Early Reactions to Friends and Liars

Hey all! Boy has June been a crazy month. First I officially became a published author when Friends and Liars was released in the U.K., then my husband and I headed off to Europe for our honeymoon/1-year anniversary for two weeks. Suddenly my life sounded terribly glamorous, didn’t it? (Don’t be too jealous, as incredible an experience our trip was, the reality of three countries in two weeks results in a lot of physically unappealing side effects I just won’t go into here).

Anyway, in case you missed it, in London Randy and I ducked into EVERY. SINGLE. BOOKSTORE. we saw in search of Friends and Liars, and we finally found it in Foyles on Charring Cross road:

foyles

The next day, I had lunch with Sara O’Keeffe, Susannah Hamilton, and Kirsty Doole, the team at Corvus in charge of birthing Friends and Liars into the world. We had a fabulous lunch and then headed back to their office, where they toasted my book with champagne and I signed books and it was wonderful, surreal, and completely disarming all at once. I wish I had snapped photos, especially because it was one of those “Is this really happening? To ME?” kind of moments, that I’m still half convinced it was all a dream.

Also while I was gone, a bunch of people read (and seemed to really like) the book. Here is some preliminary publicity:

Reviews:

Cover to Cover
Culturefly (20 Essential Summer Reads)
Liz Loves Books
The Bookbag
Bookliterati
The Very Pink Notebook
The Chicklit Club

Interviews/Guest Posts:
Shaz’s Book Blog (Q&A with me)
We Heart Writing (my guest post about editing)

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what has been the most important reactions to my book, which are those of the people who I based Friends and Liars characters on. I won’t mention them by name, but their enthusiastic support of the book, (especially given the events of the book, which ARE, I must reiterate, completely fictional) took me by surprise. I set out to write a book about unconditional friendship, the kind that lasts through hardships and distance and major life changes, and here I am still learning how truly strong those bonds can be. So to these people, and to all of you who have read and championed the book so far, all I can say, even though this seems terribly inadequate, is THANK YOU. Thank you so much.

Happy UK Publication Day to Me!

Today I am officially a published author. My debut novel is coming out through Corvus today in the UK!!!

pub day

Me a few weeks ago when I received my advanced copies in the mail.

I really can’t find any kind of appropriate words to describe this feeling. I’m just flying. For the rest of my life, no matter what happens, no one can take this away from me.

To add to the “firsts” of the day, my first ever interview has also been posted on Shaz’s Book Blog. Check it out to get some insights on the book and the writing process!

For my US friends, I’m excited to tell you that you can pre-order the US version here; it will come out February 1st. Don’t forget to ask your local bookseller and library to carry it as well! And for those of you who really want to purchase both, you can purchase the UK version here on Amazon UK.

 

 

I Am Now a Goodreads Author!

I emailed the publicist at Atlantic Corvus, my U.K. Publisher to ask how I should go about getting my book on Goodreads, to which she replied: “Oh, it’s already on there.”

And I’m like, whaaaaaaa?

So I click on the link she sent me and what do you know – my book is on Goodreads! All I had to do was create an author profile and link to it. If you’re on Goodreads, you can follow me here.  That way when the US version becomes available you’ll be among the first to know!

And if you’re reading this from the U.K., I hope you’ll add Friends and Liars to your To Read list. It will be released June 1st!

FRIENDS AND LIARS (U.K. version) available to book reviewers!

Today I got a notification that this tweet was posted to Twitter:

Tweet

And I went like this:

 

So for my friends and family who are still anxiously awaiting the day when I finally let them know they can buy my book, unfortunately you’ll still have to wait. This is an electronic Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the book that is only available to book reviewers – magazines and newspapers and book bloggers, oh my — who are in the U.K. and have access to Net Gally.

But still – my book has taken its first step into the world. Strangers are going to read it and judge it and tell us if they think it’s pretty…oh dear. Perhaps my reaction is more like…

 

My UK Cover Reveal

I’m so excited to announce that FRIENDS AND LIARS will come out in the UK on June 1 of this year! Check out the cover:

friends-and-liars-cover

What do you think?

For US fans, the title is slightly different: FRIENDS AND OTHER LIARS, and that will come out in February of 2017. The cover will be completely different, so I’ll make sure to post that once I have it!

6 Myths about Being a Writer

For every career, there are stereotypes. Engineers are nerdy; administrative assistants are dumb. Doctors have God complexes and lawyers have no soul. IT guys never get laid, but actors are whores. I’m not saying that these stereotypes don’t exist for a reason, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t fit into them, that you are necessarily the exception to a hard and fast rule. Sometimes it just means the stereotypes are bullshit.

Similarly, there are a lot of misconceptions around what it means to be a writer or any type of creative person. Some of them are so scary that I actually delayed going down the writing path because I believed them. So I thought I would take some time today to dispel some of myths about what it means to be a writer/artist/creative.

  1. Writers are Tortured Souls

I think the number one stereotype about writers and artists is that we are all dark and brooding. We’re pictured as people dressed all in black, with dark hair and makeup and hipster glasses, and for some reason berets atop our heads (so, I guess we are all also French? Whoops, see that’s another stereotype!)

There’s the misconception that we are all crazy. I can’t say that’s entirely untrue for me, as I have struggled with depression and anxiety issues for much of my life, but that doesn’t mean the lot of us are plagued with mental illness. Artists like ‘ole one-eared Vinny Van Gogh and drunkedy drunk drunk Hemingway don’t help with that perception. There have been studies that there are higher incidents of mental illness in creative people (something about chemicals and side-of-the-brain dominance, I think), but that doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of non-functioning loons who sit in the dark smoking and awaiting the muse.

True, great art can be created from pain. Some artists say they have to go into a dark place to create, and most creative work gets its grit and authenticity from experience. But does that mean you have to be batshit to write something that moves people? That you have to be miserable and live in darkness? Of course not! Even if you are writing or working on some heavy subject matter, you learn to go into that place while you’re working and then the word count is hit or the dryer buzzer goes off and you snap right back into being a normal human being who has a fair variety of color in their closet, thank you very much.

2. You have to suffer for your art

This ties into my first point. While some great art comes from artists who channel painful experience into their work, don’t think you have to have gone through some horrific tragedy in order to have something to say. I actually put off writing my first book for a while, well, for many reasons, most of them having to do with fear, but partly because I felt that because I had lived a pretty charmed life I didn’t have anything of value to contribute. Please, writers and artists, hear this: if you want to write or create, write or create. You don’t have to have lost a parent or sibling or lover; you don’t have to have been maimed or kidnapped or tortured. We all have experiences we can use in our art, and if you’re writing fiction, what you really need is the ability to empathize with those who have endured tragedy.

3. Writers are Introverts

Just because we sit behind a computer or writing pad all day doesn’t mean we don’t like to be around people. I have been to many writer’s workshops and conferences and just like anywhere, there are a mix of introverts and extroverts and everything in between. (Example of in between: everyone thinks of me as an extrovert because I am loud and crave social time, but I get total social anxiety before events like writers workshops. It’s not until I’m there that my sunny side reveals itself. I recently realized this makes me an extroverted introvert). Sure, there are probably writers that lack any semblance of social skills and do their best to isolate. But most of the writers I know are warm and friendly and have no trouble plopping themselves down next to a stranger at a workshop and carrying on a conversation. Some are even really good at promoting themselves and their work in person rather than behind the Twitter machine.

4. Writers are Disorganized/Messy

A lot of people assume that our brains are too cluttered with artistic ideas and grand conceptualizations that we don’t have the space to worry about things like keeping a tidy house or getting the bills paid on time. Undoubtedly, some of us who are like that. They say artists are more right-brained (intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective) vs. left-brained (logical, analytical, and objective).

Maybe I’m a mutant, but I am a fierce Type A. I thrive on routine, I get high off new organizational systems, I’m always the planner of projects and events, and I frickin’ LOVE spreadsheets. (I just went through a content edit of my manuscript and my editor teased me for sending her not just a spreadsheet outlining the changes I would make to each chapter but also two tables within the body of the email to explain different options for incorporating her feedback). I also love to balance my checkbook. These are not activities generally attributed to creative types, but I can’t be the only hyper-organized writer in the world.

Can I?

5. The Starving Artist

For a long time, I thought if I wanted to be a true writer I would have to be poor. That I would have to have no job and live in a hostel and eat beans out of cans.  That in order to be a writer, I had to devote myself so completely to “the craft” that I could not possibly allow the desire for material things and, you know, electricity, to get in my way.

Ha.

Listen, guys: if you manage to go this route, good for you. But I myself like to have a roof over my head (that my parents don’t own), nutritious food on the table, and the ability to keep myself warm under said roof during the long, cold Vermont winter. I also want to go out to dinner now and then, go on a vacation at least once a year, and be able to buy a new sweater or get a massage every now and then. All of that takes money and that means I need a JOB. That’s not to say I haven’t made compromises. I tried the marketing and copywriting route, which could have earned me a lot more by now, but I hated it so much that it drained me of any desire to write. So I’ve stuck with being an Executive Assistant because I know I will have the time and the creative energy left at the end of the day. The trick is to find a balance.

6. Writers/artists only work when they are inspired

I once questioned whether I was a real writer because I wasn’t frequently “inspired” to write. I mean, I’ve always written a journal entry when the feeling strikes, but when it came to actually writing my first novel, page after page after page, I found it much easier to flip on a rerun of Golden Girls at the end of a work day than I did to open my computer again. There’s an image of writers and artists being in the middle of something and just having to stop what they’re doing so they can get a poem or sketch on paper, and then they get so obsessed with it that they don’t emerge for days and weeks until the work is complete.

Yeah, okay.

I guess that could happen. If I didn’t have physiological needs like food and water and exercise and sex and sleep. Or if I didn’t need to go to work and meetings and appointments and clean the house and shop for groceries and find a plumber to fix our leaky tub. You get the point. Life is busy, and the world is full of so many distractions it’s a wonder we ever get anything done. Most of us have to create a schedule and make ourselves write during that time. It’s not as sexy as the artist who locks themselves in a room and emerges a week later with a masterpiece and a wild-eyed satisfaction, but it’s the reality of writing.

 

I’m sure I’m missing some here. Anyone else have any stereotypes they are always fighting against?

 

 

 

 

2016 Book Bingo

Today’s post was inspired by Louise Walters, author of Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase (2014) and A Life Between Us (March 2017). Louise was my mentor through the Womentoring Project – which, if you are a new writer struggling to get your book published, you should definitely apply for. Louise was instrumental in guiding me through a revision of my novel, FRIENDS AND OTHER LIARS; the new draft that came forth from her feedback is what landed me my agent!

Earlier this month, Louise posted her 2016 Reading Roundup and I thought – what a cool idea!  So I’m ripping her off ;-).

Book Bingo.JPG

I have to admit I spent A LOT of time on Goodreads trying to fill in something for every single square. I actually managed to do most of it except for A book written by someone under thirty, the first book by a favorite author, and a book with the number in the title. But after a thorough evaluation (seriously, I probably put way too much thought into this), I decided to report on the column I X’ed out above. So here goes:

A Book Published This Year – Modern Girls, by Jennifer S. Brown

modern-girlsHere’s the blurb:

A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935…
 
How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls.

In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.

As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….

My take

Right around the time I signed with my agent back in January, I stumbled across The Debutante Ball, a blog by five debut authors in their debut year, (the “cast” rotates every year). At the time, Jennifer S. Brown was on the roster, and the more she talked about her Modern Girls, the more excited I became to read it. The trouble was, I had made this little deal with myself to get through my To Be Read pile before I could buy any more books. But when I was on my vacation at the Jersey Shore I accidentally didn’t pack enough books. 😉 I was not disappointed. Months after finishing it, I still find myself wondering what became of Rose and Dottie, thinking in Yiddish phrases that I am probably woefully misusing, and feverishly anticipating Brown’s next book.

A Book by a Female Author – Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

tell-the-wolvesThe Blurb:

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

My Take:

This was a book club selection, and it haunted me for days after finishing it. I was touched by the relationship June had with her uncle and the one she developed with Finn. At a time when HIV and AIDS were so tragically misunderstood, it is a tale of forgiveness and real, unconditional love. And despite the heavy subject matter, I found myself flying through the pages as if it were a beach read.

A Book Set on a Different Continent – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

The Blurb:br

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

My Take:
This was another book club selection I thoroughly enjoyed. There were parts that I actually laughed out loud, (very hard to accomplish with the written word, IMHO. Possibly more so than causing tears.) and it felt light and airy and refreshing. I struggled to understand if the connection between Pasquale and Dee Moray was two-sided or one (had a disagreement with a fellow book club member on that one), and I have to admit a little bitterness at it being touted as a “literary masterpiece,” knowing that if a woman had written it, it would have been dismissed as “chick lit” or “a beach read.” But I enjoyed most of the different perspectives and the ease in which Walters carried me through the story, which spanned several decades without reading too historical fiction.
Oh, and I might have cheated a little bit on this one because the whole book didn’t take place in Italy, but I wanted to write about it so there.

 

A Book Based on a True Story – The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Wells

glass castle.JPGThe Blurb:

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

My Take:

Oh my God I am obsessed with this book. I was hesitant to read it because it sounds pretty depressing, but I’m so glad I gave it a try. It’s now one of my favorite books, and certainly my favorite memoir. The way Walls was able to write objectively and even affectionately about parents who were quirky and questionable at best, neglectful and abusive at worst, was completely astonishing. It is poignant, addictive, sometimes funny and always profoundly honest.

The Second Book in a Series – Gump & Co, by Winston Groom

gumpThe Blurb:

A little older, and wiser in his unique way, Forrest is still running — this time straight into the age of greed and instant gratification known as the 1980s.”Whenever I really get stumped, I go visit Jenny’s grave. She tells me she’s always rooting for me.” The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has gone bust and now Forrest is flat broke, sweeping floors in a New Orleans strip joint, when a fresh opportunity to play championship football puts him back in the limelight — and in the money. But fate turns fickle again, and he’s soon out on the road selling phony encyclopedias and trying to raise his son, little Forrest, who needs his father more than ever. Forrest’s remarkable, touching, and utterly comic odyssey has just begun: in store for him is an explosive attempt at hog farming; his own dubious recipe for adding life to New Coke; an encounter with Oliver North of the Iran-Contra affair; and a chance yet again to unwittingly twist the nose of history.

My Take

I don’t know if this really counts because it’s a sequel and no books came after it, but nothing else qualified so I’m running with it. The best thing I can say about this book is that I was able to read it in a couple hours. I remember reading that Winston Groom hated the film adaptation, and I can see why. There are a LOT of differences, the major one being that Forrest himself was made to be much less mature and much more innocent than the character in this book. But unfortunately, I had the movie in mind as I read both books, and felt that the movie told a better story. (Sorry Winston Groom). This second book took the whole “what a crazy coincidence that Forrest was not only there but actually caused this iconic moment in history” to such an extreme I actually cringed several times.

 

 

 

What to Expect After You Sell Your Book

My last two posts (here and here) talked about what to expect when you’re “out on submission.” Here’s what happens after you accept an offer (congrats by the way).

1) Accept the offer and CELEBRATE

Okay, so you pick an editor and terms are agreed and you’re SO excited that you can hardly stand it because YOU’RE GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!

excited-face-3

Eeeeeee!

At this point it’s okay to tell your close friends and family, but resist the urge to shout it at every stranger who passes you by. And don’t say anything on social media yet. Stuff sometimes falls through, and publishers and agents have their own guidelines for announcing sales. Talk with your agent about this.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate! I met another writer for drinks after I got an offer but hadn’t yet signed a contract, so I didn’t tell her that the deal had closed (I probably could have, but I was being extra cautious), and she said how in the entire process of writing and getting published, she was never really sure when the “pop the cork” moment was, and I see what she means now. Your agent, editor, etc. are never going to tell you – Okay, this is when you freak out and dance and skip and squeal. You will expect to feel this moment when you’re sure, and it will never come, and it will take so long between getting an offer and actually announcing it that the rush will have faded. So YOU have to be the one to decide when to celebrate. For me, I celebrated when I got my agent, when I agreed to the book deal, and when I signed my contract, and I’m sure there will be many more celebrations along the way. I say celebrate as much as you can, in whatever way feels great for you, because this is not an easy process and not everyone can do it.

And then hold on to those celebratory feelings, because now they’re going to put together the contract, and it will be at the very least weeks but in all likelihood MONTHS before you see it.

2) Back and forth with the contract

When you get your contract, again have your agent explain anything you don’t understand. This is more extensive than just how much you’re getting paid for what. It has to do with some serious legal stuff that you should understand, like what happens if you don’t end up wanting to publish the finished product, what they are and are not allowed to change without your consent, what happens if (God forbid) your book doesn’t sell, and whether or not they have First Look rights for your next project.

Contracts are pretty standard and as a debut author you don’t have much negotiating power, but discuss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable with your agent. Your agent or the agency lawyer know the language of Legalese extremely well, and if they might pick up on some stuff that you don’t. In that case, they’ll probably go back and forth with the publishing house’s lawyer. This is normal but time consuming.

The pub date is not part of the contract. For some people this is known before you sign the contract but I didn’t know until much later.

While you wait for the contract, you’ll also be asked to do some boring tax stuff and provide biographical information about yourself. Ask your agent and their team for help on things you don’t understand, as they’re quite familiar with all this.

3) Sign the contract, more partying like it’s 1999.

Again, I’m a huge advocate of celebrating at every step in this process that moves you closer to that book being out on the shelf. There’s always going to be something else that you’re waiting for, and it’s never going to feel quite real, so just celebrate everything. This is not something that everyone in the world can and will experience, so be grateful for it!

contract

Me signing my contract. In my pajamas. With champagne. Don’t judge.

4) Wait some more

Even though you’ve signed your contract, still wait for the okay from your agent/editor to announce it to the world (social media). You’ve already told the people closest to you, because even people who have never done this before suspect that if your agent hasn’t sold your book like eight months after you’ve signed with her, it’s probably  not going to sell, and you don’t want them to think you’re a loser. Expand your circle a little bit but don’t do a whole social media blitz about it until you’re given the okay. Normally you’ll be waiting on the actual publication date so you can include all the facts, and they will want to time it so it appears in Publisher’s Marketplace around the same time.

At this point you’ll probably be waiting a bit for a formalized editorial letter for changes you will have to make (again, not copyediting, that comes after). Refer back to the last post, where I sermonize about the importance of working on your next book during this period of waiting. It’s literally the only thing that will keep you sane.

5) Announce!

Finally you get the okay – tell everyone you know and everyone you meet and everyone that scoffed when you told them you wanted to be a published author that you’re going to be published!!! Congrats to you!

Being “Out on Submission” P2: Advice to Debut Authors

Last week I started to tell you about what to expect in the magical and terrifying time between signing with an agent and (hopefully) selling your book. Read Part 1 here.

4) You Wait

So we left off on a climax – your book is out on submission with editors! A carefully curated list of editors that are sure to love your book! It’s so exciting, right?

Sure. It also makes you want to vomit and cry and eat a lot.

Steph told me she would probably have news in the first two weeks. In my mind, I doubled that. I’ve learned this is a good formula for anything publishing related. Any timeline you’re given, double or triple it and don’t expect anything until that deadline passes. (Except when you’re given deadlines. Follow those.) I am really saying that without even a hint of sarcasm or bitterness. Everything takes much longer than you would expect and/or what you are told and it’s better to just figure that into your mental calculations so you don’t go crazy. It’s a lot easier if you just accept it instead of spending your time railing against the unfairness of it all.

Luckily, I was “out on submission” two months before my wedding, so between that and working on my second book, I was actually able to pretend it wasn’t happening. If you only listen to one thing I’m saying in this entire post, let it be this: Work on something else while you’re out on submission. You’ve heard it a million times – you should be working on your next book as you query agents, and the same goes for when you’re out on submission, and all the times after you sell the book when you have down time (i.e., you’re not actively editing the book that’s coming out first). There’s a reason you’ve heard this a million times, so don’t discard this advice. You may think you couldn’t possibly concentrate on something else, but you can, and you should. You need to focus on your next project to tamp down all that “What if it doesn’t sell?” anxiety. Writing another book proves that all your eggs don’t rest in one basket, it shows agents and editors that you aren’t just a one-hit wonder, and it will stop you from checking your email 100 times an hour.Worst case: your book doesn’t sell, but then hey, you’re already working on your next so that will cushion the blow. Best case: your book sells and you still have something in the works way before all those deadlines start looming over your head and all the pressure kicks in.

Okay, sermon over.

After about three weeks my agent told me she had a couple nibbles but many passes as well, and that she had extended her search to more editors to give me a better chance. Me, being me, took this as a sign that no one was going to buy it, so I asked her not to inform me of anything (unless there was an offer) until after the wedding, which was five weeks away at that point. I didn’t want such an important day in my life to be sullied by the disappointment that my dream was not coming true. And then I went back to pretending it wasn’t happening.

5) If you’re lucky, you get an offer

Literally the day after my wedding, I got an email from Steph that with an offer from Corvus. I was still in the wedding haze and confused about what it meant to have a UK offer and not a US one, so I didn’t really know what to make of it. When I returned from my honeymoon, Steph and I talked on the phone and slowly I realized that someone was actually going to pay me money to print my book and sell it in stores, and I started to get excited. I was still a little freaked that we hadn’t gotten a US offer – after all, isn’t part of the fun of publishing the idea of walking into a store and seeing your book on display? And if my book was only going to be published in the UK, well, there’s just a much smaller chance of that happening.

Almost two months later, I got the US offer from Sourcebooks Landmark, and then the tears came, just like when Steph said she wanted to represent me. All the feels.

6) Back and forth

Once you get an offer they send the terms of the deal to your agent, who passes it along to you. This is different than a contract. The contract comes (much) later. You should just go ahead and schedule a call with your agent for them to walk you through what all this means. You’re going to need it. Looking back at it, even though Steph so patiently and thoroughly explained every term to me, I still don’t remember everything. So take notes. The offer will include, of course, the terms of your advance – how much and what the milestones are for your installments. Mine were different for the two different deals – for Sourcebooks I receive 50% after signing the contract and 50% after turning in the final draft. For Corvus it was broken into thirds – 1/3 at signing, 1/3 after turning in final draft, and 1/3 upon publication.

The deal will also have your royalty percentage on all different kinds of things beyond just the book sales (you have no idea how many different rates there will be depending on if it’s hard cover, paperback, trade, discount, audio, etc.) It can be pretty hard to keep straight.

You should talk to your agent about the publishing house and the specific editor(s) you’ll be working with. There is a reason your agent sent your work to that person, and she will already either have a relationship with her or at least more detailed knowledge about their experience and working style than you could find yourself on the internet.

This works differently for everyone, but there should also be some discussion before accepting your offer about what changes the editor wants to make. If it’s important to you to have a phone call with the editor before accepting, ask for that. I corresponded all through email and felt fine with some of the proposals for changes to the book, so I didn’t ask for this. I could tell just by her suggestions that she “got” the book and my style so I felt very comfortable saying yes. If you have multiple offers (good for you, btw, this is a pretty sweet posish), a phone conversation to see which one you clique with better is a good way of determining which you want to work with. Don’t let it be all about money. You have to work with this person on what is no less than a piece of your heart. That sounds cheesy, but come on – you’ve poured yourself into this work and it isn’t just coming from your brain.

7) ACCEPT YOUR OFFER AND CELEBRATE!

I’ll talk more about what happens next in my next post. Stay tuned!

 

Being “Out on Submission” P1: Advice to Debut Authors

Two weeks ago I announced to you all that I signed a deal with Sourcebooks Landmark as well as selling UK rights to Corvus/Atlantic, and that was a really big fucking deal, pardon my french. So I thought today I would tell you a little bit about the process that happens between getting an agent and getting a book deal (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not a sure thing, and it takes time).

1) Partying like it’s 1999

Getting an agent is not easy. See here and here where I show my work. So the first step between getting an agent and getting a book deal is to CELEBRATE that someone with actual industry knowledge and experience and connections thinks your book is worth reading, let alone worth his/her efforts to try to sell. (Note: agents work on commission. They don’t take on charity cases).

2) Preparing the MS for submission:

Maybe your book is so perfect and shiny and polished that you won’t have any work to do before submitting. If so, raise your hand and I will come to your house and pat you on the back before I punch you in the face.

Just kidding.

I’m guessing that for 100% of authors, at least a final polish won’t hurt before having editor eyes on it. In my case, my agent read my manuscript a second time  and gave me a short list of editorial notes to trim down sections where the pacing was slow, clean up areas that might be confusing to readers (since they’re not living inside my head) or where I spelled out TOO much for the readers, etc. She didn’t worry about doing a copy edit as I had already been pretty thorough about that in the eight drafts it went through prior to Stephanie even reading it. Your agent might be different, but if your MS is chock full of spelling errors and atrocious grammar, chances are you haven’t made it this far.

You should feel comfortable enough to push back on changes you don’t feel are right for the story, but remember you are just starting a relationship with your agent so be professional and respectful and try to keep emotions out of it. Your agent, like you, loves your book and wants it to be successful. And they know more than you, so you should probably just listen to them. Truth.

A note here elaborating on relationship: Always remember that this is a business relationship. He/she is not your boss (in fact since they are taking a commission on selling your work, technically it is the other way around), but remember that they have the choice to work with you or not. They are not your assistant, your mother, your spouse, or your best friend. If you are really struggling with something writing related talk to them, but they don’t need to hear about every problem you have in life. Try not to whine.

We also brainstormed new titles. (Spoiler: You’ll probably have to change your title, no matter how much you/your friends/your family loves it). Often once it gets to an editor it gets changed again, but make sure you can live with whatever you submit it as, because if the editor does really like it that’s what it will probably end up being.

3) The agent takes over

Stephanie developed a list on her own (because really, what input would I have about what editors I wanted to work with beyond “Derrrh…any of them?”) There were about 10 or so editors on the list from all different houses – from large to mid-level – many of which she has worked with or networked with before so she knows their interests and already has positive relationships with them. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before because I haven’t wanted to seem braggy, but my agent also represents Gillian Flynn, (yes, the author of mega-hit Gone Girl). So I think it’s safe to assume that editors trust her taste. If your agent is a little bit more green, you may want to do a bunch of research on your own about what you think will be a good fit.

We had a quick discussion about what name to submit under because I was engaged at the time and planning on publishing under my married name because I liked the sound of it better. We ended up submitting under Kaela Coble to keep it neater (even though I had a mini superstitious freak out about it). So this is the time to discuss a pen name with your agent if you plan on using one.

At this point you should also discuss with your agent how often you want to be updated.  Some people want to know every single comment that passes between editor and agent, including the rejections. I know that this would stress me out to no end, so I opted to trust Steph to update me “as meaningful feedback came in.” Meaning, I didn’t want to know about individual rejections, or even a “Sounds great, I’ll be reading it soon.” If someone was really expressing interest and/or if every agent rejected, then I would want to know. I highly recommend this approach unless you are the most laidback person in the universe, because being informed of every response sounds like too much of a rollercoaster to me.

My agent worked with copy from my query letter to prepare her pitch to the editors and then  sent that off to the list with my full manuscript. The days of “first five pages” and “first three chapters only” are behind you at this point – at least for now.

So now your MS is out in the world – congratulations, and I’m sorry.

Note: I just realized how very long this post is, so I’m splitting it into two. Stayed tuned for Part 2 next week!