Now what?

(c) Craig Lucas – Stepping Down

I have been working toward a publication deal for years. YEARS. Now that I have one I find myself blinking at my computer screen thinking (or pestering my editors asking) “Now what? What’s the next step?” Perhaps because I have been pondering these questions, an article I saw recently struck a particularly strong chord with me.

Marie Lu is the author of Legend and Prodigy and recently posted on Pub(lishing) Crawl about the surprising skills she suddenly needed to develop after publishing her first novel, specifically:

The ability to be a socialite
The ability to say ‘No’
The ability to be a hermit
The ability to manage money  

Even though I haven’t reached the same place in my career as Marie yet, I can easily see how all of those statements are true. But they don’t give the whole picture. Already I have discovered an author also needs to be the following sets of seemingly dichotomous traits:

  • Gratifyingly compromising and annoyingly stubborn
    This essentially boils down to the cliche but true saying “Pick your battles.” Most of the time, your editors know what they’re doing. Only when it’s imperative to your vision of the story should you put your foot down and say, “No. We’re doing it my way.” If you are willing to compromise on the little things, it’s more likely you’ll get your way when it matters. If you try to pick a fight over every change and every single marketing move, it’s more likely you won’t ever get your way or you’ll suddenly find yourself without a contract. 
  • Highly creative and extremely analytical
    Writers are (obviously) creative souls. They see a picture or overhear a bit of conversation and can spin a whole elaborate story off of that one spark. That’s good. Great, even. You need that if you’re going to make a career out of being a writer instead of writing a book or two and calling it a day. However, once that draft is written, you need to turn on the analytical side of your brain (or, if you don’t have one, you need to develop it). My editors have already been giving me pre-edit homework assignments that are making my creative brain work in ways it’s not used to. Is it easy? No. Do I see the purpose and push forward anyway? Definitely. Without accessing the objective side of your mind, you’ll never be able to dig into your manuscript and pull out the parts that aren’t working and you’ll never be able to handle anyone else doing it either.
  • Ridiculously patient and insanely productive
    Hurry up and wait. And then do it again. That is the publishing process and you’re just going to have to deal with it. You push to get your draft done and then wait as agents and editors look over it. You push to get your edits done and then wait to get a response. You will have deadline after deadline to meet and then stretches of dead space in between. Do yourself a favor and keep busy on a new project. It will help protect your sanity and hopefully keep you from aggravating your editors with “just checking in” emails.
  • Great at telling stories and even better at keeping secrets
    After you sign a contract, your book and the things that happen to it are no longer yours. Well, no longer just yours. You have to be able to present the news you can share in a way that will excite people and get them interested in what you have to say, but you also have to know how to keep your lips zipped. And sometimes this will be the hardest thing to do. Sometimes you may get news you’re just itching to share, but for legal or promotional reasons, you can’t. Maybe once news of your book sale gets out, people start asking you if you can just send them a copy of the file. Don’t. The book doesn’t just belong to you anymore so if you’re unsure about whether or not what you want to share is allowed, ASK FIRST. Better safe than losing a deal or ending up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

I’m sure there are more things I’ll learn along the way, but this is enough for now. I need a chance to master these skills before anything else gets piled up on top of me!

Also, a big THANK YOU to the people who pointed me toward and the photographers who load their images there for use. I missed having pictures on my blog!

2 thoughts on “Now what?

  1. Erica Cameron

    I'm glad you found it useful! I try to put things up I wish someone had told me in the hopes someone else will find it.

    Good luck with everything! Just keep pushing forward and the right book will find the right home at the right time. Sing was my third completed novel. My first two will probably never see the light of day. 😀

  2. Donelle Lacy

    This is a great post and good information. Writers don't always think about these things – and definitely not when they're first starting out. But this is part of the business side of being an author. Looks like I have some challenges ahead of me, but I'm still terribly excited!


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