5 Things I Learned on the Way to Publication by Lisa Alber

Me, NYT bestseller Susan Wiggs, fellow debut author Stacy Allen

Me, NYT bestseller Susan Wiggs, fellow debut author Stacy Allen

On March 18th, KILMOON, the novel that has at times rendered me into a weeping ball of self-pity, will fly free. I can’t control how well it sells, and I can’t control what readers think about my creation. I’ve got to let it go and continue my education—which is why this week I come to you live from the Wordcrafters Conference in Eugene, Oregon.

It’s interesting to be sitting in a writers retreat with mostly aspiring novelists. Now that I’m officially a published novelist (close enough anyhow), shouldn’t I feel differently? Apparently not. In fact, this heads up my list of five things I’ve learned on the way to publication.

#1 When it comes to the work-in-progress, I’m just like everyone else.

I’m participating in a workshop led by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs, and let me tell you, published novel or not, I feel the same old doubts about my current work-in-progress as I have with previous WIPs. The fact that I have a novel coming out means nothing. The blank page is the blank page, and the messy draft is the messy draft.

#2 Publishing contract? Now it really begins!

So you think you’ll glide off into the happy sunset when you finally get the thumbs up for your first novel? HAH! Dream on, my friends, dream on. That’s when the work really starts. You are in the publishing machine, and this is true whether you have a traditional deal or you self-publish. You must get through editing, copyediting, and proofreading, and you must, as “they” say, “build a platform,” which means getting out there on social media. Publishing houses big and small have all kinds of expectations about platforms … sigh … So basically you’ve now got two jobs: sweatpant-wearing storyteller and “author.” (I used parens because that’s the way I think of it my head.)

And, let’s face it, most of us still have our day-jobs while we’re doing all this stuff.

#3 No matter how well you think you’ve gone over your story, typos and other gaffs still happen.

This has got to be one of the most aggravating aspects of the publication process. After editing, copyediting, and proofreading, I STILL found typos when I read the galley proofs. In case you don’t know, galley proofs are your typeset novel pages as they will look in the book. Reading the proofs is your last chance to catch typos. And I couldn’t believe what I still saw! Grrr. For example, a car door that was locked for a zillion drafts? Uh, no, it’s supposed to be unlocked. Or that character outside the house? No, Lisa, she’s been outside the church since the first draft!

#4 I have an issue with dashes.

I like to create compound adjectives and nouns. It’s just my thing. Here’s a list of just a few the copyeditor corrected.

hen-pecked –> should be –> henpecked
mid-air —-> midair
wolf-like —-> wolflike
under-lit —-> underlit
old-world —-> Old World


bog-hole —-> bog hole
web-porn —-> web porn
sofa-bed —-> sofa bed
line-up —-> lineup
screw-up —-> screwup
half-mile —-> half mile

#5 Reviews: They matter, yet they don’t.

I’ve received some good and very good reviews. At first I was disappointed by the average-ish good reviews. But a well-established novelist friend pointed out that as long as you’re not panned, it’s all good. Lesson: Celebrate your average reviews!

Also, reviewers/readers read the craziest things into your words. One reviewer said KILMOON was romantic suspense. All I can say is that the reviewer must have some pretty dysfunctional romances under her belt.

Last but not least, one-star ratings happen, and I guarantee you that most of the time those reviews have nothing to do with your book. There are lots of trolls out there who love to be a-holes. I have a friend who received a one-star review because her protagonist’s wife is morbidly obese. You can’t tell what will set readers off.

In the end the only thing you can do about reviews is let them go and commit to writing what’s in your heart rather than writing to the market. Because, I’ll tell you what, one-star ratings are like typos: they happen.

So, it’s been a whirlwind, and I keep saying I can’t wait for KILMOON to launch because THEN I’ll be able to relax. No, a wise woman friend said, that’s when the self-promotion really begins!

9 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned on the Way to Publication by Lisa Alber

  1. I’m in much the same position. I have a book coming out on the 19th March, and my big fear is that I will end up as one of those authors with five print room fresh copies of their book on their book shelf, but otherwise remain unsold. As you rightly say, it’s all about the social media, but very few of us have any idea how that works

    • Hi Peter, congrats on your novel! Just a few weeks to go, eh? Whew! It seems like hype can sell products, but how to get hype going? I find that side of it mysterious too.

  2. I had to laugh when you mentioned that reader with a dysfunctional idea of romance…people really do read the craziest things into our work!

    I’m so excited for Kilmoon, Lisa! Just started reading it and I’m already intrigued! Can’t wait to see what happens next.

  3. Ride the tiger, Lisa. Sound counsel, all. I have an issue with hyphens, too, though I sometimes misuse them. Spell check does NOT always help!

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