So, you’ve sent out your query letters, signed with a literary agent, and secured a book deal. Your dream is in writing, in the language of a contract. Now what?
The Mighty Scope
I swear HarperCollins purchased my book based on its potential. My editor’s first request was to rewrite the entire ending, beef up a handful of characters, and completely change the chronology of the book. In six weeks. 🙂
The Editor-Author Partnership
Up till this point in my life, I’d had two critique relationship experiences: in college, where if my professor suggested something, it was in my best interest to make those changes; and with my writing group of peers, where I collected ideas and feedback, but it was fully my decision whether to implement them or not. Working with my editor at HarperCollins was different– she was not my professor, though she did have more experience with writing and with story than I did; and she was not my peer, though she treated me with respect and genuine warmth. It was just a new scenario. We were partners in this project, and I had no idea what that was supposed to look like.
Ultimately, I learned to try everything she suggested. Usually I ended up loving it. If I didn’t, I would talk to her about why it wasn’t working, and we’d scrap it. There were very few things that we completely disagreed on, and in those 2-3 things, she let me win.
The anxiety that followed my book deal was so intense and unexpected and alarming that I ended up back in therapy.
I’m often asked how much influence I had on the cover of my novel. I had always heard that an author had zero input— but that wasn’t quite true in my experience.
First, I was asked for my thoughts:
We will fill out a form to share with our designers—who work serious magic and make the best looking books in the industry—but we want your thoughts, too. What sort of design or image do you picture for your cover? Photographic or iconic? Is there anything you absolutely don’t want? Are there other books whose covers you admire? As much info you can give us will help us—and the designers—create the perfect look for TRUEST.
I was later shown eight choices and asked for my opinion again. They ended up going with my second choice (although by the end it was my absolute #1 favorite!), and let my thoughts guide multiple changes.
To see the detailed evolution of my book cover, click here.
A couple months after my publication day, I made some notes about what I learned:
- I loved my street team, but I did everything too early and put too much money into it. I tried to come up with enough swag to entice readers to join the launch team, but I think the people who joined it would have joined it for less. In future, I will probably do a street team, but I will a) give them only the ARC plus some exclusive content, b) do everything within a month of the release date.
- I would absolutely dish out the money to do a couple book tours during the release month. I’ll be doing a couple of those here in November and December, but I really wish I’d had the foresight to do them in September. Newbie!
- At every event (except maybe the launch party), I would also promote other books that I enjoyed. I really want to give back in this way, plus I want bookstores that host these events to sell more than just my book.
- I made a handful of promo materials. I probably should have just come up with one incredible idea, made a ton of them, and then given them out EVERYWHERE.
- Here’s one that might shock you: I would have been more spoiler-y in my flap copy (i.e. the text on the inside flap of the book). A story about three teens in the summer isn’t particularly compelling, but once I mention that one of them has a disorder that causes her to question whether she’s in real life or just dreaming, I see lightbulbs go on. Every time. I’ve been looking at the flap copy of other books, and theirs is open super spoilery … and it doesn’t hurt the experience of the book. I think this was a big mistake of mine.
Celebrate Like Crazy
I will never regret having a huge launch party on the day my book came out! It was so much fun and so special to have people I love from so many parts of my life come together to celebrate my book … and to celebrate me. I had heard from so many writers that their launch day was “just another day,” and I wanted so much more than that: a celebratory climax to the day I’d been counting down from for nearly two years (or my entire life, depending on how you look at it). YES to release day parties.
The Magic of Kind Words
It’s hard to explain just how special it is to hear words of praise about your book. In the midst of fear and reviews and silence, sweet words at the exact right moments are each like a miniature rescue.To hear that you’ve made someone rethink things or that your book changed their life or became a new favorite or that they connected with a character or that it gave them hope during a particularly hard experience … it makes it all worthwhile. Please tell authors when you love their work. It’s like fuel, an instant battery-charge, strength to continue. I have an Instagram comment that has taken up permanent residence in my heart, ringing like a little bell.
You get back to work.
This is the writing life.
Did you miss the other parts in this series on writing?
So good! I’m going to have to catch up on the other posts in this series 🤓
So good Jackie! Thank you for sharing. This has helped me a lot.
Pingback: Topics in YA Lit Presentation | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS