Written by A Guest Author August 3rd, 2023

Locking it Down During Lockdown: Writing and Publishing During the Pandemic

— By A. K. Adler

Lockdown was good for me. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be in a fervour of baking banana bread and online workout groups. I’ve always hated baking and exercise, so I took a writing course. Until that point, writing had been a hobby. I’d already written three novels, and self-published them because, why not? Well, the ‘why not?’ would be because they were first drafts, and first drafts are, as we all know, shi— Not the finest of fine dining.

Until I took that course (a fabulous online offering from Jericho Writers) I didn’t understand what editing meant. At that point, in the summer of 2020, I’d just finished a first draft and thought that meant I was nearly done. That first draft was 50,000 words. A year later, my eleventh draft was 80,000 words, of which at least 60,000 were entirely new. My characters had deepened; my plot actually had a middle, not just a beginning and an end. For the first time, I looked at my writing and thought, ‘People deserve to read this.’

I got an editorial assessment of the first section of the book (all I could afford at the time). The editor was encouraging about the writing, but said she thought it was unlikely that I would find an agent or publisher in England because I had a non-binary protagonist and the market wasn’t open to that. I thought she was sure to be wrong: I was at the crest of a wave! Gender identity was the next big thing!

She was right; I wasn’t. None of the British agents I submitted to were interested; not even a request for a full manuscript. So, I sent it out to small indie publishers, and it was a Canadian press that wanted it. They were a tiny, grass-roots operation. Would they take my book to the bestseller lists? Absolutely not. Would they help me on my own writing journey? Well, I hoped so. I signed the contract.

Finally, at the end of 2022, the book was published. Six months later, it still hasn’t sold many copies; it’s with a small publisher, so that’s about what I expected. If you’ve read anything about the publishing industry, you’ll know that the odds of a book being a commercial success are low. Astronomically, even.

As authors, we have to redefine what success means. Finishing a novel is a success. Having it picked up for publication, even by a micro-press, is a success. Touching readers’ lives: that’s the real measure. And I may not have many readers yet, but the beautiful feedback I’ve had from them is an inspiration and makes it all worthwhile.

Even more, deepening my own writing skills and learning how best to let the stories in my heart take flight has been the real win. I define success principally by the personal satisfaction and growth that the writing process brings me—and I think it’s essential to maintain that perspective, because even greater commercial success won’t mean any guarantees or stability.

So, was signing that contract a good idea? I don’t know. It didn’t bring any conventional measure of success. But it’s possible that just having that in my bibliography will help me get noticed by agents; I’m about to go out on submission again, so we’ll see. Publishing is a long game, and I’ve only just begun. I certainly won’t let this put me off.

Bio:  Writer of YA fantasy with depth. Buddhist. Believer in the imagination. www.akadler.com


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