by Sue Heavenrich
Congratulations! You have a book! (If you are at the idea-germinating stage, then you need our guide on What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Book.) As joyous as this occasion is, books require a lot of love and guidance to reach maturity.
Whether this is your first book or your tenth, remember that each book has its own unique personality. Some books are easy-going, slapping words onto the page as fast as you can scribble. Others are shy. Rather than forcing them to come to the page, invite them out for pizza or ice cream. Ask how their day is going and practice your active listening skills. Perhaps they’re having a tough time with their narrative arc, or are stressed out by the amount of research they have to do. Your job, as a book parent, is to be a sounding board. Rather than offering solutions, spend time brainstorming with your book in a non-judgmental way. Perhaps your book will discover a new direction to explore.
Make sure your book gets lots of exercise, healthy meals, and plenty of sleep. Growing books need proper nutrition to support developing plot lines, and a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise to strengthen their fact-digging muscles. You can help by taking them with you when you head out for a walk or run. (A steady diet of coffee and m&m’s does not constitute a balanced diet.)
Include your book in family life and decisions. Working together on household chores, such as helping you cook dinner, fold laundry, or clean the litter box will give you and your book time to gossip about characters or debate issues. And when you discuss family vacations, make sure your book is involved. Other family members will need to know whether it will be going along or staying home alone. (note: books sometimes stow-away on flash drives.)
Submitting your book to agents and publishers is a lot like sending a kid to college. Make sure you check out potential agents and editors to see if they are a good fit for your book. Don’t pin your hopes on that “one editor”; submit
applications queries to a few publishing houses/agents
at a time. Once your book is accepted, make sure you read their financial
package carefully so that both of you understand your obligations.
At this point it’s premature to worry about “empty nest syndrome”. Your book will come back to visit one or more times for what editors call “revision” and your book refers to as “self-loathing and adolescent angst”. Some books, particularly nonfiction, return home for more tutoring while others need to work on their language skills. Give your book a hug and remind it that you’re on its side. Be kind but firm when you tell it that it needs to undergo crucial changes to become the best it can be. Let your book know that it is not alone; all books go through the “edits”. Eventually it will metamorphose into its final stage, with a hard shell and words that sing.
A note on sibling rivalry: Do Not redecorate your book’s bedroom or give its favorite jeans to your shiny new Work-in-Progress until your book is well on its way to the printer.