When I sold my first book, I was way beyond naive. I had no clue how incredibly lucky I’d been. I’d never taken a writing class (beyond a high-school class where we had to write an autobiography). I’d never been to a conference, never heard of Romance Writers of America, never met an editor, never met a published author.
What I had done was make up stories my entire life, sometimes telling them, usually writing them down. I had read a ton of romance novels, and I’d sat myself down to first write the book (by hand), then type it (on a typewriter). Yeah, that long ago. 😉
As a result, I didn’t know how hugely the odds were against me. I didn’t have any idea how much money could be made in this business (more then than now, sigh . . .). I didn’t have the slightest notion that there was more to the writing business than just writing. A lot more.
After getting The Letter — no, not The Call — and accepting the offer came the revisions. They were fairly minor. I did more on this last book than that first one. I had my first deadline right away because Silhouette wanted to publish my book in a special promotional deal and they were on a tight schedule. Then came the line-edit, where the editor goes through the manuscript. Followed by the copy-edit, where the copy-editor checks for mistakes, continuity, a little fact-checking, making changes to punctuation to fit house style and catching anything the author and editor missed. Followed by the page proofs, or galleys, which is your last chance to make changes or corrections.
Somewhere in there, I did the art facts sheet, providing a short synopsis of the book, plus detailed descriptions of the hero and heroine and outlining 2-3 scenes for possible use on the cover. Plus, we brainstormed a title. My original title was Moonlight and Shadows, or something similar, but my editor chose Within Reach.
I had to fill out an author bio and get a publicity picture. There’s nothing quite so good at cutting your newly-inflated ego back down to size as trying to come up with something, just one thing, you’ve done of interest in all your years on earth. I thought for a long time. I had nothin’. I was about as interesting as dish water.
I had to send out review copies, join RWA, subscribe to Romantic Times, think about conferences and workshops. I did a few interviews. I fielded questions from people who thought I was now newly rich and people who thought publishing a romance novel was just a step or two above stripping for a living. I had to learn the terminology of the business. (When my editor mentioned that I needed to watch my POV shifts, I responded: “I’m a Navy wife. To me POV means privately-owned vehicle. What does it mean to you?”)(Point of view — whose head we’re in in a particular scene.)
Oh, yeah, and somewhere in there, I had to think about the second book. Write it. Submit it. Get rejected on it. That’s when I learned more business terminology: proposal, synopsis, partial. (A proposal usually consists of a synopsis, or outline, and a chapter or three. A partial is a partial manuscript.)
And when I sold that second book, it all started again. Because I was a fast writer, I’d have three or four manuscripts in various phases of the publishing process at the same time. Sometimes I felt like a chicken with its head cut off.
Today’s aspiring authors are so much better informed than I was. They know what to expect. They can talk knowledgably about contract terms and promotion and editors and agents. They know the biz, they know it’s tough, and they’re still willing to pursue that dream. Gotta admire them.
And now, going back to the chicken part . . .
Happy Easter to all my Peeps!