Don’t you just love to get to sit down with your fellow writers and dish about all of your combined knowledge and experience. It is true that no one quite understands you like a fellow writer. So, here’s our chance to sit down with three authors and a very savvy agent to get the down and dirty on being a debut author. Ssshh . . . you have to pinky swear not to tell anyone . . .
Girlfriends’ Guide to Being a Debut Author
I’m sitting in the lobby of the Anaheim Marriott – site of the 2012 RWA National
Convention. Since many of you here at Romance University are romance writers, I am going to share a bit about the panel I was invited to join. Sending a big shout out to you who are walking past me as I type and a cyber shout out to those of you who are at home in your jammies.
The Girlfriends’ Guide to Being a Debut Author: the Stuff No One Ever Tells You
Roni Loren (bestselling author of CRASH INTO YOU), Miranda Kenneally (author of CATCHING JORDAN), Kristen Callihan (author of FIRELIGHT) and I talked about an author’s debut year and answered questions from a packed room. It was a fantastic panel – one of the best I’ve ever joined – and the questions and enthusiasm were outstanding! The scope of our discussion was book deal to book – from the moment your agent says “we have accepted this offer” to the moment your mom can buy a copy at Barnes & Noble. What happens to an author between book deal and release date? What makes that debut year awesome and awful?
Kristen made an excellent point that learning to communicate with her agent and editor were two steps that really helped smooth out her debut experience. Debut authors receive edit letters, contracts, deadlines, blog tours – a whole world of logistics and pressure that can feel new and overwhelming. Learning who to ask with what questions, how to ask, how to clarify and how to push back helped Kristen stay sane and creative enough to keep writing Book #2.
Roni talked about social media and how important it is to budget time. She also said that being authentic online and focusing on media that interest you (Facebook, twitter, blogging, etc) will keep the relationship between author and follower fresh and engaging. Roni started her incredible blog 3 years ago (a full year before signing with an agent or getting a book deal) and she feels it has paid off in friends, contacts, networking and readers (her blog is http://www.roniloren.com/blog/). Having her platform up and running before signing her first book deal helped her feel connected and prepared.
Miranda listed things she “didn’t know that she didn’t know” before her first book. She talked about co-op and how a publisher pitches books to B&N, amazon, independent bookstores, etc. in hopes of being chosen for the top spots for visibility. Those links on amazon that say “Customers who bought this item also bought…”? Yup – that’s advertising space paid for by publishers! Most everyone in the room gasped when Miranda revealed that juicy detail. And it’s true – marketing and co-op are planned behind-the-scenes and involve steps most authors don’t realize. Knowing these elements of what-makes-a-book helped Miranda understand the process of book sales (and what was at stake with each marketing meeting).
As for me? I talked about four things – money, frequency of communication, control and the amount of time if takes for contracts:
#1 – Remember that advance money is usually split into three payments and spread out over 2-3 years. An author pays taxes on advance money and also pays their agent, so most people are not retiring to Maui with the sale of their first book.
#2 – Many debut authors feel some amount of anxiety about the frequency of communication from their editor and/or agent. My message was “relax and enjoy your debut book!” Most editors communicate infrequently after presenting the initial offer – they are working on this year’s books and will get back to you closer to your book’s deadline. And agents are working hard behind the scenes to sell your subsidiary rights, negotiate a kick butt contract and plan publicity. So, be patient and know you’ve got a team behind you that’s super excited about having you on board.
#3 – Control. I talked about the fact that some new authors feel an unsettling lack of control over the process and their product. Release dates change (and change and change again), covers and titles change, edit letters are rushed to authors and then there is radio silence while the final book goes into production. Back cover copy and publicity plans are frequently presented to the author in their final form (no input needed or…expected). My message here was that this is normal. Normal!
#4 – Last of all – I addressed the shock that some authors feel when it takes 3-9 months to finish a contract. One attendee said, “I expected to see the contract faxed to me right after I said yes.” This is a common misunderstanding and it’s also common to hear of authors who are frustrated over the wait. Don’t be frustrated – be happy that we’re taking the time to comb through the contract and fine-tune it to your career. Expect to sign 3-9 months after saying yes and then there will be less anxiety.
Miranda, Kristen and Roni agreed that their debut year was incredible. They said holding their book with their name on it was a dream come true. So, take our secret insider hints about that first year and enjoy it!
You can follow my fellow panelists here:
It was nice to meet so many of you at the conference! Happy writing and see you at the next one,
Okay newbies – what else do you want to know? Are you an experienced author? What would you add to the list?
On Friday, the fab Joan Swan is here to talk about storyboarding.
Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC
Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.
Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow) is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibowHow an agent chooses what books to read.
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