Friday, May 25, 2012

What I've learned about submissions

So here's the thing: I'm currently getting ready for BEA, which means I'm scouring the list of author events, signings, panels, etc for anything and everything I want to attend. In the process, I've come across quite a few BEA buzz books. For those of you who don't know, a BEA buzz book is a book chosen by its publisher (I believe the publisher chooses....correct me if I'm wrong) to be "featured" at the expo. Many of this year's buzz books are from first-time authors. After much Googling and stalking, I came to the conclusion that the majority of buzz book debuts got huge advances from Big 6 publishers. They sold in good, significant, and even major deals, usually for two or three books rather than just one. For instance, one of the buzz books has a first print run of 250,000 copies. These books also sold very quickly (as in, they had publishers interested within a week).

And as I'm reading through all these success stories, I can't help but feel jealous and resentful. I know I shouldn't; I know I should be celebrating other people's success. But I was young and naive when I entered this business and I think writers tend to view publishing as a very romantic process. The day I signed with an agent, I thought that was it. I thought being agented would automatically make my dreams come true. I heard all the stories about authors selling in days, for huge amounts of money, and I secretly hoped that it would be me.

Well, it probably won't be. Publishing is completely unpredictable, of course, but what I've come to realize is that both of my books, while hopefully good enough to attract the attention of a big publisher, aren't the type of books to earn huge advances and lead-title status. Neither book has series potential. One skews heavily toward the upper end of YA, making it less marketable content-wise, while the other is multicultural historical fantasy (definitely not the most commercial genre). I love these books, I really do. I love their characters and I loved writing them. But if/when they do sell, they're not going to sell huge.

But that's okay. It's okay to start out small, then build on what you have. It's okay to have a book that gets a 5k-20k advance rather than 200k. Having a mid-list debut doesn't mean you're doomed to wallow in mid-list obscurity forever. Hell, look at James Dashner. He published two series before writing The Maze Runner, and each series was more successful than the other words, he built up to bestseller status. It didn't happen overnight. And having a smaller advance can be good in many ways. There's less pressure to earn out (because let's face it, earning out $10,000 is MUCH easier than earning out $200,000) and you're more likely to make royalty profits on your book. And earning out is super important if you want your publisher to buy your next novel.

My books aren't big, and this is something I've come to accept. I'm not going to debut with a million dollar contract (all Ally Condie-style). I probably won't be a lead title. But I write what I love, and I love these two books. With the end of revisions looming, I've started on two separate projects, each of which is the first of a planned trilogy. I love my new projects just as I loved the old ones, and both are more "commercial" than LIKE CLOCKWORK or AILLEA'S CARDS. So who knows? Maybe one of these projects will go "big".

I may start small, but I believe that hard work and persistence really do pay off. Someday, I'm going to get there. I'm going to have a book that generates buzz and sells for a hefty advance and goes on to do really well in the market. Perhaps this will happen soon, perhaps in ten years, perhaps in thirty. But the important thing is to love what you write, even if it doesn't incite every single NYC publisher into a cash-throwing frenzy.

My books are not "big", but I love them anyways.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why we don't abort our editors: words of wisdom from your resident freelancers

So today, this text-message conversation transpired between Taryn and I:

Taryn: Yay! Also I started writing again. It's so wonderful! Hahahaha.

Kate: Ah, writing...we had a brief tryst back in January, until revisions, the jealous husband, came storming in and took over my life once again.

Taryn: Exactly. I am a fan of divorce in such cases, but what do you do with the kids/interested editors? Luckily, I had none ;).

Kate: Too bad we're both pregnant with editors, and will thus soon have to deal with such this metaphor is getting disturbing.

Taryn: Yeah we're too young for it.

Kate: Maybe. But I wouldn't object to having an editor....

Taryn: Well let's make a pact -- no abortions.

Kate: Yes, I feel like aborting our editors would put a damper on our potential careers.

Taryn: Okay this has been sufficiently awesome.

Words of wisdom, to be sure. Someday all of you will thank Taryn and I for providing such insightful advice: when attempting to publish a novel, it's always best to avoid aborting your editor.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Author Photos!! Help!

So I'm copying my BWB Taryn today by posting my potential author photos. Now, these aren't the real mom snapped these in our backyard fifteen minutes ago, and I pressed "auto-enhance" to make the colors better. In short, they're certainly not professional, and I am completely incapable of all the touch-ups and color manipulating and such that real photographers do. But I need photos for my BEA business cards, so I thought I'd take some until I get the chance to set up "real" author photos.

Anyways, I've narrowed it down to four photos that I like, and I'd so, so appreciate it if you guys would be willing to take a quick look and let me know which one jumps out at you! They all sort of blur together in my mind....I guess I'm too accustomed to looking at my own face ;).

The photos are as follows:

Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #4

Note: All these photos are cropped from larger photos (again, a process that lasted about ten seconds....I didn't take the time to perfectly frame my face or anything) so I can adjust the dimensions if need be.

Thanks so much in advance!

Rejection Survival Essentials

As writers, we all have to deal with rejection. It's kind of a given. First you get rejected by agents, then editors, then reviewers, and, ultimately, readers. So how do we deal with rejections? I've compiled a list of rejection survival essentials.

1. Comfort food. For me this usually includes Cafe Rio and frozen yogurt, but chocolate, frosting, and tagalogs also work. Find the comfort food that works best for you.

2. To offset the comfort food, exercise. Go for a run. Getting some aerobic exercise, even if it's just for fifteen or twenty minutes, will make you feel much better after receiving a rejection. It ups your energy and balances your emotions.

3. Watch crappy TV for a while, so you don't have to think.

4. Find your person. Every writer needs someone to vent to when they get a rejection. I sometimes talk to my critique partners, but I also vent to my mom.

5. Space. Don't think about the rejection for a few days, especially if the rejection contained a critique.

6. Once you've given yourself some space, brainstorm. The critique may hold merit. Try to think about things from an outside perspective, and come up with ideas to make your story better.

7. Print out an extra copy of the rejection and burn it. Take vindictive pleasure in doing so.

8. Be grateful. These rejections will make your ultimate acceptance so much more satisfying.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh, those high school dances!!!

Well fellow bloggers, today's the day! Today, we celebrate the oh-so-wonderful memories and scandals of our high school dances. I loved high school, and dances were no exception. I don't have pictures from all the dances I attended, but I included a few from each school year, culminating in a rather amusing anecdote that occurred at my senior prom. I can't wait to hop around and read all about everyone else's experiences!

Freshman Year

'80's dance! I'm second from the right in the silk boxer shorts :).

Sophomore Year

Masquerade Ball! Red and gold themed, if you couldn't tell....this one was a blast!

MORP 2009....neon colors this time around.

Junior Year

Vegas, baby! I wore a black sequined mini dress that I absolutely loved, but Francesca stole it back :(. 

Senior Year

Homecoming with matching black dresses.

And finally, senior prom. Prom was absolutely fantastic. I went with my good friend John in a big group of friends, and we had loads of fun. The day started out with a game of soccer/football/gymnastics (yes, we managed to combine all three). Guys tend to get really invested in sports, which resulted in some rather amusing pictures, such as the one below (enlarged so you can admire their expressions):

And then came the dance part! Yay! The girls got ready at Chloe's house, then drove up to Kassandra's for pictures. I'm in the top row, third from the left, wearing a purple dress with a necklace.

And of course, no dance is complete without funny photos. This one stems from the reality TV show John and Kate Plus 8, in which a married couple (John and Kate) talk about raising their eight children. John and I played our respective roles as the mother and father of the family, while Chloe, Christian, Chris, Ridley, Kelsey, Ali, Eric, and Kalika posed as our eight children (don't ask me how we managed to produce two Asians...John and I are just talented like that). 

And the group photo (note Kelsey's date is a cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber):

And now comes the story. For some unknown (yet ultimately advantageous) reason, my friend Katie decided to wear a dress that zips all the way down the front. I personally would never have the courage to wear such a dress, because even I (as a totally straight female) could barely resist the urge to unzip it, just for kicks. But more power to her. Anyways, the only picture I could find of said dress is a picture of me starting to unzip it. Hey, we were hyped up on sugar. Don't judge. 

So we get to the restaurant, which is this fancy Japanese place where the waiters fry the food on the table right in front of you. Various shenanigans ensued, while Justin Bieber hung out like a creeper in the background:

So Katie's being Katie, which is a rather dangerous endeavor when your table doubles as a red-hot grill. Chopsticks up her nose isn't the worst of what transpired during the long wait for our food. Finally, the soup arrived. It was salty and delicious and oniony and very, very hot. Two minutes into the first course, Katie managed to dump an entire bowl of soup into her lap. 

I'm pretty sure someone shouted "OH SHIT" at that moment, because everybody in the vicinity turned to stare at us. Ella and I rushed Katie into the ladies room, while she managed to simultaneously laugh and cry as the soup burned her thighs. I grabbed the zipper and un-zipped the dress all the way down. (Not going to lie, it was really satisfying.) There were these huge red marks all over her legs. Ella ran to get water, while I crouched down, using the two sides of the dress to basically fan Katie's crotch in an attempt to cool the burns. 

At that moment a pair of old ladies walked in. It was possibly the most awkward encounter I've ever experienced...Katie's standing there in her underwear, dress hanging open, while I fervently use the pieces of her dismantled garment to waft cool air across the burns. They stared at us for a second, before the first lady spoke.

Her: "I...well, are we interrupting something?"

Me: .........

Ella: .........

Katie: *giggles/hiccups/cries*

Her: "Oookkkaaayyyy.....I guess we'll come back later."

So they left, and pretty quickly, I might add. We got Katie cleaned up and rinsed the dress out as best we could, before returning to our dinner table in time for the main course. All in all, a successful prom experience. 

So the moral of this story is (there always has to be a moral), zip-down dresses might be dangerous, but they can also come in quite handy if you happen to dump soup in your lap. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seriously, guys....WIFYR 2012

Everyone needs to go to this conference, whether you live in Utah or not. It really is the best writing-related experience I've ever had (apart from my Scholastic internship). I found my agent indirectly through WIFYR and I met every one of my fabulous critique partners there. Sign up, and spread the word! You won't be sorry.

Go here.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why we don't make babies at writer's retreats

Aggg!!! I haven't blogged in forever! I'm usually much better than this, but with finals looming I've fallen behind on pretty much everything. (Just take a look at the floor of my'll probably faint.) But I feel like a fun post this evening, or morning, I guess, 'cause it's past midnight, so I thought I'd share a spectacularly weird, semi-writing-related dream I had a couple nights ago. 

Once upon a time, Kate decided to go on a writer's retreat with her critique partners and other writerly friends (all female, mind you). They wrote and ate food and had a party on the last night, a party that involved party activities. Being writers, they decided that pin the tail on the donkey and charades were much too mainstream, so they picked more unique activities. One such activity involved making babies in jars. Like, someone had figured out a way to extract each person's eggs, fertilize them, and put them in a jar, where a baby would grow. Most of Kate's writer friends have lots of children already, so they were like, "No big deal, it's just another baby!" And Kate wanted to be included in the fun, so Kate decided to have twins. 

(Are you concerned about Kate's decision-making skills yet? I know I am.)

Anyways, they let the babies grow, and Kate was about eight months into her jar-pregnancy when the realization that OMG THESE ARE GOING TO BE ACTUAL BABIES hit. I guess my dream-self is kind of stupid, because Kate seriously didn't even register the fact that her jar-baby was a real baby and that, therefore, she'd be a real mom. So Kate freaked out, but at that point it was too late and she had twins. One day the jars broke and there they were: a little boy, and a blonde-haired little girl. They looked to be about two years old at birth, so obviously the gestational period for humans growing in jars is slightly different from boring, womb-contained fetuses. 

Anyways, Zac Effron was the father, which is completely random since I've never even seen a Zac Effron movie, and then there was some stuff about Harry Potter and zombies, and then Kate was Spencer from Pretty Little Liars for a while, and then she was Taylor Swift, and then she was Hermione, and at the very end there was a liopleurodon, which is a giant aquatic dinosaur, and Kate's babies got sick because apparently they didn't develop normally inside of their jars. At any rate, I'm not sure how the dream ended. I told this all to my roommate last week and she gave me the weirdest look. I wonder why.

Since taking Psych 1010 obviously makes me an expert, I've decided that this dream displays my deep underlying fear of becoming a teenaged mother and the social stigma that goes with it. It also displays my amazing ability to transform into different celebrities at will. 

So the moral of this story is, don't make babies at writer's retreats, especially babies in jars. In particular, don't make babies in jars if Kate happens to be there (because she will inevitably want to participate, and it will inevitably take her a good 8-9 month to figure out that a baby is, like, a baby). 

This has been your public service announcement for May 2, 2012. Thanks for tuning in.