Author Jill Alexander and her agent Michael Bourret spoke at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference about what happens in the time between selling your first book and getting it published.
Why We Created this Breakout Session:
- For Alexander the transition between un-published and published felt like it happened in a whirlwind and overnight. So she wanted to create this session to let everyone know what the process is like and things to be prepared for.
- The transition is a quick one.
- Agents often forget all the steps that authors are unfamiliar with when they are publishing their first book. Bourret’s hope is that this session will help you to navigate the choppy waters ahead!
BEFORE -Things to do before you get published:
o Develop a web presence in some way. Create an online hub. This should be one central place where people can find you.
o You want to update your online hub with new content on a regular basis so that you can begin to build an audience.
o Think about your web presence as a way for people to contact you! A place for fan mail, or librarians to say hello, etc. Some people use Facebook, but Alexander doesn’t accept minors to be her friend on Facebook.
o Forward thinking – you won’t have much time later! Think about it now.
o Secure a domain name and get a blog. You don’t need a fake book cover or anything, just be yourself.
- Create your Office Hours:
o How many hours will you spend social networking? (Twiter, email, blog, etc.?)
o Create a calendar system for school visits.
o Think about writing not as a hobby but as a business.
- We are not talking about writing here, we are talking about the media. You will have to talk to them! You will have to get used to having an audience.
- Think about how you will talk about your book. What was your inspiration? Have pre-packaged answers to those questions ready (or some idea) so you don’t look like a bumbling fool. Practice your responses.
- Alexander has a post on her website of common questions she was asked when she got published. Take a look at these and practice what you would say! Questions are here: http://jillalex.livejournal.com/16841.html
The Funny Things You Never Think About…
- It turns out there is another author out there named Jill Alexander. Only she is an erotic writer! That can be a problem when your young adult audience starts looking you up on the internet! Alexander decided to use the S. of her middle name to differentiate herself from the other Alexander. Her agent helped her through this issue.
- Revision is a long process. There are a lot of little steps along the way.
- Revision begins with a larger letter discussing the major story issues. This is the time you SHOULD address these issues. I can be hard to change major things later on. Editors hate hearing “Is it too late to change…” The earlier in the process you deal with these things the better.
- Later you will get a long letter with lots and lots of notes on each line (copy edits). It can be intimidating.
- Review your copy editing symbols so you won’t feel so confused when that draft comes along.
- Expect to read your book another 8 to 12 times!
- You will be addressing different things each time you get your manuscript back.
- Learn to distance yourself from the manuscript and be willing to read your manuscript differently.
Renaming Your Book:
- It is pretty common that the name of your book will change. This can be for a lot of reasons. For Alexander the word Christmas in her book title caused it to need to change so it wasn’t thought of as a seasonal book.
- Have a list of other possible titles ready! Try to think up 5 to 10 titles.
What’s and ARC?
- An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy. These are copies of your book that are sent to librarians, reviewers, etc.
- ARC’s are great for your first signing opportunities. You can raffle these off to your blogging community for example.
- And ARC is a precious commodity.
- You get 5 to 10 copies of your ARC’s. They are expensive to make so make sure you think clearly about who will get them. They should be for people who will write about your book and will help sell your book. Be prepared to be told by your publisher that the supplies are limited. Ask who they have sent ARC’s to so that you don’t double up.
- When ARC’s come out is when the “What’s Next” question starts to come up.
- Once your book comes out a lot of the work will already be done. It’s the end result.
- Pub dates – this day will only be super exciting for you the author. It doesn’t mean much for everyone else. That can be emotionally taxing. Don’t try to build it up too much for yourself.
- Bourret tries to be mindful of publication date and calls his clients on that day.
The School Visit:
- Have school presentation ideas in mind. Put your ideas up on your blog or website for schools to see. Have some of these ideas ready by the time your book comes out.
- Schools will ask you to come visit for free. Tell them you have a set fee. “I would be happy to waive the fee.” This way you are giving them something.
- Alexander used to teach high school, so doing a book visit at a school wasn’t very scary for her.
- Set limits to the amount of students you will talk to. Never do an auditorium because it’s too big and the kids don’t care enough when they are in a large environment like that. Agree to go to 3 or 4 classrooms instead.
When the Book Comes Out:
- “Free books are at the library.” Don’t give away your book. Have people buy them! Particularly your friends and family.
- Your contracted books (that you get free from the publisher) don’t go to friends and family. They need to support you and buy your book!
- Don’t give your contracted books away to anyone who doesn’t have some influence.
- When you are post-publication you will have to spend time promoting, etc. This takes away from your writing. “My time is valuable,” is an important mantra. It shows that you need to be paid. Your time isn’t free.
- Protect your creative think time. This is different than your writing time. Driving can be a great place to have think time. To help separate creative time from business time Alexander moves to different areas of her house. One area is for social networking (twitter, etc.) another area is for writing.
Remember Your Family Dynamic:
- Remember that the world goes on for your family even after you are published. Life doesn’t change much for them. So be sure you still make your family an important part of your day/life.
- Remember to keep a balance. There will be less home-drama if you do.
- Your next book is an important thing to talk about with your Agent. You want your career to be long so you want to have a good conversation about the best choices for you. Talk about this early with your agent and publisher. Never do things in the dark.
- Alexander though a previous book that she had written would end up being her second book, but her agent thought it might be too dark for her audience and they went with another idea.
- Michael Bourret likes to know everything and as soon as possible. He likes you to share what you are doing because it allows him to figure out the timing. This is important for you next book but also important for other things like promotion. If you set up an interview with a broadcast but do it before your book comes out then it can be wasted publicity. Timing is important.
- You can bother your agent! Share! It’s their job to hear from you!
A Bit About Agent Michael Bourret:
- He represents children’s ficton and adult fiction, but he doesn’t do adult genre fiction.
- He does represent some children’s books but he isn’t dying to see more.
- He advises everyone to find the editor and agent who lights up when they read your book.
- “There aren’t good or bad agents, there are only good or bad matches.”
- Bourret suggest you find an agent before you find an editor.
- Bourret will Google an author if he finds their manuscript interesting. See what is out there on yourself!
Jill S. Alexander is an author and SCBWI success story. Her debut novel The Sweetheart of Prosper County was discovered through the national conference critique process and ha s received a starred review from School Library Journal as well as being awarded to the 2010 Texas Lonestar Reading List. Jill’s second novel Paradise and His Smokin’ Squeezebox is set for release in Spring 2011. Visit Jill at: www.jillsalexander.com.
Michael Bourret joined Dystel & Goodrich Literary Management as an intern while studying film and television production at New York University, and began at the agency full-time in 2000. After ten years as an agent in the New York office Michael now works in Los Angeles at the West Coast office of DGLM as Vice President. Michael’s authors include Sara Zarr, Lisa McMann, Bernadette Shustack, Anne Rockwell, and Heather Brewer.