See You on the Bookshelf

January 15, 2017

A novel is finished. Eight months later, a printed book appears on shelves. What happens in those eight months?


Writer’s diary, June 28th, 2016. Today is a Tuesday and I just turned in revisions to the first pass of copyediting. And so it’s going to …

That’s from my writer’s diary, after finishing one of the final drafts of my novel. I’d record these things after each day’s writing session. Or try to, at least, when I’d remember to do them. Often it’d be while I was at the gym, or while I was making a late lunch – that’s noise you hear in the background.

… all the various pieces already churning.

Now, if I don’t sound very excited about finishing the book, it’s probably because at that point I was just completely exhausted. And I wasn’t totally done done either. There were still words that needed changing here and there, commas that needed to be added … but essentially done.

The book’s called See You in the Cosmos. It’s about Alex, an 11-year-old trying to launch his iPod into space. His dad died when he was little, and his mom and brother are both, in their own ways, absent from his life. Alex has a dog named Carl Sagan – after his hero, the real-life astronomer. The novel opens with the two of them about to head to a rocket festival in the New Mexico desert.

See You in the Cosmos comes out in the US on February 28th, and in the UK a few days later. That’s exactly eight months from the recording you just heard – from when the manuscript was basically done – to when the printed book appears on bookshelves. This is a podcast about what happens in those eight months.

Every episode, from now until March, we’ll follow See You in the Cosmos through a different part of the publishing process. We’ll meet all the people involved in making a book, a book – starting with me, Jack Cheng, your host and author.

Now, I did something similar with my previous book, which I funded on Kickstarter and published myself. Every week I’d write updates on the process, on hiring a freelance editor, designing the cover … things like that – most of which I did on my own. But this time, it’s different. This time I’m working with a traditional publisher – in fact, one of the biggest traditional publishers. The book’s coming out jointly through Dial Books in the US and Puffin in the UK. Both are part of the Penguin Random House company.

So what’s different this time around? How come, in our age of instant online publishing, does this process still take 8 months? And how do I go from self-publishing my first novel to having one published by Penguin?

To start to answer these questions, there’s someone you need to meet: my agent. That’s next week, on See You on the Bookshelf.