First Novel: Paths to the Editor Desk - Orycon 32


First Novel: Paths To The Editor Desk
Bruce Taylor
Mary Hobson
Christina York
Gail Carriger
  • Gail Carriger
    • got picked up out of the slushpile
    • had an offer on hand
    • scrambled to find an agent
    • of two agents, got handed off to assistant in one case... went with the other.
    • of the other agent, she had many authors querying her with offers in hand and still turned some of them down
    • had choice of two publishing houses - one was big established house, one was small, but aggressive, social media savvy - ended up going with smaller publishing house
  • Christina York
    • Approached asked to do some erotic adventure... wrote it and sold it. very unusual.
    • since then, sold eight books, but none by regular submissions path.
    • Some books were work for hire: you don’t own the copyright, etc. This is true especially of tie-ins, e.g. star wars, star trek, etc.
    • Work for hire: some was flat fee, some was advance + royalties
    • Some under her name, some under other names.
    • Hot Waters: spies and sex story, written under pseudonym. Got reversion of rights, even though it was done as work for hire.
  • Bruce Taylor
    • first work
      • first thing he sold was a novella in 1992
      • sections of it sold, sections of it on his website
      • in 2000, then was discovered and sold it.
    • second work sold was written in 1980s... 
      • 25 years later he finally sold it.
      • as a result of a conversation at a con.
  • Mary Hobson
    • rather traditional route
    • wrote the book, then shopped it around to agents
    • ended up with ginger robins
    • went through several edits for ginger before ginger agreed to represent it
    • interested an editor at random house. editor got laid off, then transitioned to another editor who was about to leave on maternity. so there were many delays, but it was eventually published.
    • Q: it is common for an agent to take on an editors role?
      • Mary: it can be with some - they want to make the book sellable.
      • Gail: A YA pitch... agent wanted to see half the book. Agent asked to see 20% cut out. Because of the tone, asked for it to be dropped to middle-grade. Now the editor who has seen it wants 20% more and for it to be young-adult.
    • Q: How long did it take?
      • Mary: Finished book in 2002, started shopping it around. Did 2 or 3 rounds of edits before Ginger would take her on. They went on for 2 years before she took her on as a client. You send an edit to the agent, they take 6 months to get back to you, then you take 4 months to get the edit back to them.
      • Christina: New writers have ceded authority to agents. Sometimes authors have to just believe in their work. Agents are not always the expert. Lots of examples of agents asking for stuff, and then editors ask for the reverse. Or agents asking for edits, then not representing work.
  • Your first novel...
    • it shouldn’t be your only novel
    • it shouldn’t be consuming all your time
  • Q: As a starting novelist, do you should agents or publishers first?
    • Christina: who’s going to write you the check?
    • Gail: 
      • Go to preditors and editors first. http://pred-ed.com/
      • Agent
        • You can send out as many agent queries as you like.
        • On Mondays, she sends out 3 queries every Monday
        • Just keeping going with the agents
      • Publishers
        • It helps to meet editors at conventions
          • “Have you bought anything recently you’re excited about?”
          • If editors or agents or at a convention, they are clearly looking, as it takes time and energy.
        • Mary: Since there are so few publishers take unsolicited manuscripts, really invest in finding an agent.
        • Gail: look for a junior editor or assistant agent: because they are trying to make their career, they are out looking for stuff, they will champion for you.
    • Bruce: Do lots of research.
  • Mary: What about publishing online as a path to the editor’s desk?
    • Christina: I don’t look as it as a path to the editor’s desk, I see it as a path to the reader. My back book are now going online. It has worked for other people. For me, with my particular career, electronic publishing is a piece of the whole.
    • Gail: There is copyright stuff that goes on the moment you put your work online. Publishing houses want the first rights. So if you’ve given that up, you’d better be coming to the publisher with 60,000 readers.
      • Also, don’t put anything up unless you are having at least 5 people edit what you right. Because the first thing an editor does is Google you, and if they find your blog or personal site, and if what they find is less than great, than you really don’t want them to find it. Whatever you put up there better be stellar. And if all you’ve gotten is rejections, then probably it’s not stellar.
      • Resist it for a couple of years at least. Write at least several full length books. If those first works still look great, then maybe consider it. 
  • Novel length
    • Minimum length for a pro book is 70,000 words.
    • Get feedback from a group, there’s got to be more story to tell
    • Maybe there’s another point of view
    • Some smaller presses might consider it.
    • But you’ll never get a new york publisher to look at a 40k, 50k novel.
    • But you’ve got to be under 120,000 thousand, because they won’t look at a first novel.
    • 80,000 is the average for first novel.
  • Self-publishing...
    • No way, don’t do it.
    • It’s fine to do with your backlist once you have a name. but it’s very hard to rise above the noise.
    • But the royalties work out really well when you are already driving traffic.
  • Sometimes it is all timing...
    • Ken Scholes came in with a proposal for epic fantasy just as Robert Jordan died, and Tor had a hole in their publishing schedule. Ken Scholes is an excellent writer, and they had a strong need for epic fantasy, and it was a perfect match.
    • Don’t try to write to trends, because the trend now is not what will be trending in five years. Just write what you’re passionate about.
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