Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My agent called...

That phrase brings joy to my heart.  Anytime my agent calls, it's good news.

She called today.

Earlier this week, I wrote a proposal for a sequel to Whisper Falls.  I also gave a one-sentence description of a possible third book.  My agent talked with the acquiring editor, who agreed to buy both.

Oh, yes.  My agent called to let me know that she sold Books 2 and 3 of my Whisper Falls Trilogy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Check Was in the Mail

I have been paid for Whisper Falls.  The check arrived today.  I won't see any more for another eighteen months, but that is okay.

This is my first real income as an author!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Photo Op

I experienced a rite of passage today. I had my author photos made.

Normally, I hate having my photograph made.  Really hate it.  If you look at pictures from family gatherings, I am either not there or in the back in the shadows.  If you look in my daughters' baby books, there are virtually no Mom shots.

Oddly, I didn't have the same reaction to this.  A professional author photo is a requirement.  I am a professional author.  Ergo, photo shoot.

Planning this event was a long, multi-stage process.

  • I hired a photographer, based on a recommendation. I went to the studio's website and was delighted with the examples of the Aimee's work.  (Of course, she wouldn't be in business for long if her gallery was full of bad shots.)  I contacted her. She stated her a fee. I stated my willingness to pay it. We settled on a location, which didn't work out, so we settled on a different one. 
  • I made a hair appointment. Pam has been my stylist for years--and begged me, for years, to color my hair.  I gave her the go-ahead.  Well, more like a half-go-ahead.  We agreed to take the edge off the gray.  
  • I had to pick something to wear.  I own lots of blue shirts, but none struck me as exactly right. I tried on purple, coral, red, and yellow.  Still not satisfied.  So I went out and bought a new blue shirt in a shade I didn't have--medium cobalt.  (I have dark cobalt and light cobalt already--so medium cobalt is a welcome addition.)

The big day arrived.

My hair received a little more than the half-go-ahead.  More like 90% of the edge came off the gray. I have brown hair again.  But this too shall pass.

The medium cobalt top was well worth its sales price.  And I even put on makeup.

All was ready. Until the thunderstorms rolled in.  Boo hiss.  The location for the photo shoot was outside.

The photographer and I conversed via email and decided to proceed.

Fortunately, the sky cleared.  The arboretum was lovely, cool, and sparkly with real raindrops.  And fifteen minutes later, it was done.

I won't see the results until Monday.  But it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Agent

When homeowners decide to sell their house, they must choose whether to sell it themselves (For Sale By Owner) or to find a a real estate agent.

Writers with manuscripts to sell face the same choice--with one major difference. Literary agents are much harder to find. After a long, agonizing search, I found the perfect agent for me.  I'll share what I learned along the way.

Why I Wanted A Literary Agent

There are a lot of Internet resources (such as this blogpost) that explain how writers benefit (or not) from having an agent. I didn't need to read many articles. From the moment I began to pursue publication, I knew I wanted an agent.  My reasons were fairly simple.

  • Agents enjoy the details of the publishing business. I love to write.  It's a great division of labor.
  • Good agents have access to publishing houses that would be closed to an unagented me.
  • An agent with market knowledge and good instincts can advise me on my writing career.

Writers who don't share my reasons may decide to use the For Sale By Owner route.

Where To Start

First, I needed a sellable product.  So I spent the early years of my writing career like all artisans or athletes; I looped through education and practice until I got the product right [or, at least, I thought it was right.]

Next, I formed a clear idea of what I wanted in the ideal agent.  Obviously, I want a professional who is capable of selling the product--my books. But I also wanted more.  My ideal agent would handle the legal and money stuff, like contracts, royalties, and taxes.  She would enjoy reading and critiqueing my manuscripts.  She would have an open door policy [or, rather, an open phone policy] to talk me through insecurities or tough decisions.

All other traits were negotiable.

The Search

I had a product to sell and a checklist of  ideal agent traits.  I was ready to begin the hunt.  [I didn't bother to estimate how long it would take, which proved to be wise.  It took four years and 60+ rejections before I found the perfect agent for me.]

The Internet is a goldmine of information.  I started and ended the search there.  Here are some tips and links for the resources available in an agent search.
  • is a great tool.  It lists hundreds of agents. It provides an advanced query feature so that I can narrow the search to the agents most likely to be interested in my books. One caution, though: the information is not always current.  Whenever I located an agent that might be a good fit, I always went to the agent's website for submission guidelines.
  • Several agents blog on a regular basis.  Not only do they provide great information about the publishing industry and other agents, their postings can give authors a sense of what that agent would be like to work with.  Two blogs I would recommend are written by Kristin Nelson and Rachelle Gardner.
  • Writing conferences offer plenty of opportunities to meet publishing professionals.  I made an effort to attend writing conferences and signed up for pitch sessions and author intensives whenever possible.  I made an effort to be friendly, courteous, and enthusiastic about my book.  Although I didn't obsess about my appearance, I was careful to dress and act like the kind of author that an agent would want to represent.

The last tip is how I found my agent.  Kevan Lyon was accepting pitches at a conference.  I was unable to get one of her slots, but that didn't deter me.  I researched her on the Internet and thought we might make a good team. I sent a query (as per the guidelines on her website.) She liked the manuscript and arranged to meet me at the conference.  By the time I returned home, I had accepted an offer of representation.

If you have questions or comments about searching for an agent, feel free to leave a comment and I (or other blog followers) will try to help you out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thank You, Laura

My agent and I believed that Whisper Falls was a really good book, so we did what often happens in such cases. We submitted it to editors at publishing houses.

Months passed. No one offered to buy the book. And their feedback made me sigh (which is better than making me cry.)
  • Time-travels are a hard sell.
  • The story needs to be tighter.

I couldn't do anything about the first excuse.  But I could do something about the second. That's where Laura came in.

Laura is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, magna cum laude in English, whose dream job is to be a book editor.1 She's also one of my daughter's roommates.  I needed editing advice, and Laura wanted to freelance-edit--a match made in writer's heaven.

We joined forces to make my book the best it could be. Laura's editing style was gloriously unobtrusive. In response to her gently-posed questions, I was able to revise the book with my ideas, my words, and my voice.  It was the same story, just better.

Three months later, my agent resubmitted the book.  We received an offer to buy Whisper Falls in four days.2

Thank you, Laura! 

  1. I would highly recommend Laura to other novelists in need of freelance editing.3
  2. Results are not, of course, guaranteed. Editing advice may free you to write a better book, but you still have to have a great voice, a great concept, and great market timing in order to win contests, land an agent, or sell.
  3. The publishing house was so impressed by how polished my manuscript was that they have offered Laura contract copy-editing work.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The first edits

Yay.  I received my first edits last night.  It's so exciting.

My editor marked up chapters 1 - 11.  I'll have to rewrite a few scenes and re-research a few facts to ensure their accuracy. It is a little strange to go back through the manuscript, seeing it through someone else's eyes.  I had already experienced this once with my freelancer.  It's cool and fun and a little scary.

I have other author friends who've been through this before, where they closet themselves with their revisions and disappear from loops.  It sounds a bit intimidating to be under deadline with all that rewriting to do. And maybe, at some point, it will stress me out too.  But, for the moment, I just want to luxuriate in the feeling of rolling up my sleeves and making the manuscript better with my new partner Rich.

I will, however, suggest that he not send them at 10:30 pm any more.  I can't resist reading the edits and pondering them---all night long.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My name ETC

When I was born, my parents named me Elizabeth Thomas--Elizabeth after the Queen of England and Thomas from my mother's maiden name.

I was a female child in a southern family and, therefore, had to have a double-name.  Mine ended up being Beth Thomas.  Really.

Anytime I got in trouble?  Beth Thomas!  And when my mother was particularly mad, it slurred together into something resembling BeTHomas.

But something good came out of this rather long and regal name. My initials are  ETC.   I use them everywhere.  Even after I married Mr. Langston, which forever changed my initials to ECL, I still use ETC.

Now you know why I named this blog Author of YA fiction, ETC.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A New Friend

My book editor called me today.  We talked for an hour about revising Whisper Falls.  He has lots of suggestions, most of which I love.  The rest are negotiable.

As my blog title says, I'm calling him a new friend.  Do other authors use the same label?  Do they think of their editors as friends?  Is it purely a business relationship?  Or somewhere in-between?

It may be too early to tell for us.  But I do like his ideas, his enthusiasm, and how much he loves my book.  I suspect we'll make a great team.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is it official yet?

I'm listed as an author on the publisher's website and on my agent's website.  It feels official now.

The book cover is the next major milestone.  Once we have it, I can plaster it everywhere.  On my website. On my facebook page.  I can make bookmarks and hand them out.

But, for today, it is enough to join the ranks of other authors.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Takes So Long?

My book will be available in November 2013.  I’ll have to wait seventeen months to see my book in print. Why, exactly, is the release date so far away?

As it turns out, there are a lot of steps to publishing a book.

The first consideration is getting the word out to bookbuyers at retail stores and libraries. Bookbuyers have to know about my book to order it.  They’ll most likely learn about my book at book fairs or through catalogs. If my name were Nora Roberts or John Grisham, I wouldn't have to worry so much about this step. As a new author, I must list Whisper Falls in the wholesale catalogs six or more months before its release date.

The next consideration is the editing process.

My editor and I will iterate through four or five drafts before the book will be the best it can be.  For a debut author, each of those drafts could take four weeks—so, another five months.

Now, we’re up to a year. That means, in theory, my book could be ready next summer.  So why don’t we release it then?

The main reason is that my publisher only releases a few books each month—and they have already filled their quota until next September.  So there is no room for Whisper Falls in the summer release schedule.

We chose to hold my book until a November release for a couple of reasons.  1) Early fall is a hectic time for teens, my target market. I don't want them too distracted to overlook my book. 2) November is a good time to buy Christmas gifts.

Seventeen months still seems far away, but at least there is a rationale for the wait.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Five Easy Pieces

Okay, the title of this posting is a lie.  The first five items on our To-Do List are not easy.

I. Jacket Copy

Jacket copy is that paragraph or two we put on the back cover of the book to pique a potential reader’s interest.  Jacket copy is also called the back blurb.

It’s tricky to write.  We want it to be intriguing enough that the shopper will buy the book.  But we can’t include spoilers or anything that could be potentially misleading. And we have to be careful with the tone of the blurb.  We don’t want a humorous romance to sound gritty or a thriller to come across perky.
Fortunately for me, when my agent was pitching my book to publishers, she wrote something I could convert to a back blurb.  I’ve passed along a revised version of her pitch to my editor. So maybe I did get off easy on this one.

II. Author Photo

My buddy Liza is an excellent photographer.  Five years ago, she took a headshot of me wearing a blue shirt.  It is one of the best Beth photos in existence.  I use it everywhere. On facebook, on my website, on this blog.

But, good as it is, I’m still expected to have a professional shoot.  So I’m in the process of working that out.  In the meantime, Liza’s shot wins.


ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.  It’s the 10-digit or 13-digit number you usually see on the back cover near the barcode.

I’ll be getting one soon. Yay!  That makes me feel so official.

It is also SpencerHill’s responsibility to acquire the ISBN.  So this is another item that’s easy for me.

IV. Cover Art

Contrary to what the reading public might believe, authors do not control their book covers.  Nope. Nada. Nein.

At best, authors have influence.  Our influence increases with the number of books we've sold.  For a debut author, that number is zero; hence, our influence is zero.

Happily, when my senior editor asked my opinion and shared her vision, we discovered our ideas were compatible. We’ve discussed paintings vs photography, hiring models, images that are full-body vs torsos, and various color schemes.

This is so much fun!  More on the cover art in a later post. 

V. Author Biography

Writing one’s own bio is awful. Pffft.

I want to present facts that readers will care about, only how do I know what those are?  My target readers are teens, but that is hardly a homogeneous market.  And readers who have already passed their 20th birthday will (hopefully) enjoy the book too.  What facts might they care about?

Ultimately, I had to get this done.  So I limited the content to my family, NC, the geek factor, a couple of my cheesy quirks, and the book.

How strange that the item I know the most about was the one that gave me the most trouble.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Here's The Deal...

My amazing literary agent, Kevan Lyon, negotiated the book deal. The details are:

Publishing House: Spencer Hill Press
Acquiring Editor: Kate Kaynak
Book Editor: Rich Storrs
Release Date: November 2013
Book Title: Whisper Falls 1
Pen Name: Elizabeth Langston 2
Royalties: of course
Advance against royalties: Nice deal 3

One of the things I love about joining this publishing house is how author-friendly  and enthusiastic they are.  The contract showed up within a few days (and downloaded quite nicely in the middle of my vacation.)  They responded to my questions promptly and connected me with one of their current authors for a reference.  We've brainstormed the cover art. And my editor expects to send his first revision letter next week.

While I'm waiting for those revisions, I have a business-oriented To-Do List which, clearly, I'm not getting done.4

1 - Yes! I’m keeping my original title.
2 - Yes! I’m keeping my original name.
3 - In publishing lingo, nice deals fall in the range $1,000 - $49,999.

4 - But I'm having so much fun writing this entry.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Call

Authors call it The Call. It’s the phone call (or email or text or …) that lets us know a publisher has made an offer on our debut book. I received mine three weeks ago, accepted it, and then promptly left for a two-week vacation.

Stuff happens in the first few days after The Call. Exciting stuff. Things to luxuriate in after all of the years spent dreaming about this moment.

My stuff had to be put on hold while I luxuriated in the Mediterranean sun (or rain, depending on the day.) Not that I’m complaining or anything.

But the timing means I’m starting the stuff now and trying to wade through it quickly. Thus far, the stuff is totally fun. I want to remember what this is like—and I’m busy enough that I might not. So I’m going to journal about what’s happening in this blog.  Feel free to ask questions about the publishing business or what's going on with Whisper Falls.  Just lurking works too.