The most surprising thing about getting published

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Finishing your book will feel like a huge achievement, and it is. You’ll have learnt a lot along the way. But the learning doesn’t stop there! If you’re submitting your book to get published, or you already have a book deal, there’s still plenty for you to learn. Here, five authors discuss what they found most surprising about getting published. 

1. Sue McPherson, author of Brontide, says she found the editing process for her first novel Grace Beside Me tougher than she’d expected.  

“At the time, electronic editing had just come in. So for an old girl here, that was a big thing for me to understand! How to understand what to do there. But I got through it. So that was a good thing.

“The main thing was the editing. There were lots of things to learn from that. But I must say, I’m better for it. I’m not saying I’m great at what I do, but I certainly learnt a lot from it.”

2. Actor, director and TV show co-creator Richard Roxburgh found a few things surprising about his first children’s book Artie and The Grime Wave which he both wrote and illustrated. He was surprised by technical elements of writing, and by how much he enjoyed the process

“The sitting down and writing of it, because I guess I’d found my attempts at writing film or television or theatre a bit of a punishment, I was really shocked at what a sort of unalloyed pleasure that part of it was.

“I was then surprised, I guess, in the editorial process, there were just some things that blindsided me. There was a matter of point of view – I had taken for granted this sort of authorial voice thing, so that I could kind of tilt my camera around and look at a whole bunch of stuff that my protagonist couldn’t see. My editor at some point had to say, ‘You need to point your camera only where your protagonist can see, otherwise you’re cheating.’ 

“It seemed very odd to me, and it’s a part of me that’s still bucking at it, because I suppose I’m so used to the way that we break the rules all of the time now in cinema and television. I think, “Well, can we break that rule too…” I’m interested in experimenting with that, but nonetheless it’s a rule that’s there for very strong and important reasons. So, I needed to get myself across that.”

3. Favel Parrett, author of Past the Shallows, When The Night Comes and There Was Still Love, said she was surprised by the process of doing publicity and touring with a new book.

“I think the feeling of embarrassment when there’s public reviews. It’s so weird because you’ve got this terrible feeling like you’ve been — like everyone you know in the world has read this review, if it’s maybe not such a good one, and you have this deep, like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve exposed my soul and I wish I could take it back.’

“It only lasts for a short time, like a day or two, but it can be excruciating, that stuff.”

4. Jack Ellis, author of The Best Feeling of All, says he was naive about genre guidelines – but he doesn’t think that was a bad thing.

“In terms of what publishers expect and the way they think about marketing books, the way they think about where it will sit in what kind of bookshelf and all of that sort of stuff… I know it’s probably wise to have a market in mind when you’re starting a book, but I also think that can be incredibly restricting.”

“I think ultimately you have to write a book kind of for yourself, that’s what I have to do anyway. If I had known more about the marketing I probably would have done things differently and that would have been a mistake.”

5. Jodi Gibson, who self-published her debut novel The Memories We Hide, says she wasn’t sure she could do it beforehand, but learned that she definitely could.

“I do like to be in control,” she says. “I think if you are going to indie publish, you need to be a little bit of a control freak. And like to organise things. And I think I learnt that there are steps you can take, but at some stages everything has to happen at once. You have to get your cover and you have to have your formatter ready and then you have to know from your formatter how many pages it is so you can tell your cover designer how many pages it is so they can finalise the format for the print edition.

“So there’s just lots of things. And it’s a learning curve. But it is possible. And you can do it. It’s just, it’s a lot of hard work. But if you are focused and determined, it is possible.”

For more insight on how publishing works – and how to make it work for you – try our Inside Publishing course. It’s a self-paced, online course meaning you can take it any time, and you’ll come away with the knowledge you need as an author, whether you want to self-publish or you’re looking for a traditional book deal. 

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