERY) have had an impact on my writing. I am using them with his permission and if you’d like to read his blog (which I highly recommend, even if it’s just to see “A Dog Tests the iPad”), go to http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.

As I don’t have an agent yet for any of my books and I’ve been submitting to various publishers “over the transom” (curious about this allusion? Go here: http://www.scribendi.com/advice/glossary.en.html#O) or through contests and offers of open readings, I can’t say I know about this from personal experience. Nathan Bransford says, “The submission process can take anywhere from a week to a year or more depending on when/if the agent finds a match for the project.”

This has given me much pause to reflect, mostly in a good way.

I’m impatient. I used to be even more impatient than I am now. I wanted to send out my stories and find out immediately that the editor wanted to publish it. I also wanted the check right away, too!

I discovered that that is NOT how professional publishing works when I had my first really big professional sale. The story, “Mystery on Space Station Courage” (If you or your library has an EBSCO membership, you can read the story here: http://connection.ebscohost.com/content/article/1029894921.html) was published in 1996 in CRICKET MAGAZINE. What came as a shock was the road I took to get there. I sent the story to them in the summer of 1993, received an acceptance at Thanksgiving the same year; did a couple of rewrites over the next six months and had the story accepted for publication. It appeared in the November 1996 issue and I was paid shortly thereafter. From submission to check, it took THREE YEARS.

My book, SIMPLE SCIENCE SERMONS FOR BIG AND LITTLE KIDS (http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Science-Sermons-Little-Kids/dp/0788012940) took a bit over a year from acceptance through galley draft correction to publication.

I know the process – not with an agent, but with my own stories. I can only imagine that adding in the step of an agent will make it longer, if more fulfilling in the end. But it’s VARIABLE -- "...anywhere from a week to a year or more..."

Nathan Bransford’s advice illustrates the real craziness of the publishing industry and brought back to my mind the aphorism that “patience is a virtue” – or more importantly, it's led me to further cultivate the fruit of the spirit: “For the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)


Pothos said...

Sounds about like the submission process for academic publications, eh?

slxpluvs said...

So, it's like if you were in middle school and sent the publisher a note that said:

Do you like me? Yes No (circle one)
Will you go to the dance with me? Yes No (circle one)

And they circled the first one yes and the second one no. But then in high school they have a fling with you and now retain all copy writes on your work and waiting around for years even though they were with, like, a whole bunch of others in the meantime. Like that?