I couldn’t be more fired up to say that I just got a bid for a new book of YA fiction of mine from a HUGE publisher — one of the biggest — and to say that I am tickled would be a gigantic understatement.
So how did it happen? Here’s a backstage look at the process. (Maybe it’ll be of some benefit to you on your own quest to do the same thing if that’s your aspiration.)
1) I wrote a book.
I can’t tell you how many people I meet that tell me they have a great idea for a book. I can’t tell you how many people I meet that tell me they want to write a book. I can’t tell you how many people I meet that never write that book.
Put your butt in a chair for hundreds and hundreds of hours. Without that, there is no need to even read on.
2) I wrote the book that I genuinely wanted to write.
If you are going to be a writer, you have to stretch. You have to reach. You have demand as much from yourself and your abilities and your character and your stories as you possibly can each and every outing.
Otherwise, it’s gonna stink.
That ultimately means, you have to write the book that YOU want to write. Trying to write vampire stuff right now because vampire stuff is hot doesn’t seem like a great recipe (to me) for success — which is why my new book is NOT a vampire book. Of course, if writing about vamps is your thing, then by all means, go for it. But if you have a deep itch to write, let’s say, a little book about apostrophes and comma placement, you gotta go for it. Why? Cause there is just no way to truly predict what will be successful in the world of books, a la’ Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
Like I said, write the book that you genuinely want to write and don’t guess the market… it moves too fast and is entirely unpredictable.
3) For this book, I took a chance.
Right now I am at the stage of my publishing career where I can write a chapter or two, briefly give an overview outline of the rest of the book and take it out to my agent to submit. Why? Because I have a track record that proves if you pay me to write a book, I will write that book and meet the deadline to which I agree.
But for this book, I spec’d out the whole thing. The whole darn thing. (NOTE: To spec means to write on speculation, speculating that someone is going to want to buy your novel, so you complete an entire draft as opposed to a mere proposal.)
So why is this a “chance” for me? Because if nobody liked my book, it means it would sit in a drawer and all the many, many, many hours I spent writing it will have — well, I won’t say “gone to waste” cause there is no such thing as wasted writing, IMHO, but still… if I can sell a book based on 3,000 words why on earth would I want to write 52,384 words to see if it was going to sell?
My answer was (to myself) because I REALLY wanted to write this book and I REALLY believed in this book and I REALLY felt it was worthy of publication. That made it a REALLY fulfilling experience for me. After all, the joy is in the work, right?
(Also, I REALLY think it’s going to do quite well. At least, I hope.)
But still, I wrote it on spec putting all of my own chips on the line, betting on myself to deliver a something that multiple people would want to publish. And being that it was a complete novel, it makes it all the more attractive to potential buyers because they get to see exactly what they are getting. (Instead of me selling an action adventure book about teens who take over the CIA and then switch the novel 8 months after the contracts have been signed to a love story about a dying geriatric couple in Montana who hope to build a strong fence for their cattle before they pass.)
Don’t laugh, shit like this happens all the time to book editors.
Anyway, in order to try and take my writing career to the next level, I bet on myself to deliver, the upside of which is that it has opened a lot more possibilities.
4) The process was long and slow and hard… and then really quick.
I’ve been thinking about this book off and on for a few years. I’ve played with different stuff for a few years. I finally sat down to write it and despite whatever fantasties anyone might have about writing a novel, at some point, it becomes, tough, hard, long arduous work.
However, this book might have been my easiest in a way because it’s a YA comedy — and like a total doof, I spent many hours all by myself laughing my butt off with no one else in the room. (My feeling is, if I don’t laugh, then why is a reader going to laugh? I mean, if I don’t “feel it” who will?)
That also means that the long, hard work was also tempered by a heck of a lot of fun for me.
But like I said, the process was QUICK as well.
I showed my agent a draft. (After having a bunch of kids read it all over the country, that is. See I have a whole host of fans that I give “sneak peeks” to in order for me to make sure the novel is working the way I want it to, assimilate feedback, and so on. I rarely care what the adults think. But the teens for whom I write, their opinion means everything!)
My agent got it on a Friday, read it over the weekend (he’s GREAT!) and then gave me feedback on a Monday. Essentially, he thought it was terrific, knew right away he was going to be able to place it with a good publishing house, but also told me that it needed a re-write at the Chapter 18/19 mark because a little bit of the character’s motivations seemed muddled and in need of a bit more thought and attention in order to make sure we could drive the plot home with both the requisite force and deft touch.
I set right to work the next evening. (BTW, he was right. You gotta trust the pros with which you work and while I am free to disagree with his insights and opinions — after all, it is my book at the end of the day — I don’t want to let my own ego get in the way of ever making my books better projects — and when I heard his thoughts I knew he was right — I could do better… and so I did.)
Took me a few weeks to get it absolutely right but when I re-submitted it to him, POOF! he gave it the stamp of approval and made a plan to take it out to a variety of publishers.
That’s when the real excitement starts.
About 2 weeks ago a host of editors got the submission from him. 2 days later I heard from one of my previous editors — just a gem of a person — that she loved the book and would be “taking it to the acquisition committee” on Wednesday to float it up their flag pole because she was on board 100%.
At this juncture, a bunch of people have to read the book at her publishing house. (Book publishing is a team game.) Next move for my agent was to then notify other publishing houses that we already have great interest.
Next thing you know, we are “getting reads” all over New York because it’s in the air that this book is going to sell and if you want to buy it, you better hurry.
That was last Friday. Wednesday we got the first offer and by this Friday, the deal will be sealed just in time for a hopefully Happy Thanksgiving.
(My goal was to sell this book by Feb 2010 — so it came in months early.
Anyway, that’s the tale behind this book.
NOTE: I know I haven’t spilled the beans on any details at all yet about the book. Just waiting to have a deal in hand and the such. With the internet the way it is, goodness only knows what can happen. But I promise to reveal all the details when the time is right, maybe float the first chapter to everyone for a sneak peek and tell a few more tales about the publishing process as well as the writing and re-writing process as it unfolds.
Sorry for the long post today, but there was a lot going on. And all of this is happening right at the start of NCTE. Exciting stuff!