Previously: After a lot of hard work and perseverance, My Secret O finally had the promise of contract in reach, a great success, but only the beginning to her adventures in publishing land. Read on to discover more of her journey while she shares invaluable tips.
Missed Part I? Find it here.
FROM FAN FICTION TO ORIGINAL FICTION:
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE TO WRITE NOVELS AND GET THEM PUBLISHED
AN OFFER FOR PUBLICATION DOESN’T MEAN THE WORK IS DONE…
With an acceptance letter and a promise to be published in hand the waiting ends and the work begins. Before I was offered my first contract, an acquisition editor from my publisher contacted me and asked me to resolve some of the problems. While I was inexperienced with active and passive verbs, punctuation use, and all the rest of the ‘trouble spots,’ she explained each and every one to me. We spent three weeks e-mailing each other, and she edited while I rewrote. I ended up rewriting four chapters. That’s more than ten thousand words right in the middle of my book. She said they were too ‘squicky,’ and while I didn’t agree, I rewrote anyway. Letting go of what I wanted was easier knowing a contract was around the corner. It was a test. If I was an author worth signing (and taking such a huge financial risk on), then I had to prove that I was willing to work hard and do whatever I could to get the manuscript the way they wanted it. Only after I completed the major fixes was I offered a contract, and all that work paid off.
A SMALL PUBLISHER IS LIKE A FAMILY
I signed with a small publisher, and was treated like family. I was assigned a content editor who contacted me so we could go over the edits together. She also reassured me that my manuscript was ‘clean,’ and the sex was so well written that it was what sold it to the entire editing department. I don’t have conflict or much plot in my first book, but that didn’t matter. She told me sex sells, and there’s plenty of it in there. She helped me navigate the terrifying world of editing and reminded me to take a deep breath and keep writing. I never failed to thank her for that.
JUDGING YOUR BOOK BY ITS COVER
Next, I got a cover artist who worked tirelessly to get the cover I wanted. I know you’re thinking, “That’s great news!” But wait, there’s more! Most publishers and cover artists aren’t willing to work with you in that way. They have a form for you to complete describing the main characters and a brief summary of your book with two sentences at most, and then they generate a cover. Let me just say right now that I hate romance covers. It’s one of the reasons I don’t read romance books. Getting a terrible cover was one of my fears about signing with a publisher. I do judge a book by its cover, which is why I had such a hard time letting someone else make those decisions.
I got lucky the first time and the artist spent a month working on it with me. Nonetheless, that approach doesn’t make sense. Cover artists aren’t paid well enough to devote that kind of time on each cover, so the publisher discourages it. When they published my second book, I was given two choices and even though I complained that my protagonist didn’t wear glasses (and the man on the cover they assigned me did), they came back with a nicer version of, ‘We know better than you, and your opinion doesn’t matter’.’ I wanted to fight them, but I wanted to be published more. Every step of the way, you must compromise, and that means letting others interfere with your creative process. There was definitely no room for negotiation as I had the first time, and sadly, this seems to be the industry norm. The only way around this is for you to design and produce your own cover art. You know, in all your free time.
THE FINAL DETAILS
After the cover art is done, your manuscript will go to a final line editor. They check for punctuation, grammar, and proper word usage. You would think after all the times that you, your content editor, and your acquisition editor have read it that all would be perfect. Nope! Final line editors find all the tiny mistakes that everyone else overlooked. A good final line editor is worth their weight in gold.
LEARN THROUGH THE PROCESS
At every step along the way, ask questions. Educate yourself in the process so you don’t sound like an idiot the next time you submit. Take notes when one of your editors tells you the ‘house formatting rules’ or anything else that will make your writing better, so you learn how to incorporate them into everything you write from that time forward.
NOW ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WAIT (FOR RELEASE DATE)…
Once your final line editor gives the green light and your cover art is ready, all you have to do is wait for your release date. What do to do while you’re waiting? Write another book, of course! Don’t forget to breathe. You should also throw yourself a book release party. Savor the moments of congratulations and admiration. You’ve worked your ass off and you deserve it!
ON RELEASE DAY, REJOICE & DON’T SUCCUMB TO LAST MINUTE NERVES
Release day arrives. You check the publisher’s website and you find your author page. There’s your name… Your title… Your book! For the whole world to see! Suddenly, you feel nauseated. What if they hate it? What if it sucks? What have I done? Breathing comes in handy here, too. Sit down. Remember all the times your editors told you how wonderful it was. Concentrate on that instead of all the awful thoughts swirling around your head. Think of the look on your friend’s face when she hugged you and told you how amazing you are. You wrote a book… A whole book… Thousands of words, dozens of characters, and a world they live in. That’s pretty epic!
PAYDAY! BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOU’RE AN AUTHOR NOW!
Just wait until your first paycheck comes! You’ll be rolling in dough! Just kidding! This is the part where I tell you to have realistic expectations. Are you a great writer? Yes! Should your book be on the bestseller list? Maybe! Does that mean you’ll be an overnight success or that you’ll make millions? Probably not. It’s true that some writers branching out from the fan fiction universe hit it big and sell millions of copies and never have to work a day in their lives again (think Fifty Shades of Grey). All we can say is good for them (even though we’re all secretly envious)! While you should strive for success, you shouldn’t let that guide you. You’re writing for yourself. Most likely, you’ll make tens of dollars! Yet it doesn’t matter. That check from your publisher has your name on it confirming that you are, in fact, an author. If you happen to sell more than a dozen copies to people outside your immediate circle of family and friends, that’s something to brag about! If a stranger is reading your story, and has your character stuck in her brain all day long, you’ve done something right. That’s what’s really important.
PATIENCE WILL SERVE YOU WELL
The thing I’ve learned from this adventure, besides how to improve my craft is patience. This has been the most difficult lesson of my life. I’m impatient and anxious. That hasn’t helped. Writing takes a long time, but that’s just the beginning. Submissions may take months or even years, depending on how you do it and to whom you submit your work. Once you finally get in with a publishing house, editing can take two to four months, and that’s if you’re prompt. If real life decides to use that moment to throw you a curve ball, you have to ask your publisher for an extension, and then hope it’s enough time to get through the chaos. The part you have to look forward to is when your book is sitting prettily on a shelf (virtual or otherwise), racking up reviews, and earning you money.
DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO INSTANTLY LOVE WHAT YOU WROTE
I need to say something about reviews. Sometimes they’re not nice. We all get them. We all hate them, and when your readers are paying to read your work, they have no problem telling the world that a ‘real author’ would never make this or that mistake. They’ll tear apart your sentence structure, your character development, and anything else they feel comfortable saying from the safety of their own homes. While these words hurt and make you wish you could shout, “Oh yeah? Why don’t you try writing a book?” Try thinking of them as a tool from which you can learn. If they complain that the thirty-five sex scenes you wrote bored them, perhaps you should cut back the next time. You should also try not to let them hurt you. I’d like to think these people don’t realize how much they’re impacting our lives. You might get nice reviews too. Those are the ones you’ll be proud to share. Just as a bad review can send you spiraling into a pit of depression, a really good one can make you float on cloud nine. Of course, the good ones never quite balance the hurtful ones, but they help. In most cases, you can’t reply to reviews or delete them and that sucks. Even if you could reply to reviews, you might not want to. Don’t start a petty argument with a reader. It’s not worth it.
LIVE BY YOUR OWN RULES & SELF PUBLISH
Not really interested in playing by someone else’s rules? Consider self-publishing. Some people think that authors self-publish when a publisher won’t accept them. That’s not always the case. It wasn’t for me. I had always been curious about self-publishing, but was too nervous to go for it. Remember, no matter how good you think your manuscript is, you need help. Everyone does. I only felt confident self-publishing a short story after I’d worked with my publisher on two books, taken several writing classes, and joined a writing group. So when I decided to try self-publishing, I hired a content editor and hoped for the best. I asked my graphic designer friend to design the cover and paid him with dinner and drinks. When you self-publish, you have the most control. You can edit it at any time if you happen to find a mistake, and if you publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (like I did), they’ll promote your story to people who shop through the Kindle store. I honestly wouldn’t have known how to do any of it without my experience, so if you’re considering self-publishing for your first time, hire someone to guide you through the process.
Now comes the advice:
- Take classes. It was obvious after my first and second attempts that I needed a lot of help learning how to write. I admit that freely. If I read through some of my earlier work, I cringe before reminding myself that I’ve come a long way, and there’s no shame in getting better. Here are a couple of great online courses:
- Join a writing group. Read ‘how to’ books together and then discuss them, or take turns reading each other’s work. You can’t go wrong.
- Talk about story ideas with anyone willing to brainstorm. Some of my best ideas come out of my brain when I’m talking out loud. Just don’t forget to write them down before you forget.
- Get your facts straight. If someone attacks your story for being inaccurate, be prepared to fight back with facts and truth.
- When you build a world, be consistent.
- Brace yourself for critical reviews. I don’t mean ‘helpful’ critical, I mean ‘you call this writing?’ critical. You can’t please everyone. No matter how much you want to respond by calling them names. Don’t. It’s not worth it.
- Read your book out loud. Your ears will catch cumbersome sentences your eyes miss.
msbuffy’s advice: THIS IS SO IMPORTANT & I CANNOT STRESS IT ENOUGH!! I DO THIS AS I EDIT EVERY STORY FOR ALL ‘MY’ WRITERS!! Even my contracted clients.
- Research everything: weather, moon cycles, sunrises, sunsets, and other calendar events and keep track of them to be sure your story make sense chronologically. Don’t make more work for your content editor.
- Ask for help. People love to share their knowledge and give feedback. Just make sure you thank them in the acknowledgements section of your book.
- Learn how to outline the nine plot points. This has been the most important piece of knowledge I’ve gained (from the Write Fiction Like a Pro class) in the five years I’ve been writing.
- Practice writing in third person, past tense, deep point of view. That’s what romance publishers want.
- Read ‘how to’ books. These are a few I’ve enjoyed in no particular order:
- How To Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey
- Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
- Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress
- Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
- Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
- The Elements of Editing by Arthur Plotnik
- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
- Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham
- The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham
- Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
- Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
- Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell
- Descriptions & Settings by Ron Rozelle
- Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- Characters, Emotions & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
- What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro (all about body language)
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi (a wonderful resource to describe emotions)
My Secret O has been generous enough to provide us with a detailed explanation and work form for the three-act system that are a useful tool for any writer which alongside this post, and the Q&A can be found in our newly created Writer’s Resources page.
Find out more about My Secret O’s original fiction on her dedicated blog: SEPTEMBERROBERTS.WORDPRESS.COM
Disclaimer: This article was written per the request of the Fangbangers Anonymous blog as an informative piece with no promises of promotion. Any links provided are offered in that vein, no profits are made from referrals nor was this article commissioned for promotional purposes of its author.