Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Obligatory Contemplative Post-Book-Sale Blog Post

My debut picture book, “Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse,” sold to Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers last week. There’s a period at the end of that sentence, though there should probably be 25 exclamation points. But that was last week, and like all human creatures, I’ve adapted to this incredible good news and returned to my baseline state of happiness. There’s a big, fancy term for this. It’s called “hedonic adaptation,” one of many facts I discovered while researching the writing project I’ve been working on for years, my adult literary novel, “Happy, Indiana.” That was the book I was planning to sell.
What's next for me, world?
“Adrian Simcox” was a side project, born on a rainy spring afternoon when a burst of inspiration, brought on by reading a stack of award-winning picture books (and an extra cup of coffee), sent me to my file of kid-book ideas and quickly then to my computer. The book came out in one session, as I nervously watched the clock because I had to pick up my kids from school, but wanted to get every thought down on paper first. I was in the “zone” and when you’re in there, you don’t ask questions; you just write. It needed editing, of course, lots, but still I felt with that first draft that I might have done something special.

Two years ago, I posted this piece about how I don’t write for children, primarily because it’s super hard and I’m not good enough. I left the door open for the possibility, though. And now, with this picture book sale, that door has been opened with such force that the hinges have popped right off. That’s an exhilarating feeling, a scary one, too. Before the sale was even final, I was wondering if I could pull something like this off a second time, and my ever-patient husband was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” DRINK THIS CHAMPAGNE AND CELEBRATE, DAMN IT!!!” And so I did.

But this week, it’s back to the page, and back to that novel, for now. I feel confident that this revision may be the one to tie up all those lingering loose ends, that it might be good enough to land an agent (my new agent reps children’s fiction, so I’d need another to rep any adult work), and maybe even get a publisher. But, I must confess. As I’m working on novel revisions, my brain keeps filling with picture book ideas, so much so that I eventually just kept a file open on my computer so I could quickly switch back and forth.

I love my novel. I love writing essays. But this recent development has opened up a whole new, but certainly related, career path, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve got no shortage of “things I’m thinking about” but now I feel much more empowered to put those things into whatever written form will best serve the idea. Some ideas are more suited to adults, some to children. My options have increased, and that’s a very good thing.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

What To Do When Your Book Is On Submission

My picture book is on submission! What does that mean? Well, this is the phase when you’ve signed with a super duper agent (see previous post), you’ve made any edits to your manuscript that the agent suggests and then the agent submits your book to a list of editors at various publishing houses who he thinks would be a great fit.

This is one of the many reasons why having a good agent is so important! Believe it or not, in the middle of the cornfield in which I live, I am not lunching with editors on a daily basis. I'm new to the publishing world and don't have contacts. My agent does. In fact, at many publishers, you cannot even submit a manuscript on your own. You have to do so through an agent. There are so many writers out there, agents only take on books they are pretty sure they can sell. This is why the word on the street is that it's harder to get an agent these days than it is to sell the book. 

My agent put together a nifty list of editors he thought would be perfect for my book and sent my manuscript to them. And now we wait.

Many things can happen during this time. All of them could say, “I hate it!” (unlikely, since the agent has done his homework). One, or more, editors could like it and make an offer (yay!). If numerous editors express an interest in bidding, then the book can go to auction. This doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, it's pretty awesome. 

There are several ways to do an auction, one being a traditional auction where the editors keep bidding higher and higher, in rounds, until there’s one left standing, at which point, the author takes that bid. There’s also something known as a "best bid blind auction" where everyone just puts their best offer out there from the start, not knowing what the other publishers are doing. The author isn’t forced to take the top offer. Maybe there’s an offer that came in lower, but the author just really feels like that editor/publisher would be great to work with. That’s a-okay!

Hey look! Hardwood!
Keep in mind that before an editor can even make an offer, he or she has to meet with others at the publishing house, make sure they agree that the book is one they must have, think about how it fits with other books they have coming out, discuss who might illustrate it (I’ve only written the text. You do NOT want to see my drawings!) Also before making an offer, an editor might want to talk to the author, to get a sense of where the author is coming from, and to convince the author that her or his publishing house is the best choice. This is also an opportunity for the author to find out if she “clicks” with a particular editor, since the two of them would be working closely together for many months on the book.

This can take weeks. And so, things to do while my book is on submission:

 (A) Pull up that yucky carpeting in the living room 

 (B) Brush the dog


 (C) Take many long walks

 (D) Work on another book


Well, I’m sure my agent would say D, but I'm thinking C, followed by B. (This dog isn't going to brush himself!)