E. J. Swift is the author of Osiris and Cataveiro, the first two volumes in The Osiris Project trilogy. Her short fiction has been published in Interzone magazine, and appears in anthologies including The Best British Fiction 2013 and Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven. She is shortlisted for a 2013 BSFA Award in the short fiction category for her story Saga’s Children.
Life after publication
It’s sometimes strange to reflect back on the time before having a book out in the world, when writing was simply a file on my computer: a purely creative process which I worked at in the hopes of one day being published – but ultimately something I did for myself. Because I always had, and because I couldn’t imagine it not being a part of my life.
As I discussed in a previous post, it took time to get a book deal for Osiris. In a way, it was useful to have gone through the submissions process years before with a different agent – it helped me to manage my expectations. But however prepared you think you are, nothing beats the joy and delight of hearing that someone is going to publish the book you have spent so much time and energy lovingly crafting, probably over years, dreaming of it becoming something more. You start thinking excitedly about cover designs, seeing your novel in bookshops, holding a finished, physical product in your hands.
You don’t think so much about what happens next.
What hit me hardest in the first year was deadlines, and promotion. I’d completely underestimated how much time it would take to do things like emailing bloggers, requesting reviews (and in the early days, trying to get a handle on who I should be contacting – I knew one person in the genre community, and that was my agent), writing posts and keeping my own website up-to-date, not to mention factoring in events like conventions (I’d never been to a convention either). Most writers have a day job, so the time you have to work on your actual writing doesn’t increase – it grows ever more stretched. I’d had years to work on Osiris. I had one year to produce Cataveiro, and it had to be better.
The production process was another steep learning curve. Your manuscript goes through multiple stages on its way to becoming a book – editing, copy-editing, type-setting, page proofs, cover design and so on. These things take time, and mistakes are almost inevitable. The first time something goes wrong – even the tiniest error – it does feel like the end of the world. It feels personal, which of course it isn’t, and most things can quickly be resolved. This is also where I’ve found it immensely useful to be able to talk to other writers. Comparing experiences puts your own into perspective, and sometimes it just helps to have an understanding ear.
I’m now approaching the deadline for the third book in the series, and I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights over how the second one will perform. At this stage, too, I know I need to start thinking ahead. Where do I want to take my writing after this? How do I want to progress, to push myself?
What I have to remember is this: my books are out in the world now. They can be read by people, and I have to let them go; they belong to me, but they don’t belong to me. But ultimately, writing is still something I have to do for myself. Because I always have, and because I can’t imagine life without it.
Many thanks to E.J.Swift.