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The Next Step
Authors: John G. Harness, Misty Massey, Terry W. Ervin II, Edmund Schubert, Gray Rinehart
Moderator: David B. Coe
- This is assuming that you’ve already sent it to beta-readers and edited it.
- Having a good beta group geared towards publishing really really helps.
As the author, what should we be doing?
- TE: Get the novel best you can, research markets, check guidelines to see if it’ll be a good fit; write other stuff while waiting on response. You can always read the guidelines of the publisher but also read what they’re publishing. Know what you’re going for. Check the bookshelves in the library and the bookstores.
- MM: Start the 2nd book right away because if you sit and wait and stare at your e-mail, you’re just wasting time. These books don’t write themselves. Keep moving, keep writing. Novels. Short stories. Work on *something*. Momentum is hard to regain once you let it die.
- JH: Took the self-publishing route after trial and error. When he finished his first novel, he tried the “submit to agents” route, then realized he had no idea how to craft a query letter or who to submit to. Spent a year submitting poetry and lit fiction to small presses. Learned the process. Didn’t make much money. Self-published first, and then started learning by fire the self-publishing route. Went through self-publishing process on a much smaller scale, then realized he couldn’t categorize his first novel. So he hired an editor, formatted and reformatted the book for print and e-publishing. Was not an immediate success. Now he has a publisher for his books.
For the editors in the panel, did their experience change anything?- GR: No, because he started as an author. Started making all the mistakes generally made on the writer’s side. Didn’t have experience to draw some. Didn’t have beta-readers; that was a big mistake. Did Orson Scott Card’s boot camp. Started writing short stories when he was really young. Gave up for a little while, and came back to it later. DON’T give it up, or you’ll have to re-learn. Wrote a few more short stories then went to the novel.
- ES: Also was a writer first; also did Orson Scott Card’s boot camp. Realized he had so much to do. His beta group was great but everyone was interested but not experienced. He wrote novels before transitioning to short stories. Turned to short stories to learn his craft. Then went back to the novel feeling more competent.
Should we be writing shorrt fiction first?
- JH: Wrote a lot of articles for the poker industry. Didn’t write short fiction until he started self-pubbing novels and needed something to fill in the holes between self-pubbing his novels. Quick turnaround time. Quit his day job.
- MM: Writing a short story is easy. Started writing short stories. Also, instant gratification from short stories. Novels take a bit longer. FH encouraged her to write novel-length.
- TE: Short stories are great, but writing fantasy/sci-fi shorts is a challenge because you also have world-building, too.
- ES: It is possible to write a novel full of short stories – a cluster of standalone short stories that has an overarching arc or links, but would take more time and effort to write this than to write a novel.
- DBC: Still, this isn’t something he’d recommend to beginners.
- ES: Query-writing is a science. Getting a rejection doesn’t mean that your book sucks, it means that your query letter sucks.
About agents:- Most authors agreed that it was important to find an agent first, but only one had an agent at the time of this panel.
- Publishing is a hurry-up-and-wait game.
- One author went though a small publisher.- One author: Had an agent who sold the author's first book. Signed with that agent because the agent had the connections in New York. You need someone enthusiastic who’ll believe in your work. But then as time went on, the author realized the agent wasn’t doing much to help, and didn’t even look at the second book before passing it onto the publisher. The author currently looking for a new agent.
- DBC: Editors can be friends. The average writer will go through several editor relationships. An agent author relationship is a marriage. Ending it is like a divorce. The relationship is complex; there should be rapport. There should be support. They should be there for you.
How long does it take to publish a book?
- JH: finishes a novel-length Jan 1, hired a good freelance editor. Sent it off. Gets it back from editors and proofreaders by the end of February. Meanwhile has consulted with cover artists. By March 1 is ready to sell/upload. Meanwhile sold the contracts to re-release older works to small pub last August, and the books should be ready to go this August.
- DBC: Handed in Thieftaker on time Feb 1, 2010, will be published July 3rd, 2012. And it didn’t need that much rewriting. Tor is notoriously slow. Editor is glacially slow in the context of Tor editors.
- GR: The process of creating cover art, releasing arcs for review, is 6 months to a year. Publishing schedule is 18 months to 2 yrs. Lots of BAEN authors are very prolific. As far as what you can expect, if you submit a novel today, you’ll get a response in nine months. Don’t expect exclusivity. Appreciates being notified if the novel has been picked up elsewhere. If he likes the start of the book and sets it aside, it’ll take much more time for him to look at. Then if he really likes it he’ll submit it to his boss (chief editor), and then that will take more time.
- ES: Remember, there are a lot of little steps in the process. You want the publisher sending out review copies. The reviewers want the books 3-4 times prior to being published, too, and you want it reviewed, because good reviews drive sales.
- DBC: Got blurbs by sending out manuscript to authors, which adds a few more months (but this is also very important)
- TE: Smaller press means smaller pub schedule. Depends on blurbs, reviews, etc.
- JH: There are many of self-published authors who sell tons of copies.
Social media before submitting?
- DBC: Social media is a great way to market a book that is already most of the way through the publishing process. But it takes up more time that you should spend revising a novel, and you should focus your energy on writing.