Brad A. LaMar is author of the upcoming young adult fantasy series, Celtic Mythos. Book one in the series, The Obsidian Dagger, will be released on February 20. Book two, The Megalith Union is anticipated for Fall 2013.
It was February of 2012 when I was first contacted by Light Messages about my manuscript, and I have to be honest, I had already been down this road a lot of times where an agent or publisher would give my stuff a once over and then decide to pass. This time felt a little different. The email had the hint of excitement in it and I became cautiously optimistic. I submitted the manuscript and Elizabeth, the Senior Editor, got back to me a week later with the news that I had been waiting a long time to hear: "We want to publish your book."
Excuse me? Really? Are you playing with my emotions? I'm sure you can understand my excitement and nonbelief that something like this could happen to me. This was a dream come true! I signed my contract, and my journey as a published author began.
Since signing on the dotted line I have been enjoying the entire experience that goes into taking a book from a manuscript on my computer to a bound novel on the bookstore shelves, but it has come with some hard work on both my part and on the part of the publisher. I have been a science teacher for 14 years, so I equate the work that goes into the publication of a book to that of the process a teacher uses to plan and carry out lessons. There is so much work that goes into planning lessons, assembling labs, grading papers, and so on that all happens away from the kids and thus the students only got to see the "show" and never the production. I used to walk into a library or bookstore and check the book covers out and read the summary without ever thinking of the production that was behind it. I only saw the "show." I now know that the production aspect is long, arduous, stressful, and incredible all at the same time.
I can't go in to all of it in any real detail simply because it's a year-long process in my case and I don't want to bore you, so I thought I would discuss a few different components here to give you a glimpse behind the book publishing curtain.
I cannot stress enough how important the relationship I have with my editor, Elizabeth, is to me. She has been and will continue to be my guide and my partner on this venture. We are in constant contact through email, social media, and even good old-fashioned phone conversations. My editor has taken the time to explain the process and the steps it takes to publish a book, market a book, build an audience, and everything in between. We worked together to polish the manuscript and get it prepped for printing. She made suggestions about social media, book events, and making connections with interested people. She has taught me so much about the whole thing and I am grateful.
Polishing the Novel
After I write a novel I always go back and reread it. I add details or pieces to it or take some away. I'll go back and change things all in the hopes of making my message more clear, entertaining, touching, and audience ready. After I sent it to my editor, she went through it, too, and then sent me a list of questions and suggestions. It was refreshing to have a fresh set of eyes looking at my work and giving me an unbiased opinion. So, I went back and made some more changes and worked on what Elizabeth had suggested and I feel like the book was improved. I sent it back to her and she sent it on to an editor who then went in and also made corrections and subtle changes that don't affect the story but the aesthetics for the reader. The words of my novel were finally ready.
Art, Sundries, and Summaries
My editor and I had hours of conversation both on the phone and over email about the art that the publisher wanted to put in the book. She felt that this book was perfect for a picture at the beginning of each chapter, and I was thrilled to hear that. So, we went chapter by chapter and discussed scenes that were important but that also didn't give away plot points and ruin it for the reader. She would send our ideas to the artist, a very talented man from Russia named Igor Adasikov, and he would sketch something out and send it back to her. She would share it with me and we would discuss. Sometimes the art was dead on, and other times it needed tweaking. This process continued all spring and right up through the summer until Igor had created some fantastic art! We went through a couple versions of the cover as well, but when we saw the final draft, we were blown away.
The art was just one aspect to think about, but there were others that I needed to complete. The first item was a one to two paragraph blurb for the back cover. Wow, it is difficult to knock your novel down to a couple of paragraphs! You want to make it interesting and tell a little about what's going on, but don't give away too much or not enough. The other sundries were easier. I wrote a dedication, a short biography, and an acknowledgment. The book was nearly ready.
ARC stands for Advance Review Copies. Light Messages sent me ten of them and sent others out for review. I gave one to each of my kids, one to my mom, and the rest were for contest winners and reviewers. This part is a little scary for a writer. Your hard work is being sent out into the world, albeit on a limited basis, for people to judge it. Be still my heart! The good part about it is that a reviewer may give it a good review and say something nice about the novel that can be used on the cover or online in an attempt to help create sales. Tons of these ARCs can be sent out, but you might not get very many people to read it. Bloggers and reviewers for magazines and companies are overloaded sometimes, but you take your chances in the hopes of finding that gold nugget of a good comment.
Elizabeth was instrumental in me making my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, and I'm glad she did. What a great way to spread the word about my book! As a teacher I come into contact with a lot of people, but without the gargantuan world of social media many of them might not have ever heard that I was even published. It is also a great opportunity to interact with both prospective readers and other authors. The world has been opened up quite a bit and has created some really unique experiences for people.
I had no idea that there were so many events that an author could be a part of. Early on I got to speak at a literacy night at a local elementary school, and it was a great feeling to get to talk to parents and students about my book, writing, and following your dreams through hard work. I hope to have a positive impact when I'm out there at events like that. There are book events, conventions, and fairs that authors can be apart of, too. I'm already lined up to go to a few in this calendar year, but who knows how many others I might end up getting to go to as well. The big event for me is the book launch party. A whole party that celebrates the release of my creation for the world to see! It's humbling and so darn exciting!
Hard Work, Big Reward
Some might think that I'm talking about the book sales, a movie deal, or multiple books in a series, but really I'm just talking about a journey that took an idea that I developed all the way to the bookstores. The reward is seeing it all the way through the publication process. Of course, I hope it is successful and readers really enjoy it and want to read more of my stories, but let me tell you, the process of publishing was a big adventure in its own right, and I wouldn't have exchanged the experience for anything.