Archive for the 'Being a pro' Category

05
Nov
10

Polite self-promotion

First off (and fitting, considering the meat of this post), my second novel, The Spirit Rebellion is now officially launched. Hooray! I have a post up on my blog with some reviews and gory details about how the book came into being (spoiler: it almost didn’t), so check it out if you like that sort of thing! Book 3, The Spirit Eater, launches December 1, so if you’re waiting on the series, you won’t be waiting long. Orbit is generous like that :D. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can see all my books and read sample chapters here).

So, the Spirit Thief has been officially out for a little over a month now. Truth be told, it’s been a hard 30 days for me. I do realize how ungrateful I sound when say that, and please know the difficulty had nothing to do with the wonderful readers who’ve bought my book or the wonderful people who helped me get it out there. As always, my problems start and end only with me.

The month has been difficult because I’ve been struggling to overcome a fear I didn’t know I had: a fear of self promotion. If you had asked me (and several people did) a few months ago “are you looking forward to promoting your book?” I would have (and did) answered an enthusiastic “of course!”  After all, I wrote the damn thing. Of course I think it is wonderful and amazing and worthy of reading, else I wouldn’t have missed playing all that Warcraft to write it (and rewrite it and query it and rewrite it again). Why wouldn’t I want to shout to the world how awesome I think my book is? After all, I’ve never exactly been a shy, retiring flower.

And yet, for a forward, confident person, I’ve suddenly become tongue tied on the subject of my own work. For example, when The Spirit Thief launched, I went to the bookstore to see my book on the shelf. It wasn’t there, so I asked the stock guy and, after checking the computers, he said it was in the back. He offered to go get me one, but I declined (I didn’t want to take one away from my home store where I’d told people it was going to be) and then… I left. I left without saying anything, and the whole time I’m screaming at myself,  “Rachel, tell them you’re the author, ask to see the manager, see if you can set up a signing, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK.”  But I just couldn’t, and I didn’t know why.

This rocked my world on a pretty fundamental level. I’d just failed at the most basic new author task, and I couldn’t tell you why. But then, after lots of emo-face thinking, I figured it out. In some ways, I’m a very southern girl. I was raised to think that bragging was the height of all rudeness (and, hence, evil). That a truly worthy deed will gain notice on its own. Self promotion is, in a sense, a little like bragging. You’re telling people about your accomplishments. And there lay the problem. If I’d told that book seller “hey, I’m the author, want to get together and do something promotional?”  I don’t think I would have been out of line, but I would have been calling attention to the fact that I’ve written a bo0k and asking for special treatment because of that, which set off all kinds of deeply rooted warning bells.

So I find myself in a dilemma. If I promote my book, I feel like I’m being rude. If I don’t promote my book, I increase my chances of sinking into oblivion and ruining my career. That can not happen, and so it’s time to get over myself. Gotta put on my big girl panties and put myself out there. But, you know, politely.

So here’s my question for you: what kind of book promotions caught your eye? What did you most enjoy? Web ads? Blog posts? Contests? Let me know in the comments (if you don’t mind, that is).

09
Sep
10

The Pregnancy of Elephants (annotated)

If anyone ever tells you that the process of publishing a book is like an elephant pregnancy, you tell them they’re dead wrong. It’s actually like FIVE elephant pregnancies back to back.[1]

As my debut novel THE NATIVE STAR just hit bookstore shelves a little over a week ago, I thought it might be fun to go back through my old LiveJournal posts to remind myself of the path it traveled to publication. Having done so, I find that “fun” is probably not quite the word to use. “Harrowing” is maybe a better one. And “instructive” is the best of all. I’m recording this for every writer laboring toward that first sale, that first publication—that first whatever—who has ever thought, “I must be crazy, I must be doing something wrong, it shouldn’t be taking this long!!”

Well I’m here to tell you, it takes a long time to make a baby elephant. And it takes even LONGER to make five of ’em. So sit back, relax, and try not to cringe in horror as we hit the instant (hah!) replay button:

I first mentioned the book on my blog on 1/3/2002. As are most writers who are enthralled with a shiny new project, I was full of starry-eyed optimism:

So this is my first post of 2002. Whoopee. I may be somewhat less attentive to my LJ over the coming months because I am writing quite a lot on the new novel (a lite magical realism romp set in 1876, for those keeping score) and have been spending every second of spare time on that instead of on LJ.

I spent most of January and February on an epic writing binge:

1/15/2002:

Every spare moment has been spent writing on the novel. I’m up to 130 pages (woo hoo!)

1/23/2002:

300 pages, double spaced, 12pt courier, 1 inch margins. 50,000 words. Still lost in my alternate version of the 19th Century.

Indeed, I was writing at such a fast and furious pace, I took a whole week off from work to write on the book:

Monday, Feb. 5 – 282 pages (55,588 words)
Monday, Feb. 11 – 351 pages (71,757 words)
A very productive week. It’s all about the words, baby.

By the end of February (2/21/2002) I was trudging laboriously toward the finish line:

Now I’m in the hard slogging.

I have to write the last few scenes where all the darling little furbelows and fripperies that I’ve left dangling throughout the book have to be gathered up and tied together. I have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to do it, which automatically puts me ahead of the game (especially compared to some of my other novelistic forays, where I came to Chapter 20 and said … “well, shit, NOW what happens?”) , but it’s like executing a complicated french braid—the hair is slippery and there’s just so many pieces of it wisping around. Once I get all that done (oh, Lord) then comes the big polish. It’s all very rough right now, and is full of little memos to myself along the lines of “insert brilliant description of the wharves of San Francisco in 1876 here.”

Urgh.

Must … finish …

The exact date I finished the novel is not recorded, but I expect it was sometime in March. So, keep that fun fact in your mind. The first draft of the novel was completed in March 2002. Once the first draft was finished, I sent it around to the writers’ groups I was in at the time and got lots of good feedback on it. I revised and rewrote. Sometime in 2003 I deemed it complete enough to start submitting. I sent the first few chapters to the late Chris Bunch who gave me some ideas for fixing up the prologue to make it more exciting. I took his advice (of course I did!) and he liked my revisions enough to ask his editor if I could send the book to her.

7/16/2003:

Bunch got me an in with Jennifer Heddle [of Roc.] I am to send her the MS of “Native Star” asap. Marked “Requested Materials”, no less! This is enormous! I can actually send something to an editor at a major house marked “Requested Materials” and not have it be a baldfaced lie! (not that I’ve ever REALLY done that, but I’m sure every writer has THOUGHT of it …) Now we play the waiting game.

The book sat at Roc for a few months, until finally I heard something back on 1/20/2004:

Anyway, the news is that last week, Jennifer Heddle contacted me and told me that while she wasn’t into Old West stuff, she’d passed the book onto another editor who’s going to give it a look. An editor to editor pass … that’s gotta be good.[2]

While I was waiting on Roc, I wasn’t letting any moss grow on this rolling stone. I was out looking for agents.

4/22/2004:

Hey, I got a letter from Lucienne Diver at the Spectrum Literary Agency today! She’s willing to take a look at my series package. Which is cool. Except now I have to actually put it together. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Book One is solid as a rock, nothing left to do there but sell it.[3] I’ve got half of Book 2 written, but more importantly, I’ve got a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline for it. But she wants an outline for the rest of the series, and that’s going to take a little work. I’ve got a broad, sketchy idea of what I want to do in Books 3-6, but since this is an “alternate history” series, and since it advances through time and reinterprets actual historical events in the light of the existence of magic, I have to actually think through what the Russian Revolution would have been like if one threw magic into the mix. Or the Cold War. Or the McCarthy trials. Or the advertising scene in New York the 1950s. It’s going to be hard to write good solid outlines for these books without putting in the research. So I guess I’ll just have to keep it all very high level and figure out the details later.

But those concerns aside, this is pretty encouraging. She’s the first agent I sent a query to, I’ve heard so many good things about her, and she works for an agency which is well respected.

Now we play the package-preparing game. Then we play the going-to-the-post-office game. Then we play the waiting game.

(Aw, the waiting game *sucks*. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!)[4]

But the road to becoming agented, like the course of true love, never does run smooth. A couple of months later on 6/10/2004:

I also got a reply back from Spectrum Literary Agency today.

Lucienne Diver said that she “love[s] the world” I’ve created. She says the novel is “different, fresh, and well-written.”

“Clearly, you’re a very talented writer,” the letter goes on to say. So far, so good.

Then it goes on to drop the proverbial hammer:

“That said, the narrative didn’t seem to have quite the drive, fast pacing and overarching menace that would keep the pages turning late into the night.”

Sigh.

Well, at least the blow was blunted by the good news from F &SF yesterday. And she did recommend that I send it to Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Agency, which I will now proceed to do (it’s always nice to have a name to drop when you’re making contact – “so & so suggested I send this to you”.)[5]

While history (or at least my blog) does not record when Jennifer Jackson rejected it, I seem to recall that it was a pretty generic form rejection. Which left me feeling like I was way farther away from my goal than ever. But I kept at it. One of the agents I’d targeted was Ginger Clark, then at Writers’ House. After licking my no-love-from-Jennifer wounds for a while, I sent it along to Ginger. I got my first rejection from her in June of 2005, with an invitation to look at the book again if I wanted to do a rewrite. This sent me into stormy turmoils of newbie author despair on 6/25/2005:

Ginger Clark likes the way I write, but not what I’ve written. But it’s not all bad news. She’s invited me to revise and resubmit. I hate revising. TNS is so ingrained in my head now that I don’t even know how I’d begin to revise it. It’s like, I’ve been over it so many times, it would be like trying to revise “The Cat in The Hat.” Any change just wouldn’t feel right. So what the hell do you do? I think I’ll write something new and just scrap the fucking book. No, I won’t really do that.[6]

Ultimately, I located a pair of big-girl panties and executed the rewrites as she requested. By the end of the year, a revision was on her desk. After a few months considering the rewrite, she rejected me again, suggesting that I tighten some stuff up in the last half of the book, and again offering to look at it again after additional changes. I had another private hissy fit. But I took comfort in the fact that I seemed to be getting closer. Then she asked for a synopsis of Book 2 (now titled THE HIDDEN GODDESS), which I sent. And all the while, I continued to freak out. Now, however, the subject of my freak-outs had moved on to nonsensical shit like whether people would still be interested in reading historical fantasy WAY IN THE INCONCEIVABLY DISTANT FUTURE, LIKE SAY IN 2010!

11/16/2007:

Sigh. Trying to stay positive and focused … I sent Ginger Clark the synopsis for book 2 a week ago (Friday?) and she said she’d read it over the weekend and get back to me on Tuesday or Wednesday … well, Tuesday and Wednesday passed, and now it’s Friday, and I don’t got no news to take to Orycon, and … I’m just chewing my nails. I’ve been waiting so long already! It’s wait wait wait. I want Ginger to take me as a client, and I want her to sell my goddamn book, because it’s going to be a year to two years before I hold a fucking book in my hand and if she doesn’t fucking hurry up, the time will have passed and people will be sick of historical fantasy …

AAAAAAAA!

Deep breath. Deep breath. Keep the crazy on the inside.

And I did keep the crazy on the inside, people. To my credit. It’s only now that I’m sharing it with the world.

In December of 2007, I traveled to NYC on business and met with Ginger. And, lo and behold … SHE OFFERED TO REPRESENT ME! It was a singularly sweet moment, but not without it’s annoying caveats:

I went over to see Ginger Clark, and she said, “I’d like to represent you.” Which was pretty exciting, but then she said “And I want you to cut 5k out of The Native Star” which was slightly less exciting, but I can cut it all out of the front. I know I can. Chapter 1 is 7k words … I can get it down to 5. That’s 2k right there. She also wants some taken out of the train ride. I just have to look for fat (even fat I like) and get rid of it.

Sigh.

I promised her a revision by February. I’ll probably get it to her sooner than that, but at least I have 2 months. I wanted to avoid the holidays.

In February, I sent the revisions to Ginger as promised (I am nothing if not punctual.) She took a couple of months to read them, and by May of 2008 she deemed the book was ready to send out. Finally, things really started moving.

Jun. 9th, 2008:

Today is a red letter day. I received word from my agent that Juliet Ulman at Bantam has made an offer on my novels — she wants to buy them both. We haven’t heard back from any of the other editors yet. If we do, it will go to some kind of auction situation. If we don’t, we still have an awesome offer on the table.

This is the day I’ve been waiting for since … 1990? 1989? Since I had a novel to sell? And it feels good. But like revenge, it doesn’t really change anything. Life goes on, onward and upward.

But what would a red-letter day be without a bit of hand-wringing from me?

I have been waiting for this day for years and years. And yet here it is, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten to the mountaintop, it feels like I’ve just seen how much more there is to climb. It’s not a discouraging feeling, precisely. But I thought I’d be more thrilled than this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not *unthrilled* … it’s just that this didn’t hit me all at once in a blast, it was one email, then another, then some banter … and it all built up into a book deal. And then it was like, “OK, we’re done, we have a deal” and I’m like … oh! Well! Good!

6/28/2008:

I just got off the phone with Juliet, and she is just as cool as everyone says she is. I am so excited to be working with her! (I mean, look at the awesome writers she works with: Barth Anderson, Tim Pratt, Eliot Fintushel, Greg Van Eekhout … the list goes on and on.) She gave me a quick rundown of what to expect from the publishing process. The first book will probably be coming out in Spring ’10, which means we won’t actually get started working until early ’09. Which seems an eternity now, but I have lots of stuff to work on between now and then, and I’m sure it will go faster than I expect.[7]

I signed the book contracts on Sept. 8, 2008. Six years after I completed the first draft of the book. And yet, the journey was by no means over. It would still be 2 more years before the first book came out. On November 20, 2008, I got the bad news that Juliet Ulman (who had acquired my book) had been the unfortunate victim of a round of layoffs. But the good news was that I had a new editor, Anne Groell. But the bad news was that she was going on maternity leave and wouldn’t be able to get started on my book until she got back. So I sat down to play the waiting game again. By this time I was getting pretty good at it.

The rest hardly bears reporting … there were copyedits and pageproofs, wranglings about the title for Book 2, but finally we got to the place where we are today. The novel ultimately hit the shelves just a couple of “seasons” later than originally predicted (the original pub date was Spring ’10, I ended up with a Fall ’10 release … considering all we went through, not too shabby.) I have copies that I can hold in my hand and love and hug and call George. It wasn’t fast, that’s for sure.

But like any elephant momma can tell you, it was certainly worth the wait.


#


[1]]The point being, of course, that elephant pregnancies take upwards of two years to come to term. Those poor, majestic beasts!
[2]]It wasn’t. The editor she passed it along never got back to me!
[3]]Ahem. As you’ll see, not everyone (*coughGINGERCLARKcough*) agreed with my assessment. And looking back, I am so goddamn glad of that. THE NATIVE STAR in 2004 was a far less accomplished product than the book that ended up being published in 2010. It’s called gestation for a reason, people!
[4]Yes, I was sick of the waiting game all the way back in 2004. Which just goes to show, you’d better learn to like the waiting game.
[5] It may be “nice” to have a name to drop, but it didn’t help much in this case.
[6] Once again proving the benefits of psychotic persistence!
[7] It didn’t, actually.

12
Aug
10

Lesson Learned–a Convention story

(I’m buried under deadlines, so this is x-posted. By the way, before I get started, I currently have a contest on my personal blog and one of the things the winner will receive is a sampler from Ace/Roc. Check out the details HERE. )

While I’ve attended conferences and conventions for nearly a decade, this year marked the change from attendee to guest, from audience member to panelist. In the years and years I sat on the other side of the table, listening intently to the writers on the panel, I picked up on a lot of things I didn’t realize I was learning at the time, and which the authors probably didn’t know they were teaching. As I sat there, hoping to learn some secret of craft or business that would help me reach that golden goal of getting published, I was also subconsciously learning what I, as an audience member, responded to. That information became invaluable this year.

For instance, I know that when I’m in the audience, listening to a authors I’m not familiar with, I’m not going to remember their names. I’m just not. Panels usually start with an introduction, but until I hear them speak and some part of my brain determines what they say is interesting, their name just doesn’t stick. Of course, by that point, the intros have already passed. Sure there are usually nameplates on the table, but the rooms are often large and I’m terrible about wearing my glasses, so I can’t read them. And even if I do remember their name throughout the panel or even during the entire convention, I’m terrible with names and that information doesn’t always stick in my head. But, if they have their books on display on the table throughout the panel, I’ll associate that funny/insightful/charming/whatever personality with that book. When I see the cover later in the store, I’ll remember. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up just because I liked the author. Even if I don’t pick up the book while at the con, I tend to buy it afterward. So, when I walked in my first panel, I walked in with copies of my books to display on the table.

From being in the audience, I also know that I personally respond well to bookmarks. A nice looking bookmark is a great way to help me remember the author’s name after the conference. So, I bring bookmarks to my panels and invite people to come up and take them after the panel is over.

Basic manners are a must all the time, in my opinion, but especially when you’re on a panel. Another writing friend and I were talking about a convention we both attended earlier this year. During one of the panels (I was in the audience for this particular panel) one of the panelist said “you’re wrong and I think you’re and idiot” to another panelist (in a few more words, but that was the gist). The result included a lot of shocked faces both on the other panelists and in the audience, and a couple nervous giggles. That was months ago, but when we discussed it recently, I asked my friend if she’d ever read that particular author’s work. Her answer: No. A friendly debate and differing views on a panel can be educational and entertaining, but ugliness leaves a bad taste in the mouth (even if you’re right).

This one is probably obvious from either side of the table, but: no one likes a panel hog. I’ve been to panels where one panelist (typically the least interesting/knowledgeable) would not shut up. A question would be asked and they would jump in, rambling on and on–often not even about the right topic. (Occasionally it isn’t even a panelist, but an audience member who either thinks s/he should be on the panel or that they are having a private conversation with the panelists.) This puts the moderator and the other panelists in an awkward position because there is often not a good way to quiet the loud mouth without coming off as rude (see the previous point). It’s not fun for the panelists, and it’s frustrating for the audience, so when I’m on a panel, despite how nervous I am, I try not to ramble (unlike when I’m blogging, clearly. LOL)

So these are all things which can be learned from the audience side of the table, and when I showed up to my first panel, I felt pretty prepared. Oh, I still ran into my share of cringe-worthy newbie mistakes–like the fact I didn’t consider preparing a short verbal introduction before I sat behind the table for the first time and my brain totally went blank when they handed me the mic. I got the whole, “I’m Kalayna Price and write Urban Fantasy” part but then the moderator asked me to tell everyone a little about my books. ” . . . they are uh, about vampires, and shapeshifters, and uh . . . magic . . . ?” Major fail. But I eventually ironed that out and I can now describe both of my series in under three breaths.

Once my first con passed and I survived, I thought I had this whole panelist thing figured out. I was able to talk about my books without making a complete fool of myself, I was talking to readers, making friends with other writers, and generally having fun. No problem. Then something new happened.

Someone asked for my business card.

Business card? I’m a writer. I didn’t have business cards. I had bookmarks for released and upcoming books. I had thought that was all I needed. After all, I’d never once, in all my years attending cons, come home with an author’s business card.

But while authors are at the cons to interact with readers and they speak on panels about books, publishing, and craft, they are also at cons to network. They network with other writers, with editors, with agents, with organizers of other events, and with a plethora of other people. Part of me knew that, but I never really thought it all the way through. So, at the last con I attended, I ended up scrawling my email address on the back of my bookmarks–not the most professional approach. Needless to say, several of the people who asked for my card never contacted me.

Kalayna's Business CardsLive and learn. I now have business cards. They came in today, just in time for Dragon*con. They are simple, as you can see, just my name, email, and website along with my most recent book cover. I have no idea if anyone will ask for my card, but now I have one. I’m sharing this experience with you, because this con guest must should have wasn’t obvious from the otherside of the table. You never know what you don’t know until you’re faced with a new situation.

Any tips or tricks you’d like to share (that you’ve picked up on either side of the table)? Is there anything you’ve seen a panelist do that was particularly helpful/successful? How about something you really wish a panelist would never, ever do?

Anyone going to Dragon*Con?

31
Jul
10

Stranger in a strange land

If there’s one thing in life I hate, it’s feeling like a tourist. Before traveling anywhere, I will go to great lengths to research my destination, making myself a detailed folder containing transportation schedules, step-by-step directions to meeting locations, the hours of operation of each and every sight I wish to see. There’s more to this behavior than simple garden variety control-freakism. Namely, I don’t want to be seen as a tourist because being a tourist is dangerous. Being a tourist makes you vulnerable.

With the launch of my debut novel exactly a month away, I am feeling very vulnerable these days. Like one itty-bitty slipup, one small failure of planning, one saunter down the wrong dark alley, and everything could go horribly, horribly wrong. I’m aware that these emotions are not unusual for a debut author. And I’m also aware (painfully so) that my ability to control for a desired outcome is largely illusory. Sure, active author participation in a book’s promotion is hugely helpful. But lots of books with it have failed—and lots of books without it have succeeded. Fine.

But still, there’s still that nagging feeling of danger. Like a stranger in a strange land, a debut novelist suffers from one major disadvantage: you don’t know what you don’t know. Or, rather: you don’t know what the most important thing you don’t know is. Consider those two concepts side by side. You’ll see that there’s a big difference. Not knowing what you don’t know means showing up at a museum and finding it closed. Not knowing what the most important thing you don’t know is finding the museum closed AND that it’s shutting down for good and you’ll never be able to visit it again. Two pieces of information you didn’t have—and yet one has way more weight, more gravity, more consequence.

And that’s exactly what you have no way of judging when you’re fumbling your way through your first book promotion. The relative importance of specific unknowns. It’s easy enough to busy your feverish little brain with questions like: Have I contacted enough reviewers? Have I scheduled enough appearances? Have I come up with enough goodies? But the really scary, hard questions that will keep you awake at night are: What have I missed? What are the things that I didn’t even think to consider? What were the unknown unknowns, and how important was it that I know them?

This way, as you can see, lies madness.

To feel my way through this sometimes-terrifying virtual jungle, I find myself relying on the same tactics that tourists have for time immemorial. I watch the locals and ape them as respectfully as possible. I watch the other tourists, stealing their clever tricks and noting their trip-ups. I ask questions—but with the full knowledge that most of the answers are going to be contradictory, unhelpful, or downright wrong 99% of the time.

(In fact, it’s the answers from the people who sound most sure that are the ones that are most likely to be wrong. On a recent trip to NYC, I was trying to find a PATH station. One woman I asked told me with absolute, hand-on-the-bible certainty that I had to get into a cab and head directly to Penn Station. I did exactly as she was told, but was set straight by the cab driver, who got me to where I needed to be. So maybe the moral of this story is, only trust the cab drivers.)

Finally, when I’m really, really lost—I head for the U.S. Embassy. Unfortunately, I can’t quite figure out what the metaphorical equivalent of the U.S. Embassy is to a debut novelist. I know for a fact there ain’t no Marines coming with a helicopter to airlift me out. So here’s hoping I don’t get any more lost than I already am.

So, what do you think? What are your best hints for this starry-eyed tourist on her first trip to Debutville? What are the unknown unknowns that are most important to know? And don’t tell me “a prescription for lithium,” my husband has been trying that on me for weeks with no success.

11
May
10

supporting your writers!

So this post is way late and not at all what I meant to write about, but it keeps coming up, so I thought I’d put it here!

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out in October. So far away! But considering I’ve been a published author for nigh on 2 years now, that’s relatively quite close! Now that this whole publishing gig is worming its way towards reality, people keep asking me how they can support my blinking, blind, newborn career.

Now, I have lovely friends and family and am honored and flattered beyond all telling that they would want to stick their necks and hard earned dollars out for me. But I don’t want them to waste their time or their money, so when they ask me “Rachel, what can I do to support your novel?”, this is how I answer, condensed in useful list form!

How to Support Your Favorite Novelist Without Spending More Than 15 Minutes or the Price of the Book You Were Hopefully Going to Buy Anyway

  1. Wait until 2 weeks before the book’s launch before doing anything – This is the most vital time for support. Any sooner and people might forget, any later and you miss those vital initial numbers that mean so much to publishers. You can of course talk it up earlier, but save anything big, and the actual purchase, until this crucial time.
  2. Preorder the book – Since you were (hopefully!) going to buy the book anyway, this is the best way to do it. Preorders boost an otherwise unknown book up the Amazon or B&N or whatever seller you prefer’s list. Strong preorder numbers lead to more and bigger book orders from retailers, which make your author look really good!
  3. Leave an honest, informative review – Of course, we all love good reviews, but honesty is the most important. A page full of glowing reviews that ultimately say nothing won’t draw readers, but even a 3 star review highlighting the book’s pros and cons can lead sometimes lead to sales. After all, one person’s gripe can be another person’s love. Hopefully, your author has written a book that earns your giddy fandom, but even if you didn’t like it as much as you’d hoped, write about it.
  4. Mention the book on your social media – Twitter shoutouts, facebook links, blog posts, they all help to raise a book’s profile. Even if the only people who follow you are your family and that guy from high school who kind of creeped you out but you don’t want to unfriend because you don’t want to be rude. You don’t have to spam or be particularly verbose, you even copy/paste the review you wrote for the book’s sales page, just say something and get the title out there. Every little bit helps.

As Cory Doctorow says, an SF writer’s biggest problem is obscurity. Anything you do, even if it’s just one post, can be a big help thanks to the ripple effect of the internet, and your author will love you forever.

(Also, when I was typing the above I misspelled Cory Doctorow’s name and Google’s (I use Chrome) spellcheck corrected me. Folks, that is fame right there, when your name is in Google’s spellcheck. )

Anyway, that’s my list. You tell me, did I leave anything out? Mess anything up? Let me know!

26
Apr
10

At long last! Covers!

So, with all the pretty covers on the side bar, I’d been feeling a little left out. However!!! Today, Orbit has officially debuted the covers for my first three books, all coming out this fall. I gotta say, they look pretty spiffy. You can see them all over at Orbit Books, but I reposted the first one here. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but I can’t say no to Eli.

Be sure to check Orbit books for the other 2!!

For those who wonder how covers get made, here was how it went for me. My editor, Devi, asked me for character inspirations, you know, movie stars they look like, anything an artist could use for reference. Originally, the covers were going to be illustrated. However, that didn’t work out, so Lauren, the EXCELLENT art director at Orbit, and Devi, my awesome editor, got together and, after much deliberation and a few phone calls to run things by me, came up with these close face photo covers.  We agreed early on we wanted character feature covers, because the series is very character driven. I have to say that Orbit was wonderful at keeping me in the loop. I know a lot of authors have very minimal say in their covers, but my opinion was asked on multiple occasions, and the girl on the third cover was even changed when I objected that she didn’t look quite right. It helped that Devi agreed with me, but I felt like the team at Orbit really went out of their way to get the details right, and as an author that’s the best I could want.

Over all, I’m very happy with all 3 covers, but this one really takes the cake. So far as I’m concerned, Lauren went into my imagination and got Eli to sit still long enough to snap a picture. Couldn’t have been done better. I love it!!

19
Mar
10

the 7 habits of highly effective authors

First off: finished my third contracted book! BOO YA!

Many years ago, my grandfather gave my then boyfriend, now husband, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. At first we had a good laugh. My grandfather has a habit of giving books out randomly in a “I just finished this and I liked it, here you have it” sort of way. Actually, it’s a pretty awesome thing to do, but at the time it struck us both as sort of weird. However, my husband (then boyfriend) now looks on that book as the greatest present he ever received. It was dropped into his hands at just the right moment in his life, towards the end of college with real life looming on the horizon. It changed the way he thought about life, and thought I’ve never read it (I have a certain aversion to self help books) I might as well have considering how much my husband quotes it.

I’m not going to into all the habits, but there’s one that I keep going back to over and over again, that the promises we make to ourselves are just as important as the promises we make to others.

As writers, we tend to work in bubbles. Deadlines, when we have them, are distant, all or nothing sorts of things that have very little to do with the words we’re actually writing or editing or crying over that day. Even once you land that mythical publishing contract, most authors are left to fend for themselves during the day to day writing struggles. This means managing your own time, and it is a bear. Over the six odd years I’ve been seriously writing, I’ve set thousands of  self imposed deadlines, and missed nearly as many, especially for my first book. What did it matter, anyways? It’s not like anyone knew that I’d missed my deadline but me.

But as time went on and my time began to fritter away, my husband’s repetition of this little phrase from a self help book kept coming back. Eventually, I began to understand that if I was ever going to have the kind of writing career I’d imagined, I would have to start taking myself, and my self-imposed deadlines, seriously.

The first thing I did was cut waaaay back on the number of deadlines I set, especially the arbitrary, unrealistic ones I knew I couldn’t make. Then I picked 3 deadlines I felt I could realistically make, and set these in stone in my calendar. I treated them as I would deadlines for my day job where there were real consequences, and real stigma, for missing milestones. I made a solemn promise to myself that I would keep these deadlines, even if it meant working more than I’d anticipated or missing something fun because my time was already promised. I would write, I would make these deadlines. And I did.

Sure, I still missed a few, and I made myself pay for that with extra work rather than playing like I wanted to. Then I went back and looked at why I’d missed that deadline, making notes so that I could set the next one more intelligently.

It seems like every writer and agent blog tells you that if you want to be a professional writer, you have to treat your writing professionally.  This is much harder than just keeping a schedule. This is keeping your schedule when your book is an unfixable mess and it’s spring time and real life is busy and there are new raids in WOW and the internet is interesting and no one will ever know if you blow off writing and watch Hoarders.

Make promises to yourself, and keep them. Never treat your writing time like free time. It’s your great dream, if you won’t live it, no one will help you. Never make excuses, never let anyone take it away from you.