Saturday, October 29, 2011

What scares you?

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought it would be fun to unveil what scares us the most. And I'm not talking about death or taxes or whatever. I'm talking about the real stuff (or the pretend stuff if you want to think of it that way) that freaks you out. For me, it's simple--ghosts. Not like Casper-type ghosts. I'm talking about the kind that turn lights on and off, open cabinets, or show up only to children or pets. I'm talking about ghosts like these:

What about you? What haunts your nightmares?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is writing on your stress list?

So today I was thinking about writing and how a lot of writers seem to write with one goal -- publication. That makes sense in certain ways. But what I realized after perusing many of the forums is that many writers do not seem especially happy about this pursuit. I find that to be a problem. Nothing in life is *always* fun. I get that. But really, we already have families, day jobs, etc. that keep us busy (and slightly insane). Why add something else to your stress list unless it brings you happiness?
Think about writing and what it adds to your life. Is it fulfilling? If so, enjoy writing and don't worry so much about the publication part of it. I know that's hard. I know we want that feeling of acceptance. It's high school all over again, isn't it? So how about we air out what is most frustrating about this process? Get it out of your system and then remember, you are doing something special by writing a book. You are taking it to the next level by educating yourself and enhancing your craft. Do you know how many people have told me they want to write a book? Tons. Do you know how many of those have actually done it? So far none. What you did is fantastic, celebrate that!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My journey to publication (Part 2)

Continuing with my story...

I sent Heather Howland (Managing Editor with Entangled) a query at like 9 p.m. one night. An hour later she requested the full. Two days later she requested a call. A week later I had a contract. A CONTRACT!! I spoke with Heather twice during this process and both calls were awesome. She "got" my book. She loved my book. Finally, I was dealing with someone who really understood what I put into this MS. It wasn’t enough for the book to be fiction. It had to have a merit of scientific theory behind my story. I researched to death to make sure everything from hyperspaces to blows to the gut read as realistically as possible.

Now of course, it wasn't all lollipops and candy canes. She wanted a deep revision, very, very deep. The kind of revision that makes certain writers run away, but not me. I agreed 100% with what she wanted from the book and made the decision that day that I would sign with Entangled.

Why? Because I get 40% of cover price for e-books and let’s face it, the trend is moving there whether we like it or not, plus a simultaneous print release. Because their editorial process is amazingly thorough and thought-out based upon each book. Because they push hard for foreign sales and have already sold tons. Because their marketing plan for each book is sickly aggressive. Because on day one, I received an email from my publicist, which does not even come out for another year. And finally, because the authors in the Entangled circle are a unit. They support each other throughout the entire process. Sure some of these things you can find with a Big 6. But let’s say your debut isn’t a high profile, large advance book. Will you still receive all the above? Maybe. I don’t know, obviously. I’ve never signed with a Big 6. Though, I’ve read enough to make me pause and think through the decision of whether I wanted to risk it.

Now all that sounds great, right? Well there was a complication -- I still had fulls out with agents and had a call already scheduled with one of them. I gave the agents reading two weeks to make a decision and by the Friday before I had to fax my contract to Entangled, I had multiple offers. The thing is, I didn't have the connection with any of them that I did with Heather. They were all lovely, all thoughtful, and all would make fantastic agents for any lucky writer, but for me, I knew I had to be 100% sure. I was confident, after all, that I wanted to work with Entangled. I needed that same level of sureness to sign with an agent, and I didn't have it.

So I made a very scary decision that brought lots of tears and stress -- I turned down the agent offers.

This isn't to say I will NEVER sign with an agent. If I spoke with the right agent and everything felt right, I would sign. I think the right agent can do amazing things for your career. But it isn't something to go into lightly. Don't sign with the first person that offers. Make sure you have no doubts, and trust yourself.

So that's my journey and how and why I made the decision to sign with Entangled. My book will not come out until next year and already I have had countless emails/calls from my editor, countless emails from my publicist, and everyone seems so excited. It is a very supportive environment. I have no regrets. I'm a businessperson, after all, and business is about making a decision, sticking with it, and following through personally to make sure the decision is the right one. I will not be standing on the sideline during this process. I am still the main publicist for my book and intend to make sure I do my job well. :o)

Now, to circle back to the personal bit -- as this book would not exist without my father bugging the hell out of me, I will be donating 10% of my earnings from this series (please note that says MY earnings, not total dollars received by my publisher) to the American Cancer Society.

And that's it folks. Feel free to ask any questions you have.


* P.S. Please note, Entangled is not an e-publisher. They are a print publisher all the way.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My journey to publication (Part 1)

First, let me very proudly say that I have signed a 3-book deal with Entangled Publishing for my YA sci-fi/dystopian, GRAVITY. This is the PM announcement:

Melissa West's debut GRAVITY, the first book in a dystopian series in which the sixteen-year-old daughter of New America's top military commander must choose whether to believe her country's malicious depiction of the Ancients, or trust the alien she's fallen in love with and betray humankind, to Heather Howland at Entangled, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in Fall 2012 (World).

To say I am excited is an understatement. I am thrilled, shocked, proud, emotional, all those things and more. But the decision has not been an easy one. So let me unpack my journey. Sound okay? Prepare yourself, this is going to be a long one. I'll add in coffee breaks.

I started GRAVITY as a NaNo project (then titled TWISTED ROOT) last year, but was not able to commit the time to get very far into the draft. In January, I decided to really dive in, and by the end of February, I had a draft. I entered Utah's RWA Great Beginnings contest and became a finalist. Everything about this project felt alive, and I admit, I was very hopeful. I spent a few months revising and sending to CPs, and then began querying in May. And it was crazy. At that time, I had about a 75% request rate. I even had an agent call me late at night to discuss the book. Crazy, I know! So yeah, hope skyrocketed to sureness.

Big mistake.

That draft was not even close to ready. I started receiving rejection after rejection, all personalized, many with invitations to see it again or my next work. So in June/July I stopped querying and dove back into the MS, completely rewriting it from scratch. Nothing stayed except the first chapter. I loved the new version, but felt sure it was still lacking something. I sent it off to my CPs, received glowing responses, and submitted the shiny, revised full to the 9 agents waiting to receive it. Yes, 9.

(Coffee break time)

Okay, are you back? Great, thanks. But here’s the thing, something else happened during this process that changed how I wanted to proceed. (Warning -- this is that personal stuff that makes some of you uncomfortable. Feel free to skip if needed.) I found out my father had/has Cancer. My father is my first reader. He is the reason I started writing, and he is the reason I completed the first draft of GRAVITY. He would call or text me daily, requesting word counts until I completed the book. Everything suddenly felt intense for me. I had to get published. I had to. Not for me, not for the money or glory or whatever, but for him.

I started querying harder and had lots of fulls out. But then I stumbled across something else, something I hadn't really considered -- Entangled Publishing, a new, small press that had an amazing vibe. Take into account I am a businessperson. I know business, and as I work for a printer (and previously for a publisher), I also know quite a bit about publishing. I know something good when I see it and felt in my gut that getting in with Entangled would be getting on at the start of something big.

Stay tuned for the rest of my journey. Is Wednesday fast enough? If not I’ll double post today. :o)