I’m actually cheating a little here. I wrote this post almost a week ago and sent it in to be posted today, so that it may appear fresh off the griddle, when in fact it is stale and already starting to harden around the edges. There’s an analogy to publishing in here: what we are all hoping to promote here as “fiery” is in fact mere glowing embers at this point. Because even in the most maniacally foreshortened publishing process – the kind that might result in, say, a quickie celebrity bio – by the time the book appears between covers, the major work of writing and editing it was done months earlier.
Literary fiction is rarely published under those conditions, and almost always, the book that appears fresh and clean and bursting with newborn health in a bookstore one day was actually signed off on in a previous season. There’s always last-minute proofing and the whole process of typesetting, but very often the book exists in a near-final state for nearly half a year before the actual publication date – sometimes longer. Sometimes so long that a subsequent book is already in the works by the time the previous one arrives in print. In fact, this was a piece of advice I was given years ago by a fairly well-known writer: get far enough into your next book, so that when your first one comes out, it’s all gravy. Everything that happens to that first book is good or bad, but the real prize is being sought elsewhere.
Very often what authors must do when they are promoting their new book is a kind of act of intense nostalgia. When they read from the book in public or read reviews of it or talk about it with someone, it’s as if they are revisiting some past glory. You’re getting your back patted for something a slightly younger self accomplished, months, if not years, ago.
Which, by the way, is the reason I’m writing this in advance: at the moment I’m driving around with boxes of books and a pen, reading from my novel and accepting congratulations (I hope) on something I did a while ago. It’s a little indulgent, but it’s necessary – for the sake of both publicity and one’s own ego. Having done all that work, it’s good to get patted on the back, to get bought a drink. Already though, I can feel the pull of that second book, already well underway. It’s waiting for me to get this nostalgia bit over with and get back to the real work.