The Next Circle of Hell, Vol. 2

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Fuchsia Groan

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I had the opposite thing, and it was just as horrible. A 'crossover' book and it got published because the publisher said, 'Look, there's a chance that it could fall between the two, but we think it's going to be pretty successful, and we're going to take that chance...' And the lit mags loved it and the book-selling reviews univerally hated it to bits. Really hated it. To bits.

I tend to remember the nice things and ignore the reviews, because I'm a sunny little person. But even with that, it took years and years to get brave enough to try again.
Oh god, that’s awful. I’m sorry. At least some folks liked it, but I guess lit mags don’t pull that much weight when it comes to the actual selling part.

Crossover is such a huge gamble, but when it works, it really works.

Literaryguitar, I think 20k is a lot to sell of any one book—these days, anyway. I never have. According to a piece in Electric Literature, it’s not uncommon for the less hyped literary novels to sell 2-3k unless they win a prize, in which case they take off.

Anyway, I’m so excited that The Book Eaters is getting a great response, and I can’t wait to read it! Weird lit is the best lit, for my money. :)
 

Woollybear

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How many books did you sub before this one?
Ask her how many books she *read* before writing this one. And how many authors. :) Ask how much she studied those authors and stayed nimble in her approach. Ask how many darlings she killed.

I'm so excited TBE is doing so well, Harlequin, and my hand is cramping up just thinking about all those signatures. :)
 
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literaryguitar

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Ask her how many books she *read* before writing this one. And how many authors. :) Ask how much she studied those authors and stayed nimble in her approach. Ask how many darlings she killed.
Not sure what you mean by this. It's a different question. I've certainly read a lot. I'm trying to get some perspective on subbing and writing the next book and seem to remember Harlequin possibly having had one or more books die on sub before but I'm not sure I'm remembering the right person.

Also don't know what you mean about studying authors and being nimble. Do you mean trying to write similar books to others? I realize that may be part of selling books to big publishers. But I don't write in a genre and don't generally write in a very conventional way-- I tried with my MS currently on sub and couldn't. I was only able to write it at all after reading a Susan Sontag essay encouraging novelists to throw out the normal conventions of novel writing, after which I sat down and wrote a novel in short vignettes instead of chapters and with ambiguous backstory and a MC whose gender is ambiguous for about the first 100 pages. It's not that I started out wanting to write an experimental book; feeling like I had permission to do so is what enabled me to write it at all, because I was unable to get it down in any successful way when trying to write it conventionally. It only worked when I wrote it more experimentally. Which just may not gel well with the publishing indusry (in which case I do wonder why my agent signed my book, though her MSWL did specify that she likes experimental literature so maybe she just keeps hoping she'll sell some of it... ).

But I continue to be interested in how many books people sub before selling one, because I don't know if my issues are about me as a writer or specifically this book. I remember people like Putt Putt and Shoeless having many books die on sub and then finally selling one and after that selling more (and in Putt Putt's case getting a Netflix deal!). I do think that my book is one that might be easier to get published as a non-debut, just because of how unconventional it is-- it's a big ask for a publisher to take on something that is not only unconventional but also written by an unknown author with no readership. But that would mean I'd need to write something more conventional first to debut with, and a) I don't know if I can, and b) I don't know if I can get motivated to spend years doing so while this one isn't going anywhere...
 

literaryguitar

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No attack. :)

Good luck!
I didn't take it as an attack. Sorry if it seemed like I did. I was just honestly wondering what you meant. I'm trying to understand everyone else's processes, because mine has been odd and also hasn't worked thus far. And may never. But Harlequin's book is apparently somewhat odd (though probably in very different ways than mine) and is doing really well, and I think (?) she subbed other books before that were less weird but didn't sell? If so, that to me is very interesting and I'd like to understand more how it happened and what it means.

It's really inspiring to see the people on this thread who have just kept chugging along and writing more books and then eventually take off. I read the thread through from 2015 and seem to remember Harlequin thinking she'd never sell anything (though again I may be mixing up people). If so, to go from that to signing 20k books just for the special editions she's selling is quite something.
 
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Calla Lily

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I'm sensing that sub frustrations are getting to everyone. Everyone, please remember we're all on edge/hopeful/depressed/angry/tired. All at once, seriously.

That being established, NO slanging another member of this group. Not even the appearance of slanging. There will be no tolerance. No second chances. Read posts over before pressing the Post Reply button. Think how the words sound.

I'll use myself as an example: I'm rebooting everything. Ii see friends getting book deals and making major sales and I'm thrilled for them. I'm also miserable when I look at the hurdles right in front of me. I post LESS now so I don't make their success about my struggle.
 

literaryguitar

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I post LESS now so I don't make their success about my struggle.
Sorry, I thought this particular thread-- as opposed to other threads-- is about processing frustrations about being on sub. For people who are struggling with it. Celebrations of success are are certainly important and very well deserved, and I am very happy for everyone who has been successful and was cheering them on long before I ever posted anything, as I read through 7 years worth of posts over many months before posting at all.

I don't know what slanging is, so I'll go back to just lurking. But no one was posting much at all when I reached the end of the thread just reading, so I started asking questions which seems to have gotten the thread more active again. But I was not intending to offend anyone. I asked how many books someone had on sub before the one that made it, which seemed innocuous to me and is something that used to be discussed a lot here, and was told to ask different questions instead which I did not understand since this is literally a thread about the hell of being on sub.

But I won't post anymore. I'll look forward to reading everyone else's posts and hope that the thread doesn't go completely silent again, because even just reading it without participating at all has helped me understand the process, which I did not at all before finding this thread.

Cheers and sub glitter to all.

Signing off.
 

Calla Lily

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I am NOT telling anyone not to post.

I looked at the last couple of pages and was seeing a trend of people questioning others' talent, choices, experience, craft. The thread was veering in the direction of sour grapes.

This is a thread about the trials of being on sub, to support each other. To share stories. To give advice. To help us remember we're not alone, despite the writing process being a solo venture.

I am simply advising everyone to look at their words before posting.


We're all on edge.
 

Harlequin

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How many books did you sub before this one?

I'm not young and I'm also not able to churn out books. I've only written the one. I started another but it's something my agent says she wouldn't rep/ there's no market for and I haven't worked on it in over a month, maybe more. I have another idea she really likes and wants me to write, but it will take years if I do it, as it's historical and requires a ton of research before I can even really nail down the entire plot and characters, much less write it. And it's a little hard to get going on that when the one I already wrote isn't going anywhere, because I know there's a decent chance that one won't either, even if I spend years on it.

So my one book is still out on round 2 of sub, but just with large indie presses (and maybe one Big 5 imprint is left, I'm not sure). It's dark and somewhat experimental literary fiction. So I think it's extremely unlikely it will ever have the opportunity to sell 20k books. I'd be very happy at this point (probably always would have been) if it gets picked up by anyone and sells 5k. That would seem like a big success to me.
The one thay sold was my third book.

First one didn't get an agent (had no requests or interest) and second one, tho agented, didn't sell on sub.

I don't think the previous books were more or less weird. I think, with hindsight, my previous books just didn't quite work. Aspects of structure and worldbuilding weren't quite coming together. I don't say that to suggest this is always the case, there are so many reasons books die on sub! But I believe this was the reason for me personally that the first two books didn't get picked up. I'm a very weak worldbuilder among other things, and it hurt me in early attempts.

I take about 2 years to write books at a minimum, but longer if you add in the idea gestation. I do have more time in terms of age but struggled with the first two books due to living on the poverty line and some other awkward life circumstances (long term unemployment). I am not a very useful kind of person outside of writing :) Not requesting pity, just a factual statement about myself lol.

5k sales is perfectly doable! As is 20k. A midlist print run is easily the first number and can pretty comfortably hit 20k sales with a bit of time.

Hoping for good outcomes feels scary but I think in some cases it cna help to try and envision the end goal you want :) your mileage may vary there though!
 
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Harlequin

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I had the opposite thing, and it was just as horrible. A 'crossover' book and it got published because the publisher said, 'Look, there's a chance that it could fall between the two, but we think it's going to be pretty successful, and we're going to take that chance...' And the lit mags loved it and the book-selling reviews univerally hated it to bits. Really hated it. To bits.

I tend to remember the nice things and ignore the reviews, because I'm a sunny little person. But even with that, it took years and years to get brave enough to try again.
Really sorry mccardey. Reviewers can be cruel and fickle, and maybe easy for them to forget sometimes that authors are real people.

Also a general apology if I've contributed to the negativity. Hope all are well this morning.
 

skydragon

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I'll put my two cents in about my previously written and/or subbed projects. I haven't sold anything yet but maybe this list will help or make someone feel better.

Ms#1: Written at age 16, for fun, so not sure if it counts, but including it anyway as it was book-length. Knew it was terrible but had a great time.
Ms#2: (or #1, if you don't count me playing around at age 16): NaNo project, for practice. Was thinking about aiming for getting an agent.
Ms#3: Second NaNo project, for practice. Didn't think it was good enough to sub.
Ms#4: YA fantasy. Thought it was pretty strong. Queried. Got some R&Rs but wasn't signed by an agent.
Ms#5: YA contemporary. Lots of rejections. Then got agent interest and signed with agent. Book didn't sell, although it was taken to acquisitions.
Ms#6: MG fantasy. Trying a different age group as YA oversaturated. Didn't sell.
Ms#7: Current. Adult fantasy. On sub.

This is a long road. I understand why people become jaded because you see people having completely opposite experiences. I'm happy for the people who don't go through too much of a slog, mind you – I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

But there are hurdles every step of the way that you don't see. Some people have bad publisher experiences even though they published quickly. Even successful published authors have to go on submission again and go through the agonising wait. That's why these are writerly "circles" of hell. Remember that there are a lot of things that aren't talked about publicly, negative experiences included, because authors have a reputation to maintain. We're all in it together no matter the stage. Writing and publishing are hard.

Edited for typos.
 
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angeliz2k

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Ooh, are we going all the way back to high school? My gracious. It has been a long road, hasn't it?

If we're counting high school stuff--juvenilia!--then there are two fantasy mss and at least one or two semi-finished historical mss.

If we're starting when I really got serious about getting published, in college, then my journey looks a bit like this:

MS1: historical about Roman Britain. Long, has some bright spots, but not really publishable.

MS2: pre-Revolutionary France (the Affair of the Diamond Necklace); a nice ms that could potentially be polished up to be publishable.

MS3: Antebellum south: rewritten several times, and a very good ms that I think is worthy of publication but will probably never be because of the political atmosphere. Got an agent for it years ago but had to let that agent go.

MS4: Prequel to the above; another very good ms that I plan to rework substantially but that will probably never be published because, again, of the political atmosphere. My former agent also apparently shopped this around a bit before I let her go.

MS5: Short novel set in the Appalachians during the Civil War. I like this one a lot, but, once again, it'll probably not have any chance of publication due to politics.

MS6: Civilians at the Battle of the Wilderness. This is a solid ms, but, yet again, it has little chance of publication in the current political climate.

MS7: Bit of a mashup: set in 2017 and 1917 and with speculative elements. This one, I think, needs work, but could maybe one day be published.

MS8: "The real Lost Boys", the one that's currently on sub. I'm passionate about this one. It's my last great hope, frankly.

Huh. No wonder I've felt so discouraged. Look at the number of fine mss I have that are basically never going to be published because agents/editors won't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole! I have mixed thoughts and feelings about that, but it's not really something to get into here.

Yep, it's been a long road. I'm honestly not sure my current agent realizes how long I've been at this and how many mss I have under my belt.
 

skydragon

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Well, I just realised I got the manuscript numbers on my post completely wrong, so I fixed that, and then was promptly shocked that there are seven in total, lol. That's what I get for posting at 9am when I hadn't even finished my coffee yet! I've been unwell this week and just having to plough on because I have too much work to do.

@angeliz2k, I can see why you've felt discouraged too. It's so hard when what you're writing doesn't have a market because of reasons you can't control, in your case politics. Seems like you've developed a good awareness of what does and doesn't work, though, so hopefully that works in your favour this time. I like the sound of The Real Lost Boys just based on the title alone.

Looking back, I can see why the two of mine that didn't sell failed on sub. UKYA is hella difficult. Most of the YA writers have shifted to MG so that's even harder now too, and mine wasn't exactly the most original. I feel so good about the MS that's on sub though. I hope I'm not wrong.
 

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I wrote reams of angsty poetry in HS, all of which I shredded. You're welcome.

I spent my convent and post-college years writing short pieces. Then I got the idea for what I thought would be my only book [hahahahaha] and rewrote it five times front to back. It was my learning curve. Wrote Force of Habit after that, which got me an agent and was my first sale. [insert lots of good and bad stuff] Now I'm working on a new mystery.
 
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Oh, yay, tallying manuscripts! I've got:

High School + College: Multiple novels (all in my current romance subgenre) begun and not finished. Probably about 4 different ones. One I made it about 30k words into.

MS #1: Finished an actual romance novel during my immediate post-college years. Sent to many beta readers. Queried a few agents with some personalized and some form rejections. The writing's decent, but the story is unremarkable.

(Interstitial period in graduate school when I wrote mostly academic essays. I was in grad school a long time. Also had some babies. Started and abandoned two more mss).

MS #2: Began writing the day after I finished my graduate degree. Pantsed the whole thing. Rewrote four times. Pitched at conferences and queried. Still frankly a mess. Just abandoned another revision of the book.

MS #3 (my book on sub): Wrote it super fast. Queried my agent (who had read the previous book), got an R&R, signed. I love this book, but it looks like it's going to die.

Current WIP is MS #4. I'm excited about it.

I've got 3 further books in varying stages of planning, so I know I can do this for a longer haul. Buckling in for the ride.
 

iblamejane

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But - but - why would they read on, if they know it's Not For Them? I would hope they'd jump ship pretty quickly, so they can get on with finding other mss that are for them. It's important to remember that their job is nothing to do with training up writers.

Oh, yeah, I'm under no illusion that their job is to train me as a writer or that they owe it to me to finish a ms they have already decided they don't want. It's just frustrating when a critique is phrased as representative of the book as a whole when a more accurate phrasing would be "the opening was too scattered to grab my attention" or something like that. One editor passed saying she disliked my heroine. Fair enough! She's prickly and won't be to everyone's taste and I certainly wouldn't expect anyone to continue reading a romance about a protagonist they actively dislike. That was a pass that told me what I needed to know and I wasn't hurt, confused, or annoyed by it.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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I had one book that died on sub before the one that sold, but I’ve already told that story on this thread. I spent about six years querying different incarnations of that ms. before I even got an agent for it. The ms. I wrote after it lost me the agent. I didn’t bother to query that ms., just wrote something new.

There’ve been too many mss. to count for me. More than I want to count, anyway. Instead, I gathered them and featured them all in a video, a sort of career collage. I enjoyed it, so I recommend doing something creative with your old mss., if you have hardcopies! It’s cathartic.

 

skydragon

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I love reading about everyone's manuscripts. So interesting to see all our different paths!

Harlequin, thanks for that blog. I've read a bunch of them already! I have read every single one of Mandy McGuiness's S.H.I.T posts so I needed something else to sink my teeth into.

Feeling slightly despondent today. Been outlining my new project, and got super excited about it in the process, then went into existential crisis mode thinking about putting in all this work for nothing – again. It doesn't help that I heard about an author who is now making nearly six figures self-publishing. I find her inspiring but at the same time – I've been slogging away trying to get traditionally published for nearly a decade. I know each path has its drawbacks and there's no guarantee of anything either way. At this point, I'm just so tired of waiting to be given permission to start this career. :(
 

A.P.M.

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I've been at this for about 15 years--it just takes time sometimes. I went the small press route for a while but now I really want to see if I can get published traditionally.

Book 3 had some early rejections on the pitch but the MS is now with a few editors that I have high hopes for. I just have to keep hoping.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed writing the manuscripts and I know they're good. That's what keeps me going.
 

RaggyCat

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Definitely agree with skydragon - "there are hurdles every step of the way that you don't see" EVERY author, even ones who appear to have made it, will have had some downs and some challenges, even if they don't talk about them. Whenever I do get chatting with authors I regard as doing well, I usually find there's something that's been difficult for them.

To share my experieneces: I queried my first manuscript when I was 10 (!) and it actually got some really nice personalised rejections (probably because I was 10...) I also queried two other fantasy MSs while I was at sixth form/university - I actually got a full request on one, with some really good feedback, but IIRC I lost interest in the book and moved on. I'd already edited and changed a lot and couldn't face doing more.

To move on from juvenalia:

MS #1 - YA crime thriller, maybe queried about 10-15 agents, got agent representation, sold to a Big 5 publisher. Was really pretty successful.

MS #2 and MS #3- also YA crime thrillers, contracted to Big 5 publisher... didn't sell well.

MS#4 - YA crime thriller, started writing, abandoned at a mature stage because I was starting to feel trapped writing similar kinds of books to my debut and wanted to do something different (probably not a great decision, looking back on it?!)

MS #5 - more of a psychological YA contemporary, subbed to 6-7 editors, didn't get great feedback, and I didn't love the story enough to want to gut-edit it for another round.

MS #6 - YA hitorical romance. MAN, I was so attached to this one. It was written slowly, under difficult circumstances, but my agent didn't like it. I rewrote it from the ground up based on her feedback, but she didn't like the second version either... so it got trunked.

MS #7 - YA dark contemporary. Agent didn't like it enough to sub. Left agent, queried about 15 agents, no one interested. Sent a revised version to my original agent. She had some reservations, but subbed it to two editors who passed. Agent wasn't happy submitting it further.

MS #8 - YA thriller. This was my "last chance saloon" book before moving on from YA. Luckily, I got a new agent more or less instantly. It came out in April. I'll always wonder how big a part me signing to write two IP books with the publisher played in them taking this book on - I'm guessing it made me as an author an easier sell.

I'm convinced that so much of publishing is luck - you can have a great book, but if it doesn't strike the right editor at the right publisher at the right time, it's going to be very hard. It's really difficult. I think we all know the feeling of getting excited about a new project while also simultaneously thinking "is this one going to go anywhere?"

Kate Dylan's sub stories is GREAT.
 

skydragon

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You've had quite the journey, Raggy. Just goes to show there are hurdles even when we're published once – it doesn't mean it's always smooth sailing. I find that weirdly comforting. I'm glad your "last chance saloon" book found a home.

Another Monday. Fingers crossed for some good news for everyone as we go into a new week. Not that I'm expecting anything myself – I'm pretty resigned to the fact that I won't hear positive news anytime soon. (I'm not getting rejections forwarded so it's basically silence until or if a Good Thing happens.) I think it's Week 5 now. I'm due a check-in with my agent next week, to see where we're at and whether we might do a second round, or if there are too many people still considering from Round 1.
 

RaggyCat

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I hear the "another Monday." When you're waiting for news, each week feels like a soft reset, and you find yourself thinking "maybe this is the week!" I think you're wise not to have rejections forwarded, Skydragon - much better to hear of any when you have yur check in with your agent.

Sub glitter for all, for this new week!
 
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Fuchsia Groan

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I’m starting to see that an engaged, communicative publicist and publishing team can make a difference. This week my book is on a BuzzFeed list, and it does seem to affect the Amazon ranking (my only marker of preorder sales at the moment). I’ve been working for years to tamp down any giddy optimism about my writing career. Expecting good things to snowball into more good things is against my rules. (With earlier books, I got IndieNext. I got starred reviews. Sales didn’t follow.) But I’ll just sit with this win for now. Maybe that’s okay.