Random excerpt from novel-in-progress: So all I had to do was keep from dreaming, read a book written in a language I didn’t understand, and become pure through contamination. Piece of cake.
I was hoping to write this post last week, on the one-year anniversary of getting a two-novel offer from the wonderful folks at Ace/Roc, but family issues intruded. So I’m a few days late.
On July 22, 2008, I got The Call. A publisher wanted to buy my urban fantasy novel. And not just any publisher: my first-choice, in-a-perfect-world, dream publisher! Despite the surge of adrenaline that had me jumping up and down, despite the near-overwhelming urge to shout, “Omigod! Omigod! Omigod!,” I managed to carry on a semi-coherent conversation. I was pacing up and down the hallway (I never manage to stay seated while talking on the phone), and my husband rushed out of his home office to see what was going on. I was trying to let him know without interrupting the person on the phone, who was saying lovely things like “two-book offer” and “series” and “publication date.” It was every bit as fun and exciting as I’d imagined.
But in fiction publishing, there’s a long time between getting The Call and seeing your book on the shelves–17 months in my case. (I’ve published several how-to and reference books, and that side of publishing moves much faster. It can be as little as six months from offer to publication–and that time span includes writing the book.) What happens during those months? A lot. Here’s the timeline for the year since I got the offer:
July/August, 2008: I brought my agent into negotiations, and she did a great job. This is another area where fiction publishing is different from technical publishing, and I was grateful for her knowledge of fiction contracts.
September, 2008: A month of waiting. Not much going on besides occasionally pinching myself to make sure I still wasn’t dreaming.
October, 2008: The contract arrived! We popped open a bottle of champagne and held a signing ceremony.
November, 2008: I received my editorial letter. It was eight pages long, and my editor addressed what she saw as the novel’s strengths (yea!) as well as the areas that needed work. For the latter, she broke things into big-picture issues (more world-building needed here, stronger story arc there) and local issues (is this scene necessary? how about chaging this line of dialogue? does it make sense to replace this word with that one?). I had over a month to make the changes.
December, 2008: I worked on edits and submitted the revised manuscript. Also, we started to discuss alternative titles to my working title of Zombie Town. The process of kicking around possible titles and finally choosing one would continue off and on for several months. We settled on Deadtown in March.
January, 2009: My editor asked me for my thoughts on the cover design. I studied the covers of books in other Ace/Roc series. I really, really wanted Vicky (the protagonist) to be holding her flaming sword on my cover.
February, 2009: A quiet month. Discussions about the title continued. Titles are important, and a lot of people weigh in on them besides the author and the book’s editor: senior editorial staff, marketing, and so on.
March, 2009: The title, Deadtown, was finalized. Otherwise, another quiet month.
April, 2009: I received and reviewed the back cover copy for Deadtown. It was fun to see how readers would be introduced to the book. Blurbs also started coming in–I got some really great ones! It was a thrill to read the words of authors I admire praising my book.
May, 2009: My editor sent the copyedited manuscript and gave me about three weeks to review it. This process includes checking over the changes the copyeditor has made to the text and answering any queries she’s inserted. There were several inconsistencies the sharp-eyed copyeditor caught that needed fixing. My editor also sent the preliminary cover art for Deadtown–the email’s subject line read “Prepare to be WOWED,” and I was. The only problem was I couldn’t share it with the world yet because it wasn’t finalized. I did spend a lot of time staring at the cover-to-be and grinning, though.
June, 2009: A flurry of activity this month. I got Deadtown‘s publication date (12/29/09). I returned my review of the copyedit. Ace finalized the cover (very similar to the preliminary version), and I promptly posted it all over the Internet. I also got the green light to post the blurbs Deadtown received. Reading through them again, I was struck by the generosity of the authors who’d provided the blurbs.
July, 2009: I cleared my desk of (most of) my other projects to spend the month whipping Deadtown‘s sequel into shape. A Facebook friend let me know that Deadtown was available for pre-order on Amazon.com, so I immediately rushed over there just to look at the page. (Not much to see yet, but just knowing it’s there is fun!)
And there it is: One year in the life of a debut novel. Next month, I’ll review page proofs to look for any lingering typos. And soon I’ll be talking to Ace/Roc’s publicist about spreading the word about Deadtown as my late-December launch approaches. When I look out the window now and see full-blown summer, it’s hard to believe that December and Deadtown‘s publication will ever get here. On the other hand, the year since I got The Call has flown by, and Deadtown has morphed from a slush-pile manuscript into an almost-book. It won’t be long before I’m in my local Barnes and Noble, jumping up and down and pointing to my actual, physical book, right there on the shelf.