Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tales of Woe After the Contract Is Signed

Editors are much like bartenders, although as Christians, we wouldn't know about them. Editors are much like psychiatrists then, unless you don't believe in mental illness, natural disasters, man-made disasters, or stress that makes you want to jump off a building. Let's just go with the psychiatrist analogy.

If you're really fortunate, you'll have an editor who can be reached by e-mail or phone who will talk you off that high ledge when you threaten to throw yourself off. You know that first book that took you three years to write and polish? Well, now you have to do it in a year . . . okay less. We don't tell you that part up front.

Yep. That's the danger of signing a contract with a real live publisher. You're such a brilliant writer, we might want you to write a series now. Or a couple more 90,000-word standalone novels.

After the glow of signing that binding legal document wears off, you'll notice those due dates in your contract. Usually the first book might be deliverable a year after signing. Piece of cake, right? It's already written. Ah, yes, but you haven't seen the macro edit yet, which might cause you to rewrite extensive portions of your novel to strengthen character motivation or fix the structural bridge that has collapsed about halfway through the middle. We'll talk more about the macro edit in another blog post.

But the second and third books might be due only six months apart. Which means you need to fix your first book in six months so that you'll hit your due dates on the other two after spending a couple of weeks in the hospital after slipping on the ice at Christmastime, or someone rear-ends your car at a stop sign, or your husband's boss downsizes the company and you become the primary breadwinner.

You think I'm kidding, don't you? At Abingdon, thanks to my excellent author and friend Robert Elmer (Wildflowers of Terezin), we started a Yahoo author's group where we could share information with one another and stay in touch. It quickly became a prayer loop.

Without naming names, we've had authors in danger of losing their homes, a couple of husbands who have lost jobs, an author who had to take another job across country, authors hospitalized for major surgeries, and sisters, brothers, children, nieces, nephews, and friends who have been gravely injured or ill. We've held each other up when an author lost her mother. We've suffered through pneumonia together, and when we've reached that level of stress that makes us want to throw in the towel, someone feels led to write a word of encouragement. We've become a family who prays together.

You see, when you become a published author, life still happens, only you are obligated to continue writing because a whole team of marketing and sales people have told buyers that your book will be published on a certain day. Those buyers have spent valuable "buy dollars" to bring your book into their stores. The publisher's budget for the year has been planned out counting on the money that will be made from your book to cover the advance that has been paid out and to pay all the other employees and vendors, like printers, who help get your book into the hands of readers.

The Abingdon authors came up with their own motto: "Write Anyway." They even had cups designed and printed with that slogan, and when we drink coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate out of them, we remind ourselves that writing is a higher calling. People depend on authors to keep their promises.

Don't get me wrong, we celebrate our victories and successes as well. There have been many starred reviews, accolades, and awards.

And we laugh . . . a lot . . . because the joy of the Lord is our strength.

21 comments:

  1. This is such a wonderful, beautiful post! I love it. :-) A yahoo loop...genius!
    Yep, those due dates are something we conveniently forget. lol I'm hoping to be prepared by practicing deadlines now!

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  2. Great post. A reality check, yet encouraging all at once.

    Write on!!

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  3. I am so encouraged to hear how everyone is praying for each other through it! Thank you!

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  4. As one of those Abingdon authors who suddenly found herself writing a series at gun point now (LOL) I can definitely say the stress thickens. But as Barbara so beautifully said, our little group of authors has become a family. It's amazing to experience so much support and love. I am way blessed to be part of the Abingdon team. Thanks Barbara!

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  5. You gotta love a post that begins, "Editors are much like bartenders..."! But seriously, it sounds like you've become quite a family.

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  6. I echo what Joyce said, only I'm one of those authors who happens to be working another full-time job as the breadwinner and the mom of a special-needs child. And my deadline for the sequel is looming. Yet, I'm so thankful and grateful to be working with Barbara and to know the faith she has put in me. (I'm taking Friday off to get some extra writing done!)

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  7. Barbara, As an author who had the first and second books written but had to come up with the third in six months (or less), I can attest to the strain of writing against a deadline. And you didn't even touch on the amount of time and effort spent in marketing the first book while doing the edits on the second and trying desperately to write the third. But, since lots of folks would gladly trade places with me, I can't--or at least shouldn't--complain. The Abingdon authors' group has been a wonderful source of support and encouragement, and the head cheerleader remains Barbara Scott. Thanks for everything.

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  8. Richard, I'm saving the marketing for another post. But it's so true. You've all been such troopers pressing in to meet deadlines, marketing your books through social media, book signings, workshops, and visiting your local bookstores. You've spent your own money and invested your valuable time. It's such a different publishing world than when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were partying in Spain and learning the fine points of bull-fighting. I wonder if they would have been so successful if they had to do some of their own marketing? I think family money helped them out a lot. Authors, whether you are with Abingdon or have yet to find your publisher, I commend you all and pray for your continued success!

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  9. It's 1:30 in the afternoon, and I have not started work on the manuscript. The morning was eaten up by the delivery of a new mattress and box spring, and the cat carrying in the house a baby squirrel that escaped his jaws of death and ran around the house. I was smart enough to open both sliding glass doors and out he went, only to be chased by Pookee again. Then I had to answer a bunch of emails, visit Facebook, and make coffee.

    All the while I'm glancing over at my notebook with scenes written out for Before the Scarlet Dawn, the first in a historical series for Abingdon due to Barbara in April. "Get to work", I keep telling myself. "Open the file now!'"

    So glad I shifted over to your blog, Barbara. Reality check for sure. So, I'm going off line now, shutting the door with my 'Quiet Please' sign, and forgetting the woes of the world and life, to write an entire chapter...that I know will be micro edited and glad for it. You are fabulous!

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  10. Glad I could be of help, Rita. LOL Next you'll be hearing my little voice in your dreams: "Write anyway."

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  11. Barb, your blog may be the most important addition to writers' resources ever. What a big heart! Thanks for gathering us in and helping us understand the realities of our ultimate dream -- to be a published novelist. Right now I'm trying to get all the marketing stuff set up so when the moment comes, I'm ready to fly.

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  12. Excellent, Barb! You nailed it, my friend. And trust me, on those still-dark mornings when I drag myself from bed with a 5,000-word goal staring me in my unmade-up face, I grab that "Write Anyway" mug and remind myself what a privilege it is to have a contract that calls to me to get busy! Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go, yes? LOL!!!

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  13. I'm one of the Abingdon authors who had major surgery, only to receive my macro edits only a few weeks later. I loved Barbara's first line to her e-mail, "I hate to send this to you now . . ." Barbara has tons of compassion for her authors. :)

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  14. What a wonderful post! And all of it is so true! Your authors know they're blessed to have an editor who understands what we have on our plates.

    I've taken some time away from writing lately to do my spring cleaning (late, but you know...the whole deadline thing). We have out of town guests coming tomorrow, so I'll spend some time with them. On Monday, I'll get right back to work after I make the beds, load the dishwasher, toss some clothes into the washing machine, check out my friends' Facebook updates, play on Twitter, go grocery shopping. Well, maybe after lunch...

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  15. In the final analysis, thinking about my journey as a writer, I'm actually truly grateful for these problems!

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  16. Barb;
    Great Post- thanks for the reminder-we all must keep at it :-)
    Bless you for being a gift to your authors.

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  17. I read your posts, and I beam. Bonnie is still waiting to be published; Kathi has published more books than I can count. But as Christa says, you're all on a journey. Enjoy this time! Do you know how many people WANT to write a book, but they'll never do it. Why? Because they're not writers. Writers write. It's who you are and what you do. You tell stories. Now like Nike says, "Just do it!"

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  18. Well, I have heard the horror stories about major rewrites needed and huge, scary edits. Thankfully I've not experienced that frightening thing yet and all of my edits have been minor. I've got six books currently available and a seventh releasing in October. However, because of this post I'm now sweating about our upcoming release as I wait to find out what you do with it (gee, thanks!) LOL! And this book will be release #9.

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  19. Macro edits? Structural something or other? Marketing, editing, and writing the next one, all while life STILL goes on?? Oh, I want to throw up. Lol.

    Barbara, thanks for bringing a healthy dose of reality laced with encouragement and humor. I know all this will pile on when my contract gets here, and I'm sick to think about the stress, but I'm going to "write anyway." I can't help it. My characters won't hush up and my husband is getting tired of hearing me talk about them in my sleep. ;)

    Shelley Ring

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  20. Ah yes, we write anyway! I am so blessed by the Abingdon loop and the ability to bond with/pray for/support each other. I know not every author has access to such a great communication source, so I am exceedingly thankful. And I'm not just saying that because you're my editor. Really :+}

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