Like usual, I sat down (or walked on my treadmill, as it were) the night before this needed to go live to write my blog post for this month. Normally not a big deal. I whip out a post and I’m done. This month, however, as I was staring at my blank Word doc, I realized what a truly boring story my road to publication is. There were no bumps, no sharp turns, no tornadoes zipping through my path.
So instead of boring you with those details, I shouted out a plea on twitter to hit me with some specific questions about the road to publication. Here’s what they tossed my way:
Did you always know you wanted to work with a publisher or did you consider self-publishing at some point?
My dream was to be in bookstores. That’s why I don’t feel like my road to publication ended when I got The Call from Carina. Yes, I was going to be published, and, yes, it was amazing, but I viewed it as a step in my journey. I wanted more. When I wrote CAGED IN WINTER, I figured if any manuscript was going to get me an agent and hopefully noticed by a big publisher, it was that one. I also knew how hot NA was doing in the self publishing market. So I set a time limit (a ridiculous time limit I wouldn’t suggest for anyone to set). I was going to query for 60 days, and if I didn’t have an offer, I was self-publishing. You read that right: SIXTY DAYS. Some agents don’t even get through their e-mail in that time.
But I think we all know how that story ended (CAGED IN WINTER will be available from Berkley this November). That isn’t to say I’ll never self publish. In fact, it’s in my long term business plan. The hybrid thing really appeals to me, and I think all three avenues—digital first small presses, traditional publishing, and self publishing—really feed off each other to produce the most optimal results.
What is it like when you go through the editing round with your editor?
This probably varies based on your editor’s style, the publishing house, what kind of time frame you’re working on, etc. I’ve worked with five different editors at three different publishing houses, and they’ve all been fairly similar. With Carina, I got content edits from my editors first. Anything they thought didn’t quite work right or needed ironing out was sent via track changes in Word. Then came copy edits—all the nit-picky things like punctuation and hyphenated words (again via track changes). And that was it. I didn’t see it again until it was out there in the world.
With Berkley, my content edits from my editor were so minimal, she tacked them on with the copyedits, and I did them both in one fell swoop. After those were complete, I received first pass pages, where you see your book how it’s going to be printed. There are page numbers, as well as line numbers, and any changes—hopefully very minimal—are to be referenced that way.
With St. Martin’s Press, I received a hard copy of my manuscript with handwritten edits. Through all my edits, this was the most foreign to me, because everything I’ve ever done with my manuscripts have been done on the computer. I’m not one to print out my MS and take a red pen to it. I do that all through track changes in Word. Because of that, I’d say those edits were the most time consuming, just because I needed to insert everything into the MS rather than just accepting the change. As I’m still knee-deep in this edit, I can’t speak to what comes next, but if history is anything to go by, I’ll get copy edits next, then first pass pages shortly thereafter.
What was your favorite/worst part?
Favorite part would be getting The Call. Whether from Carina offering my first publishing contract to my agent wanting to offer me representation to my agent (again) telling me we had offers from publishers. Getting those calls never ceases to be freakin’ amazing. Worst part? All the waiting.
I did not. Every novel I’ve written in its entirety is either out in the world, getting prepped to be out in the world, or getting edited to (hopefully) be out in the world.
What’s your take on contest vs. agent query considerations?
I don’t think there needs to be a versus. Why can’t you do both? Contests are great. They might open doors that may normally be closed (an agent who’s normally closed to submissions, for instance, taking part in the contest). They also connect you with some awesome people. And depending on the kind of contest, might help you get further in your journey. But are they the only way to get noticed? No. Even if you don’t make it through to a contest, query agents. Query the agents who were part of the contest (who are open to subs, of course). Because while contests are great, they’re also very subjective. It takes hitting the right person on the right day to fall in love with your 250 words/first chapter/query/whatever.
In August last year, I submitted CAGED IN WINTER for PitMad. I didn’t get chosen. Two weeks later, I received my first of four offers from agents, and CiW sold to Berkley roughly a month after that. So if you don’t get selected for a contest, that doesn’t mean your MS doesn’t stand up to what agents/publishers are looking for. Keep the faith. Keep pushing. Keep moving forward.
Did you get a lot of rejections?
Remember how I said my road wasn’t very bumpy? Well, it wasn’t. I’ve been very lucky on my path to publication. I sent my initial query (PLUS ONE) to three digital first publishers, and was rejected by two of them. For CAGED IN WINTER, I sent my query to twenty-three agents. Of those who responded (because not all did), ten agents requested fulls or partials. I received two rejections as well as two R&Rs from those who had read pages. I received five form rejections, five passes from those who couldn’t/didn’t want to read once my manuscript had an offer of representation, and ended up with four offers from agents.
How much did your CPs help & how much of their advice did you use?
My CP and beta readers were/are instrumental in my writing and editing, especially of CAGED IN WINTER. I’ve been lucky enough to work with all of mine for years and on multiple projects, so we’ve sort of worked our way into a good groove. I’m also comfortable enough in my writing and the story I’ve told that I know when to take feedback and implement it and when to smile and nod, all the while keeping the story as it is. (Case in point: one of the R&Rs I received for CiW didn’t sit well with me, so I didn’t do anything with it. Even if it meant an agent offer at the end of the line, it didn’t feel right for my story.) As with anything, you need to take advice with a grain of salt. Reading is subjective, and everyone is going to have different life experiences that play into how they react to a certain plot point or situation. In the end, you have to do what’s best for your story. All that said, I don’t think there’s ever been a time where I haven’t taken at least one piece of advice a CP or beta has given and made a change to the story.
Did you have help with your query?
My lovely CP looked it over and helped me polish it. I also had help from a couple other author friends, and I did my research online. I looked at other successful queries. I looked at blogs. I dug around and did homework on the agents. I personalized whenever I could, but only authentically.
How many books did you write before you got signed?
I’ll answer this in two parts, because it depends on what your definition of “got signed” is. I wrote two-thirds of one novel before I received my first publishing contract for PLUS ONE (PO being the first original manuscript I’d completed). Before I signed with my agent, however, I finished that two-thirds of a manuscript, but nearly immediately tackled CiW, which I queried a month after I wrote it. Then I got busy writing two other books after that. I just (as in last week) pulled out the first MS and plan to do some major tweaking of it before moving forward. First I’ve gotta write this book that’s due in November, though.
Are pants optional?
Do monkeys like bananas?