The Birthing of a Book


Some people have asked me what the process is like for publishing a book. It seems so simple from the outside: you write, you send it to a publisher, the publisher says “sure, this looks good,” and then POOF! the book magically appears.

Well, sort of?

I’ll tell you my experience, which is really not every author’s experience.

Writing the book is the longest part for me. Every year (except one) since 2017, I have had a book come out, but it is NOT because I am writing a book every year. It’s because I wrote and wrote and wrote in all the genres for many (many!) years and only at this stage of my life have I been able to focus on polishing them enough to send them out. The memoir took me about six years to write. The short story collection took me four and a half years. And my newest book, a poetry collection (coming out in February!), I started writing over two decades ago. Yes, you read that correctly. THAT long.

The next step after writing and polishing is writing a query letter (a letter for potential publishers or agents that captures the essence of your book, compares it to other books, etc.), researching agents and/or presses (a ton of work and time if you do it right), and sending out the manuscript. I did not go the agent route. I went the straight-to-a-press route.

Then you wait. You check your email, you grow your hair out, you take on a new hobby, you get tired of the new hobby and start a second hobby, and then you realize what you really want to do is bingewatch Everwood or Friday Night Lights or how about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and you wait. This takes months and maybe even a year, but it all feels like eons.

If you get a yes, then you negotiate a contract, negotiate the edits you will make based on what the editor wants, you make revisions, and then you proof the manuscript. Again. Again. Again. And yes, again and again. By then you are sick of your book. But what is love if it doesn’t include a little sickness? You still love your book. You just don’t want to read it.

Then, if you’re lucky, your publisher lets you have a say on the cover. (I’ve been lucky.)

Then you work on a marketing plan, you execute the marketing plan (unless you have the $ to hire a publicist, which I did not do. I hired myself!), and then, the book comes out.

A lot of people want to write a book. The hard part isn’t coming up with the idea; it’s sitting down to write. Do you have a book in you? Then take the time to do it. 

Frankly, after 2020, everyone has a story to tell. So tell it.

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is an award-winning author who lives in Johnson City. She also runs writing workshops. Her latest book is a short story collection, A Small Thing to Want: Stories.


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