Authors perform hundreds of small steps in the process of publishing a book—some of them enjoyable and some…not so much. The last step is one of my favorites, and this week I had a chance to do it.
Every novel I write begins as an idea—sometimes a grand one and sometimes just a tiny seed that needs to be nurtured. This involves brainstorming (alone and with my critique group), then researching (which is also an enjoyable step since it involves travel). Then I’m ready to start creating my characters. All of this takes about two months, and leads to the most time-consuming steps of all: writing drafts, and editing those drafts over and over and over for the next nine months until I’m happy with the result.
Somewhere along the way, (and long before the novel is finished), my publisher asks for a title and cover ideas, and I spend time collecting images and brainstorming titles. This is done ahead of time so the book can be listed in the sales catalogue. Sometimes my title and cover ideas are used…and sometimes they’re not. I’ll let you guess which makes me happier.
At last my book is finished. Well…not quite. Once I turn in my manuscript (hopefully by my deadline), my editor steps in. He and a team of in-house readers get to read it and comment on areas that might need more work. They give me about a month to “fix” these problems and make it a better book. Few authors want to hear that their “baby” isn’t perfect—including me. By now I’m weary of the manuscript and eager to start something new.
But I make the necessary changes and the book moves to the final editing and proof-reading stages. I’ll see the manuscript two more times, once to view the editor’s changes and make any last minute changes of my own, and again when the page proofs are all laid out in their final form so I can check them for errors. Then it goes to the printer and becomes a “real” book. It’s a great feeling to finally hold the fruit of all my labors in my hands. But that’s not the last step. The very last step—and one of my favorites—is sharing the new book with my readers.
And on October 10, I made more new friends when I spoke at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. Meeting my readers reminds me why I’ve been working so hard this past year, alone in my office for hours and hours, glued to my chair. It’s for all for them! Each time I begin a new book I ask God to use my words to touch someone with His love and grace. And even if only one reader is blessed, my labor is never in vain. When I meet readers at events like these, their stories and words of encouragement assure me that God is answering my prayer.
Words are powerful things. I can’t begin to describe how a reader’s words of encouragement rejuvenate me. They motivate me to return to the work God has given me, and begin the year-long process of writing all over again. That’s why this last step is the best!
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up”(1 Thess. 5:11)