Path to Publication

Libby Sommer holding a copy of The Crystal Ballroom in book store

Interviewer: I would like you to tell me about your Path to Publication from first idea to finished book. I’d like to know your inspirations and how The Crystal Ballroom became more than an idea. I also want to know about your writing process. Do you sit at a desk 9-5 or at a cafe during snatched lunches? Did you write the book in a spurt of three months … how long did it take from start to finish? Did you have cold readers, send it to an agent or to a publisher? Were you accepted straight away? How many rewrites and drafts?

Me:  I usually write stories about places and people that I know well. I take real events and characters but change things around and shake them all about and make things up. So, for The Crystal Ballroom, I had been dancing Argentine tango, rock and roll, jive, swing, Latin American and ballroom dancing for many many years. I used to dance five nights a week. I’d drive all over Sydney for technique classes and to dance at different venues. The place, ‘The Crystal Ballroom’, is a fiction but this dance hall becomes a character in the novel. I was inspired by the people I met at the dances and the politics of the ‘dance scene’.

I don’t sit at a desk 9-5 but I am extremely disciplined with my writing. I write 7 days a week. I treat my manuscript like an old friend, someone I need to stay in touch with regularly. I also exercise 7 days a week. So my routine is to go to a cafe before the gym with a print out of the previous day’s work. I edit from this hard copy and write the next scene. After the gym I walk home, type out the revisions, print out, go to another cafe in the afternoon. Repeat the process. I only work in the AM on a Sunday 🙂

It took me 4 years to write The Crystal Ballroom. The chapters are self-contained, so I was able to send some of the discreet episodes out to Quadrant magazine for publication.

I belong to a weekly feedback writing group where we critique each others’ work. So I write to that weekly deadline. In the early years, when I’d finish a manuscript I’d pay an editor or mentor to read it and give me feedback. I’d also ask a couple of friends to read it and give feedback. I never send a manuscript to an agent or a publisher that hasn’t been reworked 20 to 100 times – that includes the rewriting along the way.

My Year With Sammy was my first published book. It was accepted straight away by Ginninderra Press, a small but prestigious publisher (thought-provoking books for inquiring readers). It was my fifth book length manuscript. I had sent the previous books to agents and large publishers. All my confidence had been knocked out of me by all the rejections leading up to the fifth manuscript. Now though, I have Ginninderra Press who seem to like my work. They also published The Crystal Ballroom this year. The Usual Story will be published by Ginninderra Press next year.

It’s an extremely difficult road to publication and some people decide to self-publish rather than continue to be rejected. But other people are able to write a best-seller, an airport book that sells lots of copies, so big publishers like their work very much. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my books are classified as literary fiction, so a very small market. Big publishers are not interested in books that do not conform to the norm. Not enough money in it for them.

I am very grateful to have my small but prestigious publisher.

12 thoughts on “Path to Publication

  1. A fascinating insight into your writing process, Libby. I also do many revisions but I find that I eventually reach a tipping point where the initial excitement of the newly minted story has worn off and the diminishing extent of the changes fails to sustain my enthusiasm. Does this happen to you? And if it does, how do you deal with it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. glad you found the post insightful. i thought i had responded to your comment already, but must have forgotten to press a button somewhere. anyway, i wrote that i find my weekly feedback group to be essential as a way to give energy to my writing. when i read my work out to an audience i can tell if it’s working or not. also, i have a couple of friends who will comment on my writing. feedback is a great way to stay enthusiastic about the work, or to put it aside and work on something else and then come back to it later. hope that helps. Libby

      Liked by 1 person

  2. that’s great you found the post a useful insight into the writing process. yes, as the saying goes, Writing is Rewriting. re sustaining enthusiasm for my work after many rewrites, i use a weekly feedback group to breath new life into my writing. also, a couple of friends who are prepared to read my stories. i find feedback from others to be essential. hard to be objective about your own writing. and sometimes it’s necessary to put the piece to the side for awhile and work on something else, then come back again with fresh eyes. hope my comments are useful. Libby

    Like

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