David Walton's Fiction

The Most Wonderful, Agonizing Secret

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Beth Cato visits the blog today with a peek behind the scenes into the experience of being an author.  Beth’s first novel, The Clockwork Dagger, earned her a ton of fans when it came out last Fall.  The sequel to that book, The Clockwork Crown, hits bookstores tomorrow!  To celebrate, Beth is here to discuss a subject most authors don’t like to dwell on: the long, terrible wait to announce a book deal.

BETH CATO:

If you’re a writer with dreams of publication, you’ve imagined the various kinds of “Calls.” The call from an agent, saying they love your book and want to represent you, and the biggest call of all: the one from your agent, saying a publisher wants to buy your book. It’s something you’ve worked toward for years, maybe decades. It’s a life changing moment.

And you can’t…. tell… anyone.

Well, very few people, in any case. It’s a moment where you want to scream and yell and hug random strangers on the street, and you’re effectively gagged and bound. Worst of all, your muteness can last for weeks. Maybe months.

In my case, it was four and a half months until I could announce my two-book deal for The Clockwork Dagger. Why?

– Big Publishers Do Not Move Quickly

Different methods of publication have different positives and negatives. Self-publishing has the benefit (and sometimes the detriment) of almost instant publication. Prep your document, upload, done.

The larger New York City publishing houses hold great power. This means their books are distributed worldwide, gain major media attention, etc, but also means there is bureaucracy. Paperwork often takes a while. This is also because of a lot of back and forth work between the author’s representative (an agent or a literary lawyer… and trust me, you need someone to read the fine print with a contract of this magnitude) and the contracts department of the publisher. There will be haggling over every single line. This is a good thing in the long run, even if it drives you bonkers now.

– Don’t Count Your Chickens

Until all the signatures are on the contract, the deal is not done. Things can fall through. The publishing industry is volatile and editors often switch jobs or houses. Bad things can happen.

That means it creates an extremely bad situation if you hop on Twitter straight away and scream, “OMG BOOK DEAL!” This announcement is not just seen by your fellow authors. It’s also seen by other editors and publishing personnel who you might work with in the future. It makes you look hasty and unprofessional, and could sabotage you with future deals. Your book deal is a piece of succulent meat; don’t eat it raw. Season it, cook it, and indulge at the right time.

– Tell a Trusted Few

My agent knows I know social media. She also knows how good news of this scale makes an author want to explode with glee. She cautioned me. “DON’T TELL ANYONE OTHER THAN YOUR HUSBAND.”

“I have to tell my mom!” I said.

“Will she keep it a secret? She won’t go on Facebook or anything?”

“My mom isn’t on Facebook. She can’t even copy and paste!”

I found it a relief to tell a few of my closest friends–fellow writers–who I could then vent to over the months as the wait dragged on. And yes, my mom and husband kept the secret, too. Just make everyone vow to keep it all mum until the time is ripe.

– When Can You Tell the World?

I didn’t make an announcement the day I signed the contracts. That’s because the paper still needed more signatures. I sent the parcel along to my agent and waited a few more weeks. Everything is official-official once the deal is announced in Publishers Weekly. I found out that my Clockwork Dagger deal was done when a friend sent me a Twitter message along the lines of “ZOMG @BETHCATO HAS A BOOK DEAL!”

Then, and only then, I hit my own capslock key to type my announcement everywhere possible online. FINALLY.

That was a good day.

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.  She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. The newest book, THE CLOCKWORK CROWN, is out on June 9th, 2015. To find out more about the series and her other works, please visit BethCato.com.

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