Publishing

I may have opened the door to find three boxes of books and shouted YES! for all the neighbors to hear. Except I don’t think they were listening. But here they are, my shiny new hardback copies of The Rise of Renegade X!

Here they are in their boxes. I was not impressed with FedEx’s handling of said boxes, since they were kind of falling apart, but oh well.

Here’s one on my favorite photo location, the cat tree:

And spread out so you can see the wrap around cover:

A couple of them in a stack, a book’s natural positon:

Ta da! And, as a bonus, here’s the summary listed on the copyright page. I think they did a good job:

Expecting to become a supervillain on his sixteenth birthday, Damien Locke, son of one of Golden City’s most notorious supervillains, is horrified to discover that he may instead be destined to become a superhero.

Or at least my book is. It must be a pop culture collectible, since you can buy it on this pop culture collectibles site. You do not know how happy it makes me that you can buy Batman and Harry Potter merchandise in the same place you can buy my book (excluding Amazon, of course, where you can by EVERYTHING, so it’s not the same). I mean, you can buy Indiana Jones collectibles and Hellboy collectibles and a Domo-kun fedora and a plush Murloc and all sorts of TV and movie and other pop culture collectibles, and boy do I love collectibles, especially of the pop culture variety. This place is practically the Chelsea store, it has so many things for me to drool over. So how super awesome is it that I opened up my google alerts today to find that amongst all that stuff, they’re selling my book?

In other news, I have my first Goodreads giveaway going on. You pretty much just press a button to enter and you can win an advanced copy of The Rise of Renegade X. The contest runs for a month and then Goodreads picks a winner and tells me where to send it. It’s easy sauce for everyone involved and makes the book visible to a lot of people.

My glasses also came today, so expect another post with pictures later.

It’s Agent Appreciation Day across the internet, and let me tell you, I sure appreciate my agent, Holly Root.

You see, I used to have a not-so-good agent. One who didn’t talk to me and ignored my e-mails and couldn’t get the names of my books straight. I thought good, wonderful, OMG-perfect-for-me agents were for other people who were living the dream. So when Holly and I found each other, I was a little like my friend’s ex-stray dog who thinks eating garbage is a way of life. (Okay, I wasn’t that bad…)

Holly’s awesome. She answers my e-mails, and with real answers about what’s going on with my books. I’m not afraid to e-mail or call her any time, and she always sounds glad to hear from me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been having a long, wonderful conversation with her on the phone, laughing together or speculating on the future, but expecting to get rushed off any minute now or grumped at for taking up so much of her time. But I think all my agent mates will agree that that would be so not Holly! She’s always there to talk to me, and it’s never a chore or a waste of her time.

There are a lot of ups and downs in publishing, but Holly makes them all sound like ups. She can put a positive spin on anything and always makes me feel like I rock and am just teetering on the verge of world domination. (She knows me so well, lol!) She *gets* my books, my voice, and my sense of humor, which are all very important to me. I know she’s always got my back if trouble comes up, or even if I just imagine that troubles coming up. Now that I’m working on a new project, I’m getting to see that Holly is there for me every step of the way, from going over book ideas, and updated book ideas, to reading first pages.

A good agent has such a huge role in making a good book a publishing reality, I can’t even tell you. I knew they did more than just make deals, negotiate contracts, and count their money, but I had no idea how important they were every tiny step of the way. Whether it’s helping me figure out my next project, hooking me up with wonderful editors, negotiating contracts, answering my questions about publishing, life, the universe, and everything, squeeing over my book cover with me (yes, I did call her to squee), delivering bad news and making it sound like the best thing that ever happened to me, or just updating me on what’s going on with my books–I honestly don’t know how I’d do it without her.

So, in honor of Holly, I have ripped off composed this short poem:

Agents are sharks,
authors are blue,
book deals are sweet,
and so are you.

Thank you, Holly, and all the other wonderful agents out there who are there for their authors every day. YOU rock, and I’m pretty sure you’re the one teetering on the edge of world domination.

Pictures of the box of ARCs that arrived today, both in their box and out of their box:

From Drop Box
From Drop Box

I have ten ARCs in this box for marketing and promotional purposes–which is a pretty decent amount, considering that a lot of authors only get one or two, and considering how much it costs to make an ARC (pretty close to the price of an actual book–see Alex Bracken’s post on ARCs)–and six months until the book actually comes out. Very exciting in a What Now kind of way.

Gah, apparently it’s been a week since I posted. The days just slip by!

So what have I been doing the past week? What breaking news is there to report from Chelsea Land?

Er, not a whole lot. Mostly I’ve been writing. And freaking out and deleting scenes and then deciding I like them and putting them back in again. (With minor tweaks. Remember what I said about minor tweaks being so useful.) I am loving this book a lot, but trying not to push myself too hard when I get frustrated. At this point, it’s less about adhering to a strict word count every day as it is just being happy that the book is going well and that I love it and that freaking out will only lead to more stress, whereas stepping back a little might lead to answers. I’m up to 40k, and if I finish it by the end of November (for fake NaNo), I will be SO HAPPY. This book is a sequel I’ve been struggling with for, erm, a couple years now, and this incarnation of it is one I’m finally happy with (and so’s my agent, and let’s hope my editor is too), and it has gone from being a frustrating, unfinished burden (while I had the day job) to being something I don’t ever want to finish because I looooves it, Precious, except that I do want it to end someday so I can BE DONE with it and move on with my life, even if “moving on” is just fantasizing about the next volume. This is the writer’s dilemma: Odi et amo. I hate and I love.

I read through my ARC. It was good times. I still have it in my stack of books on my night stand, and sometimes I leave it lying around in my pile of junk next to my beanbag, just to see it sitting around, being real. Like it could be any other book, piled somewhere in my room or on my desk, and it’s MINE. Also, speaking of my ARC, I heard Egmont gave away some copies at a YA festival thing in Austin, among other awesome ARCs like Anastasia Hopcus’ Shadow Hills and Bree Despain’s The Dark Divine–both of which I have not yet had a chance to read, but AM DYING FOR. Ahem. Anyway, how cool is that that people I don’t even know might have my ARC sitting around? Very cool.

Also I changed the description on the Rise of Renegade X page to match the jacket copy. It goes like this:


Damien Locke knows his destiny–attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City’s next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he’s the product of his supervillain mother’s one-night stand with–of all people–a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined as he’s forced to live with his superhero family.

Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy’s struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.

I’m reading Heat Wave, by Richard Castle (I know, right??), a tie-in book for ABC’s show, Castle, which, if you didn’t already know, is awesome. I’m almost done with the book. It’s pretty good–just like the show, except that Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, the NYC detective and the reporter following her around, are characters Castle supposedly made up, so unlike most tie-in books, life changing stuff can actually happen in it. Which is brilliant!

I’ve also been watching Supernatural. I’m about 3/4 of the way through season one. I love it. It has it’s really stupid, cheesy moments, and then there was that hillbilly episode… but overall, they always get me with whatever emotional dilemma is going on even on the episodes where , and I love the roles the Sam and Dean play, both in their demon hunting team and as brothers.

Okay, so, I have to confess that I used to be TERRIFIED of revisions. Just the thought of some editor with a revision quota they had to fill on my book pissed me right the hell off. You hear horror stories, or you make them up in your head, or you just *know* someone’s going to want your main character to have green skin or change genders or go from a bad ass to a wuss. Or even if no ridiculous changes are made, you know they’re going to want to cut your favorite scene or change somebody’s name or have the main character end up with the love interest you hated. Because if there’s one thing you know for sure about revisions, it’s that something about your book’s going to have to change, period.

You know what didn’t help my paranoia? Author’s websites where they got all defensive about it and were like, “You think you’re so great that you won’t have to do revisions??? Well, you will–I DID–so get over yourself!” The tone of those posts were probably never as harsh as I read them, but I still felt they had *attitude,* and even if they didn’t, they certainly didn’t make revisions sound any less scary.

And then, even worse, were the authors who claimed they LOVED revisions and that it was somehow the part to look forward to. Ew. I mean, for some authors the hard part is getting words on the page and they just need to get to the end, then fix up what they’ve got, and that works for them. But for me, the fun part is the new stuff, and if I don’t get it at least close to right the first time, the whole book is going to be too big a mess for me to fix. Both ways work for different people–it just depends on how your brain works. I revise as I go, shaping the book to be what I need it to be and what feels like a good story. I can’t ignore big glaring problems, because I base what happens next off of what’s already happened, and basing what happens next off a big glaring error only screws up the rest. For me. But that’s a different post.

Anyway, for years and years I was terrified of what it would be like to have an editor tell me what to do and take over my story and make me do things I hated. Because even if your book is perfect, they have to change something, it’s the rules. But, I mean, if they loved the book enough to buy it, why would they want to change everything??? HUH???

Within the last year I’ve had the chance to work with several editors, AND EVERYTHING I EVER THOUGHT ABOUT REVISIONS WAS WRONG. So I’m going to explain the process a little bit and tell you why you don’t need to have nightmares about it. (Based pretty much only on my experience, but that’s life.) Ready? Here goes.

Okay, so, first off, when an editor wants revisions–whether they’ve already bought your manuscript or are just thinking about it–they send you both a Word file of the book where they’ve marked sentences or concepts that weren’t quite coming through–line edits–and another file of their notes on the big concepts. The big concepts might be something like “I didn’t buy the romance, why would those two end up together?” or “I LOVE x concept, can you develop that more?” Whereas the line edits might be notes like “Why does the character love strawberry ice cream so much?” And you’ll read it and go, “BECAUSE THE CHARACTER’S MOM ALWAYS GAVE HER STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM WHEN SHE WAS SICK! Grr! I spelled that out!” But they’re not really asking *why,* because, like you said, you spelled it out. They’re asking what meaning this gives to the story and how can you bring it out more and make even more use of it. It’s a hidden compliment, but editors aren’t going to stop and say, “Oh, I like this” first for every single comment. And maybe they don’t like everything they’re commenting on, but usually all it takes is a tiny tweak to change their feelings about it. (And sometimes you’ve just got a stupid line in there. I had one that made really made it look like the main character’s mom had just slept with their house guest to change his mind about something, and that’s NOT AT ALL what was going on. So I’m glad someone was there to go, “Uh, what just happened? Why is she smiling and out of breath?”)

So after your editor sends you these notes, and you have a chance to think about it, then you have a phone call about it. You discuss the parts they were confused about or thought needed to be stronger or tweaked a little to bring out some other aspect. And since you both love the book and working with the characters, a lot of it is, “YEAH! Oh, wow, that’s awesome… I could totally do that.” Some of it is more, “Uh… so what did you mean here? Because that’s not how I saw it. OH. That’s how you saw it? Okay, one sentence will fix that whole mix-up.” I’m seriously not kidding when I say a lot of misunderstandings and concepts that need clarifying throughout the book only need a sentence tweak here and there.

There might be some big changes needed, or a concept that your editor thinks of and you’re like, “Whoa–that is so going into the book!” that means you have to tweak A LOT of things, or maybe add in another scene or two. But the price of adding another scene or two is nothing compared to how much better the book will be.

And I want to emphasize that I have never in this process felt like it wasn’t MY book. My editor even made it very clear to me that he didn’t want to change it from being my book, and that any notes he had were discussion starters, not direct orders to change anything. I never made changes I wasn’t comfortable with. In working with two editors throughout the whole submission and publishing process, I never cut anything. Both editors wanted me to add to the book and further develop the cool concepts I’d introduced. (In fact, I added 25k total.) My editor did ask me to cut one of my favorite scenes–and one that had been a favorite with readers–and I was baffled and not about to just straight out cut it, but we talked about it, and GUESS WHAT? It needed a few little tweaks, and tada, we were both happy.

There were a couple spots (yes, two) where my editor made suggestions–like Damien needs to be more villainous in this scene, etc.–and his suggestion on how to change these parts didn’t click with me. The suggestions didn’t fit my writing style or the way my thought process worked. Those were the hardest changes to get through, until I realized he liked my writing style, he’s not trying to write it for me, just give suggestions any way he knows how, and that all that really mattered was the ends, not the means. So I changed them my way, and one of those scene changes turned out to be his favorite of the new material. (And it’s one of my favorite parts, too. It’s hilarious and I loved telling people who’d already read the book about it.)

So, back to my outline of the whole editing process: you’re given these notes to work with and you get a chance to talk about it with your editor and make a game plan. Then you’re given a deadline, which will vary. You might only have a week to get them done, you might have a month. Deadlines in publishing vary a lot, based on things that are out of your control, like how busy everyone is and how many other projects they’ve got going and holdups that are out of their control. (And okay, I’m mostly guessing at this part based on my own experiences working in a business with deadlines, but I think it still applies.)

Once you’ve turned in your round of revisions–on time, natch–your editor rereads the book. They may mark more changes that need to be made, or they may decide everything’s in order. If it needs more changes, repeat the above process. If not, it then goes to copy edits.

Copy editors edit for grammar and consistency. Like did you sometimes write “bad ass” and sometimes “bad-ass” and sometimes “badass”? (I did.) The CE (copy editor) makes sure all the spellings match. They’re also in charge of making your manuscript match the style rules the publishing house uses. So they go through and mark up another Word file of your book and send it to you. You look over it and leave any changes you agree with and make notes for any changes you want to stet (“stet” is Latin for “let it stand” and is an editing term for leaving something how it is) (you see how my Latin skillz are useful for everything). Ideally you want a good balance of consistent, clear grammar and good voice that may or may not make use of proper grammar. I was lucky in that my CEs (I had two–one freelance CE and one in house CE who went over the first one’s notes) were aware of this and left some grammatical errors alone they might not have if they weren’t trying to leave the voice intact. CEs can be frustrating–I’ve heard the most horror stories about copy edits than any other part of the editing process–but you also have A LOT of power to veto them. It’s totally okay to disagree with them if their suggestions mess with the flow of your words or change the voice of your book. I think I stetted maybe 20% of mine–most of them I was fine with.

And then after you turn in copy edits, the next step is ARCs or bound galleys or first pass pages–which is a subject I am still somewhat fuzzy about, since I’m just getting ready to experience it, but my impression is those are all variations of the same thing: a dress rehearsal of your book where you have a chance to find any last typos before it goes to press for reals. But those are their own topic for a different post (in fact, see my last post).

So, tada! That’s editing. There’s no need for dread or hurt feelings or worrying, like I always did, that editors have some “changes to the manuscript quota” they have to meet.

Will you have to revise? Yes, but not because I did so you should have to too, ya punk whippersnapper, and not because your book is so flawed it’s disgusting. A raw book is like a vat of melted chocolate. It tastes awesome and gooey and yummy and you’re so glad you don’t have to test it with that candy thermometer anymore (or guess when it’s done, if you’re like me and still don’t have one). It tastes PERFECT. It is–it’s a super great batch of melty chocolate, and your publisher and your editor and your agent and all sorts of pros involved LOVE the taste of your perfect batch of chocolate. But you can’t sell melty chocolate. It needs to cool, but if you just let it cool by itself, it’s going to be a messy blob. It’s going to look pre-digested (ew), and you don’t want that. You want to pour it into a mold shaped like a rose and stick it on a plastic stem. Or make it into perfect, smooth squares. Or little truffle shapes with glaze and powdered sugar on top, making them look gorgeous and irresistible. The finished product tastes the same as the melted one, minus the texture, but like I said, you can’t sell melted chocolate or hand it to people on toothpicks. You need it to cool into a mold so that other people can enjoy it. The recipe is still yours, the whole vat only tastes as good as it does because you made it, but you need that editor and that publisher to help you pour it into appetizing molds. And you need your publicist to make buyers aware of your new brand of chocolate and how good it tastes. (And you need your agent to make sure you get paid for your chocolate recipe and to help sort things out when you think your glaze should be dark chocolate, not hazelnut.)

So that’s the editing process as best as I know it. Any questions?

ARCs for those who might not know are Advanced Review Copies (or some variation, same meaning, same letters). Pronounced arc, like in math, or ark, as in the boat. I used to think it was spelled out, A.R.C., but my experience in hearing people in the industry talk about them says otherwise. They’re paperback not-for-sale versions of the real thing, released several months (give or take some months) before the release date. They’re kind of like a dress rehearsal. You get to see how it all comes together–cover, layout, etc.–and it’s the author’s last chance to catch any typos or glaring errors before the real thing. It’s also the first time random strangers start getting copies to review. That in itself is exciting and crazy, but the reason I and other debut authors go nuts over this ARC stuff is this:

The ARC is the first time the book is REAL. It’s the first time you get to hold your book in real book form.

You can print out manuscript pages, you can read your file on the computer over and over, but it’s not the same as your book being book shaped. As in it has a cover, and you have to turn that cover to get to the first page, but before that first page is info about the publisher and all that good stuff, because it’s published. And then after that you can turn the page to the actual story, with real layout (I am so excited to see what my layout looks like), and you can keep turning the pages. You can stick a freaking bookmark in it. You can touch it and show it to people and they will instantly see that it’s real, that you’re not just a wannabe who’s never going to make it. And I’ve been wanting this so bad I could taste it for sixteen years.

There are a few key moments where this whole publishing thing feels really real. It felt real when I got the offer, when I signed the contract, when I got paid, when my book appeared on Amazon. But seeing my ARCs on my publisher’s shelf in that picture? That’s the first time my book has been on a book shelf, because it was never book shaped before. And I would be lying if I said that a year ago I knew that would happen, because I didn’t. You can read more about my “how I got pubbed” story here, but what it basically boils down to is The Rise of Renegade X was the best book I’d ever written, all my friends loved it, and we all knew this book was The One, the one that would get published, but it almost didn’t. Things got dark and bad and everything in my life was wrong, like the world was stuck on nightmare mode.

The universe, like a good novelist, pushed me and pushed me and took everything I cared about away until I broke. And then once I broke, it put it all back. It said here, you’ve passed the test, you can have what you wanted. (That is how you write a book, btw, in case you were wondering. I could go on for years talking about how to write a book, but that’s what I’d tell you if I had to give you the short version. Don’t give your character what they want, make them suffer until you’ve pushed them to the breaking point and they’ve had to make hard decisions and rethink who they are, and then maybe–maybe–they can get what they wanted.)

So the fact that sometime very soon I could be holding physical, tangible proof that my book is real is pretty big. Not just, “Wow, that’s pretty cool,” but I’m talking Life. Changing. Big. As in “a year ago you were a failure and this close to running away and joining the circus, if even the circus would have you” but now your book is book shaped and real and people can just go ahead and touch it if they’re not sure. It’s a physical manifestation that all the hard work and sacrifice and pain and torture weren’t for nothing, and that the happy times meant more than the bad ones after all.

It’s also pretty magical, if you think about it. Once upon a time, there were words in my head, and I wrote them down. Words in your head are probably the most intangible thing ever, and even typing them on the computer is still fairly intangible. You can’t touch it. It exists, sort of, but it’s like this limbo of existence. And yeah, you can print it out and it’s sort of real, but it’s not as real as being in a physical book shape, the shape the words were always meant to be in.

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