This article was published in the WRITERS' LIFE column of the August 2011 edition of the RWAustralia Hearts Talk magazine.
With conference fast approaching, part of the fun of attending one is meeting the authors and listening to their stories of ‘life after getting the CALL’. I took it all in with keen anticipation, dreaming of the day I walked in their shoes, but it wasn’t until I stepped over the threshold that I really understood what they were talking about.
Simple fact is getting the call really does change your life in many, many ways. Some good, some unexpected.
Having done the research yonks ago I was already in the process of submitting queries, so contacting my top list of I’d-kill-to-be-represented-by-these-agents was a matter of whipping off a few emails alerting them to the book deal on offer.
I can’t stress enough if you’re submitting work to editors, and intend being represented by an agent then make the time to find out about whom you’d like to represent you. Leaving it to the last minute is stress you don’t need.
Why? Well, that seven days will be manic (particularly if you’re working across time zones). Let me repeat that.
Organise representation, scheduling phone calls, e-mails to’ing and fro’ing from your agent and editor, and then sealing the deal with the publisher. Be prepared for a week of little sleep.
And if this isn’t excitement enough for you, the prospect of embarking on two new professional relationships – with your agent and editor - is a feeling you won’t ever forget.
Another thing, if you end up with a multiple book deal offer, like I did (ie. a series), have a short outline of your books ready to send your agent/editor. Think back cover blurbs. With only a week to negotiate the deal, and most of that taken up arranging representation by an agent, I ended up writing two extra blurbs in less than twenty-four hours. Not recommended.
Remember all those sessions at conference where you heard authors say ‘be disciplined, produce a daily word, write even though you don’t feel like it’? Engrave those words on your forehead or pin them up in your office at eye level. You no longer have the luxury of time or procrastination once you have a legally binding deadline.
Producing my first and second contracted books has been a huge learning experience but the one thing I now understand is that it takes more time than you think to juggle everything.
It’s life vs. the publishing process (sending in a synopsis & sample chapters, author bio/photo, acknowledgements page, revisions, copy edits, cover copies, galleys, marketing and promotion etc., beginning the next book and repeating that process).
It all takes time away from writing your next book. Next contract (yes, being optimistic here!), I’m adding another two months minimum to the deadline.
Another lesson I learned – it’s easy to get tied up writing your own stories and end up feeling ‘stale’. Reading for pleasure is a must, even when I’m writing. I need it. It’s like a respite or recharging of the batteries.
It’s been an amazing journey so far, a lot of exciting firsts – getting The Call, receiving the first cover, being hit by the realisation that my book is really going to be in print, finding out who’s going to write the cover-quotes of my book, and meeting fair dinkum deadlines.
I have a quote on the wall in my office that says, “When I’m writing I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” (Anne Sexton). It’s so true. I’m almost a year into my journey and while I’ve yet to experience the joy of seeing my first book on the shelves, I wouldn’t give up or swap what I’m doing for anything.
Yes, the learning curves have been steep, and I know I’m still wearing L-plates having just crossed over the unpubbed-pubbed line, but I love my ‘new career’ - the learning, the passion of creating, the pressure and stress, the satisfaction of meeting goals, they’re all part of the life I’ve chosen for myself.
It’s a delicate balance between portraying the joys and the reality of being published. I don’t want to discourage anybody or put anyone off achieving their dream, but I hope that by sharing some of my journey with you, yours will be that little bit more informed.
See you on the flip-side!