Guest Blogger: Nadine Brandes
Reading the words, “I want to offer you a contract for this book and its sequel, at least,” from Jeff Gerke, former owner and publisher of Marcher Lord Press, was one of the most heart-stopping and joyful moments of my life. Answering “yes” to my top-choice publishing house was laughably easy. I knew things would change–my writing process, my scheduling habits (or lack thereof)–and I thought I was ready.
But really, as I look back, I see how sweetly ignorant I was. I pictured myself writing 24/7 at the slightest whim, sending my completed or edited manuscripts to my editor and simply waiting for replies. I thought I’d post little “day-in-the-life-of” posts on Facebook and call it marketing.
It’s nothing like that. Not easy. Not simple. But, let me assure you, it’s still absolutely worth it. I love every second — well, almost every second. [grin]
I’ve heard a lot about life before being published and life after being published. But, to be frank, I never heard anything about life being contracted. I thought waiting for a publisher’s response to my query/proposal/first chapters was hard enough, but then I found myself anxiously staring at my inbox, waiting for editing feedback, waiting for information about the cover, waiting for the mock-up of the cover (still haven’t seen it yet, eep!), waiting to be told my release date.
I noticed five main changes after being contracted:
1. I don’t know as much as I thought I knew.
I used to consider myself fairly well-versed in publishing lingo, but once I was contracted I faced new questions I hadn’t expected. These are just a few:
- What is the etiquette of a contracted author? Could I still enter contests by other authors or was there an unspoken agreement not to? After all, now I’m looked to as an author, not a fan. I wished someone would just come alongside me and whisper all the “unspokens” about etiquette of an author’s world so I could be in the know.
- What do I blog about? I loved blogging, but it was always more for myself — little stories from my everyday tromps. Things no one really cared about, and I didn’t care if they cared. But now I have readers I care about. I don’t want them to be bored. So I spent a lot of time examining why I blogged and what my “vision” for my blog was (if I had one.)
- What are ARCs? Prior to a very generous and instructive e-mail from a fellow MLP author, I had never heard the term ARC before, which stands for Advanced Reader Copy. It’s a pre-printed version of an author’s book that s/he sends out to review journals and reviewers prior to publication in the hopes of earning some early reviews and marketing to build up the release of the book. Very important and time sensitive.
- What’s the deal with reviewing other books? I used to splash my opinion about books all over my little review blog (still editing those old posts–until then, it’s secretly hidden away) but now I’m an author. Authors just don’t do that sort of thing, not unless it’s a high-star review, right? Or do they? Still exploring that one, but for now I plan to keep reviewing.
2. My Schedule Needed Adjustment
I can no longer write only when inspiration hits. Now I have a commitment. I’ve committed to perfecting A Time to Die. I’ve committed to finishing the series. I need to schedule out my time, make writing goals, examine my productivity. It was/is much more of a life change than I expected.
3. Marketing just became a lot more important.
Thankfully, my publisher didn’t have a list of requirements regarding marketing, but once I became a part of a publishing company, I realized I didn’t just represent myself. I represented Marcher Lord Press and, in a way, represented my fellow authors. It wasn’t about just me and my book anymore. It was about my publishing house, my other authors, and my readers. Prior to contract, I didn’t have any of these things. My view of my relationship with readers was severely one-sided, and now that I’m contracted with my book on the brink of publication, I realize I want to know my readers. They want to know me. The only way that can happen is by marketing myself and meeting them.
4. Life gets a lot busier.
I really don’t know how my fellow authors do it. Some work full-time jobs and write. Others are parents who squeeze in half hours of writing. Some are both — full-time workers and parents while writing. Me? I don’t have a job outside of my editing business or my writing. My husband brings home the bacon and we have no children yet. Still, I feel overwhelmed nearly every day with the amount of work I have.
5. It’s up to me to ask questions and find answers.
I imagined, to an extent, that once I signed a contract someone like Dumbledore or Gandalf or another wizened instructor would come take me by the hand and walk me through the ins and outs of publishing. That obviously didn’t happen. I had to ask questions. I had to learn to be bold.
Now that I am “in,” I can see that my publisher cares about the success of my book just as much as I do, and I need to be confident in asking the questions I need to ask, even if I’m afraid I might be annoying this busy hero of mine. (To my knowledge, neither Jeff nor Steve has been annoyed with me yet.)
This also applies to authors. My fellow MLP authors became an accessible toolbox of information. While I could still be a shy fan in awe of their brilliant writing, I had to step over that threshold of “fan” into “fellow author.” I kept telling myself, “It’s okay! I’m allowed to do this!” And it has been wonderful getting to know them and seeing their willingness to help.
Being contracted is exciting, but it also demands I look at what I want to be as an author. I must be prepared to fully commit to authorhood. I realize the commitment I am making to readers — that I will write, that I will keep writing, and that I will complete the series despite blocks, discouragement, or frozen imagination.
It’s hard to imagine committing to this, especially when I start thinking, “What if I run out of ideas?”
And this is where I find myself returning to prayer. This is the one thing that hasn’t changed — the need to continue trusting God’s hand in my writing. After all, I committed my writing to Him a long time ago. Since then, He inspired a book I never planned to write and then got me contracted with Marcher Lord Press. I was serious when I told Him, “Take me to a place that glorifies You.” The path is getting steeper, but it’s growing more and more exciting.
So the word I want to leave with other authors is this: daily hand over your writing to God and learn to be flexible. Being contracted is just one step to publication, but it’s the start of a commitment. Once I’m published, I’m sure an entire new wave of adjustments and lessons will come my way. I’m as ready as I can be.
Now I know I haven’t covered anything — any questions I’ve missed?
Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases spring 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com.