Saturday, April 23, 2016

What You Missed Last Week

We had a hodge-podge of speakers chosen from among our own membership last week, and if you missed it, you missed out on a lot of fun. The three of us--Kathrese McKee, Annette O'Hare, and I (Linda Yezak)--have taken different paths to publication, and we each have lessons to share that we learned along the way.

First up was Kathrese McKee, author of the incomparable YA fantasy, Mardan's Markand it's sidekick novella, Healer's CurseKathrese held up her two covers for Mardan's Mark and discussed why the first one was, believe it or not, ineffective.

This is the "old" cover. Notice the model's age. Since YA is to appeal to kids between 7th grade and high school, this model is too old. The other elements of the cover photo are perfect, including the font, the mark, the cowl covering the model's hair, although the compass overemphasized the pirates.

Kathrese drove home the point of keeping your audience in mind when you're having your cover created. Although I love this cover, I can see how it wouldn't appeal to the YA crowd. They want the heroes of the stories they read to be closer to their own ages.

Here's the new one:

The new cover also has the key elements in it, including font, the emblem illustrating Mardan's mark, the cowl covering the MC's hair--but the age of the kids on the cover is much younger, which illustrates the novel as YA.

Kathrese emphasized the branding elements of a cover and the importance of having these elements consistent in all the covers being created for a series.

She also reminded us that we can't do this job alone. The writing, yes, but everything else that goes in to creating a book requires help, which is why networking is so important. As she says, we're not in a vacuum.

Moving on to sweet Annette and her hilarious story of hammering on the editor's door until she got the response she wanted. She recounted her query history that culminated in her getting a contract for Northern Light.

Like it or not, the query process requires waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. Expecting a response the same day of submission is unrealistic. Sometimes it takes months. Annette realized this and was patient for an entire four days. Then she entered the Pester stage:

"I don’t want to bother you, but…
Did you receive it?
Are you working on it?
What do you think?"
Which, eventually, led to the response:

"It's not a good fit because...
It’s not romancy enough.
It has 3 POVs.
It has contrivances.
It has a side story.
It has too much controversy."
Annette, not being one to take "no" for an answer, re-entered the Pester stage:

She e-mailed the editor.
"Were there parts you did like?
If I made some of her changes would you take another look?"
The editor wrote back:
"You have a lovely writing style
And wonderful characterization
And if you make some changes I would happily take a second look."
So that’s exactly what Annette did, and the editor confirmed receipt this time because she knew Annette would pester her again.

Long story short, Pelican Book Group finally did contract Northern Light during the ACFW Conference in St Louis, 2014.

Annette shared her insights:

First The Pros:

1. I was able to get a publisher without going to conference and without an agent.

2. Since Pelican is a small publisher I worked with them one-on-one, I was able to ask questions on a personal level, such as: Why don’t you love my book? What can I do to make you love my book? Help me to help you!

3. I had a lot of input on my cover art and think it turned out beautiful.

4. I was able to negotiate with the editor about what they considered controversial and changed some things to make both parties happy.

5. I learned a ton! You know how your first book is usually a learning experience? Well, your first to publishing is a learning experience as well.

Now The Cons:

1. Having signed with a small press, there’s hardly any help with marketing. I’ve worked very hard to market my books with no publisher help.

2. Even though I got the contract on my own I still have to pay my agent her fee on this book. She couldn’t even negotiate a better deal with Pelican. My daughter figured out that after everyone gets their cut I make less than a dollar on every paperback sold, a lot more on e-books though. BUT, I do not regret signing with my agent one bit.

3. You know all those pictures of authors opening big boxes of books. I did that too, only I had to pay for them. At a 45% discount of course. They gave me 2 free books and 10 digital copies.

4. I doubt I’ll ever see my book in bookstores.

5. My book released February 19th and I’ve yet to see my sales numbers from the publishing house. So for now I’m pretty much in the hole.

I think there are several of us currently abiding in that hole, but we're learning how to dig our way out.

As for me, the entire point of my discussion was to remind everyone to do their research.

My writing partner and I worked for seven years or so to produce our Dan-Brownesque conspiracy thriller, The Simulacrum, and finally got to present it to editors during the 2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis.

Brad had done the research pertaining to the arguments of Creation Science in opposition to those of the theory of evolution and sketched out a rough plot--then gave me carte blanche to write the story around the research. I had my own things to research as I wrote, including what kind of gun to give my ex-marine and what the Virginia State Coroner's emblem looked like.

We pitched to Guidepost (for some unknown reason) and to Kregel, whose acquisition editor appeared acutely interested. She requested the full manuscript. We celebrated--and hounded our agent to keep up with where the manuscript was in the review process. We made it all the way up to final committee.

The verdict?

"I'm afraid the kids may have overextended themselves" are the only words I remember, but what sparked them were the final editor's observations made within the first ten pages of the story.

1. There is no such thing as an ex marine.
2. Marines--current or retired--don't carry Rugers.
3. The state coroner wouldn't likely to be called in on a municipal case.

The manuscript was rejected, even though the errors were minor. But reaching the point of rejection had taken so long, Brad and I decided to put the book out ourselves. After we did, we received a review from someone who dinged us on another faux pas, which never even crossed my mind to double-check. Did you know that the nickname for a BMW is Bimmer, not Beamer? I didn't. Oops.

So my advice to the crowd last Saturday was this: If you don't know, research. If you do know, double-check.

Three women, three snippets of wisdom. We all learn from each other.

















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