Today is the day of publication for the first book from Impress HQ in 2017!
Tree Magic is the dazzling debut YA novel by Harriet Springbett and is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms from today. The content of this blog post comes courtesy of the author herself as she talks about the journey to publication.
My Journey to Publication
Getting published is a big deal. At least, it is for me. I’ve been writing seriously since 2005, and for years before that I was either daydreaming about being published or procrastinating that I’d start a regular writing routine. Immediately. Once I’d done the washing-up.
The thing is, I didn’t study English. I didn’t do an MA in Creative Writing. And I didn’t know anyone in the publishing world. I lived in France and spoke French all day long. But I loved writing. Writing in English linked me to my origins, and I wanted to take it further than simply pouring words into notebooks in the early mornings before work.
I think there are many writers like me: people who only decide to take writing seriously once their career is firmly directed away from the literary world. And that’s where writing groups play an essential role.
“So why do you want to get published?” asked a member of Lumineuse (the writing group a bunch of us Mslexia readers in France launched in 2005).
Hmm… I hadn’t ever asked myself why. It just seemed to be what serious writers did. For a moment I wondered if Lumineuse was the group for me – and then I realised that the question was actually primordial. Why did I want to get published?
At first I thought publication would mean my writing was ‘good enough’. Before 2005 I’d already written some short stories and, because they didn’t express what I wanted, I’d then written a novel – which didn’t express what I wanted either. The six agents I sent the novel to rejected it, so I presumed it was rubbish. That’s when I turned to Mslexia for help and found the Lumineuse writers. They asked all sorts of difficult questions and made me think about why we write, what our goals are and how we can achieve them.
It was a long time before I found my answers to those difficult questions. I still haven’t answered all of them. Do you know why you write and why you want to be published?
Meanwhile, with Lumineuse, I studied the craft of writing. I did lots of writing exercises and read piles of writing guides, including those by Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Robert McKee, Hanif Kureishi and Verlyn Klinkenborg. They inspired me immensely – so much so, that I got hooked on them (anything to avoid putting pen to paper).
I discovered that what I actually wanted was to spend more time doing the most rewarding activity I’d come across. I met plenty of excellent writers who hadn’t been published. So publication didn’t really matter. What mattered was the enjoyment of applying the techniques I was learning and seeing an improvement in my writing. So I wrote and revised my work; received feedback and revised; critiqued and revised; experimented and revised (I love revising).
Then, one day, I was discussing the creative process with some musician, dancer and artist friends. I was astonished by the similarities across the arts, and envious that my friends could communicate their ideas to an audience. That’s when I realised that I did want to be published, after all. I’d reached a stage whereby I wanted to connect to people via my stories.
Once I knew why I wanted to be published, the necessary determination was easier to find. And you need that determination, as well as luck. I began a blog, went on an Arvon course, drove miles to literary festivals and started to get short stories placed in competitions. The end of the marathon, which included Tree Magic being placed as a runner-up in a novel competition, arrived when Impress Books accepted my manuscript. I was lucky. My dream had come true! We negotiated and agreed on a contract. I poured champagne.
“Now comes the difficult part,” said a colleague. “They’ll edit it.”
Some dream. I bit my nails and waited.
First came an email from Julian, my editor, containing his structural edit. I opened it, read his first suggestions and relinquished my nails. Yes. Yes. Yes, that’s a good suggestion, went my thoughts. He’s a far better writer than me. Julian picked up loose ends, queried parts that weren’t clear and suggested I add a couple more scenes to strengthen a character. I was delighted to discover that he seemed to like revising as much as I do. He never imposed a change, and working with him was pure pleasure. Lucky again!
Then Gale, an editor with experience in YA fiction, took over for the line edit. Gale picked up language discrepancies, suggested style changes and checked facts. I learnt about my language weaknesses and felt very special to have all this professional help.
Surely my manuscript was ready now? Wrong. It was Rachel’s turn to proofread and pick up a few clumsy sentences and errors. By now, at least three people had read Tree Magic and no one had said (to me, anyway) that they’d changed their minds about publishing it.
I don’t know if a big publisher or a different small publisher would have taken the care that Impress took with my novel. Thanks to them, the editing process was one of the most valuable writing lessons I have had. They opened the doors to a whole new world.
After editing, after the surreal moment of seeing Julian’s blurb and the discovery of the amazing book cover, it was time for marketing. Sarah, my publicist (I get a thrill when I say that) gave me some Twitter tips and introduced me to the Book Connectors Facebook group. She organised blog tours and Twitter chat shows. I signed up for Goodreads and SheWrites, learnt acronyms like ARC and ICYMI, and found out what Bookstagram meant.
All the tweeting and chatting with other authors and bloggers became as addictive as reading those writing guides. No matter how present I was, there was always more I could do. At one point I felt totally overwhelmed. So I took a few days out and just wrote. Ah, the pleasure of it! I remembered that writing was what mattered.
My original wish had been to get published and I hadn’t thought any further than this. Now my dream had come true, an army of new desires crept up on me. I wanted readers to like my story. I wanted encouragement from reviewers. I wanted Impress to recoup their investment in me. Publication was just the refreshment station in the marathon, not the finish line.
So here we are: Publication Day. I still can’t quite believe it’s true. I wake up at night thinking Impress have made a terrible mistake. But there’s nothing more I can do, apart from learn to let go. And bite my nails while I wait for reviews.
Buy the book here: http://amzn.to/2iXP70q , and tweet us @ImpressBooks1 to tell us what you think!