Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Countdown to Release Date

Courtly Pleasures is coming out on December 4th, 2017.

This is actually happening.

I have been pitching and querying and stalking agents/editors/publishers and creating a web presence and trying to write the 'right' book and... Rejection was normal. Getting that yes answer was mind-blowing.

Publication is entirely new.

A handful of reviews have been made available to me, some fantastic and some less fantastic - but that's how readers (real readers, people who don't have to be nice to me) should react. A reading experience is entirely subjective. I will simply have to develop a thick skin, but so far I haven't had any hurt feelings; it's just been interesting to see.

You can still pre-order my book. You will be charged on 12/4 and the book delivered to your device. Pre-orders help pump up my opening day results and my rankings with the e-book sellers. The more clicks/purchases/reviews, the higher I move up on the list when someone looks up historical romance, and that puts my book in front of more people.

The Amazon link is in the side bar right below the countdown, if you are so inclined (which I hope you are).

This is actually happening!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Process from Contract to Publication

I signed my contract in mid-August and received my first round of edits toward the end of September.

The first round of edits was content based. While there were some grammar/punctuation/word choice changes suggested, it was about the smoothness of the read. These came directly from my editor. The comments had to do with going deeper into my main character's points of view, fleshing out scenes, etc... This was the most difficult for me because it addressed my story. It's easy to fix a misspelling, but harder to accept that you missed a critical aspect of the character. That said, it wasn't as emotionally painful as I expected. All the comments made sense and the changes were all toward making it a better story. That round of edits were due in the first part of October, so I had about two weeks to complete them.

I received the second round of edits a week later (mid-October). These were the line edits and dealt mainly with typos, spelling, or grammatical errors. Based on the notes, it seems that there were two line editors who went through the manuscript. Some corrections embarrassed me and some surprised me. I learned a few things about hyphen use but still don't understand why they would delete my ellipses (...) and then replace it with another set of ellipses (I'm assuming it has to do with formatting, but it's still a mystery). Overall, this process was smooth. It was due a week later.

Round three was the galley edits. This is the book, coded for epub and not easy to change at that point. Part of me wanted to write it off as done but I am glad I didn't. I listened to it read aloud and caught so many things that would have been downright embarrassing. After all the pairs of eyes that had gone over the document, there were still issues and it was no longer a document that could be easily fixed. I will never again be critical of minor editing errors in published novels.  Those edits were due the beginning of November and then the galley was made available for professional reviews the next day.

So from the end of September to the beginning of November, Courtly Pleasures went from manuscript to novel. It's out there right now for industry professionals to read and review prior to release. The release date is just over three weeks away.

The whole things was less than three months from the date of the contract. It's been a whirlwind and I'm a little stunned.

Things I've learned:

  • I can keep to a deadline.
  • That when a an adjective has a modifying word before it, you use a hyphen even if it isn't a regular compound word (inky-black, broad-shouldered).
  • To use the read aloud feature during the line edits so the galley version will require little (if any) changes.

Now I have to focus on promotion. This is intimidating because I'm not extroverted at heart (I categorize myself as a friendly introvert) and I'm not a business/marketing expert (but I'll learn). Wish me luck.

As for business/marketing...
 Available for pre-order now!
Courtly Pleasures is available for pre-order now. 
Click on the image above.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humility and Pride

I had a great conversation with a student today about balancing pride and humility. I teach art and, though not every person feels pulled to artistic expression, everyone is capable of producing something they're proud of. You have to take the time, be patient with yourself and be mindful. The finished work may not be a master work, but it can be something you step back, look, and say, "I did that!" with pride.

Getting to that point, however, takes humility. Without humility we cannot grow. Humility opens us up to learn new things. I'm not talking about modesty or self-deprecation, but the real understanding that tomorrow can be better if you let it.

I think we get socially trained to be overly modest about accomplishments as if being proud of yourself is wrong. For many people it is difficult to honestly say, "thank you" when you receive a compliment. Many will deflect anything positive with something self-deprecating. I understand that not everyone may not believe positive words about themselves, but they need to give the bestower of the compliment the benefit of the doubt that they believe it, that they are sincere. Shrugging away those kind words is not only rude to yourself, but to them.  It's taking humility too far and making it harmful.

So, from my bounty of wisdom, I'm here to say that you have to balance the humility and pride. Pride alone is unhealthy--as is humility, sin and virtue aside. It's the combination that will lead to growth and self acceptance. This will end up on an inspirational poster someday. Probably with a puppy.

Where the heck is all this coming from?
Well, I'm dealing with positive reinforcement from my publishing house and quelling the urge to point out my flaws and fighting my humility when I should have allowed myself to be proud. I'm also dealing with line edits and finding out rules about grammar/punctuation I didn't know (and I used to teach English!). With the line edits, I had to fight my stubborn pride and absolute belief I was right and learn something new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being a Writer

I am just about to send my edited manuscript back. At this point I'm going over it again and again to see if I missed anything and to clean up the new content.

Receiving the edits made the fact that I'm going to be published finally become real. As I work toward applying the edits, I feel like I'm working toward a real goal. It makes it feel like a legitimate job and not something weird I do alone when I have time.

Writing had become almost a burden. If I wasn't writing then I was giving up. If I was writing, it was hard to justify why I was taking the time to write a story when I could be doing productive things like laundry. I had so many stories in my head, but either the story or the writing had some flaw I didn't understand, something about it that made it not viable. It's hard to motivate yourself to write despite that.

I would tell myself that the fact that I started and finished books was an achievement in itself and I didn't need validation from external sources. While I still felt good about what I had accomplished, I must have needed that validation because it was becoming harder and harder to write.

As I do edits for Courtly Pleasures I can see the finish line on this project. It restores my optimism (or insanity) for my writing and my faith in myself. New stories are percolating. Old stories with kinks are resolving themselves.

I'm excited about writing, about being a writer, again. Of course I'm excited about Courtly Pleasures being published but, more than that, I'm excited about the next story and how it might unfold.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Applying Edits

My experience with the first round of edits was...
Scary? No, not once I got the document. The worst part was the anticipation.
Exhilarating? No, it was just a job I had to do.
Insulting? Not at all. There were changes to be made and I made them. I wasn't offended. I suppose I could have been, but the editor always explained her thought process. Hey, it's all about putting the best version of your book out there and that means honest critique and collaboration.

I received a Word doc full of tracked changes and comments. 90% of my job was to accept the deletion/insertion of the tracked changes. This included a format change here, an 's there, an m dash changed to an ellipses, etc... All little things.

The editor also noted story inconsistencies or times when more explanation was needed. A few new scenes requested, a few scenes deleted. Everything she said made sense to me. None of it was insulting to my word baby or my ego. The challenge for me was to hold the history teacher in me in check when I was asked to explain some of the social norms or the roll of nobles and gentry at Queen Elizabeth's court. I had to severely edit myself to address specific questions.

I was nervous about the edits, but they've been smooth. I understand the expectations and that is more cut and dry than trying to write a book in the first place.

The next step is line edits. I like to think it won't be too messy. I'll let you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Receiving Edits (alternatively titled: Holy Crap!)

Over the years I have posted blogs about treating every critique like a gift. Whether or not I agree with the critique, the reader took the time to read my manuscript and give feedback. That deserves gratitude, not argument. It took me years to train myself to put this understanding into action. It is a knee jerk response that, when my book baby is threatened, I must defend it.

Here's the thing: if I have to explain why I did x, y, or z to the reader, then it wasn't well done. I won't have the opportunity to pop my head in to where my reader confused by my creative decision and explain that the scene is an example of my heroine as an unreliable narrator. Beside that being super creepy behavior on my part, it is just evidence of bad writing.

Ergo: Critique = Thank you.

But now I'm at that next stage and have an editor (insert little happy dance here).

I'll be getting my first round of content edits within the week and that could mean ANYTHING. I hope my critique=thank you training will come in handy but, more than that, I hope I can be an educated, professional adult with enough sense of self to make this experience a rational one and not take anything personally. Ultimately, any perceived criticism will be coming from the shared goal to make my book successful.

So bring it on, awesome editor, I can take it like a reasonable person and not be crazy. I think. I hope.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Accepting the Changing (already changed, actually, years ago) Publishing Industry

Today's blog was inspired by the Debut Author's page of the monthly RWR magazine. I've been watching it for years and, though I haven't compiled the data into a cool pie chart or anything (I should, but I'll bet RWA have this information already) it looks like the larger percentage of debut authors publish independently and the very few that have publishers are with a small, boutique press. This confirmed what I already knew, that not only did e-readers change the publishing industry, they changed publishing houses need to risk investing in untried writers.

This is not new news.

That said, I've had a hard time adapting my own expectations of the road to publication. I started out with my query letters to agents and the few big names that accepted unagented submissions. I pictured my novels on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I'm not a total dinosaur, so most of my queries were sent via e-mail, but when I first started some agents still required hard copies. This was ten(ish) years ago.

Now, when it comes to the querying, most agents and publishers have an online submission process. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Convenience aside, it is symbolic of their hands-off approach to new submissions. It's probably much easier to dismiss a file than pile of pages that was carefully prepared to specifications.

I've really struggled with the fact that the big publishers do not accept debut authors. It seems like the industry expects and WANTS authors to self publish first.This really messed with my long term plan and it's taken me awhile to come to grips with the change. I hate it, but have to get over myself and work within these parameters.

Besides, the change makes sense. It's like that job at McDonald's that you had during high school so you could show work experience as you interviewed your way up the employment ladder. An example from the genre would be the well loved trope of the reformed rogue who's been around the block and knows what to do in bed. You rarely see a virginal hero in romance and, I guess, publishers don't want a virgin author either. Self published authors have sales numbers, reviews, a readership waiting so when the publisher picks them up, they're a sure thing. It cuts down on the risk of investing in a newbie.

I have pitched to a few boutique publishers that are simply a label away from being self-published. They'll provide you with editing and a cover, but you do all the marketing. It may be worth it to some rather than pay the roughly $500 it will cost for professional editing and an okay cover, but to me, the only good thing about self publishing is lost in this deal--autonomy.

My biggest hurdle in choosing the self-pub route (and I still haven't committed to it) is that I really need the validation that acceptance by an agent/publisher provides. There are so, so, so many poor quality books and I'm afraid to join their ranks. If my books are not good enough for a publisher to stand behind, they're not ready for publication.

The good news (for authors like me) is that most of the major publishers have smaller, niche imprints that publish in e-only. This removes the risk of investing in a print run, but still offers the professional editing/cover/marketing services of a major publisher. This route won't put me in a brick and mortar book store, but it's a step in the right direction and will save me from myself and the possibility of putting a low-quality book out there with my name on it.

Of course, I am warming up to self publishing. I'm really almost there. It's only taken a bunch of near misses to make me feel my books might be good enough combined with hundreds of flat out rejections that have made me tired of playing the game. I'm even at that point where I waste time looking up book cover art.

I am currently waiting on a yea or nay from another interested party. I'm not optimistic, but must have some hope or I'd be more invested in the steps toward self-publishing. I am getting myself ready for that eventuality because pitching has become something like banging my head against a wall and, really, I should be writing.

I will finish up this post by telling you that accepting self-publishing as a viable option has really freed my writing. I'm not writing to anyone's formula. I can tell an authentic story without bending it to meet genre norms ( I wrote a virgin hero and I'm not worried about it).

If you are interested, here is a link to data compiled for RWA 2016 showing trends in sales. It may just be my translation, but the data really promotes self-publishing.  
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