From the Laptop to Libraries: Chronicling My Novel’s Journey to Publication

Late last year, I had the pleasure of attending a writers’ forum in a library in the rural city of Geelong. They had brought in four authors of varying genres, and asked them how they got their story from their laptop into the readers’ hands: how did they come up with the story? How did they go about writing it? How did they find editors, agents, and publishers? 

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

I’d just finished my first draft of The Mistwaes Home, and I was hoping that this would be the novel I would finally publish. It felt stronger and more mature than any of my earlier writing, and while I knew it wasn’t perfect yet, I also knew that by the time it had gone through its edits and publishers, it would sparkle like a cut diamond. I felt that I was squarely in the centre of the process: I had a book finished, and now I was staring down publishing. 

As I left that library, I came to the conclusion that publishing is both easier and harder than I think it is. Easier, because publishing looms as an inevitable failure in my mind. I already believe that publishers won’t like my work, and they haven’t even seen it yet. I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist, but I tend to plan (and dream) with the certainty that nothing will go the way I want it to. Me? Get my work published? No, that happens to other people. It couldn’t happen to me. 

But the people on the stage seemed… normal. They had regular jobs. Only one had a degree in something writing-related (journalism). If they could do it… why couldn’t I? 

But they also stressed that a lot of it was luck. Their manuscripts found the right person, and that person knew the right people to turn the manuscript into a novel. So yes, I have as much right to try to get published as they did… but there is also a process that I must go through, as they did. 

This post marks the beginning of a new adventure. I’m going to start preparing myself and The Mistwaes Home to be published. And I want to invite you to come along for the ride. 

Do you feel lost and overwhelmed by the thought of publication? Me too! So let’s break things down, one post at a time, and take stock of what we have and what we need. 

We have our books, we have some writing experience—is anyone missing a handkerchief? Last call!—and we have these three truths to hold onto: 

  1. Everyone must start somewhere. Most published authors were once in the position we find ourselves in.
  2. We may not be ready to publish now, but if we keep honing our craft and pushing our stories out there, eventually something will happen… surely.
  3. Our success (or lack of success) isn’t dependent on our own efforts or plans, but is dependent on God’s work and plan. He will put us and our work where we need to be.

On this journey, I’m going to be frank and as informative as possible. How much does an editor cost? How should I find an agent? Should I publish independently or traditionally? What should I be doing while I work towards my goals? I’ll answer questions like these with as much detail and information as possible. 

If you’re planning to come along, I’d like to clarify a few things first. (Yes, another list.)

·  Please always keep in mind that no career is repeatable. The combination of opportunities and challenges that I have is unique to me, and yours will be unique to you. Yes, we can learn from each other, but please don’t copy what I do and expect the same result. I’m sorry, but the world is too varied and delightful to work that way. 🙂

·  I’m going to write this as an Australian author hoping to publish in Australia. Every country is different, and each has its own publishing challenges. If you’re not Australian, please remember to supplement this with your own research of your own country’s (or intended country’s) industry. (Really, the same applies to Australians too.)

·  I have no experience. That’s the point of this XD. But if you’d like to hear an experienced author’s thoughts on this, Pub Dates is a podcast by authors Amie Kaufman and Kate Radcliffe, and I’ve found that a good (and free) place to start. 

If you’re not interested in publishing, you’re still welcome to come along for the ride! I think this will be fun, exciting, devastating, and many emotions in between. It might be interesting to learn what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite authors and their books.

I hope this new extended series will be helpful and exciting for you. I know that other people talking about their experience can be daunting, but I hope to write this in a way that is encouraging for you too. And if you’re coming along for the ride, please update me each time with how your projects are coming along each in the comments, or by emailing me! I’d love to hear what you’re learning, and to support you as much as I can. Plus, your thoughts and experiences will be helpful to other writers coming along this path behind us. 🙂 

Published by Debbie Coll

I'm a storyteller, songwriter and author who loves God, fairy tales and music. I write about tales, creative tips and process on my blog,

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