Saturday, 23 February 2013

The publishing process

I freely admit to anyone who looks remotely interested, that I have no idea what I am doing. In preparing my book for publication, that is. My editor, kindly and helpfully sent me my manuscript back with some suggestions and a few little typos/odd words I might like to consider. I worked tirelessly to rewrite most of the book, moved chapters around, wrote new scenes...apparently, that wasn't really needed. It was mostly OK. I also sent the book back shiny and tidy - also not quite what they were expecting. Apparently, I should have left 'track changes' on, to make it easier for them to see what I was up to and where I had made changes. You live and learn. He asked how I write and for the life of me, I couldn't explain it. Although, through the blog, I can look back and see that I follow exactly the same path each time.

I suspect this first book will be a steep learning curve, but I'm also learning something else. I was expecting a boss/employee relationship but it isn't really like that. They have more faith in my ability to write than I do. There are other people who all want to help, unlike the MA where people show you where you could do better.

The search for an agent and then a publisher is so hard, so long and agonising that I wasn't really ready to succeed. There are so many more books and articles on selling yourself and your work, and very few on what happens next. I'm working my way to getting more confident with the process, and ready for the next step. Meanwhile, I have officially delivered book 1. Hooray!

Now it goes off to a copy editor, who will see it with fresh eyes, and pick up all the sillies (I hope). Then it's back to me for the next stage. Wow. Meanwhile, the arguments about the cover and the lettering go on, but I'm happy with it. It's all good. I have faith in them, they are all trying to make my book look better and sell better when it comes out in October.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Reality Check

While I'm still pinching myself to see if my contract is real, you know, not fraying in its special holder or the words fading into invisible ink, another debut writer is being published. When I first spoke to my new editor, he raved about the authors he had already signed to the new imprint, Del Rey UK, part of Random House/Ebury. One of those authors was Liesel Schwarz, and he sent me a proof copy of her first book, A Conspiracy of Alchemists. I loved the writing, the world, the plot and the characters and have sung its praises here. But now, Liesel has gone through the launch/book signing razzmatazz, and is now looking at things like reviews and sales.

When I did my MA, one of the speakers was Will Atkins, then editor of Pan Macmillan's New Writing. He pointed out the one difficulty for writers with the advance system was that so many new authors do not 'earn out' their advance. The maths are simple: the publisher 'advances' you a lump sum, in chunks, against future sales. Instead of getting royalties, a small percentage of the price of each book pays back a tiny part of the advance. You have to sell many many copies of a book to pay back even a moderate advance, and authors who don't are less likely to be bought again.

Now Liesel, like every author, is waiting to see how her book sells. It isn't immediately clear to authors how their book is doing, because many books sit on shop shelves waiting for a new owner, and the more publicity the publisher provides for a book, the more likely people are to look it out or look on Amazon. So I was thrilled this weekend to read a review of A Conspiracy of Alchemists, and a feature on its talented author, in the Independent on Sunday. I loved the piece, and it was glowing about both the book and the author. As someone trailing eight months in her wake, I am thrilled to be watching her success and learning from her experience.

One thing Will Atkins pointed out is a multiple book deal means that the publisher is giving a little room for a readership to develop, and over the three books the expectation is that the author will earn out their advance. Time to establish a following, and in Liesel's case, expand the whole genre of Steampunk to a new female fan base. I am confident of her success.

Meanwhile, I potter along creating a credible version of book 2 (which is going well) but wonder what will happen when my scribblings go through that same process. Like most writers, I was all 'got to get a deal', without really thinking that there are more hurdles up ahead. The reality is that the marketplace is fickle, most books published don't attract the kind of reception Liesel's book has and relatively few earn out their advance. As the euphoria/shock wears off the nerves begin again... 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Two thirds in and it's looking better

I can't understand the transformation that happens to a draft when I leave it. Abandon it would be more accurate, while I wail 'It's all crap' and bash my forehead on the desk repeatedly. I give up, I move on to another project...then I have to go back. I always assume I'll have to entirely rewrite because it was so bad, but when I read it, it comes to life. What I was trying to achieve shines through the prose that actually dribbled onto the page, and it's really not bad. In fact, there are a few gems here and there, and there's little that can't be improved with a bit of strict editing from the grammar police and the cliche patrols. In between, the chapters that I need to write jump out at me. I need a linking chapter here and here, and maybe a new plot strand running through that will move the three book strand on further. I have 66k words that are OK, and a clear direction for the other 33k. Some are roughed out in draft already, in fact, and there are some lovely leads waiting to be followed. I just wish I could see this when I put the draft away! I've spent the last month dreading coming back to it, and it's been an absolute pleasure to meet up with Jack and Sadie and Kelley again.

Better than that, it's lovely to be writing new chapters again. For me, the joy is in creating the new stuff, even if it is just the raw material from which a book is ultimately constructed. New words, especially when you don't have to turn the laser beams of editing on them, and a delight. Fun, fun. I'd written a thousand before half eight this morning, so keen was I to get on with it!

I printed off a draft of A Baby's Bones and spread it around a few family members (kind critics). They liked it. Actually, although I can see where it needs to be shined up and the rough edges smoothed away, I like it too. That's a good feeling.

I'm sorry there hasn't been an announcement of any sort, it hasn't really been explained to me, maybe no-one would be that interested in a new author getting a book deal! But I am thrilled, and I'm glad to be part of Del Rey UK's publishing adventure.  

Monday, 11 February 2013

Busy week for book 2 (as yet unnamed)

Well, that was a hectic week. But the upside is that I have written three new chapters, upped the tension and the drama, and am 20k into draft 3. I reckon at this rate I should have a coherent draft by March, in time to show to my agent etc.

She read A Baby's Bones, and liked it, a lot. I am so relieved, it has given me confidence to push on with book 2 and enjoy the process, rather than be too afraid to mess with it (because it needs a lot of messing with). A few other people have had a read and liked it, too. Now, they might just be being kind, but I trust the agent to say what she thinks.

I also visited a local writers' group which is well established in Barnstaple. So well established there wasn't enough of a critical element for me personally, but some good writing nevertheless. A good environment to nurture talent, I thought. I think it's time to gather a few MA graduates and other novelists and see if North Devon has room for a group focused on long fiction. Maybe, maybe not, but I get so much back from my beta readers I know I, at least, would benefit, and maybe that would help other writers.

I'm writing a strand in New Orleans, mostly because I've always wanted to go there. It is quite difficult because I haven't been there. Trying to find the scents, sounds, sights or a place I've never been to is tricky, but the internet has been very helpful! The language is difficult to. Listening to 'native speakers' on videos of various tourist sites is tricky to translate into dialogue. It's a bit like writing a historical story, you want a hint of 'olde worlde' but not too much. Shame there aren't videos of Venice, 1587...


Monday, 4 February 2013

...And we're off!

I do love it when inspiration strikes. Perhaps relief would be closer to the actual feeling. Second books are difficult. You have to meet the promise of the first one, while subtly surpassing it...who can just deliver that? I was inspired by a fellow writer (Liesel Schwarz, whose first book, A Conspiracy of Alchemists is out in a few days, buy it, you will not be sorry) when I saw her second book. Wow. Take an idea, take some characters, and push them even harder, reveal even more. My own lacklustre book 2 was foundering a bit. The main thread was solid, the historical was going fine, but the second character was just splashing about in the shallows. He now has a solid plot of his own, that can bring him back to the principals and I get to do some research into a social behaviour that I find fascinating, if a little disturbing.

Around the world there are people who are either erotically, or more disturbing, psychologically aroused by drinking human blood. Some just extend sexual intimacy and the exchange of body fluids, and many play with vampire archetypes. I can't see that's any more worrying that any other submissive/dominant sex play that some people enjoy. Fifty Shades, anyone? No? But the idea of exploiting people who either feel a compulsion or need to feed on people, or those who for some reason are happy to be donors...I don't want to judge, and neither will my character, but there is potential for problems. Alternative lifestyle, creative sub culture, role play...great. Psychological Anyway, it's a rich vein to explore, if you'll pardon the pun.