Big Announcement

Well, I think it’s a big announcement.
The American Faerie Tale series has been cleared for two more books!

hobbes

I’ll be sharing more information as time goes on, but here is something to hold you over. The next book will be called…

Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection

Aside from a bonus story about a group introduced in The Forgotten, the unanswered question at the end of The Stolen will be answered! The current scheduled release date is December 2015. Stay tuned for more information, including cover reveals, perhaps some excerpts, and exclusive offers for pre-orders!

The Forgotten is Now Available!

The Forgotten_Cover_Small

The day has finally arrived! The Forgotten is now available, on ebook at least. For those of you waiting for the paperback edition, you’ll need to wait a bit longer (April 14th). And yes, the fact my book is being released on Saint Patrick’s Day is quite possibly the coolest thing ever. The fact the paperback is being released the day before taxes are due is a little less so, but maybe you should just think of it as something to look forward to that week.

And as a special treat, here’s the book trailer:

I can hear your questions now:
What’s with the math? Read the book.
What about the “bang” at the end? Read the book.
Where can you buy it? I’m glad you asked!

ebook:
HarperCollins
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
iTunes

Paperback (4/14/25):
HarperCollins
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

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.

My First Event, the Afterglow – (Also, How to Order a Signed Copy of The Stolen)

I had my first reading for The Stolen on September 23rd at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH. They were wonderful and utterly gracious hosts. I’d like to say the turnout was massive, that people were packed in and Gibson’s ran out of books. However, I’m a new author so that would’ve been an unrealistic expectation. I think I provided some entertainment to the people who did come and perhaps intrigued those who were not attending but were shopping for other books. It is a fantastic bookstore, and if you’re within driving distance, you really should check the store out.

After the event, I did sign extra copies and they are available to order. You can either call them at (603) 224-0562 or you can order them online here. For the first few to order, there will be a little surprise included as well. Since Gibson’s is my local bookstore, I’ll be stopping in to replenish the supply of signed copies, so there should always be some available. They make excellent birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, anniversary, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, apology, Festivus, Comic Book Day, Drink a Beer Day, International Translation Day, or Virus Appreciation Day gifts, or just because. If you want to make sure you’re getting a signed copy, you can call and the very nice people there will help you out.

I’ve updated the page for The Stolen to include a link to Gibson’s, here. It might be easier and more convenient to order from a larger online retailer, but independent bookstores are a treasure, and it’s a wonderful thing to support them. They aren’t just places to buy books, or local businesses, they’re also a vital and vibrant part of the world of books. They give new authors like myself a place to have events before we have huge fan bases, and of course provide local venues for bigger names as well. Sure, it’s more convenient to go to a website and click (which you can do for most Indie Bookstores as well), but there’s something special about going to a bookstore, walking through the shelves and finding a new book you might not otherwise have, or maybe rediscovering an old favorite you’d forgotten about and want to share with others.

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!

On the Road to Publication: Lawyer, Agent, or Me?

In a previous post, I announced that Harper Voyager had made me an offer to publish my novel, titled The Stolen. If you missed it, you can read about it here. After receiving the offer, I had three choices ahead of me. I could negotiate the contract terms myself, I could hire a literary lawyer, or I could find an agent.

 

  1. 1.      Represent myself.

I do contract work for a living, which means I have a reasonable understanding of contracts, at least in my field of expertise. However, I also know the limits of my knowledge and understanding. I’ve done lots of research, as I’ve demonstrated in my previous postings, particularly “Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing.” I know what the normal royalty rates are, but that’s the limit of my understanding. As just an example, I don’t know what’s normal in terms of the length of time for which a publisher keeps the various rights to your work, such as print, audio, digital, etc. So, knowing my own limits, I’m not prepared to negotiate on my own behalf. Perhaps at some point in the future I will be, but certainly not now.

 

  1. 2.      Literary Lawyer.

As you might’ve guessed, this is a lawyer who specializes in the literary world, offering contract review and sometimes, but not always, negotiations. The upsides to this option are:

  • You’re getting someone whose living is made by understanding the legalese of contracts.
  • The person will have a clear understanding of what rights you should retain and for how long you can reasonably expect to relinquish them.
  • You’ll be paying them only for the work they do, which means once their work is done, all of the advance (if you get one) and the subsequent royalties go to you.

There are of course disadvantages to this choice as well, which include:

  • The lawyer has no skin in the game, meaning he or she don’t benefit by securing for you a better deal. That’s not to say he wouldn’t get you a great contract, just that she wouldn’t suffer if she didn’t.
  • The person might not even offer contract negotiations as a service. Some will only review your contract, explain the terms to you, and give you advice on what kind of deal it is within her or her scope of understanding.
  • Hourly rate. Yes, I said it’s an upside that you’ll be paying them only for the work they do, but that work doesn’t come cheap. Based on the research I did, you can expect rates to start at $150 an hour. The review shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, but then the negotiations could drag on, which means the bill can climb high and fast.
  • You have to trust the person implicitly. This seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You should choose the lawyer carefully because you are truly at their mercy.

 

  1. 3.      Literary Agent

Odds are that if you’re reading this blog, you know what a literary agent is. I’ve covered them in a number of previous posts: “It’s Not You, It’s Me. Okay, It’s You,” “In the Face of Adversity—Dealing with Rejection,” and “Writing a Query Letter (The Subtle Art of Begging)” to name a few, so let’s just go right to the benefits of choosing an agent.

  • No money upfront. If you find an agent who asks you for any money, run away. An agent isn’t paid unless, and until, you are.
  • They DO have skin in the game. Since your agent will receive a percentage of all proceeds from the deals she or he negotiates, typically 10 to 15 percent, he or she has a vested interest in getting you the best deal possible. They more you make, the more they make. This also has a side benefit: they can look to secure sales on rights that aren’t sold to the publisher. For example, if your publisher takes only the print and digital rights, your agent can sell the audio rights to another company that could produce an audiobook, or your agent could find a network or studio to option your story for a movie or TV show, and there are also translation rights.
  • If the agent agrees to represent you beyond a single manuscript, you’re one step ahead when your next book is ready to be shopped around. You don’t need to send any query letters, just contact your agent.

Now, let’s look at the disadvantages.

  • The percentage the agent earns is on ALL income for the deal they negotiate, forever. If you sell a copy of your book fifty years from now, they get 15 percent (or whatever rate you’ve agreed upon). There is a caveat here, though. In time (as I said above, I don’t know the normal span), the right revert back to you and you can shop the book around to another publisher, or self-publish it, and the agent will get no proceeds from those sales, unless they negotiate that deal as well.
  • As with the lawyer, you have to trust that the agent is looking out for you. You can take comfort in this disadvantage being balanced out by them only earning a percentage of what you make.

I need to make a note here. There are two ways to acquire an agent. You can sign with one before an offer by submitting queries and finding one who will accept you as a client. Or, you can be offered a deal by a publisher first and then find an agent to negotiate that single offer for you. With the first option, you have an agent who will (hopefully) represent you for more than just one book. The second option might net you an agent for future offers, but in general it’s just for the one. You’ll have to go through the query process again for your next book.

 

So, what path did I take?

At first, I was leaning towards going with a lawyer. The idea of working with someone who wasn’t going to get a percentage of all future sales for an offer I brought to them felt more “just.” I did however contact several agents, and frankly, I was surprised how few were willing to make, what was for all purposes, an instant sale. A few explained they don’t like representing work they don’t feel passionate about, which I respect. After thinking about it though, I decided on an agent. I wanted someone who has a vested interest in my success, even if just for this offer, which meant giving up a percentage of sales, but there’s give and take in everything. I also wanted someone who would look for a market for those rights not bought by the publisher. This was the right choice for me. As with information I’ve posted in other articles, I can’t and won’t suggest which way you should go. I also ask that you please find other sources of information to rely on besides just this blog.

As an update, some months later, I can tell you I’ve never once regretted my decision to go with an agent. I’m represented by Inklings Literary Agency, specifically, Margaret Bail. She’s been wonderful, and a fierce advocate on my behalf. I’ve learned a lot and she’s been supportive through some trying times, particularly waiting for the gag order (though it wasn’t legally binding) to be lifted. I’ve plied her with questions, some undoubtedly simple, but she’s always answered in a respectful and supportive manner.