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Monday, August 7, 2017

End of March 2017 - October 2018

Deadlines. They’re a double-edged blade, yeah? They’re good motivation to get hauling but they can also put you in panic mode. Soo…today’s topic is all about Deadlines and Milestones!

I’ll be quite honest: I currently have an August 30th deadline looming ahead. (I know, I know I should be working in edits/revisions! But sometimes the brain just needs a quick break from the story.) I’ve known about this deadline since March, when it was sent over with my contract. And yet, somehow I still find myself glancing at the calendar and going: “Oh crap! It’s already August?!

What I Wish I Knew: Plan out your writing schedule ahead of time. Take notes of important dates. Highlight them. Write them in a glittery pen. Slap a sticker on the date. Do whatever it takes to make you not forget about them!

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I guess I should explain a bit more about what I mean by “deadlines sent over with the contract.” They’re essentially a list of important milestones to be checked off by a certain date—this ranges from “implementation of first round edits” to “proofreading” to “completion of cover art worksheet.” Are these dates set in stone? Well, I wouldn’t say necessarily, but it is so very important for both publisher (yes! The publisher has their own deadlines to meet as well!) and author to adhere to the timeline to the best of each’s ability. It’s a simple matter of both partners being able to trust and rely on each other to get The Job done. (The Job = getting the book in front of readers)

To give you a brief snapshot of what a timeline might look like, here’s what mine looks like. I’ve marked my deadlines with (m) and the publisher’s deadlines with (p).

April 12, 2017: Author provided with request of developmental edits (p)

June 5, 2017: Implementation of first round edits (m)

June 15, 2017: completion of cover art worksheet (m)

June 30, 2017: Author provided with any further developmental edit requests (p)

August 30, 2017: Implementation of second round edits (m)

October 30, 2017: Publisher arrange for copyediting (p)

October 31, 2017: Finalization of book cover (p)

November 30, 2017: (Yay! My birthday!) Implementation of copy editing (m)

January 31, 2018: Publisher arranges for proofreading (p)

February 28, 2018: Implementation of proofreading edits (m)

March 10, 2018: Completion of interior manuscript design (p)

March 27, 2018: Cover reveal (m + p)

July 27, 2018: Author provides 2-3 sentence teasers to publisher (m)

October 16, 2018: Release date (m + p)

And that’s not even all of the milestones! I only listed the more relevant ones. Does the list seem a little daunting at first glance? For sure, but truth be told, having such a clear-cut timeline helps streamline the entire process.

What I Wish I Knew: Don’t procrastinate when you can start working on something ahead of time!

This might not be a huge problem if you’re a fairly fast writer, but when it comes to edits, I’m slower than a sloth slogging through mud after a Thanksgiving-dinner-worthy-food-coma. I made the mistake of putting off first round edits for almost a month after receiving feedback from my editor, figuring “editing shouldn’t take too much time compared to writing.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I soon realized the edits were more extensive than I bargained for (though I openly admit this is partially my fault since I decided to add some new chapters and enhance plot threads.)

Of Silver and Stars First Round Edit Stats

Original novel length: 80k

How much I cut from the original manuscript: 10k

Amount of new writing I added: 35k (!!!)

Final word count post first round revisions: 105k

I soon realized the edits were more extensive than I bargained for (though I openly admit this is partially my fault since I decided to add some new chapters and enhance plot threads.)

I’m currently in the midst of my second round edits, and this time around, I’m more prepared. I’ve designated a target number of chapters I need to complete by the end of each week in order to meet the deadline with a couple days to spare.

What I Wish I Knew: Plan out your time accordingly!

That being said, life gets busy. Sometimes goals aren’t met. That’s okay. Don’t stress, just do your best to catch up. And if you find yourself ahead of schedule, go ahead and start tackling next week’s goals! There’s no harm in getting a head start! Of course, balance is key, and making sure you take breaks as needed is equally as important. Health/taking care of yourself goes hand-in-hand with being productive.

What I Wish I Knew: Plan. Plan. Plan. It’ll take so much stress off your mind. But if things go astray from the original plan, that’s 100% okay too! Important thing is to not get derailed and to get back on track ASAP.

Well, I have my 30-chapters-left-to-edit queued up on my word doc right now, so I’m off to tackle them!

And be sure to keep an eye out for Part 5: Connecting with the Community 

PS: Questions and comments? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Pitch Week . . . it's like Shark Week (but better)

So this past week has been a crazy week for the Twitter pitching community. In case you missed it, there were three pitching events going on: #NLAPitch, #PitchCB, and #SFFpit. Basically, it’s a chance for authors to pitch their MS to agents and publishers in under 140 words. 1 fave = a “bite” from said agents/publishers, meaning they’re inviting you to submit your query + first X pages/chapters to them.

Of course I had to join the party! And also, being the math nerd I am, I decided to see if I can figure out some stats from my tweets/pitches afterwards. (And also because I’m really just procrastinating since I do not want to start my plot outline. Seriously. Outlines are basically the devil-y spawns of plot synops.) In total, I pitched ten times over the course of the 3 events. And, well, here are the breakdowns . . .

***Note: There are many many unaccounted variables—such as tweet variations, online interaction, time of day when I pitched—and everything below is by no means “hard data” from a controlled observation/experiment. The point of these pitch events is to have fun, make new friends, and hopefully find an agent or publisher for your darling MS. The conclusions I attempted to draw are extrapolated (am I using that word correctly?) from the stats gathered afterwards***

***Another note: the week prior to Pitch Week, I did a quick survey of 3 different pitches to see which one people preferred. The results were pretty evenly split among the 3. All pitches I ultimately tweeted are either one of the three I polled, or some variation of them***

Some basic terms:

Likes = self explanatory; I also divided them by “agent/publisher likes” and “non agent/publisher likes”

RTs = retweets, aka, a direct retweet that will not show up in the hashtag thread again

QTs = quoted retweets, aka, an indirect retweet that will show up in the hashtag thread again if the hashtag is mentioned in the tweeted comment

Hashtag thread = the tweets that pop up when you search up #PitchEventName

The Early Pitch Gets the Likes

By “early” I mean pitches that are tweeted out within 3 hours of the event start time. For some reason, it seems as if early pitches seem to get more interaction both in terms of faves, RTs, and QTs. I think it might be because the pitch feeds can get very, very gnarly later on in the day, and many people will choose to duck out after a couple hours and only check back in sporadically throughout the rest of the day.

Spread the Love

On the pitches that did exceptionally well, not only did I send them out early, I was also very active on Twitter shortly after tweeting them. By this, I mean that I browsed through the hashtag thread and commented, RTed, QTed, or any combination thereof, of the pitches that I really liked or caught my attention (aka books I would want to read based on the pitch alone). The results? I ended up with new Twitter friends, and my pitch also got some more love in the forms of RTs, QTs, and faves! Win-win-win for everyone.

Of the ten pitches I made, 4 of them I tweeted pretty early, and the remaining 6 during the latter half of the event. The results? Well, even though I have less early pitches, I ended up with more RTs, QTs, and faves from those 4 pitches than the other 6 combined. Granted, this might also be because I was much more active on Twitter in the morning than the late afternoon/evening.

Early pitching + Online interaction = The Prime Combo (for me anyway)

Without further delay, here are some graphs of Early vs Late pitches

I’ve also ranked my pitches from “most successful” to “least successful” based on the number of agent/publisher likes below. Like I mentioned before, the most successful ones were tweeted pretty early on. (Ignore the tweet timestamps--they aren't accurate for whatever reason. I probably have it set to Greenwich time or something. Also, yes, there are only 9 pitches below because I accidentally closed the tab of my 10th pitch and I really don't remember which one it was and don't want to scroll through my old tweets again to find it. Sawry.)

And finally, here’s a picture of my cat. She’s a sweetie. And a buttface (nickname gained due to the fact she will sit on your face in the morning until you feed her breakfast).

Have you participated in Twitter pitching before? How was your experience?

Be sure to check out my other posts on pitching and querying HERE!

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Monday, June 19, 2017

End of March 2017

Alrighty. I’ve decided to make Blaze the home of my MS. But beforehand, I also wanted to make sure Blaze and I were a good match.

Research time.

There’s your standard research—a quick skim through Google, browsing the company website, heck, I even jumped onto the Scribophile forum and asked around if anyone had heard of/worked with Blaze before. (For those of you who don’t know me, Scribophile = my second home on the Internet.)

In addition to all that, I also reached out to other authors represented by the publisher either via email or FB messaging (sorry if I came off stalkerish). To begin with, I asked questions such as:

What is working with the Blaze team like? (ie. do they have a quick response time, do they work on schedule, are the flexible, willing to compromise if there are disagreements, etc)
How much control do you retain over your novel after signing the contract?
In terms of marketing and publicity, how has Blaze helped get the word out about your book?

The two bolded questions were very important to me. If I to invest my time and effort with a company, I wanted to make sure they were easy to work with and are also willing to help with the “after publication” aspect, since I’ve heard of so many horror stories of publishers releasing a book and doing absolutely nothing to help promote it afterwards.

Additionally, I’m also a very hands-on person, and want to be as involved with the publishing process as much as possible. So knowing that Blaze was flexible and willing to work closely with the author is a definite “win” for me.

Fortunately, all the authors I contacted had a positive experience with Blaze, and were all happy to share their experience.

What I wish I knew: Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ask questions. Do your research!

Next: figuring out the contract.

If you have an agent, he/she will usually negotiate this aspect of the whole publishing endeavor. However, for those of us not repped by one, there are literary lawyers (yes, you heard that right—lawyers who specialize in book/film contracts) that can do the job. Basically every article I read strongly recommended authors to get at least some type of lawyer/person who is familiar with legal lingo to make sure everything is as should be on the contract.

What I wish I knew: Literary lawyers are hard to find. And pricey.

In fact, there aren’t any literary lawyers listed in my state’s bar directory. (I hail from the wonderful, nobody-knows-about-us state of NH.) The closest thing I could find was a building contract lawyer.

So . . . I did something I’m sure I probably sure isn’t exactly “recommended”: I decided to be my own “lawyer” and did research on what should be included, not included, specified, etc in your standard book contract. The chief editor (the person who I was mainly in messaging, in addition to the operations manager, at this time) was also very friendly, and willing to answer and clarify any parts of the contract I had questions with.

Here are the questions in the contract I asked (paraphrasing here):

Does MS sequels (which Blaze would have the right of first pitch to) include spin-offs/companion short stories/novellas?

(Answer: yes)

Does the right to first pitch of my next unrelated (aka non-sequel) work mean that during the 30-day time period in which I pitch to Blaze, I’m not allowed to query other agents/publishers?

(Answer: No, it only means that the publisher has the right to pitch an offer first to me; I can still do simultaneous submissions)

If I grant Blaze the exclusive right to publish my MS, do the characters, setting, etc still belong to me? Do I retain ownership of said list?

(Answer: yes. Although Blaze has exclusive right to my characters and stories associated with Of Silver and Stars, they cannot hire other authors to write stories involving the same characters)

I like to joke that my characters are my brain children, and I’m sure most writers feel the same way. PROTECT YOUR DARLINGS (except when you need to kill them. What’s the phrase again? “Gotta kill ‘em darlings” or something similar?)

Also, a good piece of advice I saw floating around the internet is to make sure there is a renewal section in the contract. What this means is that after a certain set period of time (for me, it was 24 months), the contract must be renewed or else everything is nulled. Think of this as a safety feature, because—God forbid—you end up with an agent/publisher that simply isn’t working out for you, then at least you’ll have the chance to re-pitch your MS once the contract expires.

What I wish I knew: Make sure there is a renewal section in the contract

After about 1.5 week of back and forth emails, I finally felt ready and officially signed on. And now, I needed to send out another round of emails to other agents/publishers who responded earlier and were still considering my MS—please, please do this—it’s a simple courtesy. Don’t waste their time if the MS is no longer on the dealing table. I figured a short and sweet email like this ought to do the trick:

Dear ___,

I would like to formally withdraw Silver and Ice from submission as the novel has found a forever home.

Sweet—contract is signed—and now the fun begins in Part Four: Deadlines and Milestones.

***Note: I feel it’s important for me to stress that this post is in no way meant to serve as legal advice. Everything written merely reflects my personal experience. Furthermore, if you can, I strongly urge you not to follow my example and to hire a lawyer/agent (yes, some agents will offer their services to negotiate a contract for a fee) to look over the contract for you.***

Make sure not to miss the other posts in the Welcome to the (Publishing) Jungle Series! Click here to read Part 4: Deadlines and Milestones

PS: Questions and comments? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

March 2017

Time to send out queries. (In case you missed it, here’s the Evolution of the Query.) My hands are shaking as I scan through the list of agents and publishers that invited me to submit my MS to them. And here, my friends, is where I made my not-first mistake: querying both publishers and agents at the same time.

What I Wish I Knew: Do NOT query both publishers and agent simultaneously. Decide, beforehand, whether you want an agent to represent your work, or if you plan on submitting to publishers directly.

Here’s the deal: the big 5 publishers (maybe it’s 4 now? Since Penguin merged with Random House . . .) only allow agents to submit novels, but many independent/small press publishers don’t require an agent. I didn’t plan—didn’t think through what I wanted to do—so I sent queries to everyone who responded to my pitches.

And thus, my problems began. I’ve heard rumors floating around on the web that publishers will respond to queries quicker than agents. I don’t know if it’s actually true or not, but for me personally, I was definitely hearing back from publishers faster than agents—as quickly as within a couple hours of me shooting off my query. (Also, this has probably been rehashed countless times already, but please for the sake of all things good and puppies, please address your query using the name of the agent/editor/whoever you’re submitting to. And if you can’t find a name . . . well, I guess there’s always this story*).

But for the most part, turnaround time was a couple weeks, which I dubbed The Waiting Period in which I fretted and stalked Twitter and distracted myself by beginning a new WIP.

Since I was generally hearing back from publishers before agents (2-3 weeks was the average response time for me), there was an awkward time gap where I didn’t know how to respond to offers because I didn’t know all of the options available. I scrambled and panicked and sent a bunch of follow up emails to those who I haven’t heard back from yet. (And prayed that I didn’t annoy them afterwards.)

To make things more complicated, because I decided to participate in three different pitch events spread over a month, there was a lot of overlap in response times = ONE HUGE MESS. I would be sending out partials/MS requests for my first wave of queries as I was only just beginning to send out the query itself for my third batch.

Also, although this is super obvious in hindsight, I really should’ve only queries agents/publishers who I would want to work with. Just because you got the “like” doesn’t mean you have to submit.

What I Wish I Knew: Only query agents/publishers who you genuinely want to work with.

Then one day, I finally got The Call. Three things the project manager said to me:

1. We would like to make an offer
2. But do not withdraw your submission from others yet. Not until that contract offer is sitting in your inbox
3.  Love the story, but there are some changes/edits that would have to be made. Are you open to them?**

Well, I said yes! And now, I had to rush off to deal with Mess II. Since I queried Blaze in my first “wave”, there were, quite literally, queries I had submitted less than three days ago—and I was already sending out follow ups.

Maybe I’m being silly? Who knows. But I felt really bad and just plain awkward doing that. Like, “Hey, remember me from three days ago? I know on your website you said to allow 6-8 weeks for a response but I NEED TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU SOONER!!!!!”

So I sent a quick email that went something like this:

Dear ___,
I just wanted to let you know that Silver and Ice currently has an offer from ____, and I would very much appreciate it if you could inform me of your decision regarding my submission within the next 1-2 weeks.

Well. That certainly started getting responses faster. Both rejections and requests. (I’ve included my rejection vs partial vs full request stats below.)

What I Wish I Knew: It’s common courtesy to allow agents/publishers a 2 week heads up that you have a pending offer. Use it. Don’t rush. See what all your options are, then pick the one that fits you and your MS best.

Throughout that same week, I also spent time doing research (Part Three: Research, Contracts, and Lawyers, Oh My!) and ultimately chose Blaze Pub 7 days later.

Be sure not to miss Part One: Ready to Query of the Welcome to the (Publishing) Jungle series if you haven't read it already!

Submission Stats
1x 50 pg partial request that ended in rejection
3x full MS request that I ended up withdrawing from submission early
2x rejection upon initial query
1x full MS request w/ offer
3x N/A because I ended up withdrawing my submission right away

*Alright. So sort of a funny/random story with a happy ending. I’ve done enough googling to know that one should always use name instead of “agent” or “editor” when sending a query. However, I, could not, for the life of me, find any names to address my query to for a particular publisher. The publisher website had a submission guideline, the site itself looked legit, the books it published all appeared professional—in other words, I was 99.999% sure this wasn’t a scam. So I ended up hunting down the publisher owner’s name and used it in my query. Less then 3 hours later, I got a response from the owner:

“Dear Tina,
My submission team forwarded this email to my account. Please send over your complete MS.”

So I did. Who knows—sometimes (good) weird stuff happens.

**Oh boy. That should’ve been my first warning. But it all worked out in the end—for the better :P

PS: Questions and comments? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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February—March, 2017

Query? Check. Manuscript? Check.

I scroll through my Twitter feed and notice something . . . #PitchMad, #PitchMadness, #SonOfAPitch, #PitchWars . . .

Turns out Twitter pitching is one way to catch the attention of and agent or publisher. And it actually sounds . . . kind of fun! I suppose it can’t hurt to participate in some of these events, and if I don’t get lucky, then I could always move onto traditional querying.

For the next couple days, I stalked @WriteEvents and made note of all the upcoming pitch events that I wanted to participate in. I ultimately participated in three. Two of the events (#PitchMadness and #SonOfAPitch) involved me actually submitting a query into the contests; two of them required a twitter pitch/1-2 sentence pitch (#PitchMad and #PitchMadness).

As it turns out, trying to sell my novel in less than 144 characters is hard. My original Twitter pitch floated around in cyberspace, got some engagements, but I knew I could do better. Here's my first pitch (which I used a couple times):

“A hunter discovers his target is a mentally unstable army captain—and the key to ending a decades-long war.”

So I browsed around and looked up the most popular pitches and noticed something: many of them have comps.

What I wish I knew: Comps are invaluable—they can convey a full idea in a few words about the “feel” of your novel

On a whim, I decided to make up a new pitch.

“A hunter with a magicked amulet. A girl with a hypnotic voice. A queen who controls winter. Who is the real enemy? RED QUEEN x YOUNG ELITES”

I do not know why comps are put in all caps. It just appeared to be a trend—perhaps to catch an agent/publisher’s attention? Not sure. But I decided to go with the flow, and it worked. I started receiving requests to submit my query.

What I wish I knew: Loglines are not necessarily the same as Twitter pitches. Sometimes, it’s about the punch a pitch can deliver, and loglines aren’t exactly “punchy”.

One thing I believe might’ve helped my pitch get more exposure to potential agents and publishers is engagement. I cannot stress how important online engagement with other participants of these pitch events have helped me, especially since we’re limited to a certain number (usually three) pitches per day.

However . . . anyone can retweet the pitches . . . and that’s as good as tweeting the original pitch itself. I searched up the event hashtag and retweeted pitches I found interesting in addition to replying to pitches that left a strong impression on me.

Two things happened: 1) I met lots of other awesome writers (seriously! I have found critique partners from Twitter) and 2) others will often times return the favor and retweet my pitch as well = more exposure

In events where hundreds (thousands?) of pitches are being tweeted within a single day, it’s easy for my pitch to be lost and buried and never be seen by a potential agent/publisher (aka “die”). The retweets help keep the pitch “updated” in the hashtag feed (aka “alive”).

What I Wish I Knew: Engagement on Twitter is a win-win situation. You’re helping out others, meeting new people, and return, others are helping you out as well.

Alright, so I have my invites to submit . . . now onto the actual submission itself in Part Two: The Waiting Game of the Welcome to the (Publishing) Jungle series.

PS: Questions and comments? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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Hello and welcome! I’ve decided to start documenting the journey of getting my novel from querying to publication in hopes of sharing with others what I’ve learned throughout the process. After searching around on The Google, I’ve discovered that while there are tons of articles and blogs about how to get a draft to its final, polished state, or advice for crafting the perfect query, or even questions to ask agents/publishers once you’ve received an offer, there isn’t much in terms on what happens “behind the scenes”.

So. Here I am. I’m currently in the midst of prepping Of Silver and Stars for publication in Oct 16, 2018, through Blaze Pub. . . and have learned (and still am learning!) tons of tidbits that I would love to share so that you can avoid the same mistakes I made. (Such as: querying agents and publishers simultaneously—hint: don’t do that; choosing a novel title that gives good SEO search returns—something I didn’t do; believing that once you’ve signed on your novel will be released soon—oh trust me, you’ve only just gotten started . . . did I mention all those deadlines you have to meet by the way?!)

Before I dive into my first post (Ready to Query), a little about me:

I am not an expert. This is my first time navigating through the jungle of publishing a book. I have stumbled and fallen into sand pits, mud pits, and arm pits. I am more often than not blindly hacking a path (though I am very lucky and thankful to have a wonderful editor to guide me). The intention of this series is not to be a “how-to” guide . . . it’s more of a “I wish someone had told me this before I went and did that” sort of deal.

Ready? Let’s go. Grab a machete. And some bug spray too.

PS: Questions and comments? I would love to hear your thoughts below!

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