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5 Things To Know About Getting A Novel Published, by Lia Weston

Getting a book published is an amazing thing to go through. For the first time novelist – especially one as unprepared as I was – it can be a very strange ride. There are pinch-me moments. There are also what-the-darn? moments. Therefore, for your entertainment and possible edification, I present a few of them in no particular order…

When you tell people you’ve got a book coming out, the first thing most of them will ask is, “How many pages is it?”

Not, “How many words is it?”, which is something I could have told them off the bat. (95,788.) Not, “How much is it?” (Ditto. $29.95. eBook $13.99 and now available!) When this question started coming, I had no answer. The book itself wasn’t in my hands yet. Replies such as, “Twenty if they use really tiny font,” or, “It’s in the lap of the gods” or, “I don’t know! Why does everyone keep asking me that?” were not considered helpful. If it happens to you, just say ‘340’.  No-one will ever check after the book comes out. Side note: Why do people ask this? Is there a perfect number between 10,000 (too many!) and 10 (too few!)? Does it help a reader decide whether to pick it up or not? “Damn; I was all set for Jasper Jones, but it’s over 277 pages. I guess I’m going to have to go with Dan Brown again.”

If you happen to be a) a published writer and b) female, many people will assume you write children’s books.

I have a huge amount of respect for children’s authors. It’s a hard gig. Children are unvarnished in their criticism, and notoriously picky. However, I am not a children’s author, and didn’t anticipate how many people thought I was, based on no other reason besides my gender. It’s not as if my novel was called, Ruby’s Romp Over The Pink Rainbow Of Delusion. (Though now I am seriously considering that for a sequel.) Question for the male authors out there: do people assume you write crime? Enquiring minds want to know.

Your cover will come as a complete surprise.

I wasn’t naive enough to think that I would have much of a say in the cover of The Fortunes of Ruby White, but I figured I’d be part of the process. Ha ha! No. An email from my Publishing Manager popped into my inbox which said, “Hope you like it!” and behold: there it was, the finished product. Fortunately, it was gorgeous*. I thanked my lucky stars it wasn’t something like this. Although there are a few horror stories floating around, it’s wise to remember that your publisher is giving your book the cover they think will help it sell the most copies, because that’s their job. It may not be exactly what you envision, but they usually get it right. Usually. The bottom line is: if you’re a debut or early-career author, the cover you get is the cover you’re stuck with. So pray it’s a good one. Maybe take your designer out for a drink first.

While we’re on that subject, your title may also come as a complete surprise.

Confession time: Ruby’s original title was The Rise and Fall of Ruby White. I had finished the manuscript, but couldn’t give it a name. Many nights saw me staring into the abyss of my bedroom, rejecting title after title after title until The Rise and Fall… came to mind and stuck. Several months later, while I was having morning tea with my publishing team (another pinch-me moment), they gently let me know that my proposed title wasn’t going to work as it was “too dark”. The then-CEO suggested ‘The Fortunes of…’ Hey, I wasn’t going to argue with the head of Simon & Schuster. (Thanks, Francois!)

Journalists will want to know what school you went to.

I prepared very thoroughly for my first media interview. I had witty quips, a new dress and practiced my best Photo Face. (It was halfway between ‘Who, Me?’ and ‘Yay Me!’ so I probably just looked confused.) So when the journalist asked me where I went to school, I naturally went blank. Then she asked me about my family. And my childhood. And a bunch of other questions I have pretty much blocked out, because all I could think was, “Why aren’t you asking about the book? People don’t want to know about me; they want to know about the book.” Wrong. When you are published—and of course you will be, dear reader, because you’re both prodigiously talented and stupendously good-looking—remember that the media eats stories for lunch. Although it turned out to be a great article and excellent exposure, in hindsight I would have been better off if I’d turned up dressed like Miss Havisham, nursing a whiskey sour, and showed the interviewer pictures of my dog. Crazy person = bigger article.

And there you have it. Five completely random facts about what happens when you pass through the gateway and join that weird Published Author club. The secret handshake, however, is still a secret.

For now.

* I’d be wrong if I didn’t give a shout-out to the designer, Christa Moffit, who also won the 2010 Annual APA Book Design Award for the Best Designed Cover Of The Year for David Malouf’s Ransom just before Ruby White was released. Fame by proxy! Yes!


Lia Weston’s author website:

Lia Weston’s bio page


The Fortunes of Ruby WhiteThe Fortunes of Ruby White     A Distant LandHalf Moon BaySavage TideHouse for all Seasons by Jenn J McLeod

Writing Novels in Australia

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good article, Lia! How odd about the ‘how many pages’ question!!

    July 9, 2013
    • Thanks, Kerrie! It’s very weird, isn’t it? I never thought to ask why people asked me, either, as I was too surprised. Next time… I’ll let you know if anyone can give me a tangible answer.

      July 30, 2013
  2. Thank you so much Lia for such an interesting post! Love the comment about the number of pages and where you went to school! I’ll keep it in mind for the future, lol!

    July 9, 2013
    • Thanks, Debbie! I hope you have an opportunity to be asked. 😀

      July 30, 2013
  3. Another question that is never asked is what’s the difference between the number of words you wrote and the number you ended up with.

    July 13, 2013
    • Oh! I never thought of that. Wow; that’s a whole other kettle of fish, isn’t it?

      July 30, 2013
  4. Loved this post. So true!

    July 13, 2013
  5. the question I never expected was: ‘How much did it cost you to get published?’

    three times I’ve been asked that question. When I say ‘they payed me!’ I get a puzzled expression. Maybe that says something about the state of publishing.

    I had the a similar experience to you with the title and cover design. I too got an email from my publisher without warning saying ‘here’s the rough mock-up of your cover, what do you think?’ Nobody had told me that it wasn’t a consultative process, so without thinking too hard I shot an email right back saying ‘that’s bloody awful, what else have you got?’

    That’s when they told me that I had absolutely no input into the cover design, and that I was very unappreciative of all the hard work their design department had put into it, and had no understanding of marketing, and should really leave it to those that know better.

    It took me about eight weeks of kissing arse to repair the damage from that one little email.

    That was the first and hardest lesson I learned about dealing with a publisher: whatever they do for you, regardless of whether you like it or not, tell them: ‘it’s just wonderful, darling!’ Tell them that three times, and only then suggest that there’s just one tiny little thing you might like to discuss changing.

    July 19, 2013
    • Yes! I was asked that as well, and it was also interesting how often people assumed I had self-published. Your three-times-sweet approach is excellent; I reckon it can be applied to most areas of life. (And congrats on Heist, too!)

      July 30, 2013

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