Things Authors Tell Me: I Wish I Had Taken More Time

It’s my privilege to work with many authors, and I learn from them.

Sometimes they reflect on their author journey and tell me things they learned the hard way.

And by now, some topics come up repeatedly. When the same topic comes up numerous times from authors with many kinds of projects and various different publishers, I pay attention.

I’ve decided to start sharing some of those things with you on occasion, starting with this.

The advice from other authors: slow down.

The most common unsolicited lament I hear is that they wish they had taken more time with the book and not rushed to get it published.

For some folks it’s one more round of editing. Or one more round of proofreading, or a bit more time taken on the back cover copy or cover design itself.

To a certain extent we all experience the wisdom of hindsight, especially when doing something for the very first time.

But this seems a bit beyond even that.

It’s starting to seem to me that something happens when a book is being produced. The project almost seems to take on a life of its own. On the one hand, a kind of excitement takes hold, and some authors just can’t wait for the fulfillment of their dreams, their printed book in their hands. Other authors dive in only to discover the road to publishing is much longer than they ever had imagined, with a lot more steps along paths that wind uphill, full of far more decisions to make than they ever dreamed. And still others assume they know how long it’s all going to take only to discover that they are off by several months, which seems far too long.

And some authors may experience all of those things. And they choose or feel they must take a few shortcuts. Or feel they can’t afford to pay one more editor or proofreader.

So it’s not to say anyone is necessarily trying to rush the author, but we all know the first time we do something or experience something there’s some trial and error.

I would advise that however long you think it’s going to take – add a couple of months onto it for the unexpected hiccups and delays. Sometimes you have to wait for an editor. Or an approval to use an image or a quote. Or are delayed by an issue or illness in your own family you couldn’t have known was coming. Or all three plus more. Like other big projects in life, such as starting a business, losing the last 10 pounds, or remodeling your home – some things take far longer than we expect.

But the best time to think about it is before you agree to a target release date.

What can happen?

One of my previous clients is still lamenting the typos in her first book which through some misunderstanding got through because a set of corrections weren’t made, and she thought someone else had checked to make sure they were. Only they weren’t.

Another client skipped an edit and so many major errors were found in the advance copies they went back to the drawing board on corrections and delayed printing.

I could go on.

Most of the people with whom I work are first-time authors writing books on topics about which they are passionate. I call them heart projects. Many times my clients feel God has led them to write their book and they work very hard to make it the best they can produce, and they know (or learn) they also need the help of other professionals in areas including editing, proofreading, design, and publishing. But they don’t know the industry well yet and might make decisions or agree to things they don’t really understand because they are trying to keep to a schedule that’s too rushed for them.

While a few books really do need to rush to print because they are timely and won’t be of interest a year from now, most do not fit that category. Proceed cautiously and take your time. Publishers have timetables for getting projects through their shop and those timetables serve authors. But if you aren’t sure you can make a deadline for a certain release date, take the next later one offered. Then you will have enough time so you don’t panic when a manuscript comes back and you don’t really understand everything you are asked to sign off on. You need time to ask questions and verify that everything is correct.

Time will generally be your friend and will reduce stress and poor decision making.

We will come back to “Things Authors Tell Me” pithy wisdom category from time to time. This category joins the other loosely conceived categories we already cover, including working with the media, Christian publishing and Christian retail, the author journey, and social media topics.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on September 9, 2022.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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