From Idea to Novel: The (Real) Pathway to Publication

The road is long for a writer.

Stocksy novelThe book you pluck from a store shelf rarely denotes the journey it took to make it there – the endless hours of editing, the carefully crafted drafts that eventually lined the bin and all the additional back and forth that comes with the territory of sending something to the finality of print. Author Kelly Doust knows the arduous journey better than most.

Her novel, Precious Things, which is available in stores and online now, was her first foray into fiction – she’s previously worked on fashion bibles like A Life in Frocks: A memoir and freelanced for publications like Vogue Australia and Sunday Life.

Here, she shares the pathway to publication from the very beginning:


October 2009
Initial seed of idea pops into head. Post throwaway comment on blog: ‘One day I’ll write a novel about a cheeky little frock who gets about and lives in more cities than I ever will – won’t that be fun?’ Don’t give it much more thought, but short while later publisher friend sends email asking if I’m serious and asks to meet. Happy accident makes me commit to starting.

Early 2010 – end 2012
Get busy with other book projects and freelance writing. Put novel aside. Ignore nagging feeling that I really should be writing fiction.

August 2012
Pick up novel again. Finish first few chapters and think it is brilliant, surely best first draft anyone has ever written. Feel great.

September 2012
Join writing course at Faber Academy at Allen & Unwin called Bootcamp for Your Novel, just to keep me motivated. Have to share work for first time and realise how totally awful it is. Plunged into pit of despair. Delete first 15,000 words.

February 2013
Have about 60,000 words I’m tentatively proud of. Pluck up courage to show them to another friend in publishing. She tactfully tells me it needs major re-writing and a whole new structure if it’s going to work. Plunged into pit of despair again, but get to work re-drafting. On a roll.

May 2013
Feeling on top of the world! Have 90,000 words and plan for last few chapters, and fairly certain all but done. Make insane mistake of saying this on Facebook page, thereby ensuring another full year of writing and re-drafting.

August 2013
Start sending ‘first’ draft to agents in Sydney and the UK, hoping they will take me into their author stable. Success! UK agent reads and loves book! Makes some big suggestions for re-working the structure and sends me on my way. Work solidly for next few months changing the book as per my fabulous new agent’s suggestions.

December 2013
Finally hear back from UK agent about last draft. She’s changed her mind. Tells me book is not commercial enough for her to sell as is. Wants me to re-write, cutting out my main protagonist, Maggie. Search soul. Decide she’s not the agent for me. We part ways.

January 2014
Have a small car accident and get spinal injury. Back in spasm and neck is messed up for next five months. Can’t write, can’t do much of anything. Feel miserable and become hermit. Take up meditation and try to become Zen master. Go on family holiday to Europe. Tentatively research places for book while I’m there but mostly forget about writing. Come home a new person with neck better, able to write again. Forget spurious promises made during injury to work with impeccable posture, and go like hammer and tong once I return. Send book off to agents again. Mostly silence, and then: rejection after rejection. In the pit again. Still not Zen master (clearly).

August 2014
Have email offers from not one but two agents in London on the same day, asking me to sign with their agencies! Have Skype calls with both, and finally decide upon perfect agent. More thrilled than thought was humanly possible. Agent asks clever in-house editor to help me refine novel. Spend next few months re-writing it.

January 2015
Agent helps me sign two-book deal with HarperCollins Australia. HarperCollins comes back with more structural advice. Re-work for next few months.

April 2015
Hand in latest draft. Start work on novel two.

June 2015
Lovely HarperCollins editor comes back with more suggestions. Re-work and submit again.

September 2015
Editor comes back with more changes. Hand in mammoth edit of un-typeset pages. Think phew, I’m almost done. Publisher starts sending out book to other authors for pre-publication endorsements we can put on the cover. Designers at HarperCollins start working on cover image.

October 2015
Agent takes book to Frankfurt Book Fair. Meets German publisher who wants to publish Precious Things.

November 2015
Go speak to the good people at HarperCollins about my book, begging their sales team to do their best job at selling it to major chains and retailers across Australia for next Mother’s Day. Cross fingers.
Australian publisher and agent convince HarperCollins Holland to publish there.
Pages are typeset. Editor asks me to look over them again. Finally hand in last big edit. Think phew, I’m done.

December 2015
Bolinda Audio agrees to buy the rights to publish the audio book worldwide. Love my agent. Pre-publication endorsements start trickling in.

January 2016
Final changes have been made but I need to do one last proofread and edit. Think phew, I’m done. Last endorsements come in from a bunch of authors I admire. Totally thrilled.

1 February 2016
Go to print – yippee! Really am done. Start publicity process same day, working on a ‘making of’ free e-book and answering media questions about the book. Not really done.

21 March 2016
Precious Things to hit bookstore shelves across Australia.

1 April 2016
Official publication date. Media campaign begins. Hurrah!

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