Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Timothy's first review!

Well ladies and gents, Montgomery Van Murphy the Third has garnered his first review courtesy of the lovely Alice Loweecey over at You may recall my posting about her awesome review of Alex, and commenting that aside from it being a very positive review of the book, it also was just really well written.

There is real craft in writing a review, and Ms. Loweecey excels at it.

At any rate, check out her great review of Timothy and the Dragon's Gate here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The new and improved Hardcore Nerdity!

Very short post today folks! I'm still recovering from a weekend of sheer geekitude at FanExpo here in Toronto.

Some of you may remember that I am a part of a site called Hardcore Nerdity. Well we have taken it to the next level, and this weekend we had a table at the convention trying to promote it.

Basically the site has evolved into a sort of Myspace but with a nerdish twist. We've got this whole social networking aspect now, while still including the content (news, reviews, podcasts and interviews). The idea really is to create this network where everyone shares scoops with each other. If you post a cool review or pictures or whatever on your page and send us a note, then we can feature it on the main page. Really it's about fans helping fans. It's pretty cool. For more info about the site check out this old blog post.

Anyway . . . there were adventures a plenty (I got to meet Edward James Olmos and I melted into a little puddle when I did), but mostly I am posting this so you guys can check it out, and if you feel so inclined, join up! It's pretty awesome, and is taking off quite nicely!

So yes . . .check out the new and improved!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So You Want To Get Published . . . from agent to publisher

The second entry in my series "So You Want To Get Published". For those just joining us, please also check out Part 1 - Getting An Agent.



Here's the thing.

With all of this, this whole basics of publishing thing I'm doing here, nothing is straightforward. I really hope I am getting that across. Authors get published in the most interesting and unusual fashions, at times it comes out of the blue, at others the author has been working decades before anything happens. Anything I write here is simply "typical". The usual, boring, tried and tested path. The one that works most predictably. But you must understand that this mission, should you truly choose to accept it, is weird, counter intuitive at times, at others incredibly impersonal, and at others so intimate that everyone you meet becomes your closest confidence.

Just so's ya know.


We last left off with getting an agent! Yay, we finally got an agent!! We celebrated in however manner we chose to celebrate, we called everyone we knew, posted on every writer forum we belonged to, and bought a new pair of shoes.

What next?

Next it is likely you and your agent will get together (either in person or over the phone) and discuss a game plan for your book and career. At this point (finally) you can discuss the idea of sequels, or series.*

*It is important to note that when submitting to agents, you must make sure to stress that your novel can stand on its own. There is no point for a new author to attempt to sell a series at this stage in the game. You need to prove you are capable of holding a reader's attention through one book, let alone several. Now if you do have a series I would recommend writing something like this: "My Amazing Book is a stand alone novel at 80 000 words with series potential." That's it.

Anyway . . .

Your agent may have some ideas how to pitch your work, may even use some of your query letter. She may ask for a short biography, possibly even a photograph. You may be asked to write a short snappy synopsis. Or she may feel it best to do all these things herself. At this stage you should realise that you are a team. You are allowed to give your input, ask your questions, and even disagree. But remember, your agent has been doing this a long time, you agreed to work with her. Trust is kind of important here too. But not blind trust.

Remember, always be thoughtful. That is key.

Then your agent will send your work out on submission. This is where you feel a bit like you are starting all over again. Only this time you aren't alone. This time when you get a rejection your agent gets one too. This time not only you, but your agent gets frustrated at that.

It's actually rather nice.

So . . . again . . . no two roads to publication are alike . . . there are many different paths that can be taken.

There is the nothing but rejection path. That sucks. That's where after a year or two you and your agent have a heart to heart, discuss other projects you have going on, maybe it's time to just bite the bullet and put the MS away. Maybe the agent will keep submitting it, this time to smaller houses, but thinks you should focus on the new novel.

There is the rejection from several publishers with constructive criticism path. This can be useful. If you start hearing the same stuff from all the publishers, you and your agent may decide it's time to revamp the MS. Give it a serious long look, and a serious long edit. You may stop the submission process at this point, go back to the drawing board, and then come back for round two.

Then there's the interest path. Which also has other paths off of which there are yet more.

Because when an editor shows interest, that isn't the end of it. The editor likes it. So he has to take it to the higher ups. They like it. So he has to present it at the acquisitions meeting - where not only does he have to convince the creative folks how awesome a story this is, but the marketing folks how awesome it will be to market, and the accounting folks how much money this book will make.

And each step will likely be reported back to the agent, who may (or may not) then report it to you.

So you wait.

And take each baby step. And cross your fingers.

And feel totally and utterly out of control of the situation.

And then . . . you get an offer. Chances are with this offer your agent will attempt to negotiate a better deal, things like a higher advance and an increase in royalties should you sell, say, more than 25 000 copies of your book.

There also may be other things in the contract, like which rights you retain, and which you give to them (a topic which I think deserves a blog post of its own), that will also need to be modified.

And then, finally, you have a deal! And you have a publisher!


Hold on! But that's not the only successful path my friend. Now we must rewind, go back, to the fourth path and that is . . .

The multiple interest path.

Your agent sends out your MS. Not only does one publishing house love it . . . but FOUR publishing houses love it. They love it so much that they are willing to fight each other for it. And though it would be awesome to see them duke it out in the boxing ring, trust me you want them to fight the way they fight in the publishing industry.

And that's with offers.

It is at this point that your agent will decide to hold an auction, where the publishers go a couple rounds trying to outbid each other for your work. Then you, the author, get to choose. How rare and wonderful to be in such a position !

Now you may think the choice is simple, go for more money. But it isn't just about that. The publishers will detail marketing strategies for your book as well. This is incredibly important, as I am sure you can imagine. They will also talk about their passion for your work, which, though very pleasant to hear, is also very key for an author. This is because you can tell from what caught their interest etc if they are in the same place as you with your book. If they truly "get it". Which though kind of artsy, is rather important, seeing as they will be editing your work, designing a cover for your book, and building advertising around it. You'd better hope they are as passionate about it as you are.

And then, you choose which publisher to go with.

And now you've got a publisher (whether through auction or not - still pretty cool)!

(As ever, this can be a VERY long process . . . some books take years to sell. The first Harry Potter was sent everywhere for a year before anyone was interested. Just keep that in mind.)

The money thing:

I mentioned money earlier. What do I mean by that? How does an author get paid? In the simplest terms it works as follows:

The way an author makes money is from "royalties". Royalties are a percentage of book sales. This can vary in percentage, but a typical royalty for a hardcover book ranges from 10% - 12% off the book's price. However, publishers kind of get that it takes a while for a book to come out, a year at least, and they don't really want their author to starve. So what happens is typically an author receives an advance (not always, especially if the publishing house is smaller) on royalties. Once you get this money you do not earn any more money when your book starts selling until you have made back the advance. Then you begin to earn royalties on top of the advance

So. Let's say your publisher pays you a $10 000 advance. Let's say that your books will be priced at $10 and you are getting 10% royalties. That means you would earn $1 off of every book sold. That means you have to sell 10 000 copies of your book in order to make back the $10 000 advance. Once you sell 10 000 copies of your book, you start earning money on top of that.

Now logically you would then suppose that if you didn't sell 10 000 books, you would technically owe the publisher money because they gave you the money as if you had. But you don't. The author does not have to pay back the advance.

Score! Well yes and no. Yes because the money is yours, but then things can get . . . political.

And this is where the debate over large and small advances comes in. Is it better to have a small advance, earn out, and make royalties, or is it better to get a large advance with the chance of not earning out?

The advantages of the small advance:

- more likely success rate of earning out
- if the book does really well, exceeds expectations, you will still get the money you would have got with a large advance
- earning out will impress your publisher and they will probably be very keen on your next book

The disadvantages of the small advance:

- less money
- if your book doesn't do very well, if you don't earn out your advance, you have a small sum of money and the publisher might not be that keen on your next book.

The advantages of a large advance:

- more money
- with more money invested, the publisher is likely going to put more effort into making it back. That means probably more marketing and more push to sell your book.
- you still can earn out a large advance, and then well, your publisher will love you for that and be keen on your next book
- even if you don't earn out, you've still made a lot of money

The disadvantages to a large advance:

- less potential to earn out, meaning no added income on top of the advance
- if you don't earn out, the publisher may be less keen on buying the next book from you
- depending on the size of the advance and the marketing buzz, there is a potential for being a big flop that most everyone in the industry knows about, not helping your chances at getting published with another house
- basically: the bigger they are, the harder they fall

Now keep in mind that a small advance doesn't mean you won't get marketing attention. Some houses will funnel money towards publicity that otherwise would have gone to a larger advance.

Also keep in mind that publishers do the figures expecting that most books won't earn out, so if you get the big advance and don't earn out, it isn't necessarily the end of the world.

Remember everything I am writing here are generalisations, things to keep in mind. Nothing is an absolute in the publishing industry and rules are broken every day.

And now a story:

I know an author who got an agent. Yay! Together they spent a year submitting her MS to some interest, but no luck. Then the agent met with an editor asking if the agent had a client writing in a particular genre because that was something this editor really liked and was looking for. This agent returned to the author and asked if the author had anything like that. The author thought about it, and then wrote a sample chapter and sent it to the agent. Who sent it to the editor. Who really liked it.

The editor, agent and author worked together for several months firming up the first few chapters and plot synopsis. Once the editor thought it was brilliant she took it to a meeting where everyone else thought it was brilliant too. The publishers made an offer. On three books.

The author was very happy.

The end.

Moral of the tale . . . not one step in this story (aside from the editor taking the book to a meeting) was a step I outlined above. Everything happened for this author in an unusual way. This author was unpublished and writing on spec as if she were a famous author already. If you have been published many times, you get to a point where all you have to do is submit a proposal and maybe a sample chapter and you can get a contract that way. Still, this author did just that. Even though she had never had a book deal.

So you see, there is simply no right way to get there. As I said at the beginning there is the most predictable method (which if you will read my road to publication journey, linked in the sidebar, you'll see was my method - I am dull that way, what can I say?), but sometimes things work in mysterious ways.

Even so, you'll notice how the author put in a lot of work on the MS before even signing a contract, before even knowing if the rest of the publishing house was going to be interested. And you also see how she listened to the people in the industry, took their advice, and respected their opinions (what you might not see, because I didn't tell you, was that she also found a way to make the subject her own to the point where it was no longer just writing on spec, but also writing for passion). And yes it did take a bit of luck. But we all know what the key to luck is right? You have to be prepared when it strikes. You have to be ready to grab it and run with it.

Because luck can only open the door. You're the one who's still got to make that grand entrance.

So there we have it! From agent to publisher!

Next time . . . the making of a book!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Timothy and the Dragon's Gate - we have an ARC!

Yes I am just bursting with news this week!!

Ladies and Gents let me introduce to you my ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of Timothy and the Dragon's Gate!

Ta- da!

(For those of you not in the know, an ARC is what publishers send out several months before the book is actually published to garner reviews, blurbs and hopefully a bit of buzz. Last year I got so excited about my ARC for Alex that I just had to give it a name. I chose Ted.)

I am very happy to say, that along with my page proofs, I am just as thrilled to have the Timothy ARC as I was with Ted. It's a truly amazing feeling seeing your words bound together like a real life book and with such a stunning cover - which is the official cover by the way. You'll note there have been a few tweaks.

I also enjoy carrying it around with me in my purse and showing it to random strangers. Because I have no shame.

Yes, I love my ARC. He is so pretty. He is so very book like. He makes me feel that my life is pretty darn okay. He's proof that I actually managed to write another book. I have two books. I have a series. Adrienne Kress is the author of a series. I can't quite believe it! Wow.

My ARC rocks.

So now. . .

Let me present to you . . .

In all his glory . . .

My ARC of Timothy and the Dragon's Gate!!

I think I shall call him Montgomery Van Murphy the Third.

The front cover of Montgomery Van Murphy the Third.

The back cover of Montgomery Van Murphy the Third.

The glorious spine (I have a thing for spines) of Montgomery Van Murphy the Third.

And here is Ted and Montgomery Van Murphy the Third meeting for the first time. They like each other.
(note - this is the actual original Ted, that ARC of Alex I carried around with me everywhere, you can see how worn he is!)

And the official cover of Timothy and the Dragon's Gate!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

ALEX out in paperback!

Yes my friends, we take yet another brief hiatus from "So you want to get published . . ." to announce something most exciting for yours truly . . .

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman is out in paperback! And I has seen it and held it in my very own hands!!

So to compare it to its big brother (on the left):

Front covers . . .

Back covers . . .


I think you'll agree that little brother more than holds his own.

And that he's very pretty.

At least I think so.

But I'm just a tiny bit biased.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How the publishing industry does NOT work

At cottage again with the limited internet access, so while we wait for the official second installment of "So you want to get published . . . " let me share with you a lovely YouTube video that demonstrates exactly what does NOT happen in one's quest to get published (aside from the dancing, the dancing is perfectly accurate).

Check it out here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

So you want to get published . . . getting an agent.

A few weeks back in a desperate attempt not to use my own brain I asked my lovely readers for suggestions. And I got some really awesome ones. I hope to address them all, but there was one that really stood out for me because, well it hadn't occurred to me that I had yet to write about it.

It was from Jo, and she wrote: I'd like to know more about the business side of being a writer -publishing, contracts, money, deals, agents, whatever you can share! Thank you :)

At first I was all like, "Haven't I done that already?" And then I was all like, "OMG I haven't."

I have talked about my personal process, I have talked about interesting things I have learned about the industry. But I haven't talked about the very practical steps one takes to get published, nor about what the industry is like on the inside.


So now I shall. I imagine it will be several posts worth, not sure how long or where it will take us, but let's just enjoy the ride shall we?

So you want to get published . . . the getting the agent bit.

You've written a book. First job, celebrate. Writing a book is a HUGE deal, and not an accomplishment everyone can boast of. Many people start books, oh yes, but very few cross the finish line. So go, celebrate, I'll wait till you get back.

I am going to make an assumption here now. I am going to assume that by finishing a book you have edited it, made it brilliant, bit the bullet and cut it pieces. I'm assuming by finishing a book you are ready now to submit the book. I may talk about the revising stage at a later date, but right now we is all about the getting published.

So what do you do next?

Get an agent.

In very simple terms an agent is someone who is a middle man/woman. You give them your manuscript, and then they give it to the publishers. They try to sell your work for you. They have contacts in the industry. They also can read contracts and understand what everything means.

You don't have to get an agent, but you really should. Why? Because these days you will be hard pressed to get a big publishing house to look at your manuscript (from now on referred to as MS) without an agent having sent it to them. There are smaller publishers who will take unagented submissions, but for the most part an agent is the way to go. Agents have become the guardians as it were of the publishing houses. If a publishing house gets a MS from an agent, they assume that it has already been vetted to a degree, that it was good enough for an agent to like and therefore in turn something for them to like.

But agents aren't just there to work for publishers. They are there for the benefit of the writer as well. To read about how awesome a great agent is, and what they do aside from just sell your work, click here.

Now getting an agent is hard. It can take years to get an agent. But the steps are very straightforward. BTW these are North American steps, the UK steps are similar, but a tiny bit different.

So first step:

1. Research. Find an agent that likes the kind of stuff you write. You also need to make sure you know that the agent is legit. There are a lot of scam agents out there. Typically you can tell an agent is a scam if they charge you money. You never pay an agent. They take a percentage off the work they sell for you.

(note: there are truly tricky scam agents out there who don't charge you up front, but then say that your MS needs editing and then recommend an editor who you'll have to pay. This is just not done with legitimate agents.)

So check out the Writer's Handbook, Predators and Editors (to see if the agent is a scam), There are other good places to check out too - I have a nice list of useful links here.

So, you found some agents you like.

2. Now you must write a query letter to send to the agents.

Please visit to read about writing a query letter. They are tricky and take a fair bit of work. A query letter needs to reflect your work as well as sell your story, and present you as a professional person worth working with. All in one page single spaced.

3. Send off query letters to agents.

Wow! An agent is totally blown away by your query letter! She asks you for a "partial".

4. A partial can be of varying lengths. Sometimes they ask for the first three chapters, sometimes the first 50 pages. Whatever you do don't send them something from the middle of your MS even if you think that's the best bit. If you don't think your beginning is good enough to win an agent, then work on the beginning. Because if it isn't good enough to win an agent, then it definitely won't win over the discriminating reader.

Let me just get this over with now. You will see many an internet argument over which font to use for your MS. It's not that complicated. Either Courier or Times New Roman, size 12. Double space your MS. Make sure that you have a header on each page of the MS that includes your name, name of the book, and page number. This is in case the agent prints up the MS and then drops it. By mistake of course.

If you are snail mailing the partial, be sure to include a stamped self addressed envelope in the submission package. Also write a cover letter reminding the agent of what they requested, I'd advise also sending the original query letter for reference.

Wow! She loved your partial! Now she asks you for a "full".

5. A full is the full MS. Follow the same advice as for the partial.

Wow! She loved your full . . . but. . . she has a few suggestions for revisions.

6. Now . . . while this is an excellent sign, there is no guarantee that after you make the revisions she will sign you. So don't get ahead of yourself. Also really consider the suggestions. Agents read a lot and really know their business. They might not be right in all their suggestions, but I bet they have a point with most of them. I was told to cut 10 000 words. When I did, my book was so much better for it.

Wow! You did the revisions and she loved it! She calls you! She wants to meet you! She wants to . . . .sign you!! Yay!

7. You have an agent!

So easy isn't it? Such simple steps one after the other . . .

Problem is there is the potential of rejection with each step. Worse still, if you fail at one level, you don't just go down one step. No you go all the way back to the beginning again. Back to the query letter stage. Like an evil evil game of snakes and ladders.

For this reason authors can go years before landing an agent.

Some advice then in your quest:

  1. Learn what the rejections mean and use it to your advantage
  • a rejection on a full may mean that there is something wrong with the structure of your story, or it may just mean the work isn't quite right for the agent - like it doesn't quite suit her tastes. Often at this level the agent will write a more detailed rejection letter. Unless your full has been rejected many times, I would wait before doing a major overhaul. If however you are hearing the same thing from everyone, it may be worth having a look.
  • a rejection on a partial is similar to a full, but quite possibly has something more to do with the quality of the writing. There was something in the partial that didn't grab the agent enough to want to read the whole thing. What was it? Maybe they just didn't connect with the story or voice. Maybe there was something off in the structure. Maybe something off in the writing. Hopefully you will get a detailed rejection letter at this point as well. However if you aren't getting past the "partial" stage, in that no one ever requests a full, I would take a close look at the MS again.
  • a rejection on a query. At once both the best and worst kind of rejection. Getting rejected when someone hasn't even read your work can really sting. How can an agent judge your work by something that isn't your work? Trust me they can. And they can do it well, but that's another discussion altogether. BUT the good news is the problem may be simply the quality of your query letter, and not the story itself. If you are getting nothing but rejections on your query letter, revise the query letter.*
* for that reason a lot of people recommend sending queries out in smaller batches of half a dozen or so, to see how it is received. In this way you have the opportunity to fix the query and not waste your opportunities sending out a bad one to every agent.

2. Go to conferences.

Agents go to conferences. They have things which are called "pitch sessions" where an author can sit with them for 10 minutes and pitch their work. Aside from that you can also just introduce yourself to them in the bar or whathaveyou. Get to know them, get to understand that they are people too. Go to their panel discussions and see what they are looking for. Ask them questions. Though always be professional and polite, and please don't corner them in the bathroom.

Also at conferences you can meet some other awesome writers, and exchange stories and strategies. You'll also feel less alone in your quest. You may even make some lifelong friends.

3. Read their blogs.

A lot of agents now blog. It can get confusing with all the conflicting information that they share. But the good part is you get to know their personalities, you get to learn their likes and dislikes. It's research, but at a whole new level. Also it's very interesting.

So that right now is the getting the agent part of the process. We shall continue with what happens next . . . next (click here for "From Agent to Publisher").

(and if you guys could let me know if this is helpful at all, I'd really appreciate it, thank you!)