Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

A bleary-eyed offering

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Hello, friends. It’s been a ferocious week (long story, won’t bore you). Among other things, I’ve been making corrections to the typeset, copy-edited version of Rivals in the City, which will be published in the UK by Walker Books this June. (June! Hurray!)

There are 299 pages, of which this is the first:

Rivals in the City (UK edition), page 7

That’s a bit of a tease, isn’t it? In fairness, I should really give you a legible taste of the first few paragraphs. Here it is, and I’ll be back next week to talk about the editorial and revision process. I hope you enjoy it!


Chapter One

Saturday, 13 October, 1860
The streets of London

It was a miserable day for a walk: sleety, frigid, dark. Nevertheless, Mary Quinn and James Easton, Private Detectives, were out for a ramble about Bloomsbury, bundled against the penetrating drizzle, straining to distinguish people from lampposts in the dense fog that swamped the streets. Mary’s skirts were soaked to the knee and much heavier than when she’d first set out. Their boots were thick with mud.

Mary smiled up at James, squeezing his elbow a shade tighter. “Isn’t this delightful?”

He laughed. “Unalloyed bliss, apart from the rain, the wind, and the bitter cold. Can you still feel your fingertips?”

She wiggled them experimentally. “A little. Could you tilt the umbrella towards me, please? It’s dripping on my shoulder.” James complied and they paced on, past a sodden, shivering boy wielding a broomstick taller than he was. “Wait a moment, James.” But she needn’t have spoken. James was already turning back, pressing a coin into the crossing-sweeper’s unresisting palm. He murmured something and gave the child a gentle pat on the shoulder, urging him to movement.

Mary watched the boy stumble away, a slight figure swallowed by the dark smog. She shuddered. It was like a heavy-handed morality play, to which there could be only one conclusion.

James returned, offering his arm once more. “Where were we?”

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That’s my agent!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Hello, friends. This past weekend was the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada. I am still coasting on leftovers (that’s a splendid thing, in my opinion), basking in crisp sunshine, and in total denial of the sudden onslaught of Christmas cack in the retail world.

This is not a terribly new video and I can’t seem to embed it here the way I usually do, but I’m linking to it anyway because hey! that’s my agent! Without further ado, here is Rowan Lawton of Furniss Lawton, with her Top 3 Tips for getting published.

Also, I’m reading Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America. I’ve said this before, but Peter Carey is absolutely bonkers. I’m adoring it. What are you reading right now?

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Women doing literary things

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

This week’s blog post is over at Women Doing Literary Things, a new series created by critic and blogger Niranjana Iyer in response to VIDA’s survey on women in publishing . My post is called “Money, Literature, Domesticity“, and it’s my attempt to puzzle through some of the contradictions, triumphs, and frustrations of being one of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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My ebook problem

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

It’s okay, friends – I’m not up on my piracy soapbox today. But I was recently asked for my general opinion of ebooks and realized, I seldom think about them. As you know, I love books with a fervour that approaches the religious and have plenty of opinions about technology, but where those two things collide, I just shrug and go, “Meh.”

Basically, I’m suspicious of the medium. Dedicated e-readers look frumpy, cumbersome, fragile. When I look at them, I think, “Landfill.” Smartphones are sleeker and newer iPads have some green credentials, but they’re still not that sustainable. Analyses vary, but the number I hear most is that you have to read at least 40 ebooks a year to outweigh the environmental cost of the same number of new paper books. (That’s if you believe the most-quoted figure.) For how many years? More than it takes to get the next generation e-reader, for sure.

I already spend my days on a laptop, drive a car, fly long distances to visit family, and eat for pleasure rather than sustenance. Sometimes, I slip carrot peelings into the garbage instead of the composter. And without going all Willy Loman on you, I’m putting off buying a dishwasher because new ones are designed to last only 6-8 years. I think I’m turning into a cranky hippie but basically, I dislike stuff.

So today, I’m thinking of things that need to happen before I’d want an e-reader or smartphone. My first device should:

– last more than 5 years

– be made without sweatshop labour

– be recyclable (and not just in theory)

– cost less energy to produce than, say, 25 paper books (roughly the number I bought new last year)

– be beautiful

And that’s excluding all the readerly functions I’d want: huge range of titles, full-text searchability, linked index, ability to turn more than one page at a time, proper illustrations.

What about you? What are your criteria for getting an e-reader? If you already have one, what persuaded you it was worthwhile?

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Piracy, borrowing, theft

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Yesterday, a discussion about illegal e-book downloads exploded on Twitter. Some of the comments were illuminating, others sanctimonious, still others plain illogical. It makes for frustrating reading. (You can find the unedited discussion here.)

In brief, though, lots of readers appear to believe that illegal downloads are “like a library card on the Internet”. There are lots of problems with this assumption and today I’m just going to pick at the 3 most basic:

1. Libraries buy books and lend them as a community service (paid for with your taxes). “Free ebook” sites steal books for personal profit.

2. When you borrow a library book, you agree to return it after a short period. You are under no obligation to return a stolen ebook.

3. Authors are paid for their work when libraries buy their books. Authors earn nothing from pirated ebooks.

Basically, downloading illegal copies of ebooks is theft. Authors who can’t get paid for their work may soon be out of work. Publishers who can’t earn back the cost of producing books may reduce the number of books they publish.

This is extremely simplistic, of course, and I hope you don’t feel personally patronized. But for much of yesterday’s Twitter discussion, this was the level of discourse and so I started with the basics.

And now I’m tired, and jaded, and these specious comparisons of book-thieves to librarians make me want to soothe my spirit at a real library: one with ebooks and traditional books, one staffed by smart, bookish people with plenty of great recommendations, one that’s a vibrant part of my community. I hope you’ll join me.

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“How do you get published?”

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

This was the #1 question that came tumbling out of the students at my first school visit. At four different sessions, in different-sized groups, students ranging from grades 9 to 12 all wanted to know the secret. And, sadly, there’s no magic for that. I don’t even think the question “how do you get published” is answerable, because routes to publication are so varied; no single path will do. I can, however, tell you how my first novel was published.

I finished my novel (and that’s a whole different series of questions which I’ve answered in parts, week by week, and will continue to do so and collect as FAQs). Once I had a complete, polished manuscript, I wrote a query letter for literary agents. I won’t get into query letters here because lit agent Nathan Bransford has already done a splendid job explaining them. Kristin Nelson, another impossibly chipper agent, posts further examples at Pub Rants. So I shined up my query and my husband, Nick, emailed it to six literary agents. Why not send it myself? Partly because I am thin-skinned and an obsessive email-checker at the most relaxed of times, and partly because Nick is lovely, amazingly supportive of my writing, and utterly fearless with stuff like this.

I got lucky: in two days I had six replies, all of which were requests for more. In five cases, “more” was a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters; the sixth agent, from William Morris, simply said, “I’d love to read it”, so I sent the full ms. A week later, this agent’s assistant emailed to say that she was halfway through, “really enjoying it”, and would I let her know if I had interest from other agencies in the meantime. (I cannot tell you how many times I stared at the words “really enjoying it” and wondered what secret code they masked.) A couple of days later, I heard from the hard-working assistant again: the agent thought the book had merit but didn’t like it enough to represent it, so she’d passed it on to a colleague, Rowan Lawton. I did a tentative happy dance.

When Rowan emailed me a couple of weeks later, she had some questions and detailed notes for me. The ms I’d submitted was for an adult historical mystery. Rowan, however, pointed out that it was really a coming-of-age story and asked if I’d consider revising it as a YA novel. I was completely surprised. But when I thought about it, I realized that she was right. Those changes would make it a better novel.

I cut 30,000 words (paring the ms from 95,000 to 65,000 words) and compressed the plot. I changed the main characters’ ages – Mary Quinn went from 21 to 17, and James Easton from 29 to 19. One thing I was careful NOT to do was simplify or lighten the novel’s themes and ideas. I hate being talked down to – always have – and would despise myself for doing so to others. Rowan and I did two edits together before we were ready to go out on submission. At this point, I officially signed with William Morris.

My job now was to buckle down, write the sequel, and try not to obsess too much; I wasn’t the one selling the book. This was, shall we say, challenging. But a few weeks later, I opened an email (I’d been on holiday with my extended family) from Rowan that said, “I have some great news for you! Do give me a call…” ARGH. It was a Friday afternoon in Vancouver and thus darkest night in London. That was one of the longest weekends of my life. Eventually, Monday came around and I heard the News: Walker Books wanted World English rights for three novels. (I have carefully resisted the use of exclamation points here, in case I never stop. But they’re there, in my head.)

And that’s how Spy came to be published.

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A spy in the house (of a publishing sales conference)

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Last week, I had the honour of going to Candlewick Press’s Canadian sales conference at Random House of Canada’s Mississauga office. This involved:
–    coming up with an Author Outfit that was not pyjamas with a pilled sweater on top
–    getting the bus (oh, the glamour!) to the airport strip (and architectural beauty!)
–    avoiding arrest outside Terminal 3 (I was early, so paced up and down outside inhaling diesel fumes and second-hand smoke, looking pretty tense)

Things turned fantastic once I arrived at the Random House offices (Candlewick books are distributed by RHC in Canada), and not because of me. The Candlewick team of Elise Supovitz, Jeanne Emanuel and John Mendelson were utterly charming, and seemed to specialize in putting nervous outsiders at ease. We had lunch (pizza and profiteroles – an alliterative menu!) with the Random House sales team, headed by Linda Chisholm and Duncan Shields. I met a lot of people, many of whom I didn’t get a chance to really talk to (but some of whom I did – hello Jennifer, and Lahring, and Tan, and Robin!). I also met “my” publicist, Nicola Makoway, and bombarded her with questions. Ahem.

Everybody was so energetic and enthusiastic and clearly passionate about books. I learned a bit about different sales territories (there’s one dedicated to Toronto indie bookstores alone; by contrast, another person handles national accounts for Wal-Mart and Shoppers Drug Mart) and a bit of terminology (“inside sales” – someone who works within the office, instead of on the road) – lots of things I hadn’t really thought about until that lunch meeting. I also learned about a very cool-sounding social-networking site for Canadian teen readers, Bookurious; I’m not allowed in, as an adult, but it looks great. And I shook hands with a man who’s shaken Anne Perry’s hand. What does that MEAN, oh cosmos?

After lunch, I talked to the assembled group (including some on conference call) about the story behind The Agency and how I came to be a writer. It was a strange, surreal, yet hyper-real ten minutes in time. It was so peculiar to do something deeply familiar – address a group of people – but in a completely new context (conference room of a publishing house). I wish I could play it back accurately in my head, but it was all a blur of politely nodding heads and me wondering, after the fact, did I talk way too fast? I mean, there’s a reason one of my undergrad classes nicknamed me “the Auctioneer”…

And then, suddenly, it was over. I was the privileged outsider who went downtown to meet up with a dear friend, while everyone else was still hard at work. I walked along Queen St, thinking, “I’m an author. All those people think I’m an author.”

And I’m not sure I believe it myself.

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