3 Things That Shouldn’t Shock You—But Will—When You Publish Your Book

Writing a book is an amazing experience—reserved specifically for psychos. What, you have so much to say you gotta divide it up into chapters and print it up? Did you get enough attention as a child?

Just kidding. My book-writing clients and I are psychos only in the most complimentary sense. It takes tenacity and focus to convert your life experiences, ideas, or unique intellectual property into a well-crafted and engaging publication (i.e. your insanity is of the high-functioning variety). And if it helps to be crazy like the fox when you’re taking on Herculean task of writing a book, you’re going to need extra reserves of wild-eyed determination when you reach the publication prep phase.

At this stage, you will be proofing your manuscript, working with a designer to lay it out, and making final decisions about the look and format of your book. It’s such an exciting phase, but you are guaranteed to encounter particularly potent stresses at this juncture. Writing your book tenderized your formerly robust mind. Editing nearly killed you. You’re tired and ready for the end of the project. You’re as defenceless as a highly literate little bunny. And then—WHAM. Unexpected challenges. They shouldn’t surprise you but they will.

Shock #1: You Will Never Proof Your Book Enough

Never. Got that? That’s a scientifically proven fact. I have a friend who was so determined to have an error-free book that she got a team of ten people to proof it prior to publication. When she finally flipped through her shiny new book she found a handful of typos within the hour.

I used to feel that jerky glee of the natural-born spelling competition brat when I found proofing errors in professional publications. No longer. Experience has humbled me.

How to Cope?

First of all, never allocate the proofing job to a single person. My friend was doing the right thing in recruiting a team. It takes a proofing village. And don’t be despondent when you keep finding errors, no matter how many times you’ve gone through this dang book that you no longer believe merits publication…it’s normal. Finally, remember that if you are self-publishing, you will be able to correct errors in your manuscript at any time on most self-publication platforms, even if you have already printed copies.

Shock #2: Design Will Make Your Manuscript Read Differently

Ah, design. I’m so incapable of doing what designers do. In fact, I’m one of the least visually oriented people around, a near-sighted woman who chooses to walk around without glasses 95% of the time. I’m in awe of designers. And I think they should be hired for most projects, most of the time, because so much communication happens on the level of design. Their contribution cannot be overestimated.

So when you hire your designer—and please do that in lieu using DIY templates—prepare yourself for the shock of seeing how much their work will change the way your manuscript reads. It will not be the same book. It’s hard to describe, but a proper layout will reveal your words to you in a different light. Don’t be surprised if you feel like changing a few things.

How to Cope?

Well…do change a few things if you feel so inclined. Give yourself that permission. The design phase can lead to some fruitful interplay between the creativity of your designer and your creativity as a writer.

Just don’t go overboard. Because it’s likely you are also feeling a little insecure about writing a book at this phase. Which leads us to…

Shock #3: You Might Not Like Your Book Anymore

If this is the case, take a deep breath, walk over to the bathroom mirror, gaze intently into your own reflected eyes, and repeat after me: “I will stop taking myself so seriously.”

It’s normal to be ambivalent at this phase. Sometimes I think the harder we work on a project, the more likely we will question its worth when we reach its completion stage. It reminds me of something I learned about Hollywood script formulas. In the final 10% of the movie, the protagonist usually encounters some kind of epic challenge that casts his or her entire mission in doubt. It’s the final struggle. It’s what makes the final coda so satisfying. Writing a book wouldn’t be kinda heroic if you didn’t nearly lose it all (i.e. your mind) in the final countdown.

How to Cope?

Like I said, don’t take yourself so seriously. You did something. It was a pretty big something. You’ve always wanted to do it, and you were never sure you could pull it off. Yeah, in a sense writing a book is a big deal. For sure! But that doesn’t mean the outcome of your publication should define your self-worth. You are one human being among billions of other human beings conducting various experiments, pulling off various amazing feats. Put it in perspective. Pat yourself on the back a reasonable number of times and then move on.

Just look forward to the day—maybe it’ll be ten years from now, maybe it’ll be fifty—when you finally catch and correct the very last spelling mistake in your book. That day will come, my friend, and it will be a sweet day indeed.

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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September 19, 2015

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