I was surprised when a friend found out I had written and book and asked if they could go get it at Barnes and Noble. (Dear Samantha on Bewitched: Could you wiggle your nose and make that happen, please?)
What really happens after you write your book is that you edit it ... look for typos, changes in tense, stupid mistakes, grammar errors. Then you rewrite. Again and again. Then you ask friends to read it and give feedback. Then you rewrite. Again. Then you join a critique group and get feedback from other people writing books. Then you take a pause while you lose your mind.
When you find your mind again, you rewrite. Then you start to query. This means you have to write a query letter. Damn. And a synopsis. Double damn. A query is the most important and best damn (but short and concise) letter you can write to sell your book to an agent. Prepare thyself for rejection. Lots of it. Think that boy in third grade that didn't want you for a girlfriend broke your heart? You ain't seen nothing yet. You can also go to conferences and meet editors and agents face to face. Most are nice and put their pants on one leg at at time. But that doesn't mean they're not intimidating. You stutter a lot and find out what little salesmanship skills you have. I got lucky at a recent conference that one of the editors I met was from the same town as me. She gave me her card and told me to call her when I got an agent. Ahhhhh. There's the rub. That means that instead of rejections you have to get an agent that says "send me your full manuscript." And they have to fall in love with it. I mean passionate love. And they have to take you on. Let's suppose for a moment you're lucky enough to find that special agent. Then they are going to most likely want you to change some things in the book you've already rewritten ten times. Then they have to have good relationships with editors and publishing houses and hopefully convince an acquisitions editor to take your book and sell it to the publisher. And then you'll have an editor who will .... take a guess ... wants some rewrites. Then if the magic happens and you're actually published and there is an honest-to-god book with a cover and your name on it, well then you have to market it. That bit actually sounds fun, but you're left wondering where in all this, do you find the time to actually write that NEXT book. (Publishers don't really like one hit wonders.) So do you do the thing that brings you joy and write and not really care if anyone but your best friend from high school and your Aunt Jo reads it? Or do you jump on the carousel and try for the brass ring, even if you are getting slightly nauseous from having gone around in circles so many times? I think, hope, pray it's a bit of both and I can find the balance. Wish me luck.