Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Journey to Publication - Part VII

Hi, it's me, again. Rhonda McKnight. Your host here on UCFT Blog. Today I continue my series "My Journey to Publication". If you’ve missed any installment of this series you may click here to catch up.

It’s early summer of 2008, six months after I received “the call”. At this point I’ve been paid. I have a contract that commits me to two books. I want to emphasize here that it’s really important to understand your contract. I don’t know if it’s my publisher or if this is how it’s done with them all, but there was no “this is what you do next” class, but your contract will clue you in to questions you should ask. For example: I’m sitting at my house, looking at the contract one day when I notice it says I have to turn in my first book, Secrets and Lies, on September 1. “Hmmm,” I muse. “What do they mean turn in my first book. I’ve already turned it in.” I mean, I turned it in so they could buy it, right? I think this must be standard language, maybe for an author who is writing on spec. (that’s someone who gets paid before they produce a book); that’s not me. I sent in a manuscript to get a deal. But it keeps nagging at me, so I ask my author buddy, Sherri Lewis and she explains that I actually turn in my final copy on September 1. What you say??? How was I supposed to know that? I get over not knowing how I was supposed to know fairly quickly, because I realize its good news. Good news because I have an opportunity to fix three things that are broken:

1. There are a few things about Secrets and Lies that continue to bug me. Scenes that could have been tighter and dialogue that could have been sharper. I’d assumed I’d get feedback on my editor on this stuff and that would’ve been the time to fix it, but now that I have until September 1, I can work on fixing it myself.

Tidbit #1 - Editors love for you to turn in your best work, so turn in your best work.
2. I had a fault in my critique system. The only people, other than my best buddy, Janice, who had read my book were people from my critique group, ie. other writers. That’s not good. Writers kind of think like writers. I needed more feedback from readers, so I sent the book to several non-writing, avid readers who were not in my circle of friends. They provided really valuable feedback on the story.

Tidbit #2 – You can never have enough feedback and please make sure you do get feedback. Others can see things you can’t see and you need that input to smooth out the wrinkles.

3. I didn’t have endorsements from other authors and I had no idea where getting them came in in the process. So I decided since I had time, to seek them out. I made the changes the readers suggested and printed a few copies of the book and sent it out to get those “What People Are Saying” blurbs.

While Secrets and Lies was out being read by my new readers I realized something else. (As you can see I’m always thinking). My publisher has a lot of authors – 29 to be exact and we’re all competing for 24 slots in the annual rotation. Plus there are a few folks who are pretty prolific that release more than one book a year. If I wanted to be in a book a year cycle I needed to be proactive about making that happen. I contacted my agent and she told me to get her a proposal for the 2nd book, NOW! She’d actually told me that before, but I think I was somewhere being annoyed about my contract being delayed.
So I started to really think about my second book. I’d been kicking a sequel around in my head for a few months, but I decided I didn’t really want to do a sequel. I thought it might be too hard to sell to readers who haven’t read Secrets and Lies. I know that’s kind of a silly thought, because sequels are everywhere, they’re very popular and of course you can write any book to be a standalone title, but I just can’t get the notion out of my head that I’d lose sales on book two, because people hadn’t read Secrets and Lies. Plus I was sick of those folks in Secrets and Lies, really. We’d been married to each other since 2003! I opted to do something different, I decided to do a spin-off. I took a minor character from Secrets and Lies, and gave her her own story world. Cool right. I know, that’s kind of a sequel, but I feel better about it.
The process for submitting book two is to submit a synopsis and the first four chapters. I get that done in a few weeks and submit it through my agent to my editor with a request for a September 2010 release. It’s approved. Yeah! Then I get lots of great feedback on Secrets and Lies, incorporate it and on September 1 – push the send button on an email to my editor. It was a busy summer, but hey, I wanted to be a published writer, right?
What’s next? Content Edits…now it’s getting good.
Don't forget to pre-order your copy today. Just click on the image. The price is down to $10.17 and you don't actually pay until it ships!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.


Rhonda McKnight


PatriciaW said...

If I ever wonder or am asked "What's supposed to happen next" in a debut author's life, I will read--or send the inquirer--to your blog. Great series.

Naomi de la Torre said...

Great post and very helpful. Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights into the publishing world. organicmotherhoodwithcoolwhip.com