Friday, November 23, 2007

Selling a Book - Part 1

I’ve mentioned my editor Kristen here and the length of time it took me to rewrite LOVE, MEG after I sold it but I’ve neglected to talk about how it got sold.

That’s a long story and you probably have a lot better things to do, like flossing your teeth or walking your dog.

You say your brother is in charge of walking the dog and you never floss anyway? Well, you might want to think about the consequences of that decision. The dog-walking, that is, not the teeth-flossing. Dogs tend to bond with their walkers.

I’m sorry, what was the question again?

Right, right. The story of how I sold my book. Are you sure you want to know?

Of course you do. That’s probably the second question people ask, “How did you sell your novel?” What they really want to know, since they are probably writers themselves if they even think to ask this question, is, “Was your experience something I can use to sell my novel?”

The easy answer (because I am all about the easy answer) is…sure, why not?

The harder answer, which is more like the truth, is…no, probably not. Every book is different. Every writer is different. The path to publication is generally the same for every book but specifically different for every book.

In an ideal world, you write a book, you rewrite it a few dozen times until it’s perfect, then you call up a publishing house and ask to speak to someone who loves stories about people who walk their dogs but hate to floss and the receptionist connects you to the exact right editor who says she was just that very second wondering when someone would come in with a dog-walking/floss-hating story and when can you send your fantastic manuscript in so she can make you an offer and by the way, what did you have in mind for the cover art?

In the real world, none of this happens. You can try calling a publishing house and hope that the receptionist is a temp who doesn’t know any better and connects you to Ms. Perfect Editor but there is no way Ms. Perfect Editor will agree to read your manuscript, no matter how many times you tell her it’s awesome. If you somehow manage to get her on the phone, instead of her voice mail, she will tell you the publishing house does not accept “unagented, unsolicited submissions.” This means you need to get an agent and then you need to have the editor request the manuscript.

So, back to LOVE, MEG. I had to find an agent first. There are many, many articles and blogs filled with advice about finding an agent and I couldn’t possibly write anything that hasn’t already been written much better. All I will say is that it’s crucial that you find the agent who’s the right one for you and for your work. When I found the right agent for me, the amazing Faye Bender of the Faye Bender Literary Agency, then it was a matter of submitting the manuscript until we found the editor who was the exact right editor for me, which turned out to be Kristen Pettit of Penguin/Razorbill Books. She asked for a rewrite before she could reconsider it but fortunately, during a very long phone conversation, we found we agreed on the direction the book needed to take. I went away, rewrote, she re-read, and we were in business.

After that, the real work began: characters disappeared, some plotlines were collapsed while others were expanded, and yes, the title changed. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog topic, one which I will try to tackle another time, if anyone is interested.

Your Hollywood connection,