Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Path to Publication is Diamond-Shaped

There must be approximately 138,743 metaphors people use to describe the journey to publication. Well, allow me to add #138,744. I like to think of the journey to publication as a game of baseball, minus the chewing tobacco.

Whenever an idea pops into your head that you believe would make a great book, you’ve just stepped up to bat. Lots of people step up to bat. They think they’ve come up with the next Da Vinci Code.

First Base – Finishing a First Draft
All players get to bat, but most don’t make it to first base. It seems so easy to get on base, but only a small percent make it. Many aspiring writers think completing a novel will be a piece of cake. However, the vast majority don’t finish their first draft. They get stuck in idea-land, outline-purgatory, catch a case of Sexy New Idea syndrome, realize just how big an undertaking writing a book is, or get bored. So if you’ve spun your germ of an idea into a full-length manuscript, then you’re in a select group.  Congratulations, you’re in the game!

Second Base – Querying Agents
Sure, there are people who query after a first draft or even a first chapter. That’s like shooting past first base and racing to second even though the second baseman has the ball in his hands. Those people will never get past second base. They will be out and agentless. For the rest of us, getting to second base means you’ve revised your novel and query letter to the point where you are ready to submit to agents. Not all first drafts become query-ready. Lots of people, including myself, get stuck in revisions. They decide to put their manuscript in a drawer or the trash. They can’t see their first draft through to polished quality, or they realize that their story needs a major overhaul. Whatever the reason, pat yourself on the back if you write a queryable manuscript. But beware: second base is the only base you can’t overrun. You need to hit that base perfectly. Same with a query. One misstep and an agent will send you back to the dugout.

Third Base – Getting an Agent
If you make it to third base, then your quality manuscript and excellent query caught the attention of an agent. You have an agent! You can see home plate! [Let me know how it is :)] Your agent is like your third base coach, telling you when to run and when to wait. Unlike first and second, there is less pressure to run as soon as the ball is hit. You need to be careful. You probably won’t have a team member angling to get on your base right away. The waiting part is submission, and from what I’ve heard, patience is a virtue in publishing. Also, every opposing player will be watching your move and primed to throw to the catcher. Sadly, there are plenty of agented writers who never score a run despite being so close. We’ve all read stories about writers dropping agents who can’t sell their book or being on submission forever. It must be crushing to come so far and not sell your book. We don’t hear about that story as often, but it does happen. If we are serious about this business, then we have to prepare ourselves for the worst-case scenarios.

Home – Selling your book
You’ve scored a run! Your agent sold your book! Few people score. Be proud. But remember two things about scoring a writing run: 1) Even when you score, you still have to bat again. Only this time, your bases will be different – getting people to buy your book, getting a contract to write another book, writing another book. If you’re not running the bases, then you’re preparing to bat. 2) You can’t score without your fellow team members. Most runs are scored by a steady stream of hits moving you closer to home plate. It’s your fellow writers and agent who help guide you to your goal. They critique. They offer an ear for venting. They refer you to their agent. They prepare you for being on submission. You may run those bases alone, but never forget that you’re on a team.

What metaphor do you use when describing your journey to publication?


  1. Climbing Mount Everest backwards. In flip flops.

  2. Ha ha! I love Sarah's metaphor! ;) I love the baseball one as well. I think it's so inspiring watching writers like Natalie Whipple go through so much before they get a publishing contract. Writing is not easy. You have to have so much patience and in the end it still doesn't happen sometimes. All we can do is keep trying. And I think that goes for whatever stage we are in. :) Great post.

  3. @ Sarah - Y'know, I've done that once. Not as difficult as it seems :)

    @ Chantele - You're so right. To paraphase Dori from Finding Nemo, all we can do is just keep swimming.

  4. Ooo, I love this metaphor. Baseball is awesome and is perhaps equally difficult as having a selling novel on your hands. Nice :)

  5. I remember when getting to first base used to mean kissing. Now it's finishing a first draft? Yikes! That's a lot more work than getting dressed up, sitting through a long dinner, and standing at the door waiting for him to make a move (a married lady like me wouldn't know much about that). LOL! Great analogy.

  6. Someone needs to send me to HOME PLATE! :P I just bee-lined for the dang plate from first. :P

    HAHAHA to Emily's comment.

  7. A metaphor describing my journey? Hmm, how 'bout HELL? Will that work?

    Anyway, I hate that I've only made it to 2nd base so far. I've tried to steal 3rd a few times without success. I did make it back safely, so that's a good thing. I want 3rd base so badly, I can feel it beneath my feet. Luckily for me, I've learned patience on my journey.

    Good post, Phil! Very creative!! And thanks for stopping by. I loved your comment.