Greetings, Friends, Readers, Writers...
I once saw a tee shirt that said, "Sorry I'm late, but I didn't want to come." Well, that is NOT why this newsletter is late. I intended to send it weeks ago. But I was embroiled in an edit of my newly acquired novel, Wicked River, and barely came up for air till now. Readers of this newsletter know that Wicked River sold after a grueling submission that thanks to my agent's expert marksmanship (publishing feels like a war zone sometimes), resulted in an exciting, eleventh hour auction--and a new chance in publishing for me.
This revision I just completed was the first chance I had to show my editors how I edit, which might be as essential a part of a finished book as writing it in the first place. I found my way to Sourcebooks having lost the editors with whom I worked on all three of my published books. I am a married-for-life kind of gal, and never expected to be third-dating again. The experience so far has been even more starry-eyed, serendipitous and could-this-be-love than the first. My new editors are geniuses. They see things I never did--but meant to. Drilled down to the beating heart of Wicked River and found every arrhythmia. Now if only my rewrite can live up to the bar they set.
PS: For in-the-trenches posts about what this rewrite was like, visit my Patreon page. Patreon is a new experiment for me, and becoming a subscriber comes with all sorts of goodies.
High Point Moment
Oh, but wait! I have to tell you about this reviewer I just Facebook-met. My husband, who manages my career and whom I call the Wizard, got a Google alert that my first novel, Cover of Snow, had been named to Reader's Digest 14 Books That Will Change Your Life list. Since I basically learned to read on RD--my favorite column was Drama in Real Life, and the one about the shark attack freaked me out when I was three years old, and arguably started me on this writing life--you can imagine how honored I felt. Reviewer Ariel Zeitlin chose some fantastic picks--just take a look--and I couldn't believe mine was one.
I've always loved to learn about other writers, showcase what they're doing, and connect them with potential fans. To that end, we have two author spotlights in this edition that I think you'll really enjoy. The first features a new way to get published. And the second is an author who appeared on my blog long ago, and has just released his second book. But what really surprised me about these two Spotlights, and why I chose to pair them, is what startlingly similar things two very different authors had to say.
Author Spotlight #1: Max Eastern
For me, traditional publishing was not working. Too many gatekeepers and the process takes too long. Your manuscript spends weeks with an agent while they decide if they want you as a client. If they do, more months are spent on their changes. Then the book is sent to publishers. More months go by. If you get a deal, eighteen months from then you’ll see your book in print.
Kindle Scout is kind of a cross between self-publishing, with all the control that implies, plus the oomph of a corporate PR department with none of the gatekeepers.
Before submitting, you get your book edited, design a cover, and write a summary, a call line, and your bio. Then you send the package, and it and the first couple of chapters are posted on the Kindle Scout site. It’s like a giant slushpile, only the public gets to see it. You launch your own PR campaign to get people to vote for you. At the end of 30 days, Kindle Scout decides, based partially on the number of votes, whether to publish it on Kindle Press as an e-book. Once the book is accepted, you get a small advance and the book is contracted out for a careful edit, though as the author you may reject the proposed changes.
The Gods Who Walk Among Us, a suspense novel with noir elements, was posted on Kindle Scout last November, accepted for publication by Kindle Press in December, and put for sale as an e-book on March 22nd. As of this morning, the book ranks No. 5 on Amazon’s top 100 list of “hot new releases in hard-boiled mystery.”
It happened fast, with results that made me happy.
Author Spotlight #2: Brandon Daily
I’ve had numerous unpublished writers ask me the key to publication. First off, I tell them it takes massive amounts of patience, and a lot of decisions: Do you submit your manuscript to a publisher yourself or find an agent? Do you self-publish or try traditional publishing?
I chose to shop my first novel, Murder Country, to publishers myself rather than find an agent. There are great advantages to having an agent: many big publishers only take agented submissions, and there’s more pay with big publishers, and more exposure. Yet there’s also a catch-22. You need to find the agent—send queries, wait for replies—and once you do, there’s no guarantee that s/he can/will sell the book. It’s a gamble, and ultimately it’s a personal choice.
Some authors take another road and self-publish. I’m not going to sit here and knock self-publication, but in my eyes this format is a last-ditch effort. Yet, by whatever format, whether an author has an agent or not, my greatest suggestion is to keep the story at the center. Isn’t it our job, as writers, to convey themes and messages, and, yes, stories, to other people? To entertain and teach? That’s what authors have done for centuries, and that’s what they’ll continue to do long after we’re gone.
I Promised I Would Tell You
In my first newsletter, I referred to blockbuster author and five decade veteran (survivor?) of this biz, David Morrell, who read Wicked River and helped transform it. Here are a few more details about that process. The version that David read steamed along until the last quarter and then fell flat. The Wizard is my first trusty reader and when he read an even earlier version, his response was: "You've written a seriously bad bad guy and gotten your heroine into an even worse situation. But you didn't come close to getting out of the corner you painted yourself into." Ouch. But it was true. This is why I scream at love him. I thought I'd come up with a good workaround by the time David was kind enough to lay eyes on the manuscript, but I hadn't. David finally made me see what I was missing-slash-resisting. I'll reveal what he said in the next newsletter. Dun dun dun!
1, 2, 3 Get...
Starting in May, I'm going to introduce a new series on Patreon, the platform I'm exploring to connect with readers, writers, and fans. Kevin Kelly has the 1000 True Fans theory; others write of super fans who enable a writer to establish a career independent of the direction in which the winds of publishing blow. Patreon allows super fans to gather in one place. And 1, 2, 3 is a perk I'm offering subscribers, a series of quick five or ten minute videos about the publishing biz and reading life. First up will be 1, 2, 3, Get an Agent. If you're in the process of looking for an agent—or considering whether to do so, as our two Spotlight authors were—you might want to check it out. And second up will be 1, 2, 3, Host a Killer Book Club.
On the Road Again--but just for a little
Some of you know that I, um, love book tours. And tend to do them in a big way. As hard as it has been for me not to have a book out this year—and it is! how I miss interacting with readers, fellow writers, and the booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and book bloggers who make this author thing such fun—also difficult has been simply missing the road. I was privileged to be able to join the Sisters in Crime speakers bureau this year, though, and today I head south to Richmond, to speak with the Central Virginia Sisters & Misters. I can't wait! My talk is called Happily Ever After & What Happens After That. By this point, it already needs a postscript. And after that...and after that...and after...
That's All for Now
By the next time I write, I should know not only how my editors responded to my rewrite, but what the in-house response to Wicked River was. Will it become a big book, insofar as the publisher affects that process? Please keep your fingers crossed, enjoy spring, & stay tuned!
Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull—with thanks to super friend and fan, Steve A., for help with my send-off—