Posted On August 24, 2010 by Print This Post

A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: From the Call to Revisions

I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes I wonder if the long stretch of summer will ever be over. I find August to be a time of anticipation for the thermometer to drop below 100 degrees (okay – 115 in the Middle East), school to begin, and my birthday to arrive. Writers often experience the same type of restless anticipation between The Call and the first round of revisions for the sold manuscript. As part of her ongoing Debut Author Series, Laurie London is here today to chat about how to handle those dog days in between. Here’s Laurie!

What happens between when you get The Call from your editor and when you get The Revisions? Keep in mind that timelines can differ between publishers—it depends on their in-house process and schedules.  

My agent warned me it can take awhile to get the actual contract—as in months. I kept thinking, what if they change their minds? What if marketing says their new forecasts show vampires are soooo last year? Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long.

Soon after I signed the contract, I received the first part of my advance payment in the mail. With shaking hands, I opened that envelope and stared at the check for awhile. Oh man, this was real and not just a dream. Someone was really going to publish a book that I wrote and they were paying me. After all, nothing says “real” like cold, hard cash.

My first deadline was the proposal for book two. Using habits I developed before I sold, I continued writing every day. Like running or feeding my horses or not having chocolate for breakfast, my day doesn’t feel right until I’ve made my page count. I turned in the proposal, received the thumbs up from my editor, and finished the book. (Funny how a long process looks so simple when put into one sentence like that.)

Also during this time, I established my author persona online. Prior to this, I didn’t have much of an online presence as a writer, although I was familiar and comfortable with social media. I’d already purchased a URL but decided to lay low as an unpublished writer.

This goes against a lot of advice you hear out there. So why did I choose not blog or put up a website before I sold?

For one thing, I didn’t want to say or do something stupid or unprofessional while I learned how to conduct myself online. Once something’s on the interwebs, it’s there for good. I decided I’d rather have no presence, rather than a lame one.

Secondly, I’m not a speedy writer and have only a finite amount of creative energy tucked into my brain each day. I didn’t want to squander it away by blogging, tricking myself into thinking I was writing when I wasn’t.

And finally, because I sold fairly quickly, I didn’t have a lot of writerly experience to share with others. 

Instead, I focused on the craft of writing, networked with writers on forums and loops, learned what I could about the publishing business, and watched how others handled themselves online. I tinkered with a website but kept it on my computer only. Basically, I educated myself. I just didn’t pull the trigger until after I sold.

Soon after receiving input from my agent and editor about my author name (I changed the spelling, so I bought a new URL), I had a website up, Facebook and Twitter accounts, a blog, and a Gmail account. Because I was familiar with all of it, this wasn’t a big deal.

Don’t let me discourage you from doing what you feel is right for your situation. I follow a lot of unpublished writer websites that are fantastic—I’m glad they’re out there. I can only tell you about my experience and the reasons why I did what I did.

But the next time you hear someone say you HAVE to have a website or blog in order to sell to a traditional New York publisher, please remember that I didn’t.

Next up—book covers. The art department had me to fill out information regarding themes, major setting details, character descriptions, etc. It was like analyzing my story for a lit class, but in this case, I knew what the author was thinking. J

My editor, agent and I discussed our ideas for covers, including my likes and dislikes. I went to the bookstore, making note of those that jumped out at me as a reader of paranormal romance, and I asked my book club friends what they thought. (They’re very opinionated.) I emailed the jpegs to my editor with the reasons why I liked each one.

What happened next stunned me. I received a link to a model’s portfolio—the one they planned to use for BONDED BY BLOOD. They were actually going to hire real people to model for my cover! I just figured they’d Photoshop stock photos. (And because I know you’ll ask, yes, the guy is verra hot! I’d want him for my boyfriend if I wasn’t married.)

Prior to the photo shoot, they sent mock-ups of the covers so I could see what they were planning. I loved the concepts. They were sexy, dark, and daring.

Then, a few weeks ago, I saw the ACTUAL COVERS! If I hadn’t been on the phone with my editor at the time, I seriously would’ve hyperventilated when I clicked open the documents.

Turns out they’re everything I’d hoped they’d be with a few cool surprises—I can’t wait to share them. The pictures, the layout, the colors, the back cover copy, the fonts…oh, and my name.

What a total rush to see my name on the cover of a book! It’s a dream come true. I can hardly imagine what it’ll be like to see it in person.

***

RU Crew, I know Laurie wanted to share her cover with us, but can’t quite yet. Maybe in her October column!  Do you have questions about Laurie’s approach to her online presence or the cover art process? As always, she’ll be popping in to chat. 

Be sure to come by tomorrow when I’ll be chatting with Harlequin Blaze author Tawny Weber’s latest hero. Alex is the perfect blend of smarts and sexy!

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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30 Responses to “A Debut Author’s Journey with Laurie London: From the Call to Revisions”

  1. Hi Laurie,

    What a great, refreshing story. I love how your experiences annihilated many debut author preconceptions. I think it’s pretty cool that your publisher sought so much input from you for your cover.

    I can’t wait to see the end product!

    Thanks, Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | August 24, 2010, 5:39 am
    • Thanks, Tracey, and everyone at RU for having me on again!

      I think it’s important for people to realize there’s not one right way. I remember feeling pressured to put up a website. That agents and editors wouldn’t think I was a serious writer if I didn’t. But I knew myself. I’d be sucked in and would never write. So I decided to go with my gut and not do it, but learn everything I could about the process so that when the time came, I wouldn’t be clueless.

      This whole cover process sure has been fascinating. Can you imagine taking an author’s words and story theme, and creating a visual image that will reflect that while appealing to the target market and bring in new readers? What a job!

      What’s that reality show where artists are given a task and they compete for the judges? They should design book covers for one episode and have HQN’s art director be a guest judge!

      Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 9:38 am
  2. Laurie –

    Would you share some of those habits that allowed you to work on book two while you were chewing your nails over the first contract?

    As always, thanks for such a wonderful insight into this process. I’m so antsy to see your cover!

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 24, 2010, 7:36 am
    • Thanks, Kelsey! I sooo wished I’d have gotten the okay to share the covers by the time I was here, but alas, I didn’t.

      Regarding writing habits, first of all, I set an end goal. I wanted 85,000 words of a first draft written by a certain date, then I worked backwards to determine how much I needed to write each day. (I tend to write lean, then go back and layer more. My 85,000 words become about 95,000 after I’ve revised.)

      As part of Amy Atwell’s Goal in a Month group, I stayed on track each week because I knew I had to report what I accomplished. For me, it’s easy to cheat myself and decide I don’t want to write, but when I’ve announced it to the group, it’s not quite as easy.

      I’m also part of Cherry Adair’s Write the Damn Book Challenge where she encourages writers to write, not to make excuses.

      Like the advice you hear from financial planners to pay yourself first, I made writing x number of pages one of my top priorities. Some days, I’d finish in the morning, then go on with my life. Other days, those pages just didn’t want to get written. On those days I’d force it, make myself get them done by the end of the day, even if it meant staying up really late. Oh, they were crappy, but it was the page count that mattered, not the fact that they weren’t literary masterpieces. As Nora says, you can’t edit a blank page.

      Another thing I do is use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how much I write and how much I have left. (Author Laurie Ryan created an excellent one, many more bells and whistles than the one my husband made for me. Here’s the link. http://tinyurl.com/29otktl ) As a visual person, I like seeing my progress in that format. It becomes more of a numbers game, where I’m advancing my story forward each day. It encourages me to produce new pages, rather than edit and re-edit my existing pages.

      ~L

      Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 10:19 am
  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I never thought it was necessary to have a website. I only put one up before I sold because I got a good deal on it. The most important thing is to write a great book that people will love. But I am going to check out your website now. lol

    Posted by Edie Ramer | August 24, 2010, 7:59 am
    • You’ve got a really fun website Edie! It’s purple and full of cats – whats not to like! =) It will be interesting to see if your website hit count really bumps up now that you’re on Smashwords and soon to be Kindle.

      =)

      carrie

      Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 24, 2010, 8:24 am
    • That’s exactly how I feel, Edie. Thanks for weighing in. I was actually nervous writing this post because I know a lot of people disagree.

      But like Carrie, who knew she’d learn a lot about writing by blogging, I knew myself, that I’d be fooled into thinking I was writing, when I wasn’t.

      Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 10:30 am
  4. Morning Laurie!

    No chocolate for breakfast????? Are you insane??? lol…

    I love blogging, and I design websites, so of course I had to make both when I decided to make this a career move. And as you say, that’s not right for everyone! But blogging has made me a better writer as well…it’s easy to get caught up in it for sure and forget the actual writing! But I try to stay on a schedule. I will say that some of the subjects I make myself think about in order to write a blog post sometimes really makes it clearer to me what I’ve learned in the past year.

    Like you should always have chocolate for breakfast. =)

    *seeing another blog post in the offing!*

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 24, 2010, 8:17 am
  5. Hi Carrie! Yes, we definitely need to make decisions that are right for us. How fun that you design websites–yeah, it makes sense that you have one!

    Blogging on a schedule and staying true to that sure helps develop a deadline mentality. For me, it was being a part of GIAM and Cherry Adair’s Challenge.

    Now go get that chocolate. It’s only 8:30 am here. I can’t quite justify it yet, but I have a bag of Peanut M&M’s calling my name as I type this.

    Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 10:36 am
  6. Laurie–

    Following your journey to publication is great fun. You’re right about there not being just one right way to get there. We all have to learn what works for us–what enables us to get the writing done and what interferes.

    Can’t wait to see your cover–

    Alexis

    Posted by Alexis Morgan | August 24, 2010, 11:00 am
  7. Laurie,
    I love that you did what you felt was right for you, and weren’t pressured by anything or anyone to start your blog/website before you were ready. I think you are an amazingly organized, articulate person, who thinks things through, and it has worked well for you!
    I also love your description of when you received that envelope. I can just see you there staring at it.
    I absolutely can’t wait to see your covers!! How great they used a model for them, and asked your input! I’m sure they will be fabulous.
    I’m so thrilled for you that your talent, hard work, and perseverance has paid off! Can’t wait till February,
    Kathy

    Posted by Kathy | August 24, 2010, 12:02 pm
  8. Aw, thanks so much, Kathy! If you could see my house, I think you’d retract that statement! Glad that I give off an organized vibe. *shoves papers aside to set down her latte*

    I’m hoping you’ll love the cover. Seriously, it makes my heart flutter. The image is sexy and very arresting. I hope when readers see it on a shelf, that it’ll jump into their carts.

    (Hope Bob wasn’t too disappointed that they didn’t call him to have him model.)

    Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
  9. Laurie, thanks for reminding me that easy success is rare, and demonstrating that discipline, good habits, determination, and making writing a priority, contributed greatly to your end result, a good book picked up by an agent and publisher.

    As an unpublished writer, I have worked on aspects of social networking. I knew it would take me a while to learn how to manage the whole social network scene, and I trusted that being unknown would minimize the visitors to the sites while I learned. You are correct in your assessment that facebook, the web, blog and twitter used up writing time.

    Posted by Marion Spicher | August 24, 2010, 12:49 pm
  10. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing. As an avid reader, the business of how a book becomes a book is fascinating each and every time I hear about it and almost everyone’s experience differs.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

    Posted by Man of la Book | August 24, 2010, 2:23 pm
    • Hi ManofLaBook,

      Not sure why your post is just showing up now since you left it yesterday, but thanks for coming by and commenting. I’ve found the whole process fascinating myself. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes either. I’ve got friends IRL who keep asking if my book is out yet (I sold back in October 2009) and I have to keep telling them that these things take time. :-)

      ~L

      Posted by Laurie London | August 25, 2010, 9:11 am
  11. Hi Laurie,

    Congrats on another fabulous post on RU. Can’t wait to see your cover. Cheers!

    Posted by Vicky Dreiling | August 24, 2010, 2:44 pm
  12. Ha, what?!….no “Bobio”??! Oh, well…he’ll have to just get over it I suppose.
    And, I know we’ll still love the cover!

    Posted by Kathy | August 24, 2010, 3:28 pm
  13. Thanks so much, Marion, for your comments. For me, it’s all about developing good habits…and avoiding activities that derail me. You’ll notice, I’m still not a regular blogger on my own blog. I only do it when my daily pages have been written. And I’ve just gotten familiar with writing a few in advance to post at a later date. I feel so smug that I’ve got three sitting there that haven’t been posted yet. :-)

    Thanks, Vicky, so much! I can’t wait to show you either!

    Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 3:33 pm
  14. Hi Laurie!
    Thanks for sharing your journey. Very interesting. It must be great to love your cover as much as you love your story.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | August 24, 2010, 6:22 pm
  15. Hi Laurie,

    I so enjoy reading your posts! You’ve got me fantasizing about one day getting actual money for my fiction. I also dream about putting “author” in the blank when I fill out a form that asks for occupation. :) Thanks for the inspiration! It’s wonderful to hear a success story.

    Sally Bayless

    Posted by Sally Bayless | August 24, 2010, 6:43 pm
  16. Wendy, thanks for commenting! The model isn’t quite how I pictured Dom in my head as I was writing the story, but he’s still good-looking. :-)

    Sally, I’m so glad that these posts are inspirational. You just made my day! I certainly haven’t done anything that you can’t do either. All of this is within your reach too.

    Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 8:43 pm
  17. Laurie –

    Thanks for the super post today! Promise RU will get to run those covers when you get the okay?

    K-

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 24, 2010, 11:40 pm
    • Thanks again, Kelsey and RU folks, for having me today. I’ve still got my email alert for this post, so I’ll be replying if anyone has more comments.

      You got it, Kels. I’d be thrilled if you’d want to post the cover. I’m anxious to hear what everyone thinks.

      xoxxoo! Laurie

      Posted by Laurie London | August 24, 2010, 11:50 pm
  18. Laur–I totally spaced this today! But better late than never, eh?

    Great post, as usual.

    I can’t wait until you share your covers. Attention everyone here: I’ve seen Laurie’s covers! Neener, neener, neener! And they’re AWESOME. I can’t wait to flaunt them on MY blog and live vicariously through your success as seems to be my habit as your younger sister. LOL

    I have to agree with you about promo before you’re published. I think if it’s something the writer really enjoys, then go for it. It is fun. But it’s not necessary, IMHO. Writing a great book is necessary to get published. Having a great website or internet presence is not. If you have time to do it all, go for it, but most of us don’t.

    Posted by Rebecca J. Clark | August 25, 2010, 12:01 am

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