Saturday, November 24, 2007

Selling a Book - Part 2

I shocked you, didn’t I? With that work-related post yesterday? You thought C. Leigh would be all sleepy and lazy after a long Thanksgiving meal and that she’d post something about nice friends and watching “The Incredibles,” but she fooled you! She went for the serious stuff!

Who writes about publishing the day after Thanksgiving? Who’s crazy like that? Your Hollywood connection, that’s who. She’s got work on her brain and has been for days and days. She’s woken up early thinking about scenes she wants - nay, must - write. Characters who are desperate to speak to her and get their words down on the page. And for two days she’s been so flippin’ busy with other pie-related matters that she didn’t have time to work! And now she’s so crazy, she’s talking about herself in the third person.

So I wanted to mention the next thing about the book sale and that is the work after the fact, after the deal is struck. The honeymoon ends very quickly when you get the editor’s notes. They usually come in the form of a long email and in the case of my editor, begin with generalities (as in, shorten act one and lengthen act two) and then get into specifics (as in, shorten act one by fifty pages and get rid of these characters). You freak out ever-so-briefly because you thought you’d sold a book that was going to be printed into book-like form and then you find out alas, no, you only sold something resembling a book.

If you’re like me, you outline the book again and look for the sections of problems that your fantastic editor (who has a much greater image of the big picture than you do) has clued you into. Then - before you have a conversation with him or her - you figure out where you can make some of the changes he or she needs and what you absolutely have to keep. It’s really a good idea to know this going in because this is a process of compromise. This is why you (and I) did the earlier edit: to show that you (and I) can be flexible when it comes to the rewrite.

This will happen over and over again. So get used to it. And trust me, it’s way better in the long run. You will be much happier and so will your editor and publisher. Having sold and rewritten only two books with my editor, I can’t pretend to be a Stephen King-level expert but I’ve seen a trend or two emerge from the process.

The rewrite can go on for a year and a half, as it did with LOVE, MEG or just a few months, as it did with ALL ABOUT VEE. Why am I telling you this? Why did I even label this “Selling a Book” when clearly this is post-sale? Because this is what is involved in selling a book. You don’t just sell it and go away and write another. There is much work to be done and I think it’s important that writers realize this.

And this isn’t nearly as bad as the movies. In that business, writers are rewritten constantly: by producers and directors and actors and other writers. You get used to it. You have to. In publishing, it’s just you and your editor and that relationship is very important to the ultimate health of your book. Cherish it, nourish it, respect it. You will be much better off if you do.

Your Hollywood connection,