Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to write a book. Many years later, she accomplished the feat. As she sat back and admired how far she’d come, a new story formed in her head, and so she wrote that too. More followed. For many years she was happy, writing story after story. Then she decided to get published…and all hell broke loose. LOL.

Sometimes it feels like that. Honestly. Writing was so simple when it was an intimate dance between me and my keyboard. Now, the intimate dance is more like a communal square dance with other partners moving in and out of the circle. It’s daunting when you think of all the people involved with publishing a book. Depending on the writer, there are agents, editors, publishers, critique partners, beta readers, blog mates, blog tour hosts, and publicity teams. Everybody can want something different from the same writer/book.

Of course, it’s part of the process, but it makes it hard to write sometimes—all those different voices in one head. She’s going to love this part, but she’s not, and what about her?

Once upon a time, I was writing to please myself. Now, I’m hoping to please everyone. It’s an impossible dream, isn’t it? 🙂

Elley

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So, you wait, you revise, and finally you get the offer and a shiny contract wings its way to you via email! It’s real now, this selling a book thing.

Also real? The terminology in your contract isn’t always the clearest of English, and if you don’t have an agent, figuring out what your contract allows you and doesn’t is tricky business.

For all three of my contracts, I wasn’t too picky. Basically, reading through the contract was just double checking and making sure I would not be getting screwed over at any point.

I don’t want to go into detail about the contracts, because I am not an expert. So, I’ll just share how I dealt with them.

First, I read through a contract much like I tackled reading a difficult text in school. I read through it once, reread, looked up terms when needed, and then summarized each section in my own words, and then read the summarization. Luckily, access to internet is a beautiful thing, and anything I wasn’t clear about I could look up. (If there would be serious questions or concerns, the publisher is going to be able to answer those questions for you too, but most of my confusion was general or generic enough a simple google search helped me out).

I did not have a lawyer look over them. If I could afford it, or knew a trustworthy lawyer who knew about publishing contracts, I’d have them take a look, but those weren’t viable options for me. I trusted my own understanding enough to forgo that step.

I didn’t negotiate any terms in my contracts. At this point in my career, I have yet to see something in a contract that doesn’t work for me. I feel confident enough in my understanding of the contract I haven’t been taken advantage of, and that’s really the main thing for me: getting a fair shake.

The trick is the understanding part. The researching and asking questions part. I’m sure it’s common sense, but never sign a contract without reading it first. You want to make sure you agree with and understand what you’re putting your name to. If you’re confused, ask questions, and I’d be wary of any publisher who wouldn’t answer your questions or concerns.

The nice thing about contracts is that, while some of the details are different from publisher to publisher, the subject matter you’re dealing with is essentially the same. So once you understand royalties and the like, each contract gets a little easier to navigate without having to look things up or ask questions. It’s the numbers that are going to change–not so much the different pieces of the contract.

I would venture to say, even if you do have an agent, it’s good to understand your contract and what you’re signing. No matter how implicitly you trust your agent, you’d never want to sign something without reading it through.

Nicole

We probably all know that being asked for revisions without a contract offer can happen. It’s actually happened to me twice, though once was pretty easy/straightforward.

There is a challenge to tackling revisions without the safety net of a contract offer. First, your editor is not really your editor yet. You probably don’t know them that well or have a good handle on what they want to see.

Second, you don’t have a contract. You can make as many changes as you want and they can still say thanks, but no thanks. Then, depending on the situation, you can be left with a half changed MS or an MS you’re unsure about.

The first time I was asked to make revisions before a contract, it was all pretty easy. They required all books in their line to have at least one fully described love scene–so I had to get rid of my fade-to-black style (and I never looked back!). I added it. They contracted the book. Voila.

The second one was not so easy. I needed to clarify conflict and motivation. Basically, I think the editor liked my voice, but my GMC was a bit of a jumbled mess. There, but needed to be more organized.

In this situation, I was asked to revise the partial and send it back to the editor. This was both exciting and terrifying. It was exciting because it was giving me a chance, but also because I thought her revision notes really did make the story better, and they helped me understand the structure of category romance better.

When I resubbed the partial, she then asked for the full. I submitted that and, though I had done what she wanted in those first pre-contracted revisions, it still wasn’t perfect. She had more notes for the full, but this process was more of a–can you solve this one problem, then if you agree to the rest of these revisions, we’ll contract.

I think there are a lot of reasons for a pre-contract revision. Obviously, the first is to make your story better. But, I think there is also the idea that sometimes editors want to get a feel for if you can revise. Just because you can write a decent story doesn’t mean you can (or will willingly) revise well.

Regardless of why or how, there is something important to remember during revisions, and it can be hard with the stress of trying to impress an editor and making your story better and not screwing up your chance!

The editor liked something in your story enough to want to work with you–contract or no. It is truly baffling the amount of submissions editors get, and they’re not going to waste their time on something they think is crap. A request for revision is a compliment.

Also, even if it does end up a rejection in the end, you’ve had the opportunity to work with an editor and most of the time you will learn something from that, and you may even walk away with a better manuscript to submit elsewhere.

Nicole

Having a birthday sandwiched between Christmas and Valentine’s Day has primed me to expect great things. It’s a non-stop parade of presents and well wishes. But even after 40 years of this time of year meaning something extra-special, I was hardly prepared for the best birthday present ever.

*Rewind*

A week before Christmas on a submission high brought about by completing all my writing goals for 2012, I got gutsy and subbed a manuscript I had thought was better left “under the bed.” After all, this manuscript (Save My Soul) was an entry in Harlequin’s first So You Think You Can Write, where it was rejected with valuable feedback, feedback I worked into the manuscript before sending off to another publisher, who rejected the manuscript—once again with valuable feedback, which prompted me to revise, but ultimately set the manuscript aside for shiny new things. Believing the story had merit based on editorial compliments about my voice and my critique partner’s comment that from time to time she still thought about the story, I squeezed my eyes shut and hit send. If nothing else, the submission gave me bragging rights…for the first time in my pursuit of publishing I had four different manuscripts out on submission.

Christmas came and went. The New Year too. And with a puppy in the house, there wasn’t much time to consider what was happening with those submissions. Imagine my surprise when I received and email from Jennifer Lawler at Crimson Romance a little more than a week into January, offering me a contract for Save My Soul. It didn’t seem real.

It still doesn’t.

Even after signing the contract, filling out a cover art form, answering an author questionnaire, and launching my website, I’m wondering if this is all a dream.

*Fast-forward*

I have a lot to celebrate this year when I blow out 40 candles on my cake. (Yikes! That’s a depressing amount of candles, unless I think about the size of cake it will take to accommodate said candles. Yum!) Honest to God, I never thought 40 would roll around with me a contracted author, anticipating a March release date.

It’s true what they say. When you least expect it…

Elley

I’ve decided to try to go in a kind of chronological order in terms of this series of blog posts about my publication journey. I’m grouping my ideas and the questions I got/may get into three categories: pre-contract, contract, post-contract.

So, we’ll start these first few weeks with topics that fall into that pre-contract offer space.

First up, I want to talk a little about the submission process. Now, if you’ve ever submitted anywhere before you know that every publisher works differently. For example, I have signed a contract for three books to three different publisher and none of them have worked the same. Let me break down what the submission process looked like with each.

The Wild Rose Press

Subbed query and synopsis (5/20/11)

Partial Request (Chapters 1-3) (6/6/11)

Full Request (6/20/11)

Revision request (8/25/11)

Contract Offered (9/29/11)

Entangled Indulgence

Subbed query and first three chapters (5/4/12)

Synopsis Request (5/31/12)

Asked for revisions on first three chapters (5/31/12) (Sent 6/2)

Full Request (6/2)

Contract Offered after agreeing that specific revisions would still need to be done (6/21)

Samhain Publishing

Subbed query/synopsis/full (6/13/12)

Contract Offered (12/5/12)

Right off the bat you can see that each publisher wanted different things in the first submission. Also, different publishers did more revisions before offering a contract. Some had a multi-tiered process, some just wanted the full. This is why it’s so important to follow submission guidelines. No two publishers are exactly the same and no two publishers are looking for exactly the same thing in a submission. (Also, apparently I should always submit in May and June, huh?)

If you look at the time frame, you’ll notice that each also had a difference. For both my TWRP and Samhain submission, I was at some point beyond the “normal” response time. Now, while it’s not frowned upon to send a status email to any of these publishers in my experience, I found that my nudge emails were unnecessary.

Editors are going to get to your manuscript eventually. Sometimes it may be quickly (I was very lucky to hit Entangled when I did, because of their growth it takes longer to hear back from them now). Sometimes, it may be longer. It is very rare for a manuscript to go astray especially when you get an automated response, as I did from all of these publishers. Sure, my paranoid brain told me maybe my email had been lost, but the truth of the matter was I received the automatic response, and publishers are typically very organized in this matter. After all, think of how many submissions they see in a day.

Sometimes, a nudge helped ease my fear of being lost, but it didn’t actually amount to anything. The editor got to it when it fit their schedule, and if you think about all that these editors do (sometimes also with a full or part-time job on the side), they have very full schedules. Sometimes everything will fall within a given time window, sometimes it wont.

I’ve heard this of agents, but it applies to editors as well. The greatest portion of their job is dedicated to the authors they’ve already acquired. If they acquire you, you’d want this to be the case. Waiting sucks. SUCKS. Especially when it’s longer than you think it’s going to be, but it’s a fact of life and a HUGE fact of publishing life.

I think, in nudging, it’s important to remember that this is a business. Yes, your MS might feel personal to you, but treat your writing and the people in publishing as you would treat anyone you work with. You probably wouldn’t go whining to your boss every day if he didn’t do something when you wanted him to. Yes, occasionally you may need to say something, but be careful about how and when.

If you’ve been in the submitting roundabout before, you’ve heard the age old adage that the best thing to do when waiting is write the next book. I get irritated when people tell me that, because duh I’m going to keep writing. Still, it’s true. If you let yourself get truly lost in the next manuscript the wait is easier, and you’ll find yourself obsessing less and whether you get an acceptance or pass, you have another book ready.

At the very least, arm yourself with a CP who will listen to you whine. God knows the amount of whiney emails I’ve sent mine. Also, back away from Twitter. When you’re waiting it can make you crazy.

Next week I’ll talk about pre-contracted revisions. You’ll notice I’ve done that twice.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments about this or anything else you might want to hear about.

Nicole

Have Puppy Will Read

January 9, 2013

If you’ve ever raised a puppy—or a baby for that matter—you know there’s a lot of downtime. Unfortunately, it’s a unique kind of downtime, because you aren’t really free to pursue any sort of passion…just those that won’t interrupt the little bugger sleeping on your lap. *We aren’t going to debate whether or not said bugger should be on your lap in the first place. This is a blog about writing, so just go with it. 🙂

While I learned to type one-handed with my babies, and no doubt could do so with the puppy, I’m reluctant to start a habit with the dog that I can’t break later. Right now, when I sit at the table behind the laptop, she sleeps in her crate without a whine. Of course, I can’t leave her in there long, so I end up on the couch with her snoozing on my lap off and on throughout the day. Since I’ve identified every crack on my plaster walls and ceilings, and I’ve exhausted my Words with Friends buddies, I’ve started leaving my Kindle on the couch, so I can read. It’s not writing, but it’s close, and it helps keep the creative juices flowing.

I wish reading tamed my frustration a little better though. I can’t believe how grumpy/moody I get when I can’t write freely. I’ve tried explaining this to my husband, but he’s too analytical to really understand. Oh, he says he does, and then he offers suggestions, which I appreciate, but nothing will work but letting the floodgates open when the pressure behind the gates gets extreme. It’s as if all the emotion of the characters inside of me becomes mine, and since I can’t hold in my own emotion let alone the emotion of a dozen or so people, I blow. Spectacularly. I’d feel sorry for my family enduring this if I weren’t laughing so hard at their reaction to my manic behavior. (Once again, I cling to the fact that I’m creative, not crazy.) Can you relate at all?

I’d love to say more about this, but the puppy is up, and I have a chapter to finish. 🙂

E

New Year, New Beginning

January 4, 2013

I love the new year. I love setting goals and resolutions and feeling like this might just be the year I can accomplish them. I’m a big believer in goal setting, and mixed with my moved-around-a-lot childhood where new beginnings were the norm, I also love beginnings.

I was a pretty bad blogger by the end of last year, and one of the things I wanted to accomplish this year is to have more consistency, both at my own blog and with my blogging here, so I came up with the idea of doing a series of blog posts on my experiences since I’ve become published.

To date, I’ve signed three contracts with three different publisher culminating in three very different experiences. One of these books has already come out and two should come out this year, and hopefully I’ll sell some more this year, too.

I’m no best-seller or expert, but I thought sharing my experiences in the early days of my published writing career might be of interest or help to somebody.

So, for the next handful of Fridays you can expect to see my posts on different aspects of publishing. From waiting and nudging to changing editors mid-revision to revising before signing a contract.

But, before I get started, I thought I’d see if anyone out there has any questions about the publishing process. If any questions are posted in the comments, I’ll cull them together and make sure to do a blog post on them in the coming weeks.

If not, I still have plenty to blab about on my own. 🙂 And I’ll start next Friday. Hope to “see” you then!

Nicole

Embracing Change

January 2, 2013

2013. Am I the only one who thinks that number looks strange? Maybe it’s because this is the year I’ll turn 40 (in a couple weeks, actually). As a kid, I was so enamored with the date change each new year I would fill a wide-ruled notebook page with lists of years to come—just so I could see what it felt and looked like to write bigger, more outrageous numbers…like 2013. Certainly we’d be flying in space ships by then. (Don’t laugh. I grew up with Buck Rodgers and always mistook the title for Buck Rodgers in the 21st Century.) There are no space ships for common folk, travelling to intergalactic shopping malls, and I must say I’m okay with that. If I have yet to get up the courage to fly to Napa for wine tasting, I can’t imagine I’d fly to the next solar system for a pair of out-of-this-world boots.

LizzyThe grandiose aside, each new year brings changes. For me, the biggest change of 2013 came in the form of a Boston Terrier puppy, Lizzy. She’s a wonderful addition to the family, but the abrupt change in my schedule and loss of freedom brought me to tears a couple times. Change is hard. Very hard. But great rewards can come on the backside of change.

So without further delay…here it comes…the requisite discussion about 2013 writing goals…

For the first time in many years, I wrote down my life goals, five-year goals, one-year goals and daily goals. I’d done an informal version of this many years ago (twenty-year goals, ten-year goals, five-year goals). Looking back at that handwritten, tattered piece of paper was a lot of fun, especially with most of the goals long since accomplished. But life was different then, and even though I still have time left to achieve a couple remaining twenty-year goals, it’s time to start over again, reach higher, reignite the flame.

Change. Life is full of it. We can either embrace it and let it carry us downstream, or we can fight it and drown in the process. You’d think the choice would be easy, huh? But every now and then, my throat swells shut and I’m overwhelmed by all the changes ahead—some I can see, some I can’t, some I initiated, some that blindsided me. What sort of year will 2013 be? I don’t know for sure, but I have hopes and dreams and goals to keep me busy while I’m waiting for 2014.

Happy New Year!

Elley, who is very proud of herself for writing this blog post despite the puppy on her lap, and writing this blog post proves that despite the puppy she can accomplish her 1500 words/day writing goal