Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So How's the Book Coming? or Why You Shouldn't Talk to Non-Publishing People About Publishing

by Mindy McGinnis

Those of us interested in publishing have heard it - publishing is slow. And you can hear it, believe, and know it - but until you've actually experienced it, you can't quite respect the amazing molasses flow that it truly is. I've written before about why it takes so long for a book to make it publication, so that's not what this post is about. Instead, this concerns how to talk to people outside of the publishing bubble about... publishing.

Quick answer: you just don't.

Seriously. Do you think someone actually wants to hear about how long it took you to go from first draft to final edit? Does your neighbor really care how long your edit letter was? Does your mom want to hear about the sex scene that just had to go? Um, probably not.

So, for example - I signed the contract for NOT A DROP TO DRINK two years ago. Yes, two years ago (hint, it's still not out). At that point in time it was in fact, a finished book. It wasn't polished and edited. It hadn't gone through first pass pages or copyediting. But it was a book with a beginning, a middle and an end - and that was two years ago.

It's been through some experiences since then, lots of little morphs and changes. Some commas sliding away, some periods slipping in. A few cut scenes that weren't necessary in the first place, some combined dialogue and shaved tags. Essentially at its core, it's still the same book it was two years ago. It's just shinier and better.

So - fast forward to... oh let's say any day of the week last month when a very nice, sincere, random person (no, this isn't directed at anyone, it's happened about 2,000 times) says, "Hey! How's the book coming?"

The honest answer - It's already came and went. The book is finished. It existed in its entirety two years ago. It's existed in it's final stage for nearly six months. It stopped "coming" and has in fact receded to a far point in my head where I have to go fact-check occasionally when talking about it to people, because I've written two other books since I worked on it last.

But I can't expect people outside of publishing to understand that. Just like an eye doctor can't expect me to understand how my glasses help me see, and why I absolutely cannot get my head around how a cell phone works, even though I'm sure there are people out there whose job it is to understand that.

Likewise, it's not the average person's job to understand that the book about to come out in a few months isn't something you're still working on. So, when people ask me "How's the book coming?" I smile and say, "Great!"

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.


  1. Oh, yeah. And my first seems to have a revolving release date. One more tweak, says the editor. One more read through, says the publisher. (I'm really glad they're perfectionists, but...) Yesterday, I chatted with the bookstore owner who's helping set up my first book signing off our boat at the dock near her store. It's in July. (This July. Early this July.) Both of us are we-like-it-done-yesterday types, which makes this a bit of a breath-holding time.

    Deep breath. Deep, deep breath.

  2. So true, Mindy! It takes so long that sometimes you forget parts of the book - I even forgot a minor character's name!

  3. Here's my favorite quote-- "receded to a far point in my head where I have to go fact-check occasionally when talking about it to people" OH YEAH haven't we all been there! Just because we wrote it doesn't mean we remember every word--that would be like a house painter remembering the color number for a job he did 2 years ago.

  4. Absolutely! I agree with everyone - it's amazing that something that life-changing really can recede in your mind. But I also have been like... "Um... yeah the uh... the one character... um..." I will have to re-read my book before doing interviews soon!

  5. Oh man, do I need to take this advice! I'm always trying to explain things to people when they ask. Right about the time their eyes start spinning I realize I just should have used a one word answer!

  6. Yep! Smile and say, "Great!" It's the best thing ever. Just pretend they asked you, "How are you today?"