Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

Publishing Possibilities

Posted: September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Now that the new Knight Agency newsletter is out, with an article by Elaine Spencer, an interview with Chloe Neill, an Author Tip of the Month from Tammy Kaehler and other goodies, I’ll post up here my article from the last newsletter, drawn from the panel that Elaine and I did at the Romance Writers of America national conference along with Nephele Tempest, Nalini Singh and Deborah Blake (our esteemed moderator). And so, I give you…

Publishing Possibilities

I’ve talked a lot on panels recently about working with others, whether they be critique partners, fellow writers, bloggers or whathaveyou—to improve your work and your reach.  This past Thursday this came up at the Romance Writers of America Conference on the panel Beyond Business:  Taking the Agency/Author Relationship into the New Era, which featured Knight Agency clients Nalini Singh and Deborah Blake and TKA agents Nephele Tempest, Elaine Spencer and me.

My portion of this talk was about how an agent, a good business manager, helps you navigate through all of the possibilities out there in publishing.  In addition to traditional, small press, self-publishing and the hybrid model, there are also subrights to consider, international markets and so much more.

But you all know this.

What you probably don’t know is that agents don’t just sit back and discuss opportunities you bring to them—like what to do with your new romantic suspense novel.  We’re always beating the bushes, making the acquaintance of new editors, conversing with those we already know to keep abreast of what they’re looking for at the moment.  But here’s the best part: they regularly coming to us as well.  Because our agency handles so many well-respected authors, editors will contact us if there’s something in particular they want but aren’t seeing or approach us with proprietary ideas (concepts generated in-house that they feel are particularly marketable and for which they’re seeking out just the right author) or with tie-in work (novels, novelizations, manuals, etc. that tie in to successful media franchises like Star Wars).  We can then see what authors might be a good fit, both in terms of material and scheduling, and connect people together.

And it’s not just editors who come to us.  More and more, we’re hearing from producers, film people, gaming companies, even musical groups who want fiction based on their work.  Some have their own book production arms, some have partnered with publishers or have generated funds and interest with Kickstarter campaigns…  The important thing is that there are a wealth of possibilities and big agencies with a deep and amazing talent pools draw these opportunities out and facilitate/negotiate the deals.

Sometimes it’s authors who come to us, putting together an anthology on a theme and wondering if we have any clients who’d be interested or working on a continuity in which they’d like to get others involved.

Then there’s working together for visibility and marketing, of course!  As an agency (and as individual agents), we tweet, Facebook and all as much else as we can, but getting authors together to support and promo each other is important as well.  With so much out on the market, signals can get lost unless they’re boosted, and social cred (having others enthusiastic about your work and not hearing all about it from the author him/herself) is crucial.

Well, I think I’ve used up my allotment of words, but I hope that you’ve found this informative and maybe even inspirational!

When I asked on Twitter what questions people would like an article about agents to address, there were a bunch that didn’t fit into the post I was writing, which you can find at BTS Book Reviews blog. Thus, as promised, I’m answering them over here on my own blog. If you have a question that isn’t answered in the “All About Agents” article or this Q&A (that is not “would you read my book”), feel free to ask it here and I’ll do my best to answer.

Q. Assuming the writing is good, what is the difference between a partial that grabs you and one that doesn’t? (Since this is similar to the question “How can an agent tell if said ms has potential?” I’m combining the answers here.)

A. Here’s the thing—we’re not just looking for something with potential. Many writers have potential. We’re looking for someone who’s achieved their potential. We want someone who blows us away and keeps reading late into the night or makes us miss subway stops because we’re so absorbed. We want a manuscript that we can’t help but pitch to friends and family as well as editors. In short, we want something that excites us and that we can truly champion. You don’t want an agent who’s ambivalent to your work or on the fence about it. You want someone who’s thrilled to be working with you and who will keep on even when those inevitable rejections come in. (In my 22 years in the business, I’ve never had a work that everyone wanted. Never.)

The difference between what grabs me and what doesn’t is not easy to articulate. The novels I fall in love with spark something in me. They make a connection; they’re original; they have a wonderful, unique voice. Voice, in fact, is often what makes something stand head and shoulders above the rest. That said, just because I don’t connect with a work strongly enough to take it on doesn’t mean it’s not ready for prime time. It only means that I’m not the right agent for it.

Q. What are you hoping to see when you ask for revisions and offer to take another look?

A. When I ask for revisions, it’s because I see a spark. I’ve made that connection, but the work is still far enough from being ready that I’m not sure if the writer isn’t there yet or if the manuscript just needs another pass. Seeing the work again after revision will answer that for me. It may be that the pacing was too slow previously…or the main character was too distant or tangential to the action…or that the storyline itself wasn’t strong enough regardless of the intriguing set-up… Having the author tackle a revision lets me know that they’re open to critique and putting in the work necessary. The outcome of the revision itself demonstrates how well the author applies notes and whether he or she can bring this particular manuscript up to the level it needs to be to stand out.

Q. I’d love advice about the comparison in the query–ie “Fans of __ will love my book.” “I’m __ meets __.” Should we do this?

A. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that you hope that your work will appeal to the same audience as that of Author X. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people phrase it poorly too many times so that it comes across sounding like, “Move over Stephen King, I’ll take it from here.” It takes the right blend of confidence and humility to say it the way you intend it to come across. Likewise, describing your work as ­this meets that is fine as long as it really highlights your concept for the agent or editor with whom you’re corresponding. I describe my Vamped young adult series as Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think/hope that the person I’m talking with immediately sees Cher Horowitz with fangs. At the very least, they’ll know that it’s a snarky, fashion-conscious vampire series. I scratch my head, though, when I hear something like this is the Jack Kerouac, Peter Straub and Jude Deveraux all rolled into one. My response to that is…huh?

In other words, it can be a useful tool if done right, but I highly recommend running comparisons by critique partners and others you work with to be sure you’ve struck the right notes.

Q. What working relationship do you look for outside of contract with a client? Level of professionalism?

I’m not sure whether the person asking the question meant “contract” or “contact” here, but I get the spirit of the question. What I look for is someone who’s going to be a publishing partner. In other words, someone who’s willing to invest the same amount of effort in his/her career as I am. If I comment on a manuscript or proposal, I want to know those comments are well-received, even if the author may not agree with everything I have to say. I look for someone who’s personable and plays well with others. Publishing is such a village that it’s important to prop each other up and promote each other rather than tear down. I want someone who’s professional and communicative, who asks the questions that need to be asks and who keeps me on the loop on their end of things.   Also, someone who’s reliable with deadlines and with the quality of his or her work.

Q. If a book by a debut author is the first in a series, do you want that mentioned in query? Or treat it as a standalone?

A. Yes, if a book is part of a series, I want to know it. When advice says don’t pitch more than one project at once, it’s not saying pretend you don’t have a series (although you don’t want to tell us you have a ten-book arc necessarily). It’s saying don’t pitch two or three different series or genres at a time.

Q. Do agents look for something that will sell immediately? Or are they willing to work with an author at revisions to make a future sale?

A. When an agent takes someone on, they’re making an investment in the writer’s career. They don’t necessarily expect that a book will sell instantly. Responses can take months. And most of us do work editorially with authors to make the work as strong as it can possibly be prior to submission, which involves time before the book ever goes out to editors. A work doesn’t have to be perfect before we’ll take it on, but it does have to be really close. Unfortunately, agents don’t have the time to nurture a diamond in the rough. There are a lot of good writers out there. It’s not our job to train them up into great writers. It’s our job to sell their work and help them succeed once they get there.

Q. When querying, what time(s) of the year are the best to do so? Or, when is NOT a good time of the year to query you?

A. Conventional wisdom is that you don’t send submissions out at the end of the year (say between Thanksgiving and New Years) because agents and editors are burnt out and just trying to wrap up all their current projects before the end of the year. There’s some wisdom to this, but I’ve sent submissions out during this time and made some great sales. I think the answer here is “it depends.” The best way to be sure you’re querying at a good time (or at least not at a bad one) is to check the agency or publisher’s guidelines to see if there’s any window when they’re open or closed to submissions and make sure you don’t submit at a time when they’re not reviewing queries.

Q. If a project originally rejected is revised and mostly rewritten, does it count as a new book/okay to query again?

A. If you received an encouraging response and your book has been significantly revised or rewritten, then it’s absolutely okay to query again. If you haven’t, it probably means the book wasn’t right for that particular agent. However, the worst they can say is “no” to a new query, so I don’t think it hurts to try. That’s my two cents, of course, and if an agency’s guidelines say differently, then following them would be the way to go.

I promised my friends at the Colorado Gold Conference this past weekend that I would post my presentation on When is it YA? on my blog, and I’m keeping that promise here.  Some of this may be a bit familiar, since I’ve written on the subject before, but there’s new here as well.

So, when is it YA?

It’s important when targeting editors and agents to how where your work fits, and there’s often confusion about when something is middle-grade or young adult vs. new adult or adult fiction. Is it just the age of the protagonist? Well, no.

For a quick overview:

Middle grade is considered fiction for kids 8-12. There’s, of course, a range within this from chapter books like the Magic Treehouse to series like Percy Jackson and the early Harry Potter books, which I would argue aged up with the reader. These books mostly have protagonists on the older side of the reader scale (kids will read up in age but not down). So, it’s very likely your hero or heroine would be 11 or 12. Word count generally hovers around 40-55,000 words, give or take.

-Young Adult is for ages 12-18. Of course, there’s a range here as well and again you want to aim for older protagonists to give yourself the broadest readership. Word count is generally 60,000-80,000 words though, of course, this varies as well. It’s not just about the age of the protagonist, but about themes and where the protagonist is in his or her life.

New Adult this is for older heroes and heroines and has more adult, often sexual themes. It’s generally the next step in the protagonists’ lives—the first really adult relationship—and it’s mostly seen and shelved in romance. Heroes/heroines will be late teens or early twenties and the books will generally be the length of adult fiction.

Adult: adult fiction can, of course, have younger protagonists, like Mark Haddon’s THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME or Jodi Picoult’s MY SISTER’S KEEPER or Orson Scott Card’s Ender series, but the themes and situations are adult. The characters aren’t dealing with high school and issues of identity, but having to deal with adult situations even at their young age.

So when is it YA?

Young adult and middle-grade novels do not simply have young characters dropped into an adult world, dealing with their issues.  They have young people in situations and settings that are relevant to their current experience and to what they’re going through. Generally, the characters are in a school and/or familiar setting, dealing with family and social issues that are universal to that period in life.

Common themes (and I say “I” and “you” because what any writer needs to succeed is to become his/her character while writing):

Finding belonging – where do I fit in? Whether your character discovers s/he belongs in the wizarding world or the in crowd, finding a place in the world is a major theme.

Rebellion – young adulthood is definitely a time for questioning the status quo and deciding what you really believe in and what you’re willing to fight for.

Survival – sometimes you’re fighting just to survive. Zombies. High school. Minefields. Mazes.

Self-reliance or the flipside, allowing others in – no matter who your character is, he or she won’t be the same by the end of the story. If she’s a loner, she might learn that she needs people and that there’s sometimes strength in numbers. If he’s used to a certain amount of safety, whether it be in financial or social status, something will happen to teach him how to stand on his own.

How to make a difference – change is sort of the buzzword. Whatever’s going on, there has to be a way for the teens themselves to make the difference and affect the change. Control and coming into their own are all important.

Overall, the most important thing is that the young adult protagonists in your story are the agents of change. They’re not catalysts or observers, they’re active participants, without which…nothing.

What about Language?

Just like it isn’t all about the age of the protagonists, it’s not all about language either. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

-Don’t talk down to your readers. Ever.

-Don’t preach

-Make sure you use relevant cultural references and not those that will be gone in a year. Your heartthrobs will not be theirs!

-Know how kids talk. Dialogue should be natural and contemporary. Language and sentence structure appropriate for your viewpoint character. They know when you’re faking it.

-Cursing – sometimes it’s necessary. Good rule of thumb, always make sure it is. Don’t use it gratuitously and be aware that for some lines, even that’s too much.


Here’s a hint – teens know about sex and drugs and drinking. It’s part of their experience, so it will often factor into to realistic portrayals, although some publishers are certainly more open to this than others.

Young adult fiction isn’t adult lite.  It’s not the place to preach to kids or present things as you’d have them appear rather than as they are.  It’s the place where you address teens’ actual world, experiences, insecurities, pressures, etc.  Even if you throw vampires or werewolves into the mix, you’re still dealing with peer pressure, bullying, friends/parents/faculty/enemies with agendas of their own.  And the big secret…none of this ends with high school, which might be why so many adults are attracted to young adult fiction as well.  We’ve all been there, and in many ways have never left. 

The LA Times had a wonderful article recently on the widespread appeal of young adult fiction, where one author (Lizzie Skurnick) speculated that part of the attraction may lie in the fact that “a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain.”  I think another factor may be that young adult fiction isn’t broken down along genre lines, but is a category all by itself, which means that writers are less tied to any particular conventions.  A book doesn’t have to be A or B, but can be something all its own.  (Not that genre boundaries haven’t become increasingly blurry in the adult fiction market as well.)

I don’t think there are taboos of subject so much as differing levels of graphic presentation.  There are times where something might happen off stage or that different language might be used, but the world is not always a perfect or pretty place, and fiction should reflect that. 

That said, if what you want to write about is sexual awakening, you might be writing New Adult rather than YA. It’s a matter of the focus and the nature of the experience.

But death – yup, got it – THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. Drugs –yup, that too—Ellen Hopkins. Eating disorders – HUNGER by Jackie Morse Kessler. Suicide – THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. Reproductive issues – UNWIND by Neal Shusterman. And those are just examples.

The important thing in young adult fiction is to be authentic and to make sure you truly understand your characters, their struggles and the significance of their triumphs.


J. Kathleen Cheney’s second novel, THE SEAT OF MAGIC, came out last week.  It’s an amazing novel, sequel to THE GOLDEN CITY, which was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and received special acclaim as a best book of 2013 from Library Journal and Ranting Dragon!  She’s here today to talk about what she’s learned since then.

The Second Time Around… by J. Kathleen Cheney

For a bit of background, my novel The Seat of Magic debuted last week, right before the July 4th weekend, which was wonderful timing. The sequel to The Golden City, it’s a Historical Fantasy set in an alternate 1902 Portugal, with nonhumans and humans working together to stop two strings of murders in a city where the nonhumans have been banned.

Yes, my new book is a sequel. I’ve been through this book debut business before, and I learned some things from my first debut that have made this one much easier. So here are a few hints—for those aspiring writers out there—of what to expect when your turn comes around.


1) Reviews trickle in.

I don’t know why I had this perception before, but I believed (wrongly) that all the major outlets (Publisher’s Weekly, RT, Library Journal, Kirkus, etc.) would review my book months in advance.

Where I got that idea, I have no clue. They’re human, just like me, and they have to juggle a TBR pile far larger than mine. So this time around, I haven’t spent hours refreshing the webpages, wondering when they’ll get my review up. I’ve been more patient, and it’s been a less stressful experience for me. (The same goes for reader reviews, by the way. Not everyone will read your book the day it comes out…because hundreds of other books will come out on the same day!)


2) Things will go wrong, and it won’t be the end of the world.

Of the three signings I had set up for the debut of Book 1, two were hit by ice storms. Yes, even though you plan months in advance for everything to be perfect, things will happen that are simply beyond your control.


3) You don’t control those sales numbers either, so spend your time elsewhere.

As a brand-spanking-new writer, it’s easy to get hooked on refreshing Amazon every few minutes to see your author ranking change. (Going up, one hopes.) But knowing your sales figures doesn’t improve them. Concentrate on the things that you can affect to build readership instead, whether it’s blogging, making appearances, of writing something good. In fact, that has to be your first priority, because as a writer, you always need to be working on something new.


4) Expect a troll or two.

I’m a fairly inoffensive person online, so I was surprised to be hit by a troll reviewer within a day or two of my book’s debut. I couldn’t imagine why this reviewer was passionate enough about my book to write two full pages on why she didn’t like it, but she did. The truth is, someone is always going to dislike my writing, and they are going to talk about it online. I learned very quickly to spot that kind of reviews and walk away. It’s going to happen, but I don’t have to read them.


5) Enjoy where you are.

Not enjoying your novel debut is a bit like climbing to the top of Mt. Everest and not stopping to look around. Thousands of people would love to be where you are.

So expect a few things not to turn out like you’d hoped. That’s inevitable. Enjoy all the ones that do turn out the way you planned. Enjoy the signings and tweets from happy readers. Enjoy the blog posts and good reviews and friendly FB comments. Enjoy.


And then get back to writing…


seatofmagic_100dpi BLURB for The Seat of Magic

Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill….

It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City. Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger.

Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.

To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….


Great Quotes for the Series


“[A] killer sequel…Intriguing and fun, the mystery unfolds like a socially conscious tour through a cabinet of curiosities.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[M]esmerizing.” —Publishers Weekly

“This second entry in the Golden City series is even better than its predecessor. Readers will be completely enthralled with the characters and the organic development of their relationship. It is a sheer delight to see more of Oriana and her people… Add to that an engaging world filled with selkies, sereia and the prohibition of magic and you won’t want to put The Seat of Magic down. This reviewer couldn’t help falling for the hot hero, whose banter with Oriana is awesome; their sweet romance is utterly charming.” —Romantic Times

goldencity_100dpi THE GOLDEN CITY

“VERDICT Cheney’s debut is a masterpiece of historical fantasy, set in early 1900s Portugal, a time and place rarely explored in English-language fiction. The fascinating mannerisms of the age and the extreme formality of two people growing fonder of each other add a charmingly fresh appeal that will cross over to romance fans as well as to period fantasy readers.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“Cheney’s The Golden City pulls readers in right off the bat, as the story kicks off with our heroine in a desperate situation that will leave you rooting for her almost instantly. Oriana’s “extra” abilities are thoroughly intriguing and readers will love the crackling banter and working relationship between Oriana and Duilio.” —Romantic Times

“An ambitious debut from Cheney: part fantasy, part romance, part police procedural and part love letter to Lisbon in the early 1900s.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The Golden City is easily my vote for this year’s best debut novel, and Cheney has made her way to my must-read list.” —Ranting Dragon

“I honestly cannot wait to read what Cheney writes next.” – Bookworm Blues


Author Bio

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, “The Golden City” is a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel).

Social Media Links:


Twitter: @jkcheney


nexus Before I do anything at all, I want to wish a HUGE congratulations to Ramez Naam for making the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his debut science fiction novel NEXUS!  So proud!  So well deserved!

This past Saturday, the Florida chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Orlando Public Library teamed up to present a free half-day writers workshop featuring a panel and break-out sessions with  Jessica Khoury, Jessica Brody, Amy Christine Parker, Christina Farley, Vivi Barnes, J.A. Souders and Anna Banks.   I may be a bit biased, being one of the presenters myself, but it was a great day.

A few people asked about notes for my talk, and I promised to write them up for my blog, thus here they are.  Some of the information here I grabbed from previous posts I’ve done, so there might be parts here that are familiar to some viewers!

The Publishing Process: From Gaining our Attention through Publication

Of course, it all starts with your manuscript, so I want to talk a bit about standing out from the crowd.

First of all, don’t take the easy way out.  Don’t do what’s common or expected.  Don’t do something anyone else can do.  When you’re generating ideas, it’s often a good idea to throw out your first two or three thoughts.  They come quickly and easily because they’re rote.  You’ve seen them and heard them before.  They’ve been done, many times over.  Push yourself beyond those first few ideas.  Challenge yourself.

Come up with something unique, whether it be your character or storyline…or better yet both.  Just as you don’t want your storyline to be predictable or cookie-cutter, you don’t want to people your novel with stereotypes or cardboard characters.  You should know more about your people than ever make it onto the page.  If someone were to ask their favorite ice cream or how long they take in the bathroom, you should be able to answer without thought.

Don’t shy away from tension or true danger.  Your reader needs to truly fear for the emotional or physical wellbeing of your character.  Torture your characters/torture your reader.  It sounds cruel, but it’s honest.  Remember that in every scene there should be something at stake.

What often takes a novel from okay to amazing is the voice.  Your voice, your point of view character, is the lens through which we see the world.  Think of it this way—if you have two children and both told you about the same fight, would it sound the same?  No, it would have a slant…about who was at fault, who started things, who did what to whom.  Some details would make it in and others would be left out.  What words would be used?  Would they be uttered in anger?  In a rush, tumbling over each other?  What would the body language be?  Whoever’s POV we’re in should be distinctive and unique and they should have an angle on things. Everyone has an angle.  (Not necessarily a bad angle.  Someone might give too many chances or see the best in everyone rather than the worst, but his/her personality and experiences will lead him or her to treat an event or individual in a certain way.)

Okay, so we’ve got great stories and great characters.  What else?  Well, great writing, of course.  Your first draft is often just that…drafty.  It should never be the product that goes out the door.  Amy Christine Parker and I did a vlog for YA Rebels on Revisions, which I’ll post below, but here are some quick notes based on beginning mistakes I see time and again:

-Do your best to rid your manuscript of waffle words, like “just,” “only,” “seemed to”.  Also, “she decided,” “he thought,” “she mused”…that sort of thing. Thought tags like this are the equivalent of said-bookisms in dialogue.  (For example: “I hate you!” she shouted angrily.)  Some things are understood and telling them to us is redundant.  Show, don’t tell.  This will make your writing much more immediate.

-Avoid passive voice. For example: Passive: “The door opened to admit her;” Active: “Benny slammed the door open at her knock, shocking her back a step…”  As you can tell, the second option is much more effective.

-Go back over emotional scenes particularly.  Chances are you shied away from the true depth and these need to be further explored now that the full context surrounds them.

-Make sure you have sensory and physiological details where appropriate.  For example, if someone’s running for his/her life or being kissed for the first time, the body will react.  Blood flow will increase or rush to certain parts of the body.  Breathing will change…

-Make sure every scene is told in the right point of view, that of the participant, not the observer.

-If you’ve jigged when you should have jogged and gone down the wrong path with your novel, now is the chance to change that.  You’ll hear many professional writers say that they write two or three books for every one published.  That’s because of how much they throw out and start again or how much is rewritten beyond recognition.  I won’t say that first-drafting is easier, but revisions are where the real work comes in!  (At least for me.)

-Make sure that you’ve revised your work until you can’t stand to look at it anymore.  Then put it away for a few weeks to a month and look again with fresh eyes.  Readers and critique partners are invaluable in this process as well, because they don’t know what you meant to put down on the page.  They only know what’s there, and they can help you discover sections that came out differently than intended or plot points that didn’t come through at all.

-Mantra: Thou shalt send out no manuscript before it’s time.

Next, I discussed the querying process, what an agent does and what a publishing house does for you.  Since I’ve covered these things in previous posts, here are those links:

Finding an Agent

The Role of Agents in the Modern Publishing Landcape

Querying, Part 1

Querying, Part 2

Querying, Part 3

What a Publisher Does (aka It Takes a Village)

Other links you might find helpful that I offered in a hand-out:

My blog

My author website

Knight Agency website

TKA submission guidelines

Association of Authors’ Representatives

The SFWA Writer Beware site

Preditors & Editors



Defining Moments


YA Rebels vlog on Revisions:

Enough is enough!  There’s been a lot turmoil in the publishing industry lately.  I’m thinking particularly of the spectacularly sexist and biased remarks flying around from some in the science fiction and fantasy field (see as a reference Dave Truesdale’s absolutely unbelievable rant here) and the recent Huffington Post Article, “If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.”  I’ve had so much to say on these matters that I’ve literally been unable to say anything, because it all wants to tumble out at once, creating a bottleneck at the source.  But here it is.  I know that I’m not saying anything new, but I have to say it: all of this—ALL OF IT—comes down to entitlement.   I’m entitled to what you have and HOW DARE YOU stand in my way.  What comes next is belittling, bullying and badmouthing others in order to tear them down so that you can climb over their backs to raise yourself up.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not going to happen.  Even if you were the next person in line for the accomplishment you think should be yours, there’s only going to be another you waiting in the wings to tear you down.  It’s craziness.

Here’s the truth: a person’s sex, sexuality or skin has NO bearing on that person’s merit.  NONE.   Of course, I’m starting here with the SFWA insanity.  I have to start somewhere.  Does the first amendment protect your right to spout off biased and bigoted rhetoric?  Just recently Adam Baldwin and Nick Searcy have proven that it does.  However, an organization  does not have to let those people speak for it or give them a forum for their words and yet there is a petition circling claiming censorship for not allowing the bias to stand.  N.K. Jemisin did a wonderful post on all of this which says everything I’d want to say more eloquently than I can put it, but I’ll quote just a little bit here: “I am all about the First Amendment. Most writers are. And if this current brave blow in defense of artistic expression had been actually about artistic expression, I might’ve been in their corner. If they’d gone to bat like this, poured out all this sturm und drang and all these Privileged Writer Tears, over the kinds of things the First Amendment was meant to protect — the voices of the minority; the rights of those who need to speak truth to power; subversive art, incisive journalism, political protest — then I would’ve signed the damn petition myself.”

Here’s a write-up about the petition from Black Gate Magazine.  Now, I was a columnist for the SFWA Bulletin—the very incarnation of it that was suspended.  Sadly, all of us were ditched, along with the editor, who I really enjoyed working with.  I agree that the magazine needed an overhaul and I do believe that the egregious columns should have been edited for content or suspended all together, since they provided a biased and outdated view of many things, not the least of which was the role of women in the industry.  Do I like the way things went down?  No.  But will I argue to be rid of any oversight?  Again, no.  A professional publication should serve its members, not alienate them.  It doesn’t mean there will never be any difference of opinions.  Get any five members of the industry on a panel and at least one is bound to be the odd man or woman out over an issue.  However, a professional publication needs to be professional.

Moving on to the Huffington Post article…  Amy Christine Parker did a wonderful vlog yesterday for YA Rebels (below) expressing so much that I would have said, but I want to add my voice here.  1- Criticizing anyone’s work without so much as reading it is bad form. 2- Suggesting that anyone leave a field so that others can get ahead…where do I even start?  When someone like J.K. Rowling (for middle grade fiction) or Stephenie Meyer (for YA) or Laurell K. Hamilton (for urban fantasy) comes along, it calls attention to the entire field.  Publishers realize that there’s an audience hungry for it and they begin looking for more.  It can actually pave the way for other writers of such fiction to come up in the industry.  Plus, BOOKS, SELLING = good for bookstores, good for the industry.  3- As Amy suggested in her vlog, writers aren’t workhorses.  We write because we have to.  We’re artists.  Ask an artist to stop creating art and you might as well ask us to stop our hearts.

Full disclosure, I loved J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  I read the whole series not because I have a son the right age (he actually read them on my recommendation), but because I really enjoyed them.  Are they perfect?  No.  What is?  But she created a world and characters that I lost myself in, and that to me is magic.  Do I like some of what she’s said in interviews since, like that she doesn’t write fantasy?  (As if a) we could swallow that and b) there’s anything wrong with fantasy.)  No, I don’t.  However, I would never suggest that she step aside and am stunned that anyone would feel she had the right to try to elbow another author off the stage.

People, if you can’t get ahead on your own merits, maybe you should look to the mote in your own eye.  ‘Nough said.

Amy’s vlog…

Hey, all, still playing crazy catch-up after the holidays, so I’m just posting quickly to give a WOOT! for the fact that we can now announce the big deal for three new Chicagoland Vampires novels by the bestselling and entirely unforgettable Chloe NeillHere’s the PW announcement.

In YA Rebel-land, Amy Christine Parker and I chose to do today’s vlog on publishing misconceptions (part 1, because there’s too much to cover in a single vid!).  Check us out.


Just back from rounds of meetings in New York and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s annual reception (which was amazing) and so late posting up my new links.  This week I can be found at Magical Words talking about the Role of Agents in the Modern Publishing Landscape and over on the YA Rebels vlog talking about my writing process. Wait, I can embed the vlog right here (she says, fearfully, knowing that the world may not actually be ready for her morning face).  Anyway, if you’d like an overly honest look into my writing process, you can find it right here.


I seriously need Joan Jetson’s stylist for just such occasions.

Finally, since this is my blog and I’ll party if I want to, I want to celebrate this fantastic new review of BAD BLOOD from A Simple Love of Reading.  How can you not adore a review that starts out with, “I loved this book”?  So thrilled!

Quick note before I introduce the amazing N.K. Jemisin: Faith Hunter was kind enough to host me over on her blog this week, so I didn’t want to miss out on sending y’all over there as well.  I’m talking about the writing life.  And now, without further ado….

When I think new and innovative in epic fantasy, I think N.K. Jemisin.  Last year with her debut novel THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, she was up for about every major award in the genre, and this year her new Dreamblood series (THE KILLING MOON and THE SHADOWED SUN) is already making lists of most anticipated reads:

Wired Magazine Summer School for Geeks: 11 New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

Publishers Weekly’s Best Summer Books 2012

National Public Radio (NPR)’s fantasy summer reading list

and inspired Kirkus Reviews to a compile a Top 10 Female-Penned Fantasy novels/series

I’m so pleased to have her here giving away a signed book to one lucky commentor and sharing her knowledge of:

Five Things I Now Know About Being a Professional Writer (That I Didn’t Know Before)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, my first novel, was published in February of 2010. My fifth novel, The Shadowed Sun, just came out this month. Now, I know how it looks — two years, five books — but that’s deceptive. Anyone who knows anything about publishing understands that it’s icebergian: the part of it that’s visible to the public is miniscule compared to the stuff that led up to it. For me this whole saga actually began a couple of years before the first book’s publication, in 2008 when I sold my first novels to Orbit. Or maybe it really started a few years before that, in 2004 when I got Lucienne as an agent. Or did it start in 2000, when I first resolved to buckle down and get serious about becoming a published writer? All this leads me to the first of my Things:

1) Everything takes longer than you think.

Ten years from resolution to publication is nothing. It took longer than that, really; I’m not counting the preceding ten-plus years I spent writing “just for fun”, because I was convinced that there was no real point in my trying to get published. It just seemed too difficult. A lot of aspiring writers feel this way, I know. Some of them resort to self-publishing, not because they genuinely think it’s a good publishing model for them, but because they aren’t willing to keep at it and they don’t think they can break in any other way. Some of them can’t. But some of them could, if they put in the time and effort. Persistence is the key.

Then there’s the matter of timelines. I’m on deadline again right now, working on the first of a new fantasy trilogy. I have a year to finish each book, so I’m pacing myself, doing 1000-1500 words per day. In theory this should mean I’ll finish each novel in about four months — but in actual practice I know it’ll take much longer. For one thing, I’ve got to plan around a day job. I work in education; the month of September is to us what the month of April is to accountants. I probably won’t make my wordcount goals that month. And I’ve got periods of heavy travel and promotion to consider. Since The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun came out very recently, I’ve had a steady spate of readings and guestblogs and convention appearances and signings… so I haven’t made my wordcount goals lately, either. And sometime during the year I’ll need to take the time to read through the published versions of both books to try and catch typos before the mass markets come out. Once I’ve turned in the first book of the new series, I’ll have to plan in time for edits and second edits and copyedits and first pass edits while I’m working on the second and third books. When the first book comes out — probably while I’m still working on the third book — I’ll also have to slot in time for promotion again.

And that’s if I don’t decide to scrap what I’m working on and start over. Did that several times with each book of the Inheritance Trilogy. Sometimes I make my wordcount goals, but they’re the wrong words.

So it will probably take me close to a year to finish each book — and that’s if no major family emergencies, employment emergencies, etc., happen in the meantime. I’ll aim for four months anyway. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

2) Robots are a good idea. (Or help of some sort.)

I am not blessed with children. This is a sad thing, because according to my mother, children are darn handy for doing chores.

In lieu of children, I have invested in technology: a Roomba and a countertop dishwasher. I have also chosen to pay for certain services that most people would do themselves: drop-off wash & fold laundry and (occasional) grocery delivery. I bought the dishwasher out of my first advance check, and I deduct the laundry when I itemize my taxes, per an accountant’s advice. This is because I’m specifically investing in these services/devices as a way to make time for writing. The four hours I would otherwise spend doing it myself at the corner laundromat is time I can use to hit my daily wordcount goal, or write a guestblog post. In fact, because I’m paying for it, I find myself more motivated to get the writing done — because otherwise I’ve wasted an investment in myself.

Which leads me to my next realization:

3) Time-thieves are everywhere. And they love you.

I have relatives and friends. You probably do, too. And one of the problems I continually have with my relatives and friends is that they want to do things with me. I know, right? Terrible! How could they.

Professional writers need to have lives. Writing well depends on lived experience; none of us can be single-minded worker bees cranking away on wordcount all the time. But what I didn’t understand before I got published was how much time I would have to spend on tasks that aren’t writing. Before publication, all I had to do was write, and occasionally do some writing-related networking. After publication, I travel to conventions. I do readings. I do research. I do blog posts and guestblogs. I do interviews. I check copyedits. I write jacket copy. I read and sign contracts. I do mailings. I fill out foreign tax forms. I still do lots of networking, now in person. Oh — and I write, too.

What I also didn’t understand before publication was how hard it would be to get all this across to my friends and family. They still think all I do is write. They still think writing isn’t hard. They still don’t understand what I mean when I say that I have two jobs (I have a day job too). I’ve tried to explain and most of them just don’t get it. So I have to say “no” a lot, and I have to repeat myself a lot, and sometimes even when I don’t explain I simply have to put my foot down and let them know that my writing time is sacrosanct. As a result of all this, I’m not the most popular girl on earth… but I make my deadlines.

4) I still get rejected. Lots, in fact.

I used to be in the BRAWLers, a Boston-area writing group. They had a great tradition that I recommend to all writing groups: they celebrated rejections. At 50 rejections we went out for a beer. At 100 we had a full-on margarita-and-mojito bash. Nobody got to 150 while I was in the group, but I imagine if we had, the party might have involved strippers. Just speculating.

Rejections are part of being a writer — yeah, even for a pro. Before publication I thought that once I had some novels out, it would be easier to sell short stories — and to a degree this is true. My submissions go to the head of the slushpile at some markets. I get a lot of invitations to write for anthologies and magazines that otherwise I would never hear about. Even so, they don’t always buy the work they’ve solicited. That’s because not everything I write is good enough to publish. Of course not; this is art, and some art sucks.

So, in part because of that old BRAWLer tradition, I treat each rejection as a badge of honor — a sign that I’m continuing to improve and grow as a writer. In fact, I’ve kept every rejection letter I’ve ever gotten. My first novel rejection is framed and hanging above my writing desk. My short story rejections are in a box; I’m planning to wallpaper my bathroom with them, once I buy a house.

5) I am no longer a reader.

This one’s hard for me, because I still think of myself as a science fiction and fantasy lover who happens to write. But this is no longer true. The instant my name appeared on a book spine, my status changed; I am now part of “the establishment.”

What that means is that I need to remain aware at all times of my power in the community, relative to readers. Sometimes it’s laughable to think of myself as powerful; unless they’re mega-bestsellers, writers are pretty much at the bottom of the hierarchy in the publishing world. But the fact remains, we have more influence than any individual reader. We have — and it’s hard for me to even say this word, because it still feels kind of egotistical to think this way — fans. And ultimately, if our work gets enough attention, we have the power to change the genre itself.

So I stop myself, now, from jumping into discussions that once upon a time I would’ve eagerly joined. Reviews are a great example. I view reviews of my work as useful critique. Maybe it’s the years I’ve spent in writing groups, but whenever I see a review (good or bad), I desperately want to ask questions of the reviewer and see what I can learn that will help improve my writing. I did this a few times after my first book came out — until I realized that some reviewers and readers are genuinely creeped out when the author pops up in the comments. Even if the author doesn’t behave badly, the author’s presence inhibits and skews the whole discussion; people who would otherwise talk freely become concerned about (or intent upon) hurting the author’s feelings, and it’s just a big mess. By the same token, I also avoid reviewing other authors’ works if I don’t like them. I used to. But now I know that I might meet this author at some future convention or event. It’s hard to have a civil conversation with someone if you’ve publicly declared their work to be utter dreck, and if they remember you said so.

I also miss the power that I had as “just a reader”. Once upon a time I could rage publicly about something an author had written or a publisher had done, without consequence. Once upon a time, I could influence cover art and content merely by writing a blog post — something I can’t do now without substantial risk to my career.

I still choose to do these things sometimes — sometimes the risk is worth it — but it’s rare now. I pick my battles. And I have more power to change things through my work, so I spend the bulk of my energy on that.

So that’s it. I’ll revisit this article in a few years, I think, and share any new things I’ve learned in the time since.


Check out N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood duology or Inheritance trilogy.  Follow her on Twitter!

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone!  I’m over at Magical Words today exercising my right to free speech, talking ’bout reader respect.