Over the past couple of months my writing time has been spent in ways totally alien to me before meeting and writing a book with Carrie Jones in 2008. I’ve learned a lot about working with a legitimate agent and a major publishing house, and about writing for young adults. I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned recently.
In the adult market served by small press genre publishers, pretty much anything goes in regards to content. That’s how I ended up with a possessed penis trying to rape an infant in Seven Days in Benevolence. In young adult fiction, you have to consider that the kids might go for such a scene, but the book has to get through gatekeepers … parents, librarians, teachers, etc. So, racial slurs have to be kept to a minimum (much less common than in a real life inner city high school). Editors want you to use politically correct terms, like Native American instead of Indian. Sex can happen, but in an off-the-page kind of way. And even demons have limits on the amount of cursing they can do.
With a major publisher, acceptance of a work doesn’t mean you’re finished with the writing. On the contrary, the hardest writing you’ll do comes after the acceptance and before the copy edits, as editors actually study what you’ve written in minute detail and point out how this scene could flow better, how this one really only repeats earlier information, and various other things you, the author, probably never thought about. In the small press, no editor has ever asked me to rewrite a single page after the book was accepted and the contract signed. With the exception of a few short stories, no small press editor has ever asked me change anything, which means Shara, Ulrik, and the others only had the benefit of my critique group’s input.
Here’s how copy edits work with my small press books: I’m sent a PDF of what the publisher is going to send to the printer. The PDF is always very, very close to what I originally sent to the publisher. I read through the PDF and make notes of any mistakes I find, sending my notes to the publisher when I’m done. The publisher makes those changes and sends the book to press. Major publishers have people who are experts at copyediting. I mean, I thought I was pretty good at it, but the copy editors at Bloomsbury found mistakes I’d looked blindly at more times than I want to think about.
Before hooking up with Carrie I spent as much time pounding the virtual pavement of the Internet studying markets and trying to place my fiction with publishers as I did actually writing. Now that I have a big-time agent, I can send my work to him and he’ll tell me how I can make it more appealing to editors who pay lots of money. Then he’ll do the selling. (Well, okay, I’m still in the process of incorporating his suggestions into the first solo book I’ve sent him, but presumably he’ll take on the job of selling it once I’m finished.)
It’s been a fun ride so far, and I hope it just keeps getting better. I can’t thank Carrie, Edward, Michelle, and Margaret enough for the changes in my career.
One last change I have to mention … My 16-year-old daughter is now a licensed driver. I’ve barely seen her since she got that piece of plastic. If you happen to be driving on the south side of the OKC metro and see a red Ford Focus driven by a grinning blonde, please give my little girl lots of space so she’ll make it home safely.