Happy Book Birthday, The Returned!

The day has arrived! Commence the epic fanfare!BanjoSloth

As of today, the ebook for The Returned is now available wherever ebooks are sold. Sadly, if you’re a strictly paperback kind of person, you’ll have to wait until August 23rd. To you I say be patient, the book is worth it. If I do say so myself. This marks the fourth book in the American Faerie Tale series, and I believe is my best work to date. For those of you who might’ve seen it labeled as book #3, that’s because Three Promises is book 2.5, since it wasn’t quite a full novel length.

I’m still a little dumbfounded that this is my fourth book in less than two years. I’m very proud of this book, of course I wouldn’t have put it out there if I wasn’t. The characters really do feeling like they’re coming into their own, and I’m feeling more confident in my skills as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work. There were some moments of panic when a potential issue was found by my editor, which were resolved, but this story seemed to write itself. This is the first book where Wraith spends significant amounts of time with Edward & Caitlin, and I think all three grow from it.

Now, just for the readers of this blog, here are some nifty tidbits you might find interesting:

  1. Once again, The Doubleclicks let me license some lyrics from one of their songs. That song actually had a significant impact on the scene it’s used in.
  2. The leader of the Legion of Solomon, One, got his name because of a winner from last year’s Worldbuilders charity auction.
  3. Nearly all of the characters in the book are named after people I know, including some other Harper authors.
  4. The title has multiple meanings: the returned-those coming to the morgue for the second time, Caitlin & Edward returning as main characters, Wraith’s returned memories (yep, she’s still remembering).

I hope you enjoy the book. I know I enjoyed writing it. Watch this space, and/or on Twitter as I’ve got guest pieces and interviews that’ll be popping up all over the internet. Additionally, to celebrate The Returned, and my two year anniversary as a writer, I’ll be giving away copies of The Stolen, The Forgotten, and Three Promises.

Now what are you waiting for? The book won’t read itself!
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On the Road to Publication: Myths and Truths

Like many people who’ve never been published, I went into the process with some preconceived notions. Some were just assumptions, which is never good. Others were things I’d read online in articles or in forums. On my journey through the publishing process, I’ve learned that some of those “literary legends” were true, some were not, and some landed in the middle. As part of my continuing journal down this road I’ve been lucky enough to find myself on, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Contract: This is something I wasn’t surprised about. It’s a full on, no joke, contract. It’s heavy legalese and not something easily understood by the uninitiated. As I’ve said before, I can’t emphasize enough that you really need someone to look over this for you, be it an agent, or a lawyer. The time to get the contract, review it, and make requests for changes took about three months. As for the terms of my contract, I’ll say only that it’s a two-book deal, with Harper Voyager having first option on the third book. Beyond that, well, never you mind.

Cover/Jacket Copy: Across the Internet (including here) you’re told the importance of a good query letter, a good summary, and a “hook.” The summary is often likened to the jacket/cover copy, which is what you read on the back of a paperback or inside flap of a hard cover. So, I assumed my summary would be my cover copy. Yes, an assumption. This was made for a number of reasons. As a new author with no fan base, I figured the publisher wouldn’t be investing a lot of money on me. Sure, it would want me to succeed, but from a business point of view, capital is invested where there is the greatest potential for return. Right? I was surprised and delighted to be wrong on this. My original summary was used as a base to start from, then the chief of copy took over and blew me away. What you can read here came after a few comments I made, and a little discussion.

Editing: This is probably were I was most surprised. I’ve seen all over that big publishers don’t have an editing staff like they used to, which is probably true. But, all those affirmations led me to believe that only the bestselling authors’ books are edited at all. As it turns out, this is wrong. At least it was for me. My editor did in fact edit, and I don’t mean copyedit (typos, grammar, punctuation). She went through the manuscript and made some suggestions for improvements. Note I said “suggestions.” I don’t know if it’s the norm, but I was very happy about how much my editor wanted to work with me and was open to my feedback, and sometimes push back. There was never a rigid “cut this” or “change this,” it was all suggestions. It felt more like a partnership. Sometimes she suggested cutting something I liked, and in some cases I did. However, if I really wanted it to stay, I rewrote until she agreed it was necessary and added to the story. I’m sure there are editors who work from a directive rather than cooperative stand point, but I’m glad my editor isn’t one of them.

Copyediting came at the end, and was more intense than I expected, but very helpful. It was interesting to see the kinds of things that were checked. As an example: M&M’s is the correct name of the candy, but the trademark is m&m’s, so which to use?

I would like to say here that while it’s true my book did receive editing, I still firmly believe in hiring an editor before submitting. You want to put your very best foot forward, and you need feedback from others to do that. Unless you have a group of skilled readers, and some do, you should look at hiring someone. Also, having your work edited is a good idea because it’s that much less work that needs to be done when you do sign that contract. There were three rounds of editing (suggestions which lead to changes, which were then reviewed, etc.) over the course of a month. So yes, The Stolen did receive editing, but I’m still glad I had it edited before I submitted to Harper, and in fact, I’m certain the reason I made it was because I had it edited and was able to present them a polished manuscript.

Cover Art: I discussed this when I posted the artwork and preorder information (here), but I’ll say again that I was nervous. I got a piece of advice from a bestselling mystery writer who is a friend of my brother. He said to make sure I was happy with my cover art, because to this day, he hates and regrets the cover of his first book. I tried to get something put into my contract for some level of approval, but to no avail. That was only logical, after all, they’re the professionals and have experience as to what works and what doesn’t. Things as simple as color choices can influence your opinion of a cover, regardless of the image itself. I was however asked if I had any ideas. I sent them to the home page of an artist (Tanner) whose gallery I discovered while walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans. I saw A Place to Rest through the window and was mesmerized by it, so much so that I bought a print. You can view it here. If you look at that picture, and then my cover, here, you can see the connection. No, I didn’t get to approve or disapprove of what they gave me, but they did take my thoughts and ideas into consideration. In hindsight, I think it was a good compromise. I don’t know what does or doesn’t work, just what I like.

Marketing: I’ve also heard often that first time authors aren’t given much in terms of promotion or marketing. That’s not far off. This is where it does come down to a business point of view. A publisher has a certain amount of money to spend. Should they spend it on someone who they know will sell and give them a return on that investment? Or should they gamble it on someone new who might not make it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m receiving support. In fact I have a publicist working with me. So far, she’s arranged an interview and a guest blog piece, a spot on a panel at the New York Comic Con, and provided me plenty of advice.But, even if you have a bestseller credit to your name, you’re going to have to work to sell your book. I’ve contacted local bookstores to ask them to carry my book, explored possibilities for events (readings or book signings), and looked for places to promote my book online. I didn’t expect a book tour, or a review by The New York Times or the like, and wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get it.

So what have I learned from all this? As a new author, I had visions of magic and wonder. Turns out, it’s a lot of work to make that magic happen. I had to turn around edits for The Stolen in fairly short order and I had a real deadline for my second book, The Forgotten, not just one I set myself. That being said, I’ve received plenty of support and encouragement, my questions have been answered, and not once did I ever feel condescended to. When I met the Harper team in New York, I was impressed beyond words by the enthusiasm and excitement waiting for me. They were all passionate about their support for The Stolen. I felt like a “real” author, not just someone who got lucky.

I thought I knew a lot, some of which I was right about, but not everything. Of course, just because this has been my experience doesn’t mean it’ll be yours. I just hope this gives you a little more information about what’s behind the curtain. I’ve said before not to ever give up if you want to be a writer, and that includes not giving up once you’ve gotten a deal. It’s hard work, but if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Winners and Losers

Perhaps it says something about me (and if it does, I hope it’s good) that when the excitement from receiving the publishing offer from Harper Voyager wore off, I started to think about all those people who submitted their manuscripts but didn’t make the final cut. There were over 4500 submissions. It’s probably safe to say that close to half of those were cut after a short read. Perhaps the manuscript just wasn’t ready to be published; I certainly started submitting The Stolen before it was ready. But this post isn’t about that level of rejection. I covered that pretty thoroughly in here, and here. No, the people I thought about were the last hundred or so who made it to the final stage, waiting more than a year, only to get the dreaded “no thank you” email. I think as writers, after a while we start to expect rejections, but that really doesn’t help. It’s especially bad when you make it to that last step, only to have the door close in front of you. The Stolen was submitted to 118 different agents, and that’s after getting it edited. There were probably 40+ before that. Out of those 118, I received six requests to see the whole manuscript; on one occasion I even had two agents request it at the same time. I was sure that was a sign and that I’d get an offer of representation. Spoiler alert, they all passed. So I understand how that feels, to almost make it, but not. We all know the adages: there are no points for second place, second place is the first loser, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, etc. That’s when I saw a post on Absolute Write, on a thread tracking forum members’ progress in the submission process. I was lurking at the time, having been chided for a comment I posted announcing the publication offer before I was supposed to. The author of it put it in such perfect terms, I’m not even going to try to summarize. It deserves a direct quote (with permission granted from the author):

I was thinking about this last night. I always thought, back when the call started, that the saddest person was the one who would come in 13 out of 12. You know? The one who ran the whole race, who survived every cull, but still had no prize at the end. That’s probably going to be me and several other people here.

On the one hand, I’m sad that I basically did all the work and got none of the reward. On the other hand, it’s nice to remember that we clearly did something right with at least ONE editor in this process, or one assistant. At the very least, our work was probably considered publishable. In the end, it fell because of a matter of taste, not talent.

I sometimes think that the greatest moment of weakness that happens to an aspiring writer, when they’re most compelled to give it all up, is not when they get rejected, but when they almost succeed. It’s a long fall, and sometimes you don’t want to get up again. I’m sort of feeling that as I rush towards a probable rejection.

But if you do get up again, you can remember that at least one, probably several professional editors thought you had some real promise and ability. In my opinion, once you’re there, getting SOMEWHERE is only a matter of time and will.

So this is a long, drawn out way of saying that even though this is going to be kind of a crappy week, and we should all be allowed to go into our caves and sulk for a bit, that the bright side is really very…bright.

Anyway. Rant over.

You can find the original post here. I read that post knowing I’d made it, but seeing others languishing with no news. I felt for them, and I knew MerchantIV (the author of that post) was right: a number of people would make it right to the end only to fall all the way back down. It’s true that in life there are winners and losers, but it’s important to remember that losing doesn’t mean failing. Those Olympians who take home silver and bronze medals are understandably upset they didn’t win gold, but they still wear those silver and bronze medals with pride. Writing is about winning by inches, a slow progression. Sure, some people land publishing deals on their first tries, but they’re the exception not the rule. The rest of us make a long, hard slog to get to publication. It’s easy to feel like a failure and think about giving it up. The thing to remember is that you’re the only one who can decide if you’re a failure or not. So long as you get up and try again, you didn’t fail, you just lost one. It’s not fun or easy, but if it were, people wouldn’t react the way they do when you say you’re an author. Publishing a book happens with hard work, determination, talent, and more than a little luck. It’s brutal and not for everyone, but if it’s what you want, don’t ever let anyone tell you to give up. Besides, the victory is so much sweeter when you’ve had losses along the way. Just ask a Red Sox fan.

Two “BIG” Annoucements!

1. Today The Stolen goes on sale in paperback! You can get a copy at your local bookstore, or from: HarperCollins, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.

2. I’ve got a post on John Scalzi’s blog, part of his “Big Idea” series! Do stop by and check it out, the poor guy could really use the extra traffic… (MASSIVELY sarcastic)

That’s right, I’m now a “Paperback Writer.” And yes, I’ve been waiting a long time to use that!

It’s Official! (Dreams do Come True)

As of today, I’m a published author!

Wow…

It took a long while to get here, but then any dream worth achieving takes time and effort. I’ve been posting about my road to publication, and it could be argued this is the end, but I don’t think so. As cliche as it might be, this is really just the beginning for me (I hope!).

Harper Voyager made a sizeable web preview available here, so feel free to “try before you buy.”

Of course the paperback is still scheduled for release on August 5th, but I know you can’t wait that long. It’s okay, you can get both. I’ll understand.

Stayed tuned here for upcoming events; interviews, guest blog pieces, and even in person signings. Speaking of which, be sure to stop by The Qwillery and check out my first interview (direct link here)! While you’re there, be sure to vote in the 2014 Debut Author Cover Challenge Wars!

I’ll also have a giveaway for a signed copy of The Stolen before anyone can even buy it!

Now, if you’ll excuse, I have a happy dance calling my name.

hobbes

Cover Art for The Stolen, and Preorder Information

THE STOLEN

I was admittedly nervous how the cover art might turn out. As a first time author, I was worried I might get something less than stellar, or that I would absolutely hate it. I’m delighted to be wrong! I love the cover art, and I think it captures the feel of the story perfectly. For those who haven’t gone to the link, here, this is the jacket copy:

Tonight, for the first time in over a century, a mortal child will be kidnapped by faeries.

When her daughter Fiona is snatched from her bed, Caitlin’s entire world crumbles. Certain that faeries were only a fantasy, Caitlin must now accept that these supernatural creatures do exist—and that they have traded in their ancient swords and horses for modern guns and sports cars. Hopelessly outmatched, she accepts help from a trio of unlikely heroes: Eddy, a psychiatrist and novice wizard, Brendan, an outcast Fian warrior, and Dante, a Magister of the fae’s Rogue Court. Moving from the busy streets of Boston’s suburbs to the shadowy land of Tír na nÓg, Caitlin and her allies will risk everything to save Fiona. But can this disparate quartet conquer their own inner demons and outwit the dark faeries before it’s too late?

The book will be available on ebook on July 22nd and is only $2.99, a bargain at twice the price! You can order it now and beat the rush here:

HarperCollins
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
iTunes
Kobo

It will also be available in paperback on August 5th! Only $7! Get both versions and have a matched set!
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

If you’d prefer to order from your local bookstore, here is the relevant information so they can order for you.
SBN: 9780062358790
ISBN 10: 0062358790
Imprint: Harper Voyager Impulse
On Sale: 08/05/2014
Format: Paperback
Trimsize: 0
Pages: 464
List Price: 6.99 USD
BISAC1: FIC009000