Deb asked me to address some questions that might help others when they go through the publishing process the first time. I think this is a great idea. I could have used some answers from those who preceded me, but I was so new to writing and publishing fiction that I didn’t even know what to ask.
Anyway, here are my answers to Deb’s Questions
Question: What was it like going through the various stages of editing?
My first and second young adult books (Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of LasPulgas) were traditionally published, and I was fortunate to have a fantastic editor for both. She had twenty-eight years of experience in the publishing business, and she was a published author whom they hired to acquire and edit books for them. She suggested one change in the structure of the novel Sliding on the Edge, which I did because it was a great suggestion and because she knew what she was doing. Also the change was a matter of writing an Epilogue, which took me only about half an hour because I knew exactly what it had to say. Why I didn’t write it before is a mystery to me, but as I already explained, I was very much the novice.
With these two books, I did three rounds of line edits using Track Changes. The goal was to have no comments left in the document. For Sliding on the Edge, I estimate I spent a total of 30 hours stretched over two weeks. It’s hard to tell exactly how much time I spent on this, because I had questions, and after asking them, I had to wait until the editor got back to me. With The Princess of Las Pulgas there were only a few edits and they took about three hours in one sitting—well, I took some short breaks. Between communications with her, I remember a lot of waiting and worrying. But I do that about anything I’m uncertain about.
With Alligators Overhead, the book I published on my own, I’d asked an editor friend to do the final edits for me, but she was called away on an emergency, so I foolishly did those final edits myself. The first edition had errors, and I was horrified. I quickly fixed those, but hated that my first Indie book initially went out with at least ten typos. Never again. If I go Indie for another book, it will be professionally edited up to the publication.
Question: I’d like to know how you went about deciding on a cover, or did your publisher help you with that, too? Did they find you the artist for the cover, or were you on your own?
For my first traditionally published book, the publisher chose the artist and then sent me three concepts for the cover. I asked friends and family to weigh in, and we all chose the same one. Personally, I love my cover. Sliding on the Edge has the idea of a girl in crisis and alone. It has the horses and the rural setting of the story. It’s not sexy or glam like some YA fiction, but the story isn’t a sexy one, and the only glam in it is a beautiful horse, so the cover made sense to me. For The Princess of Las Pulgas, the publisher presented the cover already chosen. I had no input.
Question: What headaches did you suffer, what surprises came up, and what, if anything, went easier than you expected?
The editing was a bit boring, but I did it chunks. I had to chunk it because if I didn’t, I’d make more mistakes. I estimate my on-task time for each editing period was about an hour. Then I’d take a break. Choosing the cover was painless. The whole pre-publishing process was relatively easy. It was the post-publishing process that gave me headaches.
During my debut launch, Sliding on the Edge didn’t arrive in time for a major bookstore event. Then when book two was published, I arranged to present a paper at a Florida National Council of Teachers of English, so I could sign The Princess of Las Pulgas. Those books didn’t arrive, so I wound up signing Sliding.
One thing most new authors should expect is to pay for a lot of travel expenses. As it was, I didn’t mind paying to go to this event because I wanted to go and had planned to anyway. The issue was that the publisher didn’t support me as an author who was just starting out.
To read more about that experience, see THE WRITE GAME. So, I guess you could say this was the time the real headaches happened, and I was constantly surprised by the publisher’s choices. They wouldn’t do a paperback or an eBook. The only format they made available was a hardcopy. They wouldn't create the “Look Inside” feature that Amazon has as a marketing tool. My hands were tied until I asked for and got my rights back.
Question: What did they tell you might be your sales outlook/projection (or do they
Their job is to choose titles they think will sell, so I assume they had confidence that my book would appeal to their readers because they paid me a healthy advance for each book. PW would say my advances were “good,” especially for a new author. This publisher was going for a contemporary/realistic niche in the market. They didn’t do speculative or dystrophic fiction, so I think they hoped to carve out sales from those who weren't interested in angels and fairies and zombies. I had nothing to do with sales projections, but a lot to do with marketing. I just didn’t understand how much at the outset. It was never stated how much or exactly what I was expected to do. The publisher suggested I hop on Facebook and Twitter, and that was about it.
When I realized I had much more work to do if I expected Sliding on the Edge to do anything, I contacted bookstores, libraries, and local schools. My best support came from my local newspaper, and articles they printed netted me several book signings in my town. Later those book signings led to annual writing workshops and high school visits. I was building my network in person, while I was building it online. This paid off for my second and third books, because I had the contacts and they emailed me to visit their schools or appear at book signings.
The publisher held two book signings for me. The one in Florida that I’ve already mentioned and a second signing in L.A. at the ALA Conference. In L.A. they had a booth, and I met many authors in person that I had only contacted via social media. It was a good experience in that I visited a lot of different publishing houses and got a sense of their books and their style.
Question: How much time goes into your own marketing of your books, and is it more or less than you expected, and how much time does that leave for writing?
With book one, I was unprepared for marketing and all that it required. I blogged a bit and I signed up for Facebook and Goodreads (which still confuses the heck out of me). I even started Tweeting, something that baffles my family. “You do what?”
But I was behind the learning curve on marketing, so I didn’t do a great job, and I was hacking away at book two, The Princess of Las Pulgas, so what had been a wonderful writing experience with book one, turned into a real job with this second one. I was up at four in the morning to write until at least seven, then doing social media and trying to find time for the rest of my life. Sleep would have been nice.
Question: What would you do differently in the future?
I would be more savvy at marketing. I would spend more time building my network of followers and concentrate on how I want to be seen by readers. I think I would invest in a truly good marketing firm. But realistically, back then when I was dealing with book one, I didn’t know if I’d sell that book. I was paddling in a very large sea without a clue about how deep it was or how far I might go. It seemed ill advised to spend so much money before I had an inkling about how my book would be received. With book two I’d at least found a paddle for that boat and I had something of a following online. I was being asked to contribute to anthologies, so I did that and I garnered more attention for this second book. I paid for two ads on FB (they did nothing for my sales). I did a giveaway on Goodreads and started getting good reviews. I’d do more on Goodreads if I had it to do again.
Since that first publisher, I’ve already moved through a different publishing experience. As I said, with my middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, I went Indie and used Outskirts Press. I chose them based on a friend’s recommendation. They provided editing (this was about the same experience as with the traditional publisher), interiors (dingbats and fonts to enhance the look of the page) that were interesting, photo galleries for me to choose the basic cover, then they had artists enhance the cover to suit my story. You have marketing options with them as well.
The downside is it’s expensive, but the upside is that when you don’t know anything about how to publish a book, you can learn. I didn’t have time to do everything myself, so Outskirts Press was a solution at the time.
My third young adult book has just been accepted by a small press, Evernight Teen. So this next experience will be different again.
Double Negative will come out as an eBook, then if sales support it, they will do a POD paperback. I like this idea and it makes me think this publisher has a smart business plan.
They have a strong social media presence, and they will help with sending the book out to reviewers. They will also contact bloggers and do some online promo which looks like giveaways and contests linked to some of their other books.
I will do a blog tour on my own, and I’ve already started asking for help. Since the pub date is July, I’m scrambling to pull everything together fast. Fortunately, I now know a little more about what marketing is expected of me and how to do it.
While they’ve suggested some marketing strategies, they’ve not given me a specific “must do” list outside of posting their logo on my website, visiting their FB page for authors regularly and contacting reviewers.
I just completed the editing process. Again, they use Track Changes and there were few edits, mostly at punctuation level. I seem to forget commas pretty regularly.
See C. Lee McKenzie at http://cleemckenziebooks.com/
C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places, then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can.
She takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives, came out in 2010. Her short stories appear in the anthologies, The First Time and Two and Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out. This year Double Negative, her young adult story about a functionally illiterate teen, will be out as an eBook.