Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nine Things Writers Need to Know Before the Book Deal

Please welcome Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing!

Hi IWSG readers!

I love this blog because as writers, we all know a lot about insecurity. Being creative types, our imaginations are wired to run overtime. We imagine what we would love to see happen (the big book deal) and what we are afraid will happen (no book deal, horrible reviews, orphaned books, etc.) Not only that, but everything we do is open to artistic interpretation as well as to trends and market forces and the vagaries of chance, which can seem like the perfect storm of pressure designed to make an aspiring writer crazy. And believe it or not, the time that we spent working toward getting an agent and a book deal will eventually look almost idyllic.

Last year, I was lucky enough to get an agent and a three-book deal based on a YA novel that I had started the previous May. Compulsion will be released October 28th from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. I’m honored and excited to get a chance to do this post, because I would love to travel back in time and tell pre-book-deal me a few things. Since I can’t do that, I hope that some aspiring writers might find what I would have told myself helpful as they start their own careers.

1) Don’t rush. Man, I felt like I needed that book deal and if I didn’t get it fast, I was a total failure. I knew it wasn’t logical. Doctors, lawyers, violinists, ballerinas, dental hygienists—they all spend YEARS learning their craft under supervision for many hours a day. We’re lucky if we spend an hour a week getting critiques from other writers, and we squeeze in an hour or two of writing a day, if that. And we expect to achieve the equivalent of playing with a philharmonic orchestra in a year or two. Unfair pressure much? Yeah. That. So, again, don’t rush. Don’t accept that kind of pressure. Take the time to learn, to write because you love to write, to learn what youwant to write, and how you best want to write it.

2) Don’t compare. Yes, Veronica Roth wrote DIVERGENT in college. Tahereh Mafi was 22 when she wrote SHATTER ME. But how can you make your WIP better than it is now? How can you make it bigger, more unique, more buzz-worthy, more controversial, more interesting? Do that. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. Once a book gets to a certain level of merit, talent and quality become only a part of the equation. Plain old luck plays a role. That is not—at all—to suggest that DIVERGENT or SHATTER ME didn’t deserve their phenomenal success. They absolutely do, and if you analyze them, you will see why. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other DIVERGENTs or SHATTER MEs out there that equally deserved it but didn’t happen to hit the right convergence of stars.

3) Don’t skimp on the writing training. In the long run, there is nothing except the story. Have you told it in the way that will most do it justice? Have you constructed the scenes in the most vivid, visual, tension-packed way they could be constructed? Have you used the words and images that will best transfer the emotion from your heart to your reader’s heart? Take the opportunity before you are published to take every writing class, attend every workshop, enter every contest. By the time your book is out there, you’re going to have to have EVERY confidence that it is the best that it can be so that you don’t drive yourself crazy with woulda-shoulda-couldas.

4) Don’t let your skin stay thin. The book is a product, but it’s also an artistic endeavor. Everyone is going to have a different opinion. You can only know that you put out the best book you could, be proud of that book, and focus on the next book.

5) Don’t let editing, promotion, marketing, work, family, natural disasters, or anything else stop your from writing every day, reading every day, and learning every day. Writing is an engine. You have to oil it and keep it tuned to keep it running.

6) Don’t forget you aren’t in this alone. Phenomenal sites like this one keep this journey from being a solitary one. They are a source of sympathy, empathy, friendship, critique partners, beta readers, readers, and much more. The friends I’ve made on the journey to publication are the best part of the publishing process. Seriously. Eventually that circle of amazing people expands to include an agent, an editor, an editorial director, a marketing manager, a marketing director, a publicist, a sales team, a publisher . . . a whole team of people who love your book and talk about the characters as if they are as real as they were when you poured them on the page.

7) Don’t forget this is a career. You and that whole team of people behind you need to be able to count on your next book being as good or better than this one — and being ready in a year. Be a professional. Write every day. Look long term. If the current book doesn’t sell, be sure you’ve done your best with it and move on to the next book. You’ll get better, the market will change, and the current book may have another chance. But not unless you’ve stayed focused!

8) Don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s an incredible, miraculous thing, this writing process. Revel in it. All of it. Every step and every stage, every heart ache and every celebration.

9) Don’t forget to believe. Believe in yourself and the magic of books. That’s what all this is about! : )

Happy writing to all!
Martina

Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. Her first teacher in the U.S. made fun of her for not pronouncing the “wh” sound right, so she set out to master “all the words she’s still working on that! In the meantime, she’s writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. She’s the founder of Adventures in YA Publishing, a two-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers blog, and YA Series Insiders. She is also the author of COMPULSION, book one of the Heirs of Watson Island, a Southern Gothic novel for young adults (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, October 28, 2014). If you like romance dripping with mystery, mayhem, Spanish moss, and a bit of magic, she hopes you’ll look forward to meeting Barrie, Eight, Cassie, Pru, Seven and the other characters of Watson Island.
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COMPULSION

Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

Darkly romantic and steeped in Southern Gothic charm, you’ll be compelled to get lost in the Heirs of Watson Island series.” — #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

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29 comments:

Elsie Amata said...

Thanks for traveling back in time for us and sharing these great tips. I need to work on my thin skin. Some people can handle criticism, I'm not one of them. Luckily, my CP is funny with his critiques.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Martina!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

People with thin skins just don't survive in this business.

Linda Kay Christensen said...

Thanks so much for some great advice. I'm sure we all have those moments of defeat, and your comments really help to keep us on track!

Pat Hatt said...

Great tips indeed and the cat has thick skin, so got that down.

Suzanne Furness said...

So enjoyed reading this post, thank you for posting your experiences.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Marina, this was wonderfully helpful and inspiring. Thank you!

Julie Musil said...

Martina! Love this advice! And I'm sooo excited about Compulsion and Persuasion <3

Chrys Fey said...

Wonderful tips! And timely as each point was something I had to remember. Thanks for sharing!

Martina Boone said...

Hope my mistakes are able to help someone! : )

Thanks, all! And i'm sending you tons of good writing/editing/publishing mojo!

XO

Martina

kaykuala said...

Thanks Martina! I feel so assured. When one faces a problem it feels like it is a new problem to face alone. But the assurances showed these have been resolved by many much earlier. Great!

Hank

Lynda R Young said...

A wonderful, wonderful post, Martina. I like that you put 'Don't rush' first. It's so important.

Rosalyn said...

I needed this list--especially "Don't Rush." Yes. It's funny to me that I didn't feel the pressure to rush through my graduate degree, but I do feel pressure to finish my book, query it, land an agent, etc. But if I'm honest, I'd rather take the time to write a *good* book, not a quick one. Also, Compulsion sounds awesome. Can't wait to read it!

Denise Covey said...

Such a practical post. Thank you Martina.

Martina Boone said...

Thanks, guys! The 'don't rush' one encompasses so much, and it is so hard to know what's "rushing" and what isn't. The internet is both a help and a hindrance in all that. You get all the announcement of deals and you get to hear all the "overnight" success stories, and the whole journey is so public that it's easy to focus on the goal instead of the route.

All I can say is hang in there and focus on being able to open any page in your book at random and instantly feel the tension and emotion and rhythm of the words. If you're like me, you will always look at every page and feel like you could do better. But if you can feel like there is something to be proud of on every page, it will be a buffer against the inevitable rejections and malicious reviews and all the other things for which you need that thicker skin. : )

The best part of the internet is that we're all here for each other! That's been such a huge help for me through this whole process.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great advice from a 5 star lady! Martina, we are all so proud of all you have accomplished, and grateful for all the kind ways you helps writers every day. :)

Angela

Michelle Wallace said...

Congrats on the agent/3 book deal and thanks for sharing this great advice!

Karla Gomez said...

Thanks so much! I'm glad I joined this group :) I want to say so much but don't know how. LOL.
Thanks again! Loved this.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips Martina! I think #1 is often ignored to the great regret of many aspiring writers. I'm still working on #9 :)

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

A fantastic piece, Martina! Super spectacular advice!

cleemckenzie said...

There's some much in this post that hits home. I appreciated reading it. You never have enough encouragement and support.

Martina Boone said...

Angela, you are always MUCH too kind to me, but you know how much I love you!

Thanks, everyone! And Karla, if you have things to say, this is the most welcoming, wonderful community. I'm sure everyone will be supportive, but you can also write to me via my website, and I'll be happy to answer questions or help in any way I can! : )

Jemi, LOL! I still vacillate between the two. Probably the worst of both worlds! ;D

Lee, I couldn't agree more, which is why I love this group and site!

eclecticali said...

Such good reminders... I need to work on them (especially remembering to keep writing and reading among all the other stuff!) Thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Martina .. what a brilliant post - and I particularly like point 6 -the ripples will spread out and we'll everyone we need, when the time is right ... so so true ..

And also your thoughts on this blogging group - it's great ...

And I wish I'd been pushed or had pushed myself to grasp languages when I was a kid - I admire everyone who can coherently speak other tongues than our English ..

Cheers and good luck to you - Hilary

Sandra Cox said...

Wonderful advice. Thanks for the reminders.
Your series looks intriguing. I'm going to have to check it out.

Hello, Alex....

Mina Burrows said...

Wonderful post and excellent reminders too. Tweeting now. :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful points!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Martina - got a great response!

Valerie Capps said...

What a great blog site! I don't have to worry about the Book Deal info at this point, but I can certainly relate to killing a story in the 6 Tips blog and the Omni Man sure hit home. Omni POV is a real challenge for me. Actually, the story I killed was written in the Omni POV. When I found myself head hopping and then talking from the POV of the Lazyboy recliner, I decided it was time to start over with a different POV. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I'm glad I found yours. I belive it will be very helpful to me as a newbie. I'll be back!