Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't Be Difficult

I know this subject can get...sensitive, so I'm going to try and keep it simple: Don't be a difficult author. 

Now, I'm not saying you can't have opinions. I'm not saying you have to agree with your editor/agent/designer/marketer all of the time. I'm also not saying you are forbidden from voicing your opinions. All I'm saying is you really, really don't want to be labeled as "difficult to work with." 

The fact is, if you are looking to be traditionally published either by the "big six" or a small press, you have to relinquish a substantial amount of control over your creative work. When you sell a novel (heck, even from when you sign with an agent), from there on out your book becomes a collaboration. And collaborating doesn't mean you get your way all the time. It means you work together, that sometimes you have to put aside your "vision" and accept that maybe your agent/editor/designer/marketer knows better. It requires trusting that you're in good hands.

If you want to do it all yourself—and that is totally fine and cool if you do—then I would look into self-publishing. That's the awesome thing about that route: you do have complete control over every step. Some people do really great with that (I am definitely not one of them, but admire those who have that skill set.).

For the most part, I think writers know this, but then I hear stories about "difficult authors" from publishers and how hard it is to deal with them. With smaller publishers, I have actually heard that it makes a big impact on whether or not they buy another book from that author. They have smaller lists and work very close with their authors (some small presses only have a handful of employees, after all), and if that author is always hard to deal with...yeah, sometimes it makes more sense for the small publisher to move on.

Again, that doesn't mean you have to be happy with everything your publisher does, but when you do have worries be professional. State your concerns without being accusatory. Be polite. Ask questions before you jump to conclusions. And remember that those you work with are on your side. They believe in your story and are doing their best to make it into an amazing book. Gratitude always goes a long way.

Monday, July 16, 2012

All Day Q&A!

It's been a couple months since I did this, and it's pretty much my only regular feature. So! Time for Q&A! All questions welcome. Consider me your Dear Abby for the day. I will answer all questions asked before midnight as soon as I can in comments.

Friday, July 13, 2012

13 Book Giveaway!

Happy Friday The Thirteenth! My friends and I over at Friday The Thirteeners are having a BIG giveaway—13 books we wish we'd written! Plus some fun with anagrams and mock covers. So run over and enter!

I am actually offering up TWO books (had to make it 13!). The first is WHITE CAT by Holly Black. I absolutely love this series. It is clever and dark and creative and so very well written. I remember thinking as I was reading, "Man, I wish I'd come up with this it's so freaking cool!" And the mob vibe kind of reminds me of my own novel TRANSPARENT. It's one of the few books out there that is kind of comparable.

The second book I'm offering is HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter. I have a massive writer crush on Ally, guys. I am a huge fan of both the Gallagher Girls and the Heist Society, but I had to pick HEIST today because it's a little closer to my book and that was the theme—pick a book we wish we'd written in our genre. HEIST SOCIETY is so smart, and I'm always amazed at Ally's ability to come up with these elaborate heists that always surprise and delight me.

So yeah, I'm a total Holly and Ally fangirl. AND PROUD OF IT.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reaper Love List

Ever since Stephanie Perkins shared her "Love List" idea with the Happy Writers Society, I have written one for every novel when I start to get that niggling doubt and think, "Is this book any good?" My love lists have helped me see that I do like what I'm writing, even if it's not perfect in the drafting phase. It helps me learn what I might want to highlight in the book. It reminds me that writing should be fun, even if it's also work.

So, today I need to write out a love this for Reaper, my current work in progress. It's been slow going, but I have promised myself that I will finish it. These are the things I love about it so far:

• Writing a dead girl
• Creating my own version of the "underworld"
• Personifying Death
• Allowing myself to make this world just plain weird
• A friendship on shaky ground
• Enemies turned allies...maybe
• Barbie-sized zombies and other creepy monsters
• Regrets, what ifs, missed opportunities
• Second chances
• Dreadmares, scythes, and black cloaks
• Really good pizza

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Truth About Teens Buying Books

Okay, not the WHOLE truth, but I have a 13-year-old sister, and watching her and her friends choose books has been a very enlightening experience. As far as I've seen, there are two major factors, and everything else doesn't seem to matter much.

1. Cover, cover, cover. It's all about a cool cover. How each person deems a cover "cool" is subjective, of course, but it seems that "pretty" covers go over very well for the teen girls. Yes, we may be sick of them as people in the business, but the truth of the matter is that they WIN when it comes to the target audience.

And what's interesting is that the cover often has more sway than other people's opinions! I will say a book is good, and the first question is, "What does the cover look like?" If I show my sister and she likes it—she'll probably read the book. If not? She won't.

2. Word of mouth. If all her friends are reading a book, my sister will usually want to read that book more. She also trusts my opinion as a writer, and my mom's since she is a voracious reader of YA and MG (works in a school, constantly giving me recommendations). Then comes the opinions of some of her favorite authors. But again, still has to have a cool cover.


There's a lot we stress about as writers that doesn't reach our target audience at all. This is both good and bad. Many teens don't check reviews, I think, instead trusting in peers. But they also don't see the majority of online promo. The only time I have seen my sister look up an author is after she read and loved the book, and even then it has only been for her very favorite books, not all of them.

For me, it's a reminder not to stress too much over all the finer details of this publishing thing. My job is to put a great story between the covers, and I have a great publisher to put an awesome, marketable image on the outside. The rest is really up to the readers. AKA: I can't control everything, and that's okay. I'll just keep writing the words behind the cover and hope for the best.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Published Writers Don't Forget

When I was querying and on sub, I remember at times published writers trying to encourage me. "You'll get there," they said. "I know it sucks. I totally understand."

Well, in my weaker moments I actually took great offense to these very kind and well-intentioned people. I would think, "How can you possibly understand? You have a book deal! You are a bestseller! You are everything I want and can't have, so how dare you try and tell me you get what I'm going through?"

Shameful, I know.

I had this idea that getting a book deal somehow made you forget all the pain of having to query and fail on submissions, as if published writers just couldn't comprehend failure anymore because they had succeeded. And how could a successful person understand a perpetually failing loser like me?

Fast forward to me being on the other side of that coin. Now I feel really bad for snapping at good-hearted friends or being majorly cynical in public places. So glad I just stopped going to events before I shot myself in the foot too much with my bad attitude.

Because here's the thing—yeah, I'm getting published, but I haven't forgotten for one second how freaking hard it was to get here. I remember those two years querying, all the rejection and revision that brought me to my knees. And I certainly can't forget the horror of over 18 months on submission with two separate projects, the pain of having to accept that your novel won't sell, the torture of having to rewrite a novel entirely, of having to change agents.

Just because I finally found success doesn't mean that slate was wiped clean and all was happy from there on out. Honestly, I've been digging myself out of depression since 2010—depression that was, sad to say, largely brought on by my attempts to publish. Selling didn't fix my brain. I still have all sorts of issues to deal with, not to mention the scary bits of being a debut author.

But sometimes I feel that thing from writers still in the query/sub trenches. It's a very subtle snick from "I'm listening" to "This person doesn't understand me." You see it in teens most frequently. Sometimes it comes with a barely-veiled eye roll if the person is in a bad mood.

It hurts.

I try not to take offense, of course, because I was so that writer and when you're in that phase you just want to talk to someone who is there with you, going through the same pains. But now that I'm over here, I wish I'd have understood that published writers still get it. I wish I'd realized that some of that stuff never goes away—like being on sub, always hard and never a sure thing. I drew an unnecessary line between me and them. I forgot that we're all on the same road, just at different points. It's easy to make it a competition, but I really hope we can all see each other not as enemies but as friends.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Priorities & Maximizing Limited Time

Be warned, I'm typing one-handed. Dread Pirate Baby likes to hang out with me, fighting sleep like it's his arch nemesis. This leads to very little time that I have two hands to do all the things that require two hands, like writing effectively or cooking or cleaning.

When I can get him to nap, I have an hour maybe. If I'm really lucky, two hours. But usually more like half an hour to an hour. Then I'm left with a sticky choice: What do I do with my little time?

You learn a lot about yourself when you have to prioritize so drastically. What means the most to you, what doesn't. Do I spend my hour writing or networking? Well, clearly I try to choose writing as often as I can, but I also feel bad for being so out of touch. The writing has to come first, and I'm making meager progress as it is. And then I have to choose even more specifically—do I catch up on Twitter or blog or chat with my Friday The Thirteeners peeps? Can't do it all.

Of course, some of those naps have to be given to my other kids, too. I spend two of my little nap breaks largely feeding the rest of my family or pets or plants. Maybe squeak in cleaning or, if lucky, a shower. I get one baby nap time that I can justify devoting to writing.

So what do you do when you have maybe an hour and you know it's not enough but it is what it is? Well, you work. You don't have time to fret, to doubt, to chat. You gotta get it done. Every minute spent wondering if it's right or if it sucks is time wasted. You can't be bitter about not having more. You can't let any of that get in the way. You just write and hope you can find more time someday.

This is how I've written 54 pages since Dread Pirate Baby was born 8 weeks ago. I am both proud of that number and wish it was more. But all I can do is keep going and make the most of it. just never forget that there is time. You can find it if you want.