Publishing life cycle

August 4, 2020 @ 5:40 pm | Filed under:

Have idea for book about a kid in silent film; start project file.

Begin researching, but you’ve got another novel coming out and it gets all your attention for a while.

Sell a different book on proposal, spend years researching & writing. Eventually decide it doesn’t want to be a YA novel after all; it’s an adult book. Probably not even a novel—it wants to be narrative nonfiction. Later, you’ll be intrigued by the possibilities this revelation opens up, but for a while it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Summer 2017
Get breast cancer and move to Portland in the same week. Call your editor to ask if you can shelve the not-actually-a-kids’-book draft & give her something new, there’s this idea you’ve been playing with for a long time. Hooray, she loves the concept! Have this conversation in the hotel literally the day after moving away from the town where your book will be set. Then go do the surgery and radiation thing. Watch lots of silent films during your recovery.

Early 2018
Holy cats, you have a book to write. Reinvent your entire daily schedule so you can get pages done before the kids wake up. Research during every spare minute. Write like mad.

Summer 2018
Plan a research trip to San Diego. Cancel the trip when your child is hospitalized for MRSA. Reschedule the trip when he’s better. Borrow your friends’ in-law suite. Spend days blissfully working in the microfilm archives of early 20th century newspapers. Find ideas for about six more books.

Summer 2018-early winter 2019
Write like mad. Hold down several freelance gigs on the side. Homeschool your kids. Panic a little each time you glance at a calendar. Turn in your manuscript on the last second of the last minute of the due date.

Spring 2019
Edits! Revisions! Realize the grandfather disappears halfway through the manuscript, so just kill him off entirely. Sorry, Grandpa.

The Nerviest Girl in the World by Melissa Wiley cover by Risa RodilSummer 2019
Copyediting! Galleys! Swoon over the cover art & squeal with glee over interior sketches. Fly cross country for your brother-in-law’s wedding & huddle over final pass pages in the hotel lobby. Start drafting your author’s note in the airport. Finish it at your favorite pub back in Portland after your trip. Write “author’s note” on the receipt (tater tots + a Coke) and stash it where you’ll find it a year later, just for the smile.

December 2019
Make an appointment to have the weird spot on your nose checked. When the doctor wants to biopsy it, ask for a few days’ grace period. Call your brilliant photographer friend Jennie and book a head-shot session with her because your previous head shot is 12 years old and who knows what your nose will look like if the spot turns out to be something.

January 2020
The spot turns out to be something.

February 2020
Have a fascinating and unnerving surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma from the middle of your face. Get 45 stitches. Feel really glad you splurged on Jennie’s photos the week before Christmas. During your recovery, start making travel plans for next summer & hope your nose won’t look too scary for your young readers.

March 2020
Oh hey it’s a global pandemic! Turns out no one cares about your nose, not even you.

May-July 2020
Spend half the day on Zoom. Fondly recall the Before Times, when you went places. Cancel all your plans to go places. Figure out what to do for your book since school visits and conferences are off the table. Feel a little sick about the timing. Know that it could be worse. Suck it up and start sharing the preorder link. Hold your breath as the reviews start to come in. They’re great! Start breathing again. Scream for your spouse when a reviewer on Twitter compares your book to a Beverly Cleary novel. Wonder if you could have that tweet engraved on your gravestone.

August 2020
Two weeks before launch day, become convinced you need bangs. Watch a lot of Youtube videos on how to cut your own bangs. Recognize that all these people have straight hair and yours is never going to look like that. Scrap the whole bangs thing. Stress over what to do on launch day. Realize that this is technically event-planning, an activity that lives at the absolute bottom of your skill set. Decide to focus on something that sits a whole lot higher on that list, which is reading to kids. Ask a local bookstore if you can make arrangements for people who want to order signed copies. Start a large-scale embroidery project to soothe your frazzled nerves. Realize you’ve been sitting with a needle frozen in the air for twenty minutes…because you’re lost in thought about a scene in your next book.

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7 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. penny says:

    …and through it all, your light shines go so brightly.


  2. penny says:

    oh so. not go so. stupid spell check.

  3. Patricia says:

    I wish I could beam my kids back to childhood—for many reasons—but especially so I could snuggle them on the couch and read this very book. I know we would have loved it together.

    I’m excited for you!

  4. tanita♥ says:

    Wow, it’s been a journey, hasn’t it?
    I giggle at the freeze-in-place thing… that’s very me. I’ve been sitting here, thinking, and the cursor blinks… and blinks… and blinks…

    I may need to move to a rocking chair and just pick up my embroidery project (which I bought materials for almost a year ago, and have never. done. anything. with).

  5. Susanne Barrett says:

    Wow, what a timeline!! It makes me dizzy just trying to grasp all that you experienced and completed!!

    BTW, your new photos are amazing!! Glad you didn’t go for the bangs. We curly-headed people don’t often do well with bangs, as tempting as they may be!! 😉

    Congratulations on your book launch!! Despite the challenges of this time (especially in Portland!), I know it will do well. After all, it’s been compared to Beverly Cleary!! That one’s worth framing at the very least!! Yay!! 😀

    Susanne, still in San Diego but looking to move out of state where life is more affordable…. :/

  6. Tina says:

    Oh Melissa, I love you so! I could hear your adorable voice in my head as I read this!

    My kids are teens but I must go buy your book for me now!

  7. Emily says:

    I was so pleased to see you mention the “days blissfully working in the microfilm archives of early 20th century newspapers. Find ideas for about six more books.”
    I trained as an archivist and that’s basically what I wrote my dissertation about: historical fiction authors using archives as resource and inspiration. I actually used your writing as a subject/example because from reading your Martha and Charlotte series and your blog I knew you referenced history and enthusiastically used archives.
    Doing my degree and dissertation was three years ago, but this was a nice way to be reminded of it.