A few months ago, I finally published my first book, the one that I had been talking about for almost one and a half years. So why did it take that long?
As anybody who has written a book will tell you, it’s a long and tedious process, and it’s not the writing part that is particularly exhausting. But while this is usually not greatly expanded upon, I would like to take the opportunity and shed some light about what happens after the book is written. This is my personal account, obviously, and the details will vary for every person and every work, but I’m fairly sure that none of this is unusual.
Writing the book wasn’t terribly difficult for me: the idea had been simmering for a decade, and after I had made up my mind about the form and style, I remembered more details every day, and so the list of anecdotes to add kept growing – to the point where I realised it could become more than the brochure I had expected.
When I felt it was finished, I asked some friends (who mostly work professionally with language) for feedback. One part of that was standard editing for style and errors, but I also wanted to use a gender-neutral language: a task that was important to me, but I had little experience with. To my surprise, there were hundreds of issues in that regard, and I had to rewrite large parts again. At the same time I sent excerpts to all the people that are mentioned by full name, and asked for permission to publish these sections. I also received some feedback from them, and was able to correct some more mistakes.
Around that time, in December 2020, I sent a mail to most of my contacts to announce the Vintrospektiv channel, and also mentioned the book and that it would come out in the course of the next year. I expected this to only take a few more months, since I had always envisioned it as a self-publishing project, and mainly planned to explore services and prices to that end.
However, people were asking me what publishers I had in mind, so I also sent the manuscript to a couple of companies. One of those was interested in principle, but wasn’t sure about the form, so we discussed possible changes for a while. This took several months as my contact was very busy and I had to nudge him a few times. Eventually, I decided to abort those talks, since it didn’t look like we would come to an agreement. By that time it was August already, so it didn’t feel like a particularly urgent matter anymore, and I contacted a few other publishers.
When none of them had replied by December, it was time to pursue self-publishing once again. (This is the normal procedure, at least in Germany: publishers generally receive so many submissions that they don’t have the time to reply to each of them. The rule of thumb is, therefore, to wait three months for a reply and then assume a lack of interest.)
During the whole time, I had rewritten several passages to add more details or as a response to feedback – and I had also recently found out that I was, in fact, allowed to write about my adventures in the translation business as all contracts preventing me from it had long expired, so I had added a whole new chapter as well.
The last steps were having the new chapter proof-read again (and asking for feedback), finding a self-publishing service, and preparing everything for self-publication. This took another few weeks, mostly because I had severely underestimated the steps necessary for publication. –
The process involves finalising the manuscript and (in my case) creating a file as an ebook and a different file for printing with additional layout requirements such as justified text with hyphenation, adding a cover at the correct aspect ratio for the ebook and another cover with the precise measurements to wrap around the printed book, writing a back cover blurb for the print edition, and short blurbs for the book and the author to display in book stores, and setting up a reading sample as an ebook, which implies yet another slightly different cover.
As the final step, I had to write an e-mail and a blog post to let everyone know about the book, as well as individual e-mails for all the people who were involved in the production and entitled to a copy, and prepare marketing materials for other channels.
Was it worth the effort in the end? Well, this question will have to remain unanswered for a little longer, since there were numerous problems with the publishing service I had selected, so I recently canceled my agreement with them and moved to a different service. In any case, being involved in the creation of a book from beginning to end was certainly an enlightening experience, and I am glad I did it.