Part of the How They Do It Series
Vampires. Are. So. Hot. Right. Now.
… is what everyone said back when Twilight came rocking into the literary world in 2005. And vampires were hot. In the literary and physical sense. Stephanie Meyer’s success, along with many other authors, attested to just how important timing can be in the world of books. It’s very likely that thousands of authors followed on Stephanie Meyer’s heels, only to find the vampire door closing in slow-motion as they ran towards it.
Traditional publishing isn’t winning the 100-meter dash. It is not Usain Bolt. Frankly, it’s not trying to be. So it’s good to know what’s in store if that’s the direction your heading. Here—from start to finish—is the timeline for the book that got me my first publishing deal:
March 14- I save a sample of the first chapter to send to a member of my writing group.
March 28- I had about 50 pages of the book (about 20,000 words) finished at this point.
April 9- I had about 75 pages of the book (35,000 words) finished at this point.
May 10- I finish the first draft of the book and ask for beta readers (2 months writing time).
May 10-June 5- Edits, query advice, more edits.
June 5- I send out queries, do a lot of research, and get my first rejections.
June 15- First partial request.
July 1 - First full request.
July 30 - First offer of representation.
August 12 - Kristin Nelson emails, "I'm in." We set up a call.
August 24 - I accept representation from Kristin Nelson.
September 21 - Kristin gets her fully edited copy of NYXIA back to me. We have a phone call discussion (a difficult phone call discussion) in which we change up some massive plot points.
September 25 - I get all of those edits back to Kristin (Edit game: strong)
October 1 - We begin pitching to editors.
October 6 - The book goes to second reads at several publishing houses.
October 16 - After an auction between adult and young adult publishers, Kristin and I decide to move forward with Emily Easton of Crown Books for Young Readers.
December 2 - The first of four foreign rights deals comes in.
January 19 - Signed official contract and sent it off to Random House.
January 21 - We go out with movie rights for the book.
April 7- I receive my first editorial letter
May 31 – After three or four passes, Emily accepts manuscript changes and edits.
May-End of the year:
Launch meeting. Presales. Cover concepts. Asking amazing authors for blurbs. More cover concepts. Title changes. Sequel discussions. Occasional dancing. More blurbs.
September 12- Expected publication date.
So for those of you keeping track at home, my book started in March 2015 and will finally hit shelves in September of 2017. That’s two and a half years later! You might also notice there are months in which I had a lot on my plate. There are other months were the publisher takes most of the load, and still others in which the agent is working hardest. It’s a huge team effort that requires hard work from everyone.
After recreating this timeline, I had just four takeaways:
1. Don’t just follow trends.
My book is a high-octane science fiction book. If you pick my book up next September and think, “I’m seeing a lot of books like this one. This is what publishers are after!” You’re right… but you’re right two years ago, when my book was being read and purchased by a publisher. So write what you want to write. Write the book that’s calling to you. Don’t chase a trend that’s already getting blacklisted from local literary parties. Which leads me to the second point…
2. Know about any “no-fly” zones.
One great decision I made was following every literary agent, publisher, and writer I could find on Twitter. It doesn’t take too long to read through and set your fingers on the pulse of the industry. Is there misinformation? Of course! Does anyone actually know what’s going on? Don’t answer that. But do start educating yourself. You might find out that dystopia has a huge STOP SIGN plastered next to it, but space opera’s been picking up steam. It’s always good to remember that good writing can always break through, but why not become familiar with the ocean you’re trying to jump into?
3. Learn how to be patient now.
There are huge blocks of time where there’s absolutely nothing I am expected to be doing for my book. Understand now that this road takes a long time and requires you to wait. You will wait for everything, but you’ve chosen to wait because you believe the people to whom you’ve entrusted your book have the most capable hands imaginable for delivering it to the public. Go ahead and practice patience now.
4. Use your cheat sheets.
My timeline won’t be exactly the same as other authors, but I can guarantee you that most of the road signs look pretty similar. Publishing is a traditional, predictable entity. While you can’t predict whether or not your book will get snatched up, you can predict a lot of what will happen if it does get purchased. Look at my timeline. Look at the experiences of other people. Prepare yourself. Have a synopsis ready before agents ask for it. Take a shot at writing your back cover copy before your publisher asks for it. Know how the process works so you can help yourself as much as possible when the time comes.
I hope this is helpful and please feel free to ask any questions!
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