Publishing Turnover

As the entire blogosphere knows, Curtis Brown Agent Nathan Bransford announced his departure from agenting on Friday via his popular publishing blog. I think for most, the news came as a shock. Bransford has been known as a devoted author advocate and a newer, but influential force in the publishing world. It seemed an awfully quick exit, after all.

Still, this is publishing and, let’s face it, there is pretty rampant overturn. It’s a fact of life. In fact, author Hannah Moskowitz listed “People Leaving Publishing” as one of the top issues we should NOT worry about. Moskowitz gets that people leaving the industry sparks fear that publishing is on the downward spiral, but addresses these concerns by noting that “new agents are appearing all the damn time.” Recent examples include rising new agents like Mandy Hubbard, Taylor Martindale, and Suzy Townsend.

But does this mean that we shouldn’t worry about publishing overturn on the more macro level? I’m not sure. Of course, overturn in personnel happens in every industry and I don’t know where publishing ranks in this. Intuitively, I would think that while professionals often change jobs, they also generally develop an expertise in a given industry and remain somewhat attached to this industry, building on a specialized base of knowledge.

There are certainly some key benefits that have been shown to stem from stability in personnel within other industries. Minimizing overturn and increasing personnel stability can increase “unit effectiveness,”  encourage long-term planning, foster innovation, promote cohesiveness, and allow  personnel to better learn the company and/or the industry at large.

So sure, it might not matter that Nathan Bransford left or that Colleen Lindsay left (although I guess she stayed in publishing so maybe not a great example), but as a whole, we might have some concern if publishing overturn is higher than in other industries, especially when publishing is an industry so dependent on people and ideas.

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Make-A-Fan Monday: Flux Books

Today I’m making you a fan of…Flux Books!

Reasons Why You Should Love Flux: To me, Flux strikes me as one of the more innovative Teen Imprints out there. It’s an independent publisher, catering exclusively to teens. Not middle grade, not picture book, not the broad umbrella of children’s lit. Just straight YA. As a result, I find a lot of there titles to err on the edgy side (a good thing, in my opinion), but really the genres run the gamut. Although not the powerhouse presence of a HarperCollins or Random House, Flux has managed to wrangle some of YA’s hottest authors. Right now, they have Simone Elkeles, Maggie Stiefvater, and A.S. King and I think Mandy Hubbard was just signed for a new book. What’s more, Flux puts out some great covers–always big in my book! Here are a few examples:

 

Finally, if you’re a writer, you can sub to them without an agent.

A few Flux books on my To Be Read List:

Second Virginity of Suzy Green

Suzy Green used to be one of the coolest “almost-Goth” party girls in Australia. That was before her older sister Rosie died and her family moved to a new town. Gone are the Doc Martens and the attitude. All she wants is to be like Rosie—perfect. The new Suzy Green makes straight As, hangs with the in-crowd at her new school, and dates the hottest guy around. And since all her new friends belong to a virginity club, she joins, too. So what if she’s not technically qualified?

This is What I Want To Tell You

Nadio and his twin sister, Noelle, always had a unique bond. And somehow, Keeley Shipley fit perfectly into their world. But when Keeley spends the summer in England, she comes home changed, haunted by a dark memory. As she and Nadio fall in love, they try to hide it from Noelle, who’s jealously guarding a secret of her own. Slowly, a life-long friendship begins to crack under the crushing weight of past trauma, guarded secrets, jealousy, obsession . . . and an unexpected love that could destroy them.

The Fat Girl

Jeff Lyons can’t stand Ellen de Luca, the fat girl in his ceramics class. She’s huge, clumsy, can’t throw a pot to save her life, and stares at Jeff all the time. But he’s a “nice guy” and feels terrible when Ellen overhears his hurtful remarks about her. The “crumbs of kindness” he tosses her way soon turn into advice on weight loss, college, clothes, hair . . . and, to everyone’s surprise, good-looking Jeff actually dumps his pretty girlfriend to be with the fat girl! Re-creating Ellen is a labor of love, Jeff thinks. But as her pounds melt away, Jeff resents the happy, independent young woman he has unleashed. Where is the gratitude for all he’s done for her?

 

So now that you’re a fan, here’s how you can stalk Flux:

Flux Website

Flux Submission Guidelines

Follow Flux on Twitter

Become a Fan on Twitter

The Process of Rewriting

 

I’m not sure exactly where the line falls between revisions and rewrites. For me I guess, it’s a question of degree. Rewriting is more intensive than revisions. Rewriting, to some extent is starting, at least parts of a manuscript, from scratch.

In my last post, I outlined my problems with rewriting. To summarize, I think my main troubles with rewriting stem from (a) loving the words already on the page and (b) the difficulty of seeing what is not yet there. 

So what to do? 

Recently, I’ve implemented advice I’ve received from a couple different debut authors and I think it’s working well, even though, I’ll admit it’s a bit scary. Here it is: start a blank word document. 

I know, I know. You finally got a draft out. You’re pumped never to have to look at a blank page and a blinking cursor again. And here I am, telling you to start it all over. 

Yes, it’s intimidating, but also rewarding. 

I open up my original manuscript document in one window, but with the understanding that I won’t use it as a crutch. I wrote those words. I know what happens. I know what parts are good and deserve to be included in the new draft. Then, I open a separate document of notes I’ve come up with. This document usually contains extra research I’ve done that I think might add to the story. Sometimes, I have thoughts on how certain scenes should be changed or notes on extra scenes that I think I might add. In that “notes” document I write anything and everything. I know darn well that some of the thoughts I jotted down will never see the light of day. That’s ok. Those extraneous thoughts help me get a fuller vision of the world in which I’m writing. They sometimes fuel the inspiration for tangents that will make the cut. 

The beauty of the blank document is that it provides an uninhibited backdrop on which to create your best version. It’s important not to be constrained by the words you’ve already written. Getting the story out in earlier drafts should have freed you to write the polished final draft(s). It should not fence you in.

I know that when I revise within my original document sometimes I want to re-read and re-read the words I’ve written until they sound right in my head. Umm…no. That’s not changing anything. That’s what we like to call self-delusion. So, self-delude no more. The blank word doc has several benefits:

First, as you revise and revise, the different drafts sometimes don’t blend and flow. They become stilted and confused. Ghosts of prior drafts haunt the later ones.* The blank word document allows you to recapture the flow of just writing again. Only you’ve already written the story, so you aren’t starting from square one. It allows you to take it to the next level. 

Second, instead of worrying where to fit the extras, the things you know aren’t already on the page, you can work the extra scenes, the extra description, the extra worldbuilding, you can weave the new stuff in seamlessly. You don’t want to be jamming the square peg into the round hole. That’s not pretty. 

Third, it’s flexible. You don’t have to rewrite the whole manuscript over again. I personally am, but just be careful with your transitions into the old parts as you mesh the two. 

Otherwise, enjoy! I know I’ve recaptured a lot of joy by trying this method and am, honestly, so pleased with the results already. 

How do you rewrite?

 

 

*Mandy Hubbard, author of Prada & Prejudice, shared this insight with me and I loved how she said it.

Rejection’s Not the End of Your World Unless You Let It Be

Warning! Warning! Second post of the week in which I get all mushy!

 

Awhile back I interviewed Mandy Hubbard (debut author of Prada and Prejudice) as part of the 2009 Debutante Author Interview series. I already frequented her blog, but several commenters mentioned reading her “Road to Publication” posts. Well, if y’all don’t know, Mandy had a pretty long road to publication, so I was really curious to read how her experience was. I mean, how often does a writer really outline the rejections as she gets them? Answer: not often.

So anyway, I decided to wait until I went on submission as sort of a treat, food for the “on submission soul,” I guess. Of course, with all sorts of other things swishing around in my head, I forgot it until I’d been on submission for a couple weeks. As soon as I remembered, I opened up the Road to Publication posts in a new window. First thing I read was this:

“So, THE JETTSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB has now been out on submission for 8 days. Those dreams of an overnight sale are dashed. Ha. Just kidding. I’m way more reasonable than that. My dream was 2 days….still kidding.”

I loved this! We can say we understand that it takes time to sell a book, blah, blah, blah, but any writer that claims they do not secretly hope (and maybe even more than hope), just a little, that that their book is going to land on an editor’s desk Friday afternoon only for a 212 number to pop up on the caller ID Monday morning—well, let’s just say any writer who claims they don’t hope for that is going to have a nose longer than Heidi Klum’s left leg.

As I continued to read through Mandy’s posts, I was constantly amazed by her honesty. But with her honesty, came a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“I was burnt out…the idea of reading and writing wasn’t so exciting. I didn’t think of it every single night as I fell asleep. I didn’t conjure up a thousand different versions of what it would be like to get THE CALL.”

That statement hurt my heart. I do fall asleep every single night thinking about what it will feel like to get The Call. What I will do to celebrate? Who will I tell first?—Extremely important considerations, of course. It’s incredibly comforting to know that other writers on submission (or even not yet on submission!) feel this, too. Because, I’ve got to admit, sometimes I feel a liiiiiittle silly with so much thought devoted to the dream of publication and of sharing my book with others.

This, however, reminded me that these thoughts are actually a blessing. It’s when these dreams disappear that your dream is in danger or dying. Every second I spend hoping to realize that goal pushes me to materialize it. But sustaining that level of hope and that level of desire requires energy. It can really take it out of you! So, I can certainly see how I could get burnt out. And THAT is one of the saddest writing thoughts I’ve ever had. Fortunately Mandy pulled out of her slump and proved that secret to success is persistence.

Yes, Mandy’s story is incredibly inspiring for sure. But seriously, somebody ought to canonize her and her agent because they both truly stuck with it. And the very thought of waiting that long makes me want to jam the voteß(Please see SNL for reference)

Then again, she reminds us that “there is ONE SINGLE PERSON who could change everything.” She’s right. It only takes one editor. Or one agent. Whatever it is you are hoping for. But you can’t snag one if you don’t put anything out there.

“No one thinks, ‘okay, this is going to take a year.’”

How true is that? No one thinks that at all. I certainly don’t. But Mandy’s experience is probably MUCH more common than we realize. Sobering, but I’ve also learned from her that it’s not the end of the world unless you let it be.

Anyway, I just wanted to share and to publicly voice my appreciation for these posts. Y’all should definitely head over to her blog and read through these. I’m so thankful that she was willing to voice her feelings as she felt them during the submission process.

 

NOTE: I provided the link to her posts above. Skip to the beginning. You really can’t appreciate unless you read through the process as she goes through it.

Should Your Solo Become A Duet?

Don’t even try to tell me “American  Boy” would be as good without Kanye.

Or that House of Night would be better with only one of the Casts.

I mean, seriously, could one possibly contend that Diet Coke is better without the cherry?

No, I don’t think so.

So, while writing is typically a solitary endeavor, sometimes it can be refreshing to enter into a little healthy collaboration with a fellow writer.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be co-authoring a Nano project this year. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be blogging a bit about what it’s like to write with someone else.

How to work out plot points?

How do you mesh voice?

Who writes when?

We’ll be writing a plot which requires two distinctive points of view. Basically, I’ll be one character and she’ll be the other. I learned this tip from Mandy Hubbard, who co-authored Getting Caught, with her writing pal, Cyn Balog.

Have any of y’all collaborated on a project? Thoughts and tips from the peanut gallery are always much appreciated.

 

**Leave comments for a chance to win a copy of In the Land of Invisible Women–more on that tomorrow**

Status: Got an audition for a Working Partners series today! Getting ready for submission week, too. Good vibes my way please!!!!

2009 Debutante Interview Series: Mandy Hubbard

Today’s 2009 Debutante is Mandy Hubbard! She’s one of the nicest, most helpful Blue Boarders ever and she’s been incredibly open to answering questions. I can’t wait to get my hands on her forthcoming book from Razorbill, Prada and Prejudice. A gigantic thank you to her for providing such wonderful answers to the interview questions.

 

Callie falls head over heels—literally…

 and wakes up in Austen-Era England !

Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London .  Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!

Thanks for joining us, Mandy. Prada and Prejudice is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
 
The log-line on my blog says “A published writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and sometimes that’s all that got me through the rejections. The first novel my agent sent out on submissions, In October 2006,  was THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB and we racked up about 12 rejections. They were so short and vague; it was obvious JETSETTERS wasn’t doing it. But a few editors asked if I had anything else, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE started to go out on subs in January 2007. Over that Summer, I came so heart-breakingly-close to selling that it was devastating when it didn’t happen. That editor even said she loved it and apologized for not being able to buy it.

By the end of the year I had revised it a few times for various editors and racked up 16 rejections.
 
2008 started up right where 2007 left off—three rejections within the first weeks. However, the third came in the form of a revision request. Even though I was already in my seventh draft, I decided to do it, and I opened up a shiny new (blank!) word document and started over. I never even opened up the old version. I spent a month writing 100 pages plus a new synopsis, and my agent sent it back.
 
And I was rejected in about three sentences.  But thanks to the shiny-new version of the book, my agent felt it deserved another round of submissions. (We were up to 22 rejections at that point). So she sent it to six new editors, and two weeks later, we had two offers. In total, I spent 20 months on submissions, racking up 40 rejections from almost every editor in New York for two different projects, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE went through nine drafts.

 
You and your agent deserve a medal or something. That is incredibly inspiring. Thank you. Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? 

I never got a call out of the blue in either case—there were always emails to tip me off. So for me, the typical reaction to ‘the call’ was actually a reaction to an email, and it was definitely the sale that stands out. I was opening the email while a co-worker was talking to me, and he managed to tell a very long and animated story, and I heard exactly none of it. The e-mail was titled good news and the first line said, we are expecting multiple offers. I started shaking, and it got hard to breathe. I actually did a video blog and recreated THE CALL, and you can see it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER9bv5ojBoM

 
Love your vlogs. Too fun! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

Livejournal has been the biggest resource for me-I’ve met so many writers and authors, its been amazing. I met my critique partner, Cyn Balog (Fairy Lust, Delacorte 2009) and we’re like writing BFF’s now, and I can still find the post where we are commenting back and forth like, “do you need a critique partner?” Without her I’d go insane. I think we cried for each other’s book deals as much as our own, we were so excited.
 
I have to say, you and Cyn are the cutest writing duo ever. I love how supportive y’all are and how much you’ve grown. Y’all are a shining example to the rest of the writing community.

We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?

By ignoring them. HA. Sometimes a random rejection would hit me really hard, especially when it was an editor I had revised for, but for the most part, I read it, thought about it for a little bit, whined for a day, and moved on. My agent was really good at focusing my attention elsewhere. Every time she emailed a rejection, she’d end the email by saying something like, “But I just heard about this editor at X house, and I’m going to pitch it to her tomorrow…” so somehow she always refocused my attention to the next opportunity.

 
This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

When I got the rejections, especially on PRADA, they never seemed to have the same reason. But somewhere around #15, I put them together in an excel spreadsheet, and BINGO, I started seeing a few patterns. Each editor expresses things differently, so it’s not like they would say the exact same thing—but if I read them all in a row, I could see tiny similarities that pointed to the same issue.  I wish I would have thought of doing that as they came in—I might have been able to revise and strengthen the manuscript.

 
 
Great tip for the rest of us. Thanks! You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

 To the NYT list, of course. Hitting the New York Times Bestseller list would be so amazing, I’d probably have to quit right then just so I’d go out on top. Kidding. More realistically, though, I am hoping to get a rhythm going, to have at least one book coming out every year with another on the horizon, to develop a fan base, to be a professional. I don’t want to just “be” published, I want it to be my career.

 
And now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

 Confetti didn’t rain down when I accepted my deal, so that was surprising. I think my favorite part of this process has been people telling me that I inspire them. When you first sign an agent, you think of all these overnight deals and pre-empts and auctions, because I swear that’s what it seems like happens for everyone else, so that’s what you expect. But I soon discovered that all too often, that’s not how it works. I think a lot of writers are afraid to be honest and blog openly about their trials, for fear of looking whiny, or something. But I decided to be honest from the get go, and yeah, sometimes I whined and reflected. But now I have all those journal entries, and I can read one and know exactly how it felt to get that 20th rejection. And somehow people have been finding my journal and reading those entries, and it’s been really great to know that other people are in that spot, and they’ve seen that sometimes, you just have to claw your way to the top.
 
I recently went through and tagged all the “publishing journey” entries, so that people can start at the beginning and see the key steps for me—and see the actual rejections. You can see them here: http://mandywriter.livejournal.com/tag/the+road+to+publication
There are about forty related entries, so if you want to read them, I recommend rewinding and starting at the beginning and reading forward, rather than backwards. It starts with me getting my agent, and goes through to the sale.

 
Wait, confetti didn’t rain down? Shoot.

Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

It was 11 pages. I nearly fainted. But my editor is quite possibly the most amazing person on the planet, and she explained right off on page 1 that I shouldn’t freak out, that she just liked to really explain things and offer solutions instead of just pointing out problems—and true to her word, as I read through everything, I saw that she not only pinpointed the problems, but she offered ideas and things that pushed me in the right direction. She’s really amazing. Did I mention she rejected Prada TWICE before buying it? Even then, in her rejection letters, her thoughts were well articulated and made me really think about what worked and what didn’t work. I’m so glad that the third try (with a completely rewritten manuscript)  resulted in her offering on it, because there’s no where else I’d rather be.
 
Everyone has a different relationship with his or her agent. How would you characterize yours and has it changed since your book deal?

This is an interesting question, because I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think even though it was never obvious, there was a little tension before the sale—not in a bad way, just in a we both want the sale so badly we can taste it way. We were both unbelievably frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet. Not with each other, just with the circumstances. So since the sale, I think that’s disappeared.

 
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
 
 For recent books, I’d have a hard time choosing between THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, about a girl who sends audio tapes to the thirteen people responsible for her suicide,  and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (Coming in 2009) by Carrie Ryan, about a zombie apocolypse. For all time favorites, it would be between Z FOR ZACHARIAH, about a girl who thinks she might be the only person left on earth after a nuclear fall-out, and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE, a historical about a prim and proper girl who unwittingly ends up in the midst of a mutiny onboard a ship.
 
Strangely enough, though, I don’t think I could write any of those books even if I had the idea before they did—their execution of the ideas is what’s amazing. Instead I will happily read them over and over.

 

Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to reading Prada and Prejudice the minute it comes out!

Author Interview Series: The 2009 Debutantes

As promised, today I’m announcing the first round of interviews we’ll be having here on Fumbling with Fiction. I feel incredibly lucky to have this group of fabulous new authors on board and can’t wait to find out more about their journey to publication.

So, a big congratulations to all these authors for their recent successes and a huge thank you for sharing their experiences with us!

Be sure to look out for these Monday interviews!

 

9/8       Cheryl Renee Herbsman (Breathing, Viking, Spring ’09)

9/15     Danielle Joseph (Shrinking Violet, Spring ’09)

9/29     Neesha Meminger (Shine, Coconut Moon, S&S, March ’09)

10/6     Mandy Hubbard (Prada and Prejudice, Razorbill, Summer ’09)

10/13    Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer, Delacorte, ’09)

10/27    Kurtis Scaletta (Mudville, Knopf, ’09)

11/3      Lauren Bjorkman (My Invented Life, Fall ’09)

11/10    Cindy Pon (Spirit Bound, Greenwillow Books, 2009)

11/17 RJ Anderson (Knife, Orchard Books and HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

 

More to be announced later, but for now, you can find these authors at their websites. Links can be found on my sidebar.