Question time: Your mileage may vary

My LJ friend bogwitch64 (Terri-Lynne DeFino) asked me a question the other day so I thought I would blog about it in response.

“You published quite a few books with Samhain (unagented?) before landing your current agent–is there a difference in the way you write? In what you write?”

Yes, I was unagented when I subbed to Samhain and then signed with Colleen late last year. This is my experience, and what I’ve found on my journey so far. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. This is basically what happened:

I first subbed a novella “The Wolf’s Sister” to Samhain. I’d been trying to shorten this story down for ages in order to sub it to some of the regular fantasy magazine markets but there was so much in it that the story would fall apart if I took out too much. Samhain accepted it, but had a rewrite request – could I make it longer?

Could I? Thankfully I never throw anything away! I established a fantastic working relationship with my editor Deborah Nemeth (who now works at Carina) and so I was very happy to send her the book that was to become The Scroll Thief. At the time it was called The Penitent and I had queried agents with it but with no joy. This is where having an awesome editor is worth its weight in gold! We worked, and polished, and rewrote the book, retitled it and renamed one of the main characters. Malachy was not always Malachy.

Soul Fire (originally called To Regain Heaven) was next, followed by The Wolf’s Mate.

The most important thing to state here was that I was still learning (hell, I AM still learning). Every change, every rewrite, every little adaptation taught me something. And made my books, and my future writing, so much better. (I hope).

Throughout all this time I had been toying with May Queen. It was unlikely to be accepted as a Samhain book. For one thing it’s YA. It has YA themes of responsibility and coming of age. While it has a love story, I don’t necessarily think of it as a romance (although it is romantic – yes, I’m being picky about language. Surprise!) I subbed May Queen to a number of agents and had some really good interest, and ended up with two offers.

The thing people don’t tell you about deciding between agents is that its a really stressful decision. We’re so used to saying “please please please” that I don’t think it occurs to us that at some point we might have to make a choice. I’m delighted with my agent. She’s super! A super-agent. *imagines cape* Actually, when I told my kids they wanted to know if she was a secret agent and what gadgets she had!

Colleen went off to sell the book (after some rewrites) and I went back to The Wolf’s Mate and the rewrites for that. I think. It’s all a bit blurry to be honest.

So the difference was in the way I wrote AND in what I wrote. I’d progressed as a writer through working with Samhain. I’d also (I hope) learned some of the ropes as it were of the publishing business. I was happy to make changes to improve the story. I wasn’t going to be precious about a character name. I had an idea of what was going on. (You know, as much as ANYONE has an idea of what is going on)

The difference between epublishing and traditional publishing that I’ve noticed so far mainly come down to speed. Epublishing is fast. It may not seem like it. Especially if you’re waiting on a submission. But it really is. It moves very quickly and you need to be prepared to jump. Traditional publishing seems to move at a more sedate pace. I say “seems” because the “being ready to jump” bit appears to apply just as much. Being ready, is key in both worlds.

It seems to me that the adage about airports applies all over – “Hurry up and wait.” But as with all things you don’t really know until you’re looking back on it. It’s all an adventure along the way. This is how I’ve found it so far, but as I said above, your mileage may vary.

So, that’s it. My answer. If anyone has another question please feel free to ask it.

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