f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Establishing Your Career as a Writer: Part VI

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Establishing Your Career as a Writer: Part VI

Yes, the roman numerals continue and I worry I may soon start getting some wrong if this series continues on much longer. But it’s classy, isn’t it?

At this stage of the series you’ve now sold your first work. And let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you signed a two book contract for an as-yet-unspecified second title. You just today signed the contract and your publisher has said your book is going to come out in August 2007—seventeen months from now. Book two is due to release in August 2008. (A date you agree to.)

At this point you have three major tasks before you.

1. Getting book 1 into the best shape it can be.
2. Preparing your part in the marketing/promotion of book 1.
3. Working with your publisher on an idea for book 2 and then writing it.

Life gets more complicated when you sign on the dotted line. There’s a lot of fun still to be had, a lot of exciting moments, but, I’ll be frank, it’s hard work, too. I can’t name one successful author today who coasts by. And I can name lots of hard working authors who flame out. It isn’t all peaches and puppy tongues.

If you are a fairly fast writer with a solid second idea and you know your due date for manuscript 2, you may be able to hold off on that for a bit. But for a lot of authors book 2 is harder than book 1. (Especially if you honed book 1 for two-three years while waiting for it to get published.) As well, you need to avoid the trap of whipping out a very rough draft and calling that good enough…hoping your editors work it into shape. This is your work, your career, and if book 2 is significantly worse than book 1…that’s a mis-step.

Anyway, we’ll talk about points one and two today and tomorrow. I have a number of thoughts especially on marketing/promotion. Eventually we’ll talk about #3, too, and the question of whether we’re rushing books to market.

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Yesterday I used the word “normal” to describe the ideal author and that euphemism seems to have caused a bit of consternation or puzzlement or amusement. It really has nothing to do with not being quirky or not being yourself. That’s really the last thing I wanted to imply. The authors I work with have been a joy not because they’re boring—far from it. Yet I consider each of them “normal” in the sense that we have a two-way relationship that feels like we’re mostly on the same page, we’re mostly striving for the same things, and we are not adversaries. Sure there are hiccups. We might argue over a plot point. We might not like your working title. But we work through things and keep heading forward.

That is “normal.” That’s healthy. I think. Am I wrong? It just seems common sense.

Anyway, the first test of this for you and for your editor will be as you work with them to shape your manuscript for publication. I can’t tell you how to act. Some authors feel very strongly about the words they write. Others value lots of input and are willing to go with changes.

Both are great. But the stern author needs to know when to listen to his publisher’s recommendations and the easy-going author needs to know when to stand up for himself. It all is a matter of balance and perspective and communication.

I can’t tell you how your experience will be working with an editor on your novel. Every publisher is different. Every editor is different. I can only hope you have one of mutual respect and one that challenges you to become a better writer and that leads to a better book. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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If you’re a published author and have suggestions for what editors/publishing houses need to know on this topic, I’d be interested. We’ve certainly got our own issues to deal with and I don’t want to insinuate that this issue only rests on a writer’s shoulders.

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Continue to Part VII of Establishing Your Career as a Writer