Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Guest blogger: Janice Hardy - So, what’s it like being a published author?

tall tales & short stories would like to welcome back Janice Hardy as this week's Guest Blogger.

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Janice has very kindly contributed some insightful and educational posts to this blog and she's returned to tell us about her writing journey since her debut novel, The Shifter (US title) / The Pain Merchants (UK title) was published in 2009.

The Long and Writing Road

So, what’s it like being a published author? you ask. Has my life changed any since I published my book?

Not as much as you’d think. There have been changes for sure, but more in the time management area than anything else. However, the first year did go differently than the second year. Not all of it was what I expected, and some of it I wished I’d been better prepared for.

Year One: Book One

What I Expected: Lots of edits from my brand new editor in the form of those “edit letters” I’d read about. Not a lot else, actually. I’d heard so much about how little authors are involved in the covers, the marketing, the business side, I wasn’t sure how much interaction I’d really have with my editor.

What I Got: A lot more attention and involvement. My edit letters (I got more than one) weren’t as bad as the stories I’d heard, and the suggestions were almost always dead on. They were similar to the critiques I get from my crit group in style and tone, so there were no “scary letter from my editor” or anything. I did the changes I agreed with, send it back, thought I was done, then I’d get a “just a few more queries” email with things she caught again. I also found it interesting that they refer to questions as “queries,” so I guess you never escape “query letters” (har har). My editor and I spoke on the phone, we emailed, we talked again. There was a strong sense of a partnership to make the book the best it could be.

Then came the copy edits. A post-it-apocalypse of notes and comments. All of them good, and very impressive from a proofreading standpoint. I was awed by what the copy editor caught. Things like consistency of terms, spots where the voice didn’t sound right, unclear areas, etc. Several rounds of these, same as the regular edits.

And during all this, I got to meet my publicity person from Harper (through email and phone), who went over the marketing plans for the release. I got to fill out an author questionnaire to help them with their marketing efforts. I had taken an online marketing class to prepare for this, so I sent her what I’d done in class and she was thrilled. She asked me about local bookstores and events so she’d know what things to focus on.

My agent was also right there through it all, making sure I understood what everything meant and asking questions I hadn’t known to ask. She also kept me updated on marketing efforts, print runs, how the bookstores were reacting to the book. She definitely had my back the whole time.

What Surprised Me: The edits were done on hard copy. I fully expected it all to be electronic. I was also allowed to participate in my cover designs. My day job is as a graphic designer, so the cover was important to me. I asked to be included and my editor graciously said yes. I was also surprised by the sheer number of people working behind the scenes to make sure my book was as good as it could be. The biggest surprise though, was how much influence book buyers have. Two major chains in the US didn’t like my title (though they loved the book), so we changed the title. It makes sense now, but I wasn’t expecting that.

What I Wish I’d Known: Even though I took the marketing class, I wish I’d done more to prepare for that side of it. My publisher did a lot, but I feel like I missed a few opportunities here and there over that first year. It wasn’t until much later that I figured out a good pitch line to describe my book to folks who asked (and they do ask). Or had cards printed up so I had something to hand them when they did ask. Or a catchy “sales speak” tagline about my book to put on my website and marketing materials. I was still treating my book like a book, but by then, it had become a product that needed selling.

Year Two: Book Two

What I Expected: The same things that happened in book one. Every book goes through the same process, right? Book two would be as easy to write as book one, and everything would go just as smoothly.

What I Got: Second books are different on practically every level. They aren’t kidding about that second-book slump, where your second published novel is hard to write and makes you want to give up. There was also less hand holding. My editor was as attentive as before, and I didn’t feel neglected, but she knew I’d been though it and now I understood how things worked. And she knew how I worked and knew I wasn’t going to melt down if she had a lot of comments or wanted me to do any major revisions. The copy edits were the same, though we did a lot more of them since the book was such a mess.

I also was assigned a new publicity person. They don’t do as much marketing on second books because you already have a reader base from book one. So that meant a little more effort on my part.

They let me become even more involved in the cover design, and I got to create mock ups for the illustrator. The cover of Blue Fire is my concept, (so is the idea for book three) and illustrator Brandon Dorman did an amazing job with it. This meant so much to me as a designer.

What Surprised Me: How hard book two was. I’d written plenty of novels, so it wasn’t like it was a real second book. But trust me, the book you write under contract feels a lot differently. I was also surprised by the change in the marketing, though it made sense, because my first PR person dealt more with debut novels, and I was no longer a debut. The biggest surprise – how supportive everyone was about me missing my deadlines and struggling so much with the novel. They all knew this happens and they were right there helping me through it. The book would not be getting the great reviews it’s getting now if it weren’t for my editor and agent. They had the faith that I could do it when I didn’t. They pushed me to do better and made me realize I really could do this.

What I Wish I’d Known: How hard it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was all worth it, but the pressure is a lot higher on a second book. You’re writing book two while book one is out there, and you’re checking sales figures and reading reviews, and promoting your work and that takes a lot of time and energy away from the writing. And most books aren’t a runaway bestseller out of the gate, so there’s that added worry that your book will fail, even when it’s getting good reviews. You feel like you need to do so much, but the more you do the more you wear yourself out. You need to pace yourself, take care of yourself so you can stay in for the long haul.

The Year Three: Book Three Plan

I’m better prepared now. I know what to expect on both sides, good and bad. I’ll schedule my time and efforts better so I’m not so overwhelmed. I’ll work on marketing efforts far enough in advance so I’m ready for opportunities and not rushing at the last minute to get everything done. I’ll take a more proactive hand in marking and promotion, but not let it take over so I’m not getting any writing done. I think I’ll be able to find that balance between life, day job, and writing so none of them suffer and I’m not a crazy person half the year.

At least that’s the plan...


Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Janice Hardy's Posts on tall tales & short stories:



Nick Cross said...

That was an outstanding post, Janice, thank you. It answered a lot of the questions I'm having right now about the next stage of the process.

On the other hand, my book one writing trials sound a lot like your book two problems. I shall try to stay optimistic and hope that I'm experiencing all of the angst upfront and that it will get easier later!

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks! Hopefully you did get your second book slump out of the way. There are those who don't experience it, but they are few and far between from what everyone tells me. I do think it gets easier overall, even when you hit slumps along the way. I learned a lot from that second book, both about writing and myself as a writer.

Antonia Woodville said...

thanks for the open ness and honesty, Janice. My first book is out there at the moment, the second is being worked on, as in AI sheets are going out (approved by me first) and the cover is being designed whilst I work on book 7 and hoping I am not asked to go back into book 2 too much ... Book 1 was very much as you described, lots of input, and worries about it. Fortunately for me, the editor I work with is very well known to me, has been for quite a few years, so we work well together and I don't argue about marketing strategy and the like.
Many congratulations on good reviews, hope the sales stack up, keep writing!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing what to expect. I was hoping you'd say it's all easy after the first book, you make a million so you can quit your day job, etc. Just kidding. Like you say, there's a lot to consider and when you're under contract there is more pressure. But you seem to handle it so well.

Janice Hardy said...

Antonia, good luck with your books. Book 7? Wow, I can't even imagine a series that long. Good for you.

Natalie, I was hoping for that myself :) So far I am managing, but the last few months have been extra tough. But it's almost over and then things will lighten up. But it was a good learning experience on what to do to prevent the same kinds of stress.

Tracy said...

Many thanks to Janice for writing this post - she's contributed some great insights into the world of children's publishing for the blog.

I can't wait to read Blue Fire - The Pain Merchants was a fantastic book and one of those ideas I wish I'd thought of.

Thanks again Janice
You're a star.

Janice Hardy said...

Aw, thanks so much Tracy! You run a great blog here and are so supportive of your fellow writers. I know I appreciate that a lot.

Linda said...

Thank you very much for this helpful, down-to-earth blog. It's so useful to hear what it's really like, in detail.

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