Posted On June 22, 2010 by Print This Post

A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: Sold! But first…

Today at RU, we’re continuing our bi-monthly series where we’ll follow debut author Laurie London on her journey from a newbie writer to publication. If you missed Laurie’s first lecture, please be sure to back track for a peek. Today, she’s going to chat with us about her search for an agent, and how she landed Emmanuelle Alspaugh as hers. Emmanuelle will also drop by today!

Sold! But first, Revisions and Submissions

After signing with an agent, my road to publication may veer off from what others have experienced. Maybe you have or will go through these same things and maybe you won’t. Please don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way. I can only recount my own experience.

Once the agency agreement was signed, Emmanuelle sold my manuscript, right? Yes…but not until I made a few more changes. These weren’t major fixes, just little tweaks here and there to further tighten and polish. Now it was ready for submission to publishers (and I began to drink heavily).

During this time I took a character workshop by one of my favorite writing instructors, Linnea Sinclair. I’ve learned so much about craft, attitude, and the business of writing from her. This next thing I did helped me turn my story world and characters into something bigger than just a good manuscript. Granted, I’d already planned for this to be an open-ended series and had synopses and pages written for books two and three, but I took a step back and considered the world as a whole because of her advice.

I’d always done character templates for my major characters, but this was the first time I’d heard that a publisher could ask for them. Linnea said they invariably ask for information like this on Friday at noon and they need it by 5pm. She said she was teaching us to be professional writers. We must think like one and we must be prepared. (Yes, she’s like a drill sergeant or a masochist boy scout, but she whipped us into shape.)

With this in mind, I polished my character worksheets. Then I decided to take it a step further and create a Worldbuilding document to keep the details about my world in one place and to avoid inconsistencies. (Some refer to this as a series bible.) Thinking it was for my eyes only, I used fancy fonts and silly spellings, things that sparked my creativity and that I thought were fun. I did some historical research and wrote a lengthy, single-spaced document on vampires, complete with annotated references. I discussed their form of government, their biology, major historical events that tied into human history, special powers, traditions, societal structures, etc. much of which will never make it into the books. I wrote it as if I were doing a college term paper for Vampire Sociology 101.

Offhandedly, I told my agent I’d put together this document to help me keep all these details straight. Guess what? She wanted to see it. So I nixed the fancy fonts and spellings, quickly proofread the thing, and sent it to her. Turns out she loved it and used it as a selling tool for the whole series.

Let me set the scene on what happened next: I’m in a PTA meeting that is running long when my phone rings. My book’s been out on submission for a few weeks, so I’m a wreck anyway, but when I see that it’s Emmanuelle calling, my heart kicks into overdrive. I excuse myself, run out to the steps of the school, and answer the phone. She says an editor who loved the story wants a series overview. In ONE page, she told me to include the overall series arc, the number of books I envisioned, the characters, the major settings, and a 2-3 sentence premise outlining the conflict in the next two books. Oh, and she needs it by the close of business. That was in two hours. Holy crap, Linnea was right!

Fortunately, I’d also followed the advice my author friend Alexis Morgan gave me (I talked about this in my last RU post), so I knew these story details and was ready. It was a matter of cutting and pasting stuff into a new document. Of course I still labored over it, but within a few hours, I sent the overview. Then waited.

The submission process reminds me of showing horses. You hurry hurry hurry to get yourself and your horse ready. You rush to the show pen, not wanting to miss your class, then you sit around and wait. As in forever. With a nervous stomach. (You learn quickly how to use the restroom while wearing chaps.)

It was at this point when I attended the Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle. It killed me not being able to share any of this excitement with my friends, that editors were reading my story and liking it. The submission process is stressful enough when you’re sitting behind a computer and can’t email anyone. Imagine seeing your writer friends face to face.

Then came the agent and editor dance of negotiating, finagling, cajoling, and whatever else they do. And on a rainy evening in October 2009, while having dinner with a friend because we didn’t want to sit outside during a high school football game, I got a text from my agent. She and my new editor were at a cocktail party and she closed the deal!

Because I’ve already taken up enough space here at RU, if you want to read about The Call or The Text, I’ve detailed the silly stories on my blog. Warning: one of them involves a toilet. (


Do any of you want to share your submission stories and experiences? Have you done a series bible or overview? If so, I’d love to hear what you put into it. Mine is definitely a work-in-progress and I’m always adding more as I learn more about my story world and characters.

RU crew, stop by tomorrow when Debra Holland will help us make the impossible possible: Understanding Men.

Laurie’s Bio:

A graduate of Western Washington University with a BA in Business Administration and a former tester/programmer for a Fortune 500 company, Laurie London now writes from her home near Seattle where she lives with her husband and two children.

Her debut novel, BONDED BY BLOOD, A Sweetblood Novel, is tentatively scheduled for publication February 2011 by HQN. EMBRACED BY BLOOD, the second book in the series, is coming July 2011.

Her writing has won and been a finalist in several prestigious contests including the Beacon, the Emerald City Opener, the Marlene, and the Orange Rose.

She’s a member of GSRWA, RWA, RWAOnline, SCBWI, and two book clubs – one of which she helps coordinate live online author chats with readers from around the world.

When not writing, she can be found running, reading, or riding and showing her horse. Someday she hopes to qualify for the Quarter Horse World Show – that is, if her horse doesn’t get hurt again.

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38 Responses to “A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: Sold! But first…”

  1. Hi Laurie,

    Great post, as usual! Do you think a series bible is specific to paranormal, or do you recommend that all authors writing a series develop one?

    Right now, all my editor has for books 2 and 3 is a one paragraph blurb for each. For the first time, I’m outlining a story chapter-by-chapter, creating in depth character profiles, listing a cast of characters, trying to figure out turning points, defining H/H character arcs, writing a backstory for each of my characters, etc. I put this information into a pretty format, because it makes me feel like a professional and I like to have information like this in an organized manner (business degree!). 🙂

    I think this document could be given to my editor or agent, but it’s just for one story.

    I’ll have to look into Linnea’s class. Sounds awesome.

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | June 22, 2010, 5:36 am
  2. Hi Laurie!

    I signed up to RU’s RSS feed after seeing your message on Linnea’s Yahoo loop. This is a great post! But now I’m all terrified because I don’t have all that background work done. In other words, if my agent called me up asking for the series arc, number of books, etc., I’d be in full-fledged oh-sh!t mode.

    I’ve been working on the synopsis for a sequel for several weeks now (I wrote the first book completely as a stand-alone). I think I finally have an ending and central conflict (those are useful, aren’t they?) so I at least have an idea of the other books in the possible series. Maybe I wouldn’t actually be completely unprepared. Maybe. 🙂

    Belated congrats on your book deal! I love vampire stories and can’t wait to read your SWEETBLOOD books.

    Now, I’m off to finish my synopsis and brainstorm the rest of the series.

    Posted by Sandy Wills | June 22, 2010, 8:00 am
  3. Morning Laurie!

    Great post….and still giggling about going to the bathroom with your chaps on….lol….

    I’ve done a very light character outline for my manuscripts, and trust me, NO ONE wants to read my…I might want to go back someday and straighten those out a bit!

    Thanks for posting with us today Laurie!!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | June 22, 2010, 8:39 am
  4. Laurie,

    You know I love your first sale story, but this post illustrated the need for an author to be flexible and fast. While our deliverables differed, I, too, had to turn around new materials quickly to two different interested publishers. In one case, a publisher asked me to reposition the follow-up books. Fortunately, I’m in marketing and understood immediately what the editor required. I had 24 hours to turn around my ideas for 3 follow-up books, which now seems luxurious compared to your 2 hours! The point is you didn’t say it’s impossible or beg for more time. Your Can-Do attitude and strong work ethic speak volumes about you. I’ve no doubt your agent and editor think you’re a dream author to work with. I can’t wait to buy your first book in February!

    Posted by Vicky Dreiling | June 22, 2010, 9:13 am
  5. @Vicky – “Reposition the follow-up books”? *blinks* What does that mean?

    And very good point about the Can-D0 attitude!

    Posted by Sandy Wills | June 22, 2010, 9:16 am
  6. Hi Tracey,
    Thanks for having me on RU again. I always have so much fun.

    Regarding series bibles, I think it’s a good idea to have some sort of master document or notebook to refer to, no matter what your genre. If you write paranormal, the worldbuilding aspect would be more detailed, because the world is almost a separate character. For instance, the biology of how characters reproduce is a given in a historical or contemporary, but not in a paranormal. In a historical, maybe the family tree is important (who is married to whom, etc.) or the family estate. You don’t want to have someone walk left into the drawing room in book one, but turn right in book two.

    I think this is okay to mention here because she said it at a public book signing, but Charlaine Harris told us of a mistake she made in her books because she didn’t have all the details organized. A character (Debbie Pelt) was one sort of shifter in one book, and a different one in the next. Oops! We all laughed (I hadn’t caught that when I was reading the series). She hired an assistant after that to organize all the details. As a new writer, I loved hearing that one of my favorite authors has a hard time keeping everything straight.

    It sounds like you’ve got a great system that you’re using on your next book! But I’m here to say, don’t be surprised if they want to see some of this behind the scenes stuff. And when you start talking about covers, themes, major scenes, important symbolic details, and major settings (even character pictures) all become very important for the art department in capturing the essence of your book in one eye-catching image.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 9:27 am
  7. Laurie –

    What a great (yet scary!) story. It makes me realize how all that ancillary writing really is legitimate writing. Sometimes, I feel like we press the idea of word count so much that I feel anything that doesn’t go inside the book isn’t “real writing.”

    Do you know if Linnea is teaching her class again anytime soon? I’ll be sure to check her website!

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your journey with us!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | June 22, 2010, 9:27 am
  8. Hi Laurie,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I love your blogs! Three cheers for your success!


    Posted by Sally Bayless | June 22, 2010, 9:30 am
  9. Oh wow, cool, Sandy! Thanks so much for coming! I know you’ll find RU to be a very informative and friendly place to hang out.

    Isn’t Linnea the best? She explains things in such a way that it makes so much sense to me. I was so mad I was too busy to take her last class.

    Don’t worry that you don’t have things all ironed out now. A series bible is definitely a work in progress. In fact, I’ve got plans to put mine into a nicely organized binder like Cherry Adair does, but I haven’t yet.

    Good luck on your synopsis! I’ll bet you know more than you think you know.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 9:36 am
  10. Thanks, Carrie! LOL. That’s what I thought until Emmanuelle said she wanted to see it. Boy, did I scramble!

    Trust me. It is quite a feat using the restroom with chaps. There’s all that fringe and those big silver buckles to contend with. 😉

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 9:40 am
  11. Aw, you’re so sweet, Vicky!

    Wow, you totally know what I’m talking about. I’ll bet that took some major thinking on your part, but because you had it all “out there,” it was just a matter of rearranging things. Yes, being flexible and ready is so important. It’s what Linnea said about being a professional writer. You need to act and develop the habits of a professional writer, and this is some of what professional writers do.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 9:48 am
  12. Tell me about it, Kelsey! I practically had a heart attack, but mainly because I’m a ponder-er (if that makes sense). I like to think and re-think stuff–see what something sounds like the next day in case I change my mind. Fortunately, because I’d already thought through things, I was able to deliver what was needed in a short turnaround.

    If you go to Linnea’s website and click on news, you’ll see all her upcoming classes. Wow, she’s got some good ones. A private investigator class for writers (she used to be a PI), Prune Your Prose, Character Torture 101 (as a member of RWAOnline, I can take it for free–yay!), and if you live in NC or Florida, she’s giving in-person workshops this summer.

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 10:04 am
  13. Aw, thanks so much, Sally! ((hugs))

    Sorry, everyone. I’m using the reply on the individual messages, but when I hit enter, my comment shows down at the bottom. Hope you all see them!

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 10:06 am
  14. Hey Laurie! What a great post! It was so fun for me to read, remembering talking to you during certain steps of the process and reliving that time with you! I’m constantly amazed at how well you’ve grasped the business aspect of your writing and how much background and detail work you’ve completed for your world. I think your efforts in this area will be the envy of many currently published, very successful authors who do not have their backstories in nearly the condition you have yours!

    Posted by Shelley Harper | June 22, 2010, 10:17 am
  15. Thanks, Shelley! That means a lot to me since you’re practically a walking paranormal romance dictionary. ((hugs))

    On another note, Emmanuelle said she’ll be stopping by too, so if you have any questions on this stuff that would pertain to her, please ask away. My editor said she might stop in too!

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 10:54 am
  16. That’s a great anecdote, Laurie. I think Nalini Singh has blogged about keeping a sort of notebook, too. Tracey, the word “bible” seems pretty intense, huh? Since these world-building documents don’t actually get published, they can be fairly casual. A few pages is generally enough, though you might develop something longer for your own use, a la Charlaine Harris.


    Posted by Emmanuelle Alspaugh | June 22, 2010, 12:18 pm
  17. Thanks, Emmanuelle, for stopping by! I’ll have to check out Nalini’s blog. I love getting ideas. Nathan Bransford blogged this week about putting together a series bible. Charlaine Harris calls it her encyclopedia. I just call it my world-building document.

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 12:28 pm
  18. Hi, Laurie. Great post! It got me thinking. I use scene charts and character profiles, but never thought about it for world building. I’ll have to see if I can doctor my existing charts for the world building.

    Thanks for the tip!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | June 22, 2010, 12:47 pm
  19. Gee, Laurie, thanks so much for the kind comments. I’m glad my class was helpful–yeah, agents and editors can put you through some interesting hoops. And, pssst, it doesn’t stop with your first book. You can still get last-minute need-it-yesterday requests at book number five… 😉 ~Linnea

    Posted by Linnea Sinclair | June 22, 2010, 1:09 pm
  20. Oh wow, thanks so much for stopping by, Linnea!

    *pardon me while I have a fangirl moment*

    Seriously, thanks to you, I was ready!

    One thing I learned quickly was when they say by the “close of business,” this means NY time. Not Seattle time. I’m lollygaging around (pondering) thinking I have five hours, when Emmanuelle calls back and reminds me about NY time. Ooops!

    I’m hoping to take your Torture Character class at RWAOnline in August. See you then!

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 1:24 pm
  21. Ooh! What’s the Torture Character class? I didn’t see that on Linnea’s website.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | June 22, 2010, 2:24 pm
  22. Looks like the Character Torture 101 class is through the Yellow Rose RWA and FF&P (2 different dates). The Prune Your Prose class is through RWAOnline.

    She’s got a busy summer teaching classes and doing workshops. Yay for us!

    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 2:30 pm
  23. Hi, Laurie! Great post, as usual! And I love your Call Story, too. This post was particularly timely for me, as I’m in the middle of creating my series bible. I printed it out. 😀 The idea that an agent/editor might want to see it eventually is terrifying, LOL. And something that never occurred to me, though now that you’ve put it out there, it makes sense that it would be helpful for them, too. Soooo… guess who’s going to be reworking those notebooks to make them presentable? 😯

    I took most of my cues on what to include in my own notebooks from Yasmine Galenorn (and added to them with that blog of Nathan Bransford’s). Yasmine has helpful info on creating a series bible on her website.

    Thanks for the tip on classes from Linnea, too, I’ll be sure to check out her website. I’ve sworn off classes for the rest of this year in order to finish my book – I’m an online class junkie, I had to break the addiction – but she’ll be at the top of my list for next year.

    I hope you’re enjoying your summer, Laurie, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in September, if not before. Take care!


    Posted by Chassily Wakefield | June 22, 2010, 3:10 pm
  24. Hello to everyone from Laurie’s editor! I wanted to thank Laurie for a great and informative post. I can vouch for the fact that Laurie’s world-building document has been really helpful in the editing process (and is also a testament to Laurie’s rich imagination and strong world-building skills). I’m all in favor of authors creating such documents, even if only for their own eyes–anything that helps you keep track of continuity is a good thing in my book.

    Posted by Margo | June 22, 2010, 3:14 pm
  25. Hi Margo!
    Thanks so much for coming by and navigating the fun world of blogging. And thanks for the kind words.

    When I wrote up that document, I had no idea it would be of any use to anyone but me. So glad you’re finding it helpful in the editing process as well.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 4:26 pm
  26. Hey Laurie!

    You could create a heroine who shows Quarter Horses and include comical a scene in a bathroom stall where she struggles with chaps! My best friend shows Quarter Horses and now I’m wondering how she deals with her chaps in the ladies… :mrgreen: Thanks for sharing your story with us. I’m thinking I should gather all of my back story and character sketches and organize them!


    Posted by Jennifer | June 22, 2010, 4:32 pm
  27. The tough part’s getting the chaps settled back up where they belong without the jeans bunching… 😉

    Great post information! I keep a running set of notes at the bottom of the ms while I’m writing, so that everytime I add a new character or a scene has and important detail, I can jot it quickly. And if I don’t want to do that and ruin the flow, I simply highlight a word so I can pick it up quickly on a runthrough.
    Now, thanks to your warning, I shall cut and paste this stuff into a file and flesh it out some.
    😀 thanks!

    Posted by kathy bremner | June 22, 2010, 4:34 pm
  28. Thanks, Chassily! Don’t let the thought that someone else might find it interesting or useful hinder you or cramp your style. That internal editor has too much power as it is. Just let it flow and do things that inspire you. You can always clean up/fix later, like I did.

    I’ll have to check out Yasmine’s blog. It’s amazing how many deadlines she works on at one time. She’s the master of keeping detailed worlds organized.

    Good luck on finishing your book! You can do it! (I’m channeling my inner Cherry Adair.)


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 4:47 pm
  29. Hi Jen, thanks for stopping by!

    It’s funny you should say that, because an earlier manuscript I wrote was about a women who showed horses and the hero was a horse trainer. I was trying to find my writer’s voice, but I learned it wasn’t working for that story–even though I was writing what I knew. It was boring. I find vampires much more fascinating to read about (and write about) than a horse trainer. 😉

    Good luck with your organizing.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 4:54 pm
  30. That’s a great tip, Kathy. Thanks!

    And LOL on not having the jeans bunch up. You sound like you’ve done it a time or two. I’m always afraid something’s going to fall into the toilet or that my horse is going to freak out with someone else holding her. Once you get back on the horse, that chap-puller-downer person is very important.


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 4:58 pm
  31. Sandy, great question. Positioning is a tool that marketers use to define the way in which a product, in this case a book or series of books, will compete with similar products in the same category (e.g, paranormal romance in Laurie’s case). The high concept of my first book differentiates it from all the other Regency historicals on the marketplace. The editor wanted the follow-up books to be aligned with high concepts that followed in the same vein, but were unique. I really can’t be more specific at this time. I hope that answered your questions about positioning.

    Posted by Vicky Dreiling | June 22, 2010, 5:52 pm
  32. Thank goodness for Facebook as I didn’t realize that today was blog day!! I also didn’t realize it was Tuesday……it’s one of those weeks.

    Love your post! I can just imagine how your heart must have been pounding and that damn heavy pit in your stomach. But, look how great it has turned out.

    Thanks for all the great information about the character and world building. Having an idea for a story is one thing but making the actual world and characters come to life on paper is another. Having been so lucky to have read your writing, you do an amazing job of bringing the reader into your world immediately. From page 1, I was invested in the main character and where the story would go.

    My writing bible definitely includes all the wonderful tips you have shared on your blog, website, twitter, facebook, (is there any other I’m missing?).

    Lara Adrian’s husband has created a program that is exactly for this purpose. I haven’t tried it but I have heard good things about it. I think it would help writers that are typically not that organized.

    Plus, it’s a good thing to have all of this prepared for your series compendium that will no doubt be published!!!

    Posted by Janna | June 22, 2010, 6:02 pm
  33. Thanks, Vicky, for that explanation. As writers of genre-fiction, we’re creating a product, one that people will hopefully want to buy. That’s why marketing that product is so important. I can’t wait till you can give us the scoop on your books and I can’t wait to read them!

    Janna!!!! Howdy, girl! So glad you came by today, although with your week, I’m shocked you remembered. Having a tarantula crawl on my arm would cause my memory to go into fits. Thanks for the sweet words! Is that the WriteWay software? I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never tried it. In a class I took from Linnea, I think she talked about the various software products available to help with organization, and some of our homework was looking at what they could do for us.

    Thanks for stopping by!!! (hugs))


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 6:22 pm
  34. What a wonderful discussion today. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, especially Emmanuelle and Margo. What a treat to see so many new and familiar faces!


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | June 22, 2010, 8:04 pm
  35. Thanks, Tracey, Kelsey, Adrienne, and Carrie for having me again, and thanks to Emmanuelle and Margo for coming on as well. You have such a nice group of people here!


    Posted by Laurie London | June 22, 2010, 11:50 pm
  36. Hey Laurie! I’m stopping by late–I’m so glad you reminded me that you were on today. If it’s not on a post-it note on my computer screen, I don’t remember a thing. 🙂

    Excellent post. You’re an inspiration to me.

    Posted by Rebecca J. Clark | June 23, 2010, 12:26 am
  37. Laurie, thanks so much for all this! I write historical, so I have a notebook with all sorts of information (unorganized), but also use Excel to keep names and locations straight. Plus, I use OneNote to keep things like an editing list, character description (physical and psychological, and even have photos of celebrities that remind me of my characters), story ideas, and links between my books, as well as historical details. My books are all stand-alone, but they’re related, with recurring characters. It’s really nice to be writing a year later and go back to the spreadsheet to remind me what name I decided on for another character’s horse, or estate. I never imagined it might be useful to an editor, though. Might need to go organize a little better. *grin*

    Posted by Noelle Pierce | June 23, 2010, 9:41 am
  38. Hey Beck, thanks for stopping by. Back atcha!

    Hi Noelle, you sound very organized to me! I’ve heard of writers using OneNote, but I’ve never tried it. Thanks for the ideas!


    Posted by Laurie London | June 23, 2010, 10:08 am

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