Archive for the ‘Getting Published’ Category
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
The “R” word you say? Yep, let’s talk about REVISIONS.
Let’s talk about revisions, baby. Let’s talk about crossing T’s. Let’s talk about all the grammar and the syntax that may be. Let’s talk about revisions…
Yeah, not sure that works with that song (totally dating myself here and now I have that tune in my head), but you get my drift.
Revisions are a key part of any writer’s journey. Unless you’re some kind of alien superstar, you’re probably going to have more than one draft of your novel. You’re going to make changes that are structural, character or plot driven, grammatical, and/or any manner of change that can make your manuscript better. These revisions can come from your mom, your critique partners, your agent (& your agent’s assistant) or your editor (& your editor’s assistant), from the point you start writing to after you’ve sold your book.
For purposes of this post, I’m talking about revisions from an agent or editor.
So you’ve sold your book or gotten an agent. Now you wait for the revisions to come because you know they’re coming. You busy yourself writing and doing other things, and then something pops up in your inbox. Your heart starts pounding as you see your agent’s/editor’s name and the dreaded “REVISIONS” or any of its cousins (edits, line edits, suggestions, changes, recommendations) in the subject line. Opening up the email, you see several pages of notes about what you should change and why … wide sweeping paragraphs detailing everything you didn’t do well. You break out in an instant cold sweat of panic.
Breathe, it’s going to be ok. And it’s not a highlight of things you didn’t do, they are recommendations for things you can do better from someone who has experience selling books. Remember this — a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold.
So breathe, read the notes and step away from your computer for a day or so. Sleep on it (not your computer, the notes). The next morning, get ready to work. Open up the file and save it in Word. Go through the notes line by line and insert your comments in a different color. Agree or disagree, but support why you are doing so. You can certainly defend keeping a character in or a scene in, but you have to pony up the explanation as to why it should stay. This should take you a little while to do because you’re basically responding to your agent/editor’s comments. Wait a couple hours, then re-read what you have written. Make any changes.
Now open your manuscript and save it as a different file. Always SAVE AS and label your version clearly (I tend to use a date and revision sequence). Some people like to start at the beginning and work their way through the revisions. The thing that works for me is CHUNKING. Seriously, chunking is something you learn in first grade, which means putting information into smaller pieces so you can see it more clearly. So basically with a similar approach, I break the notes into manageable chunks. Then I go, piece by piece, and address the appropriate area in the manuscript — if it’s character-based, I focus on that one character from start to finish so I can see him/her as a whole in the novel. If it’s plot based, I focus specifically on that. If it’s pacing, then I address that area.
After I’ve completed all the revisions (and about thirty start to finish re-reads), then I re-read the manuscript one last time, keeping an eye out for pacing, flow and making sure all the revised elements have been smoothly incorporated. You don’t want your book to be clunky or contrived because you’re trying to fix/do too many things. Pick and choose what works. Once I’m done, I submit to my agent/editor and wait to see if they have any further comments. If they do, then I apply the same thought-process and action. If they don’t have any comments, we move on to line or copy editing, which is a different animal that I’ll address another time.
In the meantime, good luck with your revisions. And remember that with a good editor, your book will probably be better for it. Respect their knowledge and experience — take advantage of it. They are in your corner and want your book to sell! That said, if you believe in something and want to fight to keep it in or take it out, then don’t be afraid to have a discussion with your agent/editor. They’ll likely back you up. After all, it’s your book and there are going to be some things worth fighting for. Just remember to use wisdom (my mom always tells me this and I’m still trying to work out what it means half the time), and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re one step closer to seeing your amazing book on the shelf!
Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
So I haven’t written a post in a while on my ongoing publishing series on getting an agent, publisher or publicist. Click on the FAQ tab and scroll down to the “ABOUT YOU” section for more information on previous posts. Click on any one of the links for more detail. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can always mail me via the “mail icon” on this site with any questions. I’m happy to help where I can.
So as part of this series, I think it’s time to outline the value of having a Literary Agent as opposed to not having one. Many people may tell you that with the changing landscape of publishing, securing an agent isn’t necessary. After all, you can submit to many flourishing independent small presses on your own or during their open submission periods, and you can self-publish in a snap (both in POD and digital e-publishing formats). I went a long time without an agent (while I was between my second and third). However I did have a literary lawyer who negotiated my contracts so I wasn’t technically in no-man’s land.
While going solo may certainly be a viable option, here’s why I think you will be better off with an agent. Simply put, to get a deal with the mythical “Big Six” publisher (or big five, or whatever it is now), you need an agent. Most of these publisher imprints will not accept submissions that aren’t represented by an agent … which means that your chance of getting in the door is nonexistent. And don’t even think about “making up” an agency because they can check this easily, and of course that impacts your credibility and trustworthiness.
That said, getting an agent is not all unicorns and rainbows. I’m on my third agent, but hopefully third time’s the charm. Finding an agent who clicks with your vision both professionally and personally isn’t easy. On the one hand you have to look for the sales track record–that’s Business 101. You need a savvy, successful, gutsy agent who can SELL your book, and one who has established relationships with editors. On the other hand, you need to feel like there’s a connection with this person–after all you’re going to be working day in and day out with them. You need to click. Compatibility is a factor in all your other relationships so why should this one be any different? What your gut says matters and you should definitely take it into consideration. So now that I’ve said all that, what does a literary agent actually do?
Here are the top 10 reasons why I think a Literary Agent is worth their salt. Again, this is based on my personal experience so different avenues/options may work for other people. This is also stuff that MY agent does for me, which again may be different from other agents and other author/agent relationships.
1) An agent has relationships with editors at major publishing houses. This means your agent can get you in the door and knows what these editors are looking for. These relationships are critical for agents to be successful, and in turn, for you to be successful. In addition, your agent can pair you with an editor who will hopefully be a great fit for you and your book.
2) An agent knows the industry and the market. This means that your agent can tell you if your New Adult manuscript may not be the right fit for a particular publisher or whether a specific imprint doesn’t accept books in a certain genre.
3) An agent is your advocate. They represent you and go to bat for you if necessary. Mine is incredibly passionate and sometimes I think she loves my books and believes in me more than I do, which is very humbling. Bottom line, you need someone who believes in you and your work, and who is enthusiastic about working with you.
4) An agent negotiates your contracts with your publisher. I’m very lucky that my agent is a lawyer by trade and since she knows industry benchmarks like rights reversion or option clauses or percentage payments inside out, I know she’s going to make sure the terms are fair.
5) An agent handles subsidiary rights, foreign rights, media rights, film rights, etc. These are areas that earn you more money and gain you more exposure as an author. You want an agent actively selling you in these markets/areas.
6) An agent oversees the publishing process. They make sure that your publisher meets agreed-upon goals/objectives and keep you on track. They make sure you get paid on time and/or address any issues that may come up during the term of the agreement.
7) An agent provides pre-submission suggestions to improve your work. They can edit and critique your proposal or your manuscript to get them in ship-shape for submission (minor editing, structural suggestions, etc.)
8) An agent negotiates mulitple offers (oh, happy day!) and ensures that you get the best deal/terms (advance, royalties, etc.)
9) An agent serves as your advisor. Who wouldn’t want someone in their corner providing free career advice? What if I want to write in a different genre? Or try something insanely different? I love being able to bounce ideas off my agent. And I know she’ll tell me the truth, even if it may not be what I want to hear. A story about a teen who transforms into a cockroach by night and finds love over a piece of moldy cheese? Um, that’s a no.
10) An agent provides moral support. An agent doesn’t necessarily have to do this but I can’t tell you the number of times my agent has talked me off a ledge or gotten me to focus on specific priorities. That’s just a bonus … a much-needed, totally under-appreciated, amazing bonus. So if you have that with your agent, treasure it. And make sure to tell your agent “thank you” once in a while.
That’s it. My two-cents on why an agent matters. On top of these things, my agent is also responsive (I can contact her at any time for anything … freak-outs included), and she has a quirky sense of humor, which I love. She gets me and she’s selling my work. All in all, win WIN. If you have a fabulous agent who does other things I haven’t included, be sure to let me know in the comments. At the end of the day, agents take care of all the stuff that makes it possible to focus on what we as writers do best … WRITE. So what’s not to like?
Saturday, January 26th, 2013
So it just keeps getting better! I’ve been bursting at the seams to share this news because it is made of awesome. Like seriously, we’re talking sunshine and rainbow sparkles and rivers of chocolate AWESOME.
Here’s the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace:
“Amalie Howard’s WATERFELL, in which an alien shape-shifting princess hides in plain sight among humans and trains to save her species, living in the depths of the Earth’s oceans for millennia, from the enemy who murdered her family and wants to rule in her place, to Natashya Wilson at Harlequin Teen, in a two-book deal, for publication in Winter 2014, by Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency (World).”
Insert image of Amalie flailing here.
Thanks to my awesomesauce ninja agent, Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency, I couldn’t be happier to now be part of the Harlequin TEEN family, and am so proud that WATERFELL will be one of its titles in Winter 2014!!
Saturday, January 5th, 2013
I’ve been DYING to reveal my secret news!! And since it has now been announced as of yesterday in Publishers Marketplace, I guess it’s official!
“Seventeen Magazine Summer Beach Read author Amalie Howard’s ALPHA GODDESS, with a unique take on the Hindu Myth Ramayana, the epic love story of Rama and Sita, to Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press, for publication in Winter 2014, by Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency (World).”
I am so excited and cannot wait to work with Skyhorse Publishing/Sky Pony Press!
Friday, July 13th, 2012
In Anne Lamott‘s words, your crappy first draft is done, pretty much what you’ve verbally vomited onto paper/screen/napkin, whatever. So what’s next?
The next thing you do is pat yourself on the back. Well done! You’ve written an entire novel. WOOHOO! Now comes the hard part. Just kidding, but not really. I say that it’s hard because self-editing is tough for most and getting criticism from your beta-readers can be even more so. Take a deep breath … your novel will be better for it even if it’s worse than pounding nails into your skull. Ok, it’s not that bad … more like thumb tacks.
Keep in mind that these are MY steps and what works for me. Other authors and experts on writing may have other ideas.
Step One: Self Editing. This step is important because you’ll go back through your draft with a fine-toothed comb, looking for punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors. It’s a two-fold step because you’re also looking for any structural inconsistencies like unresolved plot points or loose ends, or even thin character development that you may need to fix in the next round. I like to keep a notebook handy to jot these down. If you are new to the phenomenon of self-editing, I recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Step Two: Self Editing, part 2. This is the next time you will read your novel from beginning to end with your incorporated changes from Step One, part 1. This time, with an extra fine-toothed comb to see if you missed anything the first time around. You are also reading for flow and pacing as well as keeping an eye on structure/plot, etc. If you find yourself being jarred, then fix. The experience to the reader should be uninterrupted and smooth. If a sentence doesn’t work, eliminate. Remember, less can be more.
Step Three: Critique Group. If you have a critique group, terrific. If not, a great place to find one is your local SCBWI chapter. You can also ask any trusted friends or family to be your first readers but keep in mind that they are usually biased because they love you (which is TOTALLY fine but you may want some more objective advice). My mom is one of my beta readers but she is also a linguist and literature professor. If you have trusted colleagues who are writers, you can also ask them if they are willing. Keep in mind that they could be busy with their projects/deadlines so make sure it’s someone you know well.
Step Four: Feedback. Hopefully you’ve asked a couple people to read your manuscript and they’ve all come back to you with some feedback. Remember, you ASKED them to do this, so keep an open mind. They are there to help you get your novel into great shape. If there is something you disagree with, discuss it with them. See where they are coming from. Don’t get mad and blow a relationship into oblivion. This is no time to be sensitive. Unless they are secretly someone who wants you to fail (totally possible), then they want to help. Take their suggestions on board. If a similar change comes up from multiple people, chances are, they are right and you need to edit your work. But if you’re on the fence about one thing from one person, go with your gut. It’s YOUR book and opinions are subjective.
Step Five: Editing. Now you need to combine all of the feedback and edit any changes that make sense into your novel. The good thing is another set of eyes will also pick up any grammatical things you may have missed on your own go-around, so fix those. For the larger structural things, go down your notebook list and see what makes sense for YOU and YOUR book.
The next couple steps are dependent on the amount of changes you made. If you had large structural changes based on a discussion with your critique partners, then you need to have them re-read based on your edits to make sure you achieved your goal. If the changes were minor, then read your manuscript one last time, and start working on your QUERY LETTER!
Sunday, June 5th, 2011
You may or may not have seen the WSJ article that had Twitter buzzing last night and today, nor the responses from thousands of readers and writers alike offering their heartfelt thoughts and reasons on why YA fiction saves, trending third in the US under the #YAsaves hash tag. You can read the article here:- Darkness too Visible by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
While I weighed in myself on Twitter last night and this morning as I was unable to log in to my WSJ online account, I feel compelled to write a little more than the 140 Twitter character limit, especially to explain my thoughts more clearly in this whole debate.
First of all, what’s wrong with vampires? I’m a YA author AND a parent, and I’ve written a novel about witches and vampires (Bloodspell). It’s not full of gratuitous blood and gore and sex and foul language. The characters in my novel encounter obstacles similar to those teens face today – with or without fangs and powers, struggling with issues like fitting in while staying true to themselves, falling in love for the first time, bullying, losing people close to them and finding the strength to fight for what they believe in. The core message of my novel is that being different sucks sometimes, but it’s not always going to suck—one day, you’re going to be psyched you’re the exception and not the rule. So what if it’s gift-wrapped in an urban fantasy “paranormal” cloak? If teens are reading it and getting that message, I’m thrilled!
Second, I am in awe of writers like Jackie Morse Kessler (author of RAGE) and Cheryl Rainfield (author of SCARS), both targeted in the article, and many others who are courageous enough to put themselves and their stories out there with love and compassion. I know that these books must have been excruciating for them to write but they did it, and so many people, so many TEENAGE READERS, will be better for it. The WSJ article claims that “Darkness [is] too Visible” … well it’s only by making darkness visible that you can bring light into it. And when you bring darkness into the light, it can’t hide. Nor can feelings of shame or unworthiness or ugliness. You just have HOPE and LOVE. What other kind of message can you hope for if it’s not one of optimism in a world fraught with darkness?
Third, Amy Freeman, the mother cited in the article claims that she could not find a book to give as a gift to her thirteen-year-old daughter because there was “nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” Mrs. Freeman, I kinda think that maybe you were in the wrong section. There are many many books on the market that aren’t “dark,” which are still in bookstores, like Anne of Green Gables (one of my favorites) by L.M. Montgomery or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Forewarned is forearmed – I’d advise doing the research online before you go into a bookstore and then asking for specific books that you’ve researched. You can find great lists of “wholesome” teen reads from the popular Goodreads or ALA.org websites.
Fourth, when I was a teen myself, I can remember the exact book that changed my life – it was “The Best Little Girl in the World” by Steven Levenkron, a disturbing book about teenage anorexia. When my best friend died in an unexpected car accident, my life flipped onto itself. I stopped eating … and started to diet compulsively, feeling that weight was the only thing I could control. My life veered into the danger zone as the months slipped by. Finally, when a psychiatrist in France (where I was living at the time), threatened to hospitalize me, I remembered that book. I remembered what I’d read about this little girl walking laps in the hospital while connected to an IV tube force-feeding her liquids just so she could burn calories, and I decided … I KNEW that I didn’t want to be her. When I got back to the US, I voluntarily checked myself into therapy to get the help I needed. All because of one little book.
Lastly, my parents were both teachers, and let me read anything I could get my hands on. In fact, at sixteen, I stole a copy of one of Erica Jong’s novel from my mother’s library and was completely horrified. Let’s just say, I didn’t do that again … way too adult for me at that age! My point is, my parents let me use my own judgment on the books I read. And to tell you the honest truth, reading books like “Go Ask Alice” made me freaking terrified to experiment with drugs. Books about teen pregnancies made me a little glad that I didn’t have a boyfriend to worry about sex. Books about date-rape allowed me to not put myself in compromising situations. The point is – I LEARNED valuable messages from these books … whether it was Anne Rice or V.C. Andrews or C.S. Lewis or Bram Stoker or Archie Comics!
All I can say in response to the last line of the article, that publishers only seek “to bulldoze coarseness or misery into [...] children’s lives,” is that I’d rather have some kind of idea of what’s really out there in the world via YA fiction, than to be sheltered and coddled, and then be thrust into the real world and expected to thrive. Books prepare young minds. And as I’ve said before, teens are sophisticated creatures. Trust me, they know that they won’t want to drink blood just because they’ve read a book about vampires, or they’re not going to self-injure because they’ve read a book about someone’s disorder and it’s as the author suggested “the vogue” thing to do. As a parent, you’d be lucky if they learn something from it, and become equipped with the tools to recognize any of these many pitfalls in life (in themselves, in loved ones, and in friends). All it does is make them better people and more socially conscious. At the end of the day, what’s wrong with that?
Thursday, April 7th, 2011
BookExpo America (BEA) will be held at the Javits center in NYC from May 23-26. I will be attending the second annual Book Blogger Convention on Friday May 27, and will be participating in the fabulous Author Speed Dating event. Should be an awesome, fun and informative time! Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
So I really have no excuse for my lack of finishing synopses for my fav vampire television shows last week, but I’ve been working my head off with finishing some final edits for BLOODSPELL as well as doing some writing on the new book. It’s been a busy time, and the blog has been in the back of my mind the whole time, but sometimes you know how it is, sleep just wins out.
The layout for BLOODSPELL looks amazing! I absolutely cannot wait for this book to come out later this May. I think it’s really going to be something special. Hopefully, the final layout stuff will be completed soon, and the publisher will be at the electronic proof stage, which is the last step before the Advanced Review Copies go out.
On the new novel, which is more sci-fi than fantasy, I went to see TRON the other day (which was pretty good), and I got really inspired by some of the technology … which seemed to get the juices flowing on the writing front. I’m not complaining one bit! Right now, it’s just about getting the story out onto the pages. I find that working in sections of ten to twelve pages seems to work well for me. So far, I’m about a third of the way in which is exciting, and now I just have to keep that momentum up and get that story done. I’ll post more updates as I get further along.
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Neat article in the LA Times about the future of the publishing industry. It’s an interesting (and eye-opening) take on the role of traditional publishers and literary agents. Check it out.
Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink
I’m starting to see more and more of this as mainstream multi-published authors separate from their publishing houses and strike out on their own. Of course, most of them already have an established print fan base, so it’s not a big stretch for them to do this as opposed to a first-timer. They don’t have much to lose, and everything to gain, whereas a debut author still has to pound the proverbial pavement to build his/her readership to get sales.
That said, I’m being proved wrong more often as several first-time authors go out the hard way on their own, making the most of the internet/social media revolution to boost sales, and knock it out of the park. Those are few and far between, but I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that as the economics and ease start to take over. The landscape is changing, and the rules are evolving to fit the new landscape.
While I can appreciate the role of the “gatekeepers” as the ones who sort out the good manuscripts from the bad, what’s to say that readers can’t do that themselves? If a product has fifty thousand “likes,” I’m probably going to check it out. Just like I’m going to check out a book on Amazon with a five star review. Same with books, same with music, same with movies. Following Indie-music and Indie-films traditions, Indie-books seem to be the next logical step. It’s only natural, after all.
Sunday, January 16th, 2011
I know that I haven’t written anything lately in my how-to series on finding and choosing a literary agent. I don’t have much to add if you’ve followed most of the advice I’ve posted in prior iterations, but there’s a couple key things I didn’t note before. I can’t emphasize the importance of this advice, especially because it is something that I’ve learned through my own hard experience. This applies to selecting a literary agent or a public relations agent, or anyone who will have anything to do with your book.
When selecting an agent, especially for a first-time author (and especially if you have more than one choice), be sure to carefully look at the agent’s track record IN THE GENRE THAT YOU ARE IN. In other words, if you are a Young Adult author, make sure they have experience and success in selling Young Adult. The biggest mistake you can make is going with an agent who has zero experience in selling your genre. It doesn’t matter if they are Dan Brown‘s agent or have 1000 non-fiction books under their belt. The editors who buy Young Adult material are different from the ones who buy adult books. The key message here is that you want an agent who already has trusted contacts in the field that you are in, and whether those contacts are publishing houses or media contacts doesn’t matter. This applies across the board because at the end of the day, people buy from people they trust and ones that they have worked with before. This is Sales 101 in any industry.
Next, make sure to do a list of pros and cons, and be objective. Remember, this is a sales game, NOT a popularity contest. It doesn’t matter if you get warm fuzzies when you speak to Mr. Prospective Agent…they HAVE to be able to sell your book, not coddle you. This should not be an emotional decision, it is a business decision. Don’t get sold a bill of goods that you will be their “entry into the steam-punk market” – if they don’t have the track record, reconsider your options. If you have a choice, go with the shark…the one who will sell your book. Don’t worry if you feel you’re just going to be a “number” with that agent or if they don’t make you feel giddy – that’s your emotional ego talking. You don’t even have to like them, because if they can sell your book, that is the only thing that matters. When you get your feet wet with a book sale or two under your belt with Ms. Shark Agent, then you can choose an agent who gives you the warm fuzzies, because you will now have your own sales track record (which publishers can see).
So when selecting a literary agent or a publicity agent, consider these messages:- 1) Select an agent who has a successful sales track record, specifically in your genre; 2) Make sure they love your book (you can’t sell something you don’t believe in); 3) DO NOT make this an emotional decision – it is a business decision. They have to be able to SELL your book whether it’s to a publisher or to people who will buy your book; 4) Make sure you are on the same page with respect to your goals as an author and for your book; 5) Do not be afraid to ask for references from other clients – but be aware that those clients, if current, are also competing for “time” from your prospective agent and may not be as amenable as they could be (I had one reference author tell me that she couldn’t talk to me because she didn’t know who I was and what I would do with any information she gave me. Um, ok). Alternatively, be prepared to take any overly effusive references with a grain of salt. Seek facts, not favors.
Lastly, do not underestimate the value of gut instinct. However, if you’re like me and you’re not sure whether that feeling is really constipation or something else, then consider the facts before you as clearly and objectively as possible. And know that any decision you make will be the right one, no matter what happens.