Once upon a time, a writer spent his or her time writing. With a quill. At a desk. In a forest glen, surrounded by songbirds and burbling streams. And then, when a new book was released, doing a few public readings and book signings before going back to writing.
Those days are gone.
These days, I encourage writers to think in terms of writing seasons.
When you’re planning and writing your debut nonfiction book or novel (please don’t call a novel a “fiction novel,” that’s just all kinds of wrong), you’re in a demanding but often intoxicating writing season. The world is your oyster, so to speak; and your main task is to write. In that season, you will also learn to write a strong proposal or two … or three, since many authors’ first book to be published was actually their second or third book to pitch and/or write.
Unlike the “once upon a time” days referred to above, however, another season coincides with that writing season; let’s call it “the platform season.” During this season, you experiment with various attempts to enlarge your reach and increase your engagement with readers, potential readers, fans, and followers. You work to build an audience, regularly doing something—big or small—so when your debut project is pitched, an editor and publisher can see that you get it, that you understand part of your job as an author is to be enlarging and engaging with a following. Pro tip: This season never ends.
When your proposal (and, sometimes, full manuscript) is ready, having been critiqued, edited, and proofread repeatedly, you’ll enter the networking and pitching phase. You may ask your well-published writer friends who represents them, what publishers and editors they most enjoyed working with, what are their recommendations, etc. You might email agents or meet with agents and editors at writers conferences to get to know them, show them your work, and see what doors open to you. Pro tip: This season ebbs and flows, but also never ends, though it does change if and when you begin working with an agent.
Soon after your book is accepted for publication, before it makes you rich and famous, you’ll enter an editing season. This season overlaps and infiltrates (and sometimes upends) the above seasons. But it’s important nonetheless. You’ll enjoy and/or endure multiple exchanges with an editor about changes to your manuscript and will review numerous incarnations of your work, possibly culminating in the careful review of galleys, or page proofs, which will be your last chance to find and correct mistakes or make changes.
Once you have a book scheduled for release, you begin a marketing season, which will overlap the above seasons but will occupy a greater percentage of your time and effort as release day approaches and comes and your book becomes available. It is always in your interest to partner with your book’s publisher to make sure it sells many, many copies, because your sales history will become a crucial part of future pitches.
Long before most of the above seasons have played out, you’ll enter a new writing season in which you start or continue work on the next book. And maybe the one after that. Pro tip: This season never ends.
What about you? Have you found it helpful (or not) to think of your writing life in terms of “seasons?”