Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How Words Sell to Become a Book

This post is for my family, friends, and fans who might not completely understand the process words go through to actually become a book. I'm posting this because I know my family is often confused as hell. Like, "You wrote it, so why hasn't it sold?" confused. This is to be expected, and it's okay, because if you don't know the process, it's easy to assume because a manuscript is written, it automatically becomes a book.

Nope. All the nope's.

Here's a fun, gif-filled outline of how words become (or not) a book:

First, I write ALL THE WORDS!


Now, my friends and family know when this manic process is happening to me because I will not answer the phone or step foot outside my house for days. I used to write fast. As in, 60,000 words in 6-7 weeks fast. Since a particularily challenging life events in August, I'm much slower (damn it). 80,000 words takes me about five months now.

That's five months of NOT answering the phone or stepping out my front door. Mostly. I am a hermit, yo. And I make no apologies.

Once I type THE MOTHER EFFING END, I can send it to my agent right? RIGHT?


I first do about ten rounds of self-edits on the manuscript, and then send it to my Critique Partners. And I wait for them to have time to read it.

And I am mostly not patient with the waiting. 

What's a Critique Partner? They are the lovely ladies who pat me on the head and say nice things like, "You're super talented, lady, which is why it pains me to tell you there is SO MUCH wrong with the plot in this book that I had to scrub my eyeballs with bleach." or, "Jesus Christ, are you going to use a serial comma or not? Be consistent before I die." (Looking at you Tamara).

Yeah, my CPs rip it apart while lathering me up with compliments. They speak the hurtful truth with a side of unicorn bacon and rainbows. Once I get all their feedback (usually from 3-5 critique partners...this can take weeks), I REVISE AGAIN!

While revising AGAIN, I listen to unhealthy amounts of Hiddleston reading poetry, because his voice seriously soothes the hell out of my manic brain. And I eat chips while listening to that sound gifted from the babies of Angels and Goddesses and unicorn blood.

Okay, so a few more weeks have gone by. And now I'M DONE with my CP revisions. Now, I send it to them again. Yep, again. They read it again. They tell me it still sucks or it doesn't; what to change, what to leave alone. Likely, I'm back to revising again. And then....

And then......!!!

Finally, I can send it to my lovely literary agent, Nalini, from Spencerhill Associates.

Yes, Finally!

My agent takes a peek. A good long peek. We chat on the phone a couple times and talk about whether or not this is a SELL-ABLE project. Wait...back up. I should mention that she and I always chat before I begin a project to see if the market is right, or will be soon, for what I have in mind.

That hurts the brain a little, doesn't it? Simply put, just because I want to write it doesn't mean there is a market. So my Millionaire Matchmaker meets Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure mash-up might not be the most lucrative project. Just sayin.'

And then, my agent give me (can you guess????) REVISIONS.

 So, Gods, I revise again. And then I send it back to my agent to see if she's happy. If she is, we go on SUBMISSION, also known as the nine realms of hell. (If she's not, I get. To. Revise. Again)

So, The Nine Realms of Hell is the big, dark beyond where all the book editors live. Book editors work for publishing houses, and they are the "big dogs" who read an author's manuscript and decide whether or not it is a good fit for not only the house, but the lines the house is currently publishing, or will be publishing in the future.

Gatekeepers, that's what they are. So, let's say my agent submits my book to editor T and publishing house Z and editor T loves it! She's SO EXCITED and wants it in the worst way. GREAT NEWS, right?

Not really, because now editor T has to take this work of yours that she loves so much, and present it to the Acquisitions Department, also known as the shark pit, of publishing house Z. Acquisitions makes the ultimate decision on whether or not they will be offering you a contract for your manuscript.

And that's all we're really after--that coveted contract!

If they choose not to purchase your manuscript, but they really like your writing style and/or voice, they may offer you the opportunity to do (can you guess) revisions based on their opinions of what needs to be changed. You can do that, and send it back to them for another peek. Or, they may completely pass on your project, but invite you to resubmit to them with your *next* manuscript.

I've had pretty good luck. I sold my PAINT RIVER RANCH series right out of the gate. My next series was acquired by Harlequin, but only after they rejected the first project I sent to them. They remembered me, and stayed in touch with my agent to see what else I was working on. They offered a contract on my next series, starting with THE FIREFIGHTER'S APPEAL, which comes out August 1, 2014.

My latest book isn't going as easily along the submission process. Not. At. All. It is market-current and by all rights should be highly marketable/ sell-able. But guess what? So far, none of the houses we've submitted it to are interested.


 So you see, even after you follow ALL THE STEPS, sometimes words don't turn into a book. Are we giving up on this project of mine? Heck no. There are still a gazillion nine realms of hell to contact. But what will happen is this: My agent will keep suggesting tweaks to the manuscript until it sells, which means I will be doing more....


I hope this has been a helpful peek into why my life is always so crazy. Because I'm insane, I always work on more than one project at a time, so I may be revising two works at once, or creating a new manuscript while revising one I've already completed.

I still won't answer the phone. And weeks will go by before I leave the house for anything other than the day job and picking up my kids.

But guess what? I wouldn't change a minute of it.

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