Friday, April 8, 2011

My First App

I have a dilemma regarding ebook publishing. I am a seasoned graphic designer/illustrator trying to break into the kidlit industry with an author/illustrator picture book.

I'd just begun sending out dummies of my book to potential agents when I was contacted by a publishing company specializing exclusively in ebook apps for the iPad. They had seen my work at a regional SCBWI event and wanted me to submit any manuscripts/dummies I happened to have for their review and possible acceptance. They went on, in that initial conversation, to say that if the app sold large numbers, it would make it potentially appealing to traditional publishers. 

That's probably true.  But what are the chances of it selling in large numbers?  That's the question.
I'm a total noob at this (a key reason I was seeking an agent!) and don't want to miss the chance of my book being something really wonderful. Although I'm not afraid to embrace new technologies, I believe traditional publishing is better for many reasons. I know a good editor is worth her weight in gold and can do to a good MS what a good Art Director can do with a bunch of disparate pieces of art and copy.

Here's the question. If I submit to this app publisher, and they accept and publish my PB, will that completely shoot down any chances of it getting published as a traditional, printed book? Should I just stick it out and see what turns up with my submissions to agents?

If you think that your book is going to change significantly in the editing and design process, then you probably don't want to publish it as an app first.  

If you do decide to publish your book as an app, don't hand over your creative property to someone unless they can show you an app they've done before that you think is cool.  Lots and lots of people are trying to make apps.  Some of them suck at it.  Be warned.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Sail to Every Wind

I know that this is outside your field, and you may not be able to comment on publisher policies, but I'm dying to hear your reaction to the decision by HarperCollins to limit ebooks licensed to libraries to 26 checkouts over the life of the book.  As an aspiring writer and a librarian struggling to try to get as many books as I can for my kids on my tiny budget, I can see both sides, but us librarians...we feel a little bit picked on.  Would love to hear your thoughts!

I, too, see both sides.  The system they have set up in much of the British Commonwealth seems like what this country is going to have to move towards eventually... or maybe there's some other system that will work better.

The real answer, I think, is that whatever Harper is doing now, they will probably not be doing two years from now.  The entire publishing industry is in flux.  We are trying to figure out ebooks, and there's truly no way to know for sure how they will end up being sold, checked out, borrowed, etc.  We are in the exciting and extremely frustrating period between publishing models, when the only thing to do is experiment.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Thank you for your informative blog which, you wouldn’t be able to tell from my last behavior, I have read in full. Of course, just when I should be able to follow your advice to the ‘T’, I had a bit of a brain freeze, I guess. I sent off my submission, synopsis, and all to an agent and editor and forgot most of what I learned. No excuse, really. I don’t know what I was thinking.

#1- I sent an early version that had only one difference, but it was big. A paragraph from Chapter 4 had not been moved to Chapter 1. This paragraph sets up the suspense for the book in an earlier time frame. Since I only sent chapter 1-3, that is kind of big.

#2- I sent my outline instead of my synopsis. This will be obvious since it tells the whole story, and not too imaginatively either. Yikes!

#3 – Then, when I got home from the post office, I saw the SASE I meant to include, sitting on the kitchen table where I left it.

Now, I’m not really an idiot, although it sounds like it. And, OK, I feel like one. I’m wondering if I should just let it go. I have the urge to resubmit, because I made a mistake, and oh well, that happens. I do want to put my best foot forward, however, and I think I have a really good book. I also don’t want the people I sent the book to, to waste their time trying to figure out ‘what the heck?’ Right? Then, again, I wonder, geesh…is sending it again another dumb move?

Do you think I should resubmit, or does this kind of stuff happen. Are agents and editors very understanding of an author’s bad day, I guess?
Go ahead and try resubmitting.  If you can make the explanation in your cover letter sound like you sound here--ie, human, humble, and with a sense of humor--and not like someone who might be perennially scattered of mind and disorganized, then you stand a fair chance of being forgiven.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Planning For the Future, Ha Ha

Say an author has reached that happy place where multiple editors are interested in purchasing her debut novel. Would it be viewed as peculiar if the author wanted to interview each editor to find "the best fit" -- dollar signs aside? 
Not at all.  This doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough.  And the editors involved are usually really pleased when it does--it says you value our part in this process as well as the check we'll cut you.
Also, if, for instance, the debut novel were a Middle Grade and the author has hopes to one day move into the YA market, is it best to find an editor who handles both? Or is it enough to go with an editor whose publishing house handles both?
Publishing being what it is today, it's more important to give this one book the best publication it can have than what will happen after.  Success has a way of sorting itself out--and the market (and your publisher) may be different when you start in YA than it is now; things are so volatile in publishing.  Do the best you can for this book.  When (if) you write a YA novel, do what makes most sense for THAT book THEN.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sitting On Your Hands Is Never Part of Your Job

I submitted some work to a major U.S. publisher almost a year ago. A few months later, I received a personalized, lengthy, warm email from an editor who indicated she liked my work but that she wasn't ready to take on the project at that point. She did suggest some changes and invited me to send it back to her. I revised and re-submitted. A few months went by and I emailed her again to check the status. She replied that she hadn't yet had a chance to get to it. A few months later, I emailed again. She wrote back: "I need more time to review this submission." And it's been a while since then...How do I interpret this? Is my story just collecting dust under her desk when I could be actively sending my work elsewhere? 
 Or might this mean that there may be some genuine interest and that I should just be patient?
I don't know how many times I've gotten variations on this question.  DO be patient.  And DO keep submitting elsewhere.  The changes that she asked for should be exclusive to her... for maybe six months, to be generous.  Until then, keep submitting the previous draft elsewhere.  After that, submit the revision (assuming you think it's stronger) elsewhere.

Editors can take a goddamn long time to just LOOK at something, at which point they may be very excited about it.  An interminable wait may not mean that nothing's ever going to happen.  But you should NOT be waiting for that day (if it ever comes) to KEEP SUBMITTING.  


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sound of Failure Calls Her Name

One prevailing sentiment among writing forums is to hold off submitting until your book represents the best that it can be.
But what does that mean when there is no objective standard by which to measure your book?

Set the damn thing aside for awhile.  It is SO easy to be SO excited about something you've just finished, or SO tired of working on it that you just want to start submitting.  Give it a little time in the cask to age, and then look at it and see if it's still exciting... or still tiresome.  Most likely, you'll notice a few things that need tweaking, and then it'll be ready. 

A crit group--a good one--lets you see your manuscript the way your reader will.  A crit group will point out that an important bit was unclear in chapter 1, and you'll be able to avoid the confusion that might make an editor give up on your book too soon.  A crit group will tell you your spelling isn't terribly consistent.  A crit group will nudge you to develop your characters more, or to cut the chapter in which nothing happens.  A good crit group saves the editor the large and time-consuming broad-strokes editing that may make the difference between something she can commit to and something that is just too rough.

Is your spelling crap? Do you tend to confuse homophones? If you can't trust yourself to clean the manuscript up, get someone else to do it who can. Lots of little mistakes like that make you seem kind of illiterate, when in fact you may simply be dyslexic.  Unless you sometimes lose your hairbrush in your hair, you know that first impressions make a difference.  The best writers to work with are the ones who know their weaknesses and their strengths, and work to ameliorate the one as much as they work to showcase the other.

Once you have checked these things off, it is time to remind yourself that:

It's time to try the book out on people and submit it.  Maybe it's not PERFECT.  So what.  Keep working on other things, and keep learning. If you let yourself be the kind of person to fuss over one manuscript for ages without working on anything else or submitting anything, (a) editors are going to hate you, and (b) you're going to hate yourself.  Failure to be published is not nearly as soul-crushing as failure to even try.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Rough Draft Is In Swedish

I'm an American author whose book is set in a foreign country. I've received an offer from a publisher in that country. They want to translate the book, and publish it there. This is great news, but the market is very small. I also want to publish in the US, not just because it is a bigger market but also because it is my home. Should I hold off on accepting the foreign offer until (if!) I can work something out with a US publisher? If I do go ahead and publish abroad, then can I revise the MS for a US publisher or is it set in stone and unrevisable once published?

If it's a very small market, your US publisher may not mind your having sold the rights already.  And more and more, agents seem to be going after foreign sales for their clients, so publishers are a bit more accustomed to not having a lot of foreign rights for novels.  So that's unlikely to be an issue.

As for revision, every translation fiddles with the exact phrasing of the text--if it doesn't then the translation won't sound natural to native speakers.  So some differences between the English and other language editions are expected.  

So if there were some way for you to be sure you weren't going to do very much revision (for instance if you've decided already that you're going to be inflexible and hard to work with--which I assume is not the case), then there would be no problem.  But imagine your US editor has a bunch of suggestions that get you really excited and that (for instance) change the ending completely. 

There probably still wouldn't be a problem with copyright between the two editions, but how would you feel about that scenario?  Would you want two very different versions of your story out there--when one of them might end up feeling to you like a beta version and not the story you most want to share with readers?