Monday, August 30, 2010

Three (Bad) Emotions You Will Experience as an Author

One of the nice things about spending time with authors who are at different stages of their careers is being able to share experiences. Some things (like movies, books, and even meals to some extent) are even better when it’s a surprise. But as a writer, it can be downright annoying to expect things to be one way and discover that you have no clue how things really are. I remember years ago when I first met Sariah over the phone. As we talked about sales numbers, I told her that I wished I’d known coming in what realistic sales numbers were. I’m not sure how completely she bought into what I was telling her at the time. She had some pretty lofty goals. I think having big goals is great. But you also need to have someone tell you what the rest of the market is doing, or your goals are nothing more than wishes.

New writers seem to ask this same question more than any other. What can I expect? So today, I thought I’d share three negative emotions you WILL experience and how to deal with them. Next week I’ll share four positive emotions.

1) Impatience.

I sat on a panel last weekend with a bunch of other published children’s authors. When we were asked what we dislike most about the industry, almost universally people said how long everything takes. For example, let’s say you come up with an amazing book idea today. If you’re a really fast writer, you might have a first draft done in three months. Then take another three months to rewrite. Next comes submitting. Let’s say eight weeks to get a request for a partial. Another eight to twelve weeks for a full. And at least another three months for an offer of representation. So far it’s been let’s say fourteen months—if everything works like a charm—just to get an agent.

Next the agent is probably going to give you edits. Another two months. The agent starts submitting. Another two months. Maybe more, maybe less. You get a deal. Now there is a very good chance that you will wait at least 1½ to 2 years for your book to come out. More if it’s a picture book.

From idea to book on shelf—three years. If everything works like a charm. And all during that time, you are waiting on pins and needles for the next step. Will she like my query letter? Will he like my full? Will they make an offer? When will I get my edits? When will I hear back? What if they hate my changes? What if the editor moves to a new publisher?

Now you understand why published authors can’t help smiling a little when a new writer comes up and says, “I’m writing a book because my husband lost his job, or we want to buy a new car or I’m sick of working in a shoe store.” There’s nothing wrong with these reasons at all. In fact most authors who are honest will tell you that we all dream of writing for a living. But we’re talking about three years. That’s a long time. And don’t get started on how little most published authors earn.

Now let me be the first to say things CAN happen quicker. But for most authors they happen even slower. It might not be until your third book that you get an agent. Your fifth that you find a publisher. And remember that panel of published authors? They have books out and they’re still impatient. You WILL experience impatience. How do you deal with it?

In my experience there are three ways of dealing with impatience. The first way is by cutting out the middle man. Tired of waiting for an agent? Self-publish. Tired of waiting for the time a traditional publisher takes to get out a new book? Create an e-book. This is certainly an option. As we discussed last week, more and more people are taking this route. I will say that unless you already have an audience though, this is not a shorter or quicker route to publishing success. You are still going to need to put in years of work to build up enough of a following to make the effort pay off. If you’ve already got a following or just want to see your work available to the public. Go for it.

The second response is to give up. Three years is a long time to wait, so why try? The thing is, three years from now you will still be three years older. You can either be three years closer to your dream, or you can be right where you are today. Which leads me to the solution I recommend.

Stay busy. Work on the next project. You know that whole thing about the watched pot never boiling? That’s true with publishing as well. You never know what’s going to work. It may be the book you wrote a year ago finding a publisher. It may be the book you’ll write a year from now. The agent you get may not sell this book, but she may sell the next one. The horror novel I have coming out next year was actually written and agented more than six years ago.

If you sit watching the mailbox or waiting for the phone to ring, you are killing yourself one day at a time. Remember the three year’s older thing? If it’s going to take you that long, why not have four novels ready and waiting by the time your first one makes it? You’re still going to be impatient, but at least you can be productive.

2) Envy

Travel and food writer, Kim Wright, wrote a great post on authors and envy here. I won’t repeat what she says, because she does it so well. But two things in particular caught my eye. One was that it feels as uncomfortable to be envied as it does to envy someone else. There’s nothing harder than telling people you know are as talented or more than you are about a success they deserve every bit as much as you do. Unless it’s having someone you’re close to succeed while you’re still waiting to. Neither of these feels good. But if you write long enough you will experience both sides.

The second thing is her point about how we envy the most those who are closest to our talent level. You don’t envy the huge national best-selling author. You envy the person in your critique group, or your writing league, or your friends.

I had serious envy just in the last couple of days while reading the ARC of Ally Condie’s soon to be released “Matched.” Her writing is so elegant, so beautiful, that I seriously would have given almost anything for that talent.

So how do you deal with envy? Exactly the way Kim says. Use it to motivate you. Remind yourself that if they can do it so can you. I tell people that I inspire other writers all the time. They say, if he can publish a book anyone can. And it’s true. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was thirty seven. I didn’t sell the first novel I got an agent with. I’ve never won an award or hit a best-sellers list. But what I do have going for me is persistence and a string desire to improve. If you have those two things, you will succeed.

3) Depression

I’m not talking about the clinical illness—although that can come along for the ride as well. I’m talking about the moment where you just want to throw it all away. It’s when you just feel like you don’t have what it takes, and you’re sure quitting is the only way to go. Interestingly enough this moment almost always comes along from someone on the outside. An agent, and editor, another writer, a bad review. Someone tells us we aren’t good, and we believe them. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve heard we ARE good. The one negative is what breaks the camel’s back.

If you are a writer, you are going to have to deal with depression. It could be tied to envy. Maybe you are bummed out because another writer had some great success. Maybe you just realized your great idea had been used somewhere else. Maybe you just got your hundredth rejection. It’s perfectly okay to feel depressed. Just remember that like Kim says about feeling envy, you’re in good company. Anyone who strives to succeed in the arts will experience depression.

The key is to not let it last too long, and to come up with a course of action. Someone said your writing sucks? Find out if it does. If so, improve it. Take a class. Read a book on writing. Fix what’s broken. If this project is hopeless, set it aside and start on something new. If your writing doesn’t suck, then remind yourself as Rob pointed out in a recent e-mail that Pride and Prejudice has one star reviews on Goodreads, and something called Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year got a five star review.

Either a book with interesting facts about bowel movements is better than P&P, or different people have different tastes. My good friend Ally may have an amazing book, but does it have demons who strip naked and camouflage themselves to slip past a circle of hell hounds? I think not. The best cure for depression is to remind yourself that things are not as bad as you think they are at the moment, and that absolutely nothing is stopping you from starting on something amazing today.

So, yeah, you still want to be an author? Even though I promise you that you will experience all of the above emotions, and many just as bad? Excellent. Because we need authors who are willing to fight through adversity, and your prose will be that much stronger for having made it through the fire. Next week, the good parts about being an author.

(And BTW, Christy, I owe you something special for becoming my 100th follower!)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is the Bookstore Extinct?

Last week, I was asked by a reader (writer?) to comment on a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, “Get ready for the bookstore massacre.” Sounds pretty scary, huh? I can just imagine floors running with ink, pages fluttering in the wind blowing through broken windows, dismembered novels crying for help.

Before I respond, let me start by saying that I have a little personal experience with the internet taking over traditional, brick and mortar stores. A little over ten years ago, I was the CEO of a two-hundred person internet company. The technology we created allowed internet users to compare features for a product (say a TV) by all kinds of cool metrics, price shop, and order, all on-line. Not that revolutionary now, but at the time it was pretty cutting edge.

One afternoon, I met with the CEO of a company called eToys. It was an interesting experience. There was a six foot tall Etch-a-Sketch in the lobby, employees rode scooters around the halls, and a puppet show was taking place in a conference room. I later used some of these elements in my first published novel, Cutting Edge. eToys was a giant at the time. They had recently gone public and were valued in the billions. They were poised to blow the doors off of every other toy store in the US. In fact Toys-R-Us, was so frightened of them that they offered eToys the chance to be the on-line site for Toys-R-Us. And eToys turned them down. (So they had to settle for some upstart book reseller called Amazon.)

Have you heard of eToys? Have you bought a toy from eToys lately? If you did, you bought a product from the company that bought the domain for dirt cheap, because the original eToys didn’t stay in business long enough to let any of its employees even cash out their stocks. It was going to drive Toys-R-Us into the ground because we were all going to buy our toys on-line. Why wouldn’t we? They are cheaper. There is no sales tax. They can carry a bigger inventory. Very smart, very savvy investors—including the kind of people that write for publications like WSJ—were sure your local toy store was going out of business. To state the obvious, they were wrong.

I mention this story to make a point. Just because a lot of smart people say something is true, doesn’t make it true. In the past twenty years, I’ve seen more scary headline than I can list. We were all heading into another ice age back when I got married (the world, not my wife and I personally!) When my now married daughter was a baby, Meryl Streep came on 60 Minutes and urged to me to pour all my apple juice down the sink because I was poisoning my baby with a pesticide called Alar. You can’t watch a promo for the nightly news with hearing at least one “dire” warning a week.

I’m not saying that there aren’t environmental concerns. I’m not saying that I want a ton of pesticides on my food, or that Alar was 100% scare. What I am saying is that while journalists are paid to make informed decisions, they are also paid to get readers/viewers. Unfortunately headlines like, “Bookstores likely to sell fewer books,” don’t draw the same kind of attention as, “Get ready for the bookstore massacre.”

If the past has proven anything, it’s that trying to forecast—even five or ten years in advance—is a crap shoot at best. You can look at trends. You can make informed decisions (or uninformed decisions.) You can do polls. You can make graphs. But you cannot say with any degree of certainty that X is going to lead to Y. So let’s look at some of the things being forecast and see what’s likely, what’s possible, and what’s out and out hyperbole.

1) In the next five years everyone will be buying their books electronically. Imagine a world in which your book is smaller, lighter, and more portable than a traditional hardback. You’d snap it right up, wouldn’t you? You’d never buy another hardback again. Um, yeah, it’s called the paperback, and it’s been out long enough for the Beatles to make a song about it. In fact isn’t that basically what the penny dreadfuls were shooting for?

The point people seem to miss when they talk about paper books disappearing, is that hardbacks are collected. People like them. While it’s true that many more people would buy paperbacks if they came out at the same time as the hardback, it’s also true that hardbacks would have disappeared a long time if no one bought them. Publishers make hardbacks because they can make more money on them and people buy them. Reality is that the world is changing. Twenty years ago, nearly everyone subscribed to a newspaper and about a dozen magazines. Now most people read their news on-line. Especially with younger generations, the idea of reading a hard copy of something that is available on-line is far less appealing.

E-book sales are skyrocketing, and with the dropping price of readers, it’s unlikely that trend will slow for quite some time. However, just because e-book reader sales keep going up, it doesn’t mean books are going away. Don’t believe me? Electronic documentation has been available to office workers for over a decade, and yet paper usage is higher than ever. I think it’s very likely that e-books could take a huge bite out of paperback sales. But, as long as people still like hardbacks, I don’t see them going away any time soon.

2) Bookstores are going the way of the way of the dinosaur. If I am wrong about point 1, then I think point 2, could happen. One thing the internet did prove analysts right about is that if you can create something that can only be done (or can be done exponentially better) on the internet, it can succeed. Think about E-Bay. It’s essentially a world-wide garage sale, a model that only works on the internet. Think Amazon, no single store could carry that kind of inventory at that kind of discount. But . . . other models that looked just as promising failed miserably. How many of you order your groceries on-line and have them delivered to your door? It was available, and actually cheaper, and much more convenient, than having to go to the store. But people didn’t use it.

The thing is, just because something is cheaper or even more convenient, does not mean everyone will use it, as long as there is another option. Predicting the demise of brick and mortar doesn’t take into account the people shop for a variety of reasons. The fun of browsing. Stopping for a book after going out to lunch. Getting a gift. Getting out of the freaking house and seeing something other than a computer screen. Lots of people like to go to stores and shop. If it wasn’t for the interaction—the fun—of shopping, Indie bookstores would have gone out of business a long time ago. It’s not all about price and size.

The other thing being left out of this equation is that many books don’t easily fit into the e-book model. Picture books, coffee table books, kids books. Yeah, I know you can out all of these on e-books, but I don’t believe for an instant that families are going to buy e-book readers for every kid in the family. Or that flipping through the pages of Hungry Green Monster will be the same, even on an I-Pad. Yes, I know, e-readers can add even more stuff. Videos, music, animation. All of that has been available on computers for years. I have a really cute Little Critter book on the computer that I’ve had since my big kids were little. But I still didn’t replace their picture books with a laptop.

It’s entirely possible that the look of bookstores may change. You may download an electronic book while you browse paper books. At the BYU bookstore I recently saw a print on demand machine. Want a paper book we don’t stock? Great we’ll print it for you. But I don’t see bookstores disappearing the way some people are forecasting.

3) E-books will make publishers and agents obsolete. Of all the predictions, this is the one that proves to me prognosticators don’t have a clue. Who knew that all we needed was mass distribution to make publishers obsolete? It actually makes perfect sense if all your publisher does is distribute your book. But if you really believe that a publisher and a distributor are the same thing, you don’t know the industry at all. What does a publisher do?

Well, let’s start with quality. Go to Amazon. Download their free reader app. Then randomly pick a few of the free, or even 99 cent self-published books. I’m not talking about the stuff that has gone out of copyright. That actually had an editor. I’m talking about Jimbob Farklecker, who tried to publish his book, failed, and self-published it in e-book format. Or even better, just browse the internet for novels people are publishing on their blogs, or web-sites, or forums. I’m not saying Bob’s book is bad—although it is. What I’m saying is that even if Jimbob’s story is great, it still needs a professional editor. It still needs direction. And, yes, it still needs a net to weed out all the crap, and take what’s good.

Now, I know all you self-published authors are screaming at me. Your book is good. You either don’t need a professional editor or hired one before you published your books. You’ll also remind me of all the great authors who started out self-publishing, or even moved from traditional publishing to e-books. Richard Paul Evans, Christopher Paolini, JA Konrath. And those are the norm right? Or even a majority? A decent-sized minority? No, using these examples to say that publishers are going to be obsolete is like saying that every traditionally published author will make millions of dollars because just look at Meyer, King, Grisham, etc.

The fact of the matter is that the huge majority of self-published books are not up to the quality of traditionally published books. Even when the authors are good, they don’t get the necessary feedback and editing required to make a really good read. And this is a shame because all the crap out there puts such a stain on the group as a whole that the good books become hit with the same paint brush. I know that a traditionally published book had to make it through probably an agent, an editor, and a committee, before hitting the streets. That doesn’t guarantee a good book, but would you take your car to be fixed by a guy that had no certifications or professional training? And it’s only going to get worse as more people realize how easily they can “publish” their book. If anything, I think there is going to be so much garbage spewed into e-book stores that people are going to be scared of downloading anything self-published, unless it’s gotten great reviews from people they trust or they know the author already.

And that’s just quality. There is so much more a publisher does. For a really good read, check out this article.

There are many more things being suggested. Oh, no, all your e-books are going to be filled with ads! Read this for a reality check of what is happening, what might happen, and what is unlikely to happen. Soon authors won’t be able to make any money because books will be copied freely back and forth! Yep, look at all those poor rock stars begging on the streets now because of MP3s. Agents are going away! Publishers are gone! Bookstores will be empty by Christmas! We’ll all be driving flying cars by 2010! Oh , wait looks like we missed that one.

I’m not saying things won’t change. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. What I am saying is that ten years from now, things will have changed in a way that almost no one predicted. And many of the things people did predict will be wrong. In the mean time, I’m writing the best book I can. Getting the best agent. Hoping for a big publisher with a great editor. And looking forward to heading down to the bookstore this weekend to see what’s new. But hey, that’s just me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Demon Spawn Part 2

Last week I wrote about how I came up with the idea for Demon Spawn, my latest YA WIP (Young Adult Work in Progress for the acronym impaired). I won’t recap, since if you are reading this and haven’t read that, it’s easy enough to scroll down. The plan was to submit the finished product to my agent last week. Unfortunately life stepped in the way, and I was called on a week-long business trip to the east coast. That slowed me down a little. The good news is that I’m >< this close to being done. One more chapter and an epilogue. There were so many parts I was worried about, and every one of them has ended up even better than I hoped. That is definitely not always the case. In fact, many times I have to make significant changes to parts I planned well in advance because they just don’t fly.

So the current plan is to have everything submitted by Wednesday afternoon. Good news since I’ve got a fun but crazy weekend.

Thursday night, my sister and author, Deanne Blackhurst and I will be speaking to the Tooele, UT chapter of the League of Utah Writers. It’s at the Purple Cow. You can call the store for more information or directions. It’s free too! Free, I say!

Friday, I will be signing books in the BYU bookstore from 11-1.

Saturday, I will be at Writing for Charity in Sandy, Utah. It’s a great event. You get a free critique from a children’s book author, an author panel, genre Q&A, lunch with authors, auctions, raffles, and all kinds of other really cool stuff. Plus all the money goes to buy books for underprivileged Utah kids. See more about the event here.

I left off last week with having signed a contract with Michael Bourret of Dystel and Godrich. I to have such an amazing agent, but wondered if I should have finished the whole manuscript first. Normally the answer to that would be a resounding, “Yes!” Even with eight books under my belt, there were still agents who wouldn’t sign me until they saw the whole ms.

Michael assured me that I’d made the right move. He felt the story idea was very strong, but was concerned about how I would execute on it. Not the writing—he’d read enough of my stuff before to know I could write—but the plotting. He asked me to send him the entire book, outlined chapter by chapter. I’m actually not a big outliner, but I felt like I knew the story well enough to pull it off.

In my mind, I envisioned Demon Spawn as kind of a mix between Uglies and Hunger Games. I know neither of those takes place in Hell, or even has paranormal characters. But it wasn’t those things so much as the plots. DS was an action-oriented love story in my mind, that focused on issues like how we judge others and discrimination. The seraphs look down on the demons who look down on the damned humes, just the way pretties look down on uglies or the capital looks down on its colonies. Like Hunger Games, I envisioned much of the story to be focused on the traveling between Heaven and Hell. Instead of fighting which each other, the group must fight the dangers in the outer circles. That’s where much of the action took place. That’s where the love triangle really built up. And that’s what I was in a rush to get to.

This is where a wise agent comes in. His first advice was, slow down. Unlike Uglies or Hunger Games, this story takes place in a world the reader is unfamiliar with. Both of the previous two YA novels take place in a dystopian future, but their worlds are not so different from ours. But Hell. What is Hell like? What do the Demons think of it? What do they do? Where do they go? How does it look, smell, feel, taste? Michael convinced me that before we could enjoy a story about humans, demons, and angels escaping from Hell, the world of Hell had to be strongly established.

That meant taking the fifty pages I’d written and turning it into almost three times that many. We don’t actually even leave Hell until halfway through the book. At first I admit I didn’t like the idea. It seemed to slow things way too much down. But when I was forced to beef up the beginning, it magically did other things. It filled out the characters. It built up the suspense. It established the world. Basically it did everything you need to make a book not just a story, but an event. (I know that sounds like bragging, but when I compare what I have now to what I had then, it’s like going from a short story to a novel.)

The good news was that it made my novel MUCH better. The bad news was that I didn’t even have the outlined approved until nearly March. I’d taken on a new job. I’d written another novel (The Fourth Nephite, which is on store shelves—at least in Utah) and I’d finished a second one. (A Time to Die) In fact, by the time I got done going back and forth on the outline, I felt like I’d lost at least a little of my previous energy for the story. For about a month I told myself I needed to write, but all I could do was dabble.

I had to re-immerse myself in the story. One thing I’ve learned (for me at least) is that if you “tell” your story too much, writing it is not as fun. I felt like in going over and over the outline, I’d “told” my story a little too often. One thing that really helped me get my energy back was to get a couple of BETA readers who knew nothing about DS to read what I’d written so far. Hearing their excitement helped get the flame burning again. Once I got back into the story, it clipped right along.

I also allowed myself the freedom of letting the charters really pull things where they wanted. Cinder, who had basically been a sidekick at first, became a teenage demon spawn who is probably too smart and sexy for her own good. She understands guys and can get them to do whatever she wants. But inside there’s a lot of insecurity that comes out when things are on the line. It’s not until she nearly loses her life that she realizes how selfish she is. When she puts her brains, insight, and maybe still looks a little, toward something positive she surprises even herself. She still makes me laugh more than any other character in the book. But I really care about her now. I worry for her, and cheer when she succeeds.

So here we are. The book will be done tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. It’s coming in at just over 100,000 words which means I need to trim a couple thousand. YA editors don’t like breaking 100,000k if your initials aren’t JKR or SM. That’s okay. Tightening isn’t too bad and it usually makes the story better anyway. I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from my BETA readers. I’ll send it to my agent this week, wait for changes, and hopefully start shopping it next month.
I’ll take a week or two off and then start working on the 3rd Farworld book and the second 4th Nephite book. I’d expected to have more time for 4th, but DB likes the early reviews on book one enough that they’d like to release book 2 in May, which means an end of November deadline. Yikes. Back to writing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Demon Spawn

First of all, thanks so much for the great feedback on what makes you drool for a next book. I agree that characters are so key. I really want to relate to them and care about what they will do and what will happen to them. As I promised, my next few posts will be about how my current WIP came to be. The first two weeks, I’ll focus on coming up with the idea and submitting. After that, what I learned as I crafted the story.

Sometime this week I am sending my newest project, Demon Spawn, to my agent for final edits before we shop it (in September?) This has actually been quite a ride—going from an idea that appeared almost full blown in my head one night, to a concept, an outline, a manuscript, and hopefully a novel. I thought some of you might interested in how the process works.

Last summer was a frustrating time for me. Farworld had been put on hold (it’s off hold now), I was struggling with The Fourth Nephite an Mormon time travel I had promised to write for Deseret Book, and I was years past deadline on my next Shandra Covington mystery, A Time to Die (which is now on store shelves.)

I had recently had lunch with my friend James Dashner, and he mentioned a term I was not familiar with, “high concept.” I have seen a few definitions for high concept, but the one I like best is from Carol Benedict at “The Writing Place.”

“An idea that is so compelling that it will appeal to a large group of people based solely on a pitch of a few words or a couple of sentences.

The appeal of a “high concept” story is in its premise. It should be something people can relate to, but must feel like a new idea. Often it is a story line that’s been told before, but has a twist or hook that gives it a strong commercial appeal. Simply being unique doesn’t qualify; some things are unique but wouldn’t interest a large audience.”

This got me thinking about stories with a new twist that would appeal to a large group. I’d recently read several YA novels that I felt fit that mold including Uglies, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Hunger Games. I’d always been interested in a book that took place in Hell. My original idea had been a Dresden File type book about a hit man who is killed and sent to Hell, but given a chance to come back to life. In my mind, I pictured him riding this train to Hell, which looked like a rundown urban city.

That was a fun idea, and one I still like, but not a YA series. While lying in bed last summer, I again pictured the train arriving at a station in Hell. A message rings out, Welcome to Hell, all ye damned and demented. Please keep moving. Welcome to Hell, all ye damned and demented. Please keep moving . . .

But this time I found myself viewing the scene through the eyes of the demons waiting to meet the damned humans. What were they like? What did they think of humans sent to Hell? What did they think of Hell? What if they wanted to escape? Soon I had an angel trapped in Hell, an old scarred human with his tongue cut out, his translator—a tough woman (possibly leading a group of underground humans?), and three teenage demon spawns.

In a matter of minutes, the plot fell into place with a twist that blew me away. And talk about high concept. All kinds of issues. Judgment. Prejudice. Loyalty. Trust. An awesome love triangle. Adventure, mystery, everything from imps to hell hounds. Devils, efreets, incubi, succubi. And it had to be told female first person from the view of a teenage female demon.

Over the next couple of months, I wrote fifty pages, and a synopsis. I sent this package out to several agents. Here was the basic pitch.

Blaze, a sixteen year old demon spawn, thinks her biggest worries this year will be fitting in at academy and getting used to guarding the humes damned to a lifetime of servitude in Hell. That’s before her close friend, Jazz, a third year, is involved in an attempted hijacking of the J-trans that brings new humes from Judgment every month, and an injured seraph shows up in the dorm room of Blaze and her best friend, Cinder, asking for help. In order to clear Jazz’s name, the three friends agree to help the Seraph return to his home before the atmosphere of Hell kills him. They are joined by a mute hume who seems to have memories of the outer circles of Hell and what dangers lie on the way to the mountains of Judgment, and the woman who translates for him.

On the journey, Blaze and the Seraph become attracted to each other—to the point that he lowers his blinding aura enough that they can touch and even kiss. When they finally manage to reach the city Blaze must decide whether to stay in Hell with her friends or live a life of hiding with the man she thinks she loves. But all of that is about to be turned on its head when she learns the real truth about Judgment, Hell, and the identity of the Seraphs.

(The story has changed since then, but much of it has stayed the same)

I first started sending out queries in mid October. Over the next month I received several rejections, but I also got more than one request for the full fifty pages. Finally, in mid November, I received my first offer of representation. Let me stop for a minute here, and say that receiving an OOR from an agent you admire is one of the most thrilling experiences in the world. You’ve dreamed about it forever, and when a great agent says they like your work enough to take you on as a client, it’s incredible. But . . . .

This is still a business. You have to find the best agent for you and your work. After receiving my first offer, I contacted all of the agents who had requested partials and let them know I would be making a decision within a week. This was a key time for me. What I really wanted was to shop what I had and get a deal in place by the first of the year. But I’d learned from past experiences that you need an agent who a) loves your work, b) represents the kind of story you are selling, and c) knows the industry inside and out. There are lots of agents who can do the job, but you have to find the one who can do the best job.

What made this decision the hardest was that I would have LOVED to work with any of the four agents that offered to take me on. Ultimately, though, one stood out. Michael Bourret at Dystel and Godrich seemed really in touch with what was going on. He knew what publishers were looking for, how things were selling (or not selling), and he felt very strongly about working with me to make sure my story was something that would appeal to a lot of editors. I signed with him the end of November. My goal was to have Demon Spawn written and out by January.

Next week, why that didn’t happen and why I am so glad that it didn’t.

(I’m really hoping this will be useful to other authors out there. Over the next couple of months, I’ll keep you updated on how things go. So if you have questions, shout out!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

What Makes You Drool?

I am on a family vacation and trying to finish the last five chapters of a novel. Not quite the great combination it seems like it would be. “Sorry kids, Sorcerer’s Apprentice is out, while I finish this romance scene.”

Actually it’s much more like, “Well, I guess I can always write tomorrow.”

Anyway, neither leaves much time for a blog post. But I am not going to flake out here. Instead I want to ask you a question I’ve been giving a lot of thought to. My hope is that Demon Spawn is the kind of novel people will really want to read the second book of. No huge cliff hanger here, but a lot of story left to be told. One of those, “Wow so now that X has happened, what will characters A, B, and C do? And what’s going to happen to E & F?”

That’s how I feel about the next Hunger Games book (which actually has no ARCs. Sorry, Sariah.) I’m both excited and nervous. Excited because there seems to be a lot of story left to tell, and nervous because I hope it will live up to my expectations. Unlike, a lot of readers, I felt like book two was less than I hoped. It felt to me like both a placeholder for book 3 and a retread of book 1. Not that I didn’t like it. I just had higher hopes.

So, boys and girls, my question for the day is: What about a book/series makes you just salivate for the next book? Examples are highly encouraged.