Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Book and Wedding Details

I’m always kind of hesitant to post stuff about the book, because I don’t want people to think I want a bunch of attention about this. But part of being successful is spreading the news that this is really happening! And I know that my faithful blog readers (I know I have a few because you’ve told me!) are really interested in this process. I get questions all the time, questions that I think I’ve answered in previous blogs but then it hits me that you guys don’t live in the same world as me! I get emails pretty much every week giving me some kind of update on what’s happening with the book, and I just can’t share every detail. If I did…I think people really would start thinking I was sharing just for attention. But I did get a really nice email this past week from my publisher giving me a great update and a timeline for what’s to come. So, hopefully this will answer any recent questions you might have. The publishing process seems scary and complicated but it’s really not.

I’ve been in contact with quite a few people already since I sent my book in. Originally I was assigned an acquisitions editor, which is pretty much a fancy name for the person who answered my early questions. When I requested information from Tate’s website (Tate Publishing House is my publishing house…just in case you forgot!) my acquisitions editor was the one who called me and told me the next step, which was to send in the three chapters and synopsis. She was also the one to send me my contract and dealt with all the questions and concerns we had dealing with that. I have found that these people really, really want to help their authors succeed. They are truly wonderful people that have been there every step of the way so far…and I know they will stick with me during that first year that the book is published to help me be successful. God has provided big time by leading me to Tate Publishing. I am humbled and beyond thankful for that.

Once I sent my contract in I made all the formatting changes and then my contact switched a few times. One administrative assistant handled the refundable retainer I sent in, which as a reminder covers the fee for a publicist. Another assistant helped me choose a domain name for my website, which isn’t up and running yet and I’m not sure when it will be. Right now all I have is the name. But it’s a start! My most recent contact is the Director of Operations, and helping her are the Director of Production, the Executive Editor, and the Director of Marketing. They will be the ones who work the magic on my book! I received an email last week with a basic timeline, and let me tell you people, this is not a speedy process. Production timelines are usually 180 days, but some books can take longer. Getting a title set up for production takes at least three months after the book is finalized to be printed. God is definitely working on my patience with this whole deal!

The file I submitted a few weeks ago is what will be given to the editing department. This means that I will not be able to make any more changes to the manuscript. Too often authors begin to second guess themselves and try to rework their manuscript, and this makes it worst most of the time. I won’t be able to submit a new file…but I will have plenty of opportunities to mold and shape the manuscript during the editing process. I was advised though, that it’s best to wait until I have a senior editor assigned to collaborate with before making any changes. Right now I don’t have much I want to change, but I will take their advice on any changes that they suggest. The great thing about the editing process is that all the changes have to go through me. If they think a character needs to be developed more or a certain chapter needs to be more powerful, I will listen. I’m not the expert, and they know how to make books successful. I will not be stubborn or too prideful to look at my work and realize that some parts can be even better. Because after all, they already accepted my work! They think it has potential to be successful. I know already that it is a good piece of work (man that sounds really prideful…sorry!) and I will gladly take their advice. I’ve heard too many stories of people who could have been successful if only they’d let someone look at their work and suggest changes.

Production for Another Ending is scheduled to begin in September. Over the course of production, a senior editor and design project manager will be assigned to my book, and I will work hand in hand with them. During that first month, my manuscript will be reviewed by the copyediting staff, and any technical/grammatical issues will be addressed. They use this time to get the manuscript in the best shape possible before it begins the developmental editing process. Developmental editing will begin in October.

In October I get to send in my biography and a short teaser. That’s the stuff that will be on the back pages and cover! I will also have to get rolling on marketing my book. And there is a TON I have to do! If you guys thought just writing the book sounded hard, I’m telling you you’re wrong! Writing was easy…but marketing is tough. I will be assigned a personal Tate Marketing Representative though, which will be amazing. They are my industry expert and partner in marketing. This person won’t be my agent or personal assistant, but they will have specialized training and the experience to what works and doesn’t work in selling books. I would appreciate your prayers on this aspect of getting published. I really like doing things my own way, and naturally I always think my way is the best. But I want to listen to this person and know that they, not I, know what’s best. They have my best interests at heart, so I want to be able to swallow my pride and let them help me.

The first thing I will have to do for marketing is to find my niche audience. Basically, I need to target the audience for my book outside the bookstores and build my platform as a professional author. (that sounds sooo fancy!!) I need to pinpoint exactly whom my book is written for, and where those people are in my area. To build momentum I am advised to have pre-release parties with friends, family, and any interested potential readers. This will be my first opportunity to sell books and to spread the word. People who attend the parties can then tell all their friends that they bought a book that will hit the shelves soon, and that they too should buy it when it comes out! Seriously, this is the main way you can help me be successful. When it comes out, buy it! I need to sell     copies to earn back the money I invested. This is a bit scary for me, but I’m choosing to leave it in God’s hands.

Since I am interested in getting my book into local bookstores, I must work my niche market very hard between the time the book goes into print and the release date. The more momentum I can build the better. So, in order to engage my core audience, I’ve been hitting up social media websites. Obviously I use Facebook to spread the word, but I’m on Twitter now too! Follow me at sara_watt for more updates through Twitter. And be looking for announcements about pre-release parties!

When my book hits the release date, Tate will begin making contacts for bookstores in the area to schedule book signings for me. They will also send out press releases to notify the area media of my new book and attempt to get media coverage for me. So that’s kind of exciting. They also have Promotional Items I can buy and distribute to help spread the word too: business cards, posters, bookmarks, release party invitations, thank you cards, and t-shirts. Not sure what I will buy yet if I do decide to. I also get a website, a Facebook page, and a 15 second trailer that will air on some major TV channels, which I listed in the last blog. Now you can see what a good job these people do at helping their authors succeed! Its nuts. And I love it.

All I can say is that it is going to be a crazy busy year for me and Ben. In the midst of all this book stuff we will be finalizing our wedding planning. Which reminds me…I haven’t updated you guys on wedding stuff in a while! I know it’s still really early to be planning, but like I said, I plan on getting super busy in the next few months with school, work, and book marketing. That’s why we are very much ahead of the game. We already purchased and brought home the dress, which fits great and only needs a little bit of shortening. We’ve booked Calvary Baptist Church for the ceremony (obviously…it’s where Ben and I met!) and the Riverfront Event Center for the reception, which is beautiful and we’re beyond excited for! We already have a nice list of songs we want to have at our dance. We really want this wedding to be fun…I will be 20 and Ben will be 21! We’re young…we want it to be fun and memorable. I’m taking advantage of Pinterest with this one. That place is FULL of wonderful ideas! I’m up to 100 pins on my wedding page. Yes, I am slightly addicted. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the wedding is over and I can’t browse for hours looking for fun reception ideas! We have most of the big stuff taken care of, and we plan on getting our engagement pictures taken in the fall as well. Then my mom, Ben and I…and whoever else we recruit to help…will start working on the little details on the weekends we come home for wedding counseling, which starts in August. So pumped for that. In the midst of planning all these little details, it will be great for us to be reminded what we’re actually planning for: a lifetime loving and supporting each other. The wedding will be over in a day, but we’re going to be married for a loooong time, God willing.

Little details include invitations, which we’re thinking about hand making. But the picture I found on the one and only Pinterest is super cute! It will not be tacky…and it will save money. Those invitations are kind of a rip-off. We’ll also start working on the centerpieces and decorations for the ceremony. Again, that darn Pinterest has given me so many cute decorating ideas, but we have to make all of them! Good thing Ben and I love projects! Then comes the fun stuff, like registering for gifts, showers, and parties. Yay! I keep thinking that this year is gonna drag by, but then I think about all this stuff we have to do and I know it will just fly by. Good deal. Ben and I have been waiting much too long to get married.

And that’s about it! Whew. Maybe it’s a little bit more complicated than I told you.J Hopefully this answered your questions. If not, please ask! I will be happy to answer any specific questions you have. Right now please continue to pray for my readers. But also pray for my patience and that when I start working with editors more closely that I will be able to take their advice in stride and use it to better this work. It’s tough when people look at something and think it could use a little more tweaking. But…I know it’s necessary.

And for you lovebirds…here are some links to my wedding stuff. Enjoy!   I will be updating this in the months to come! I’ll also save it under my information on Facebook for easy access! I think you might have to have a Pinterest account to see this one. Not sure. I’ll post anyway. If you can see this…it is clear that I have an addiction. Yikes.  

I’m done now. For real. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Peek into Publishing

Ben thought you all might be interested in reading about exactly how I got published. It may seem like a confusing process, but it was actually pretty simple and the people who work at my publishing house have been and continue to be absolutely amazing. What I always thought would simply be a dream is quickly becoming a reality for me, so here’s a peek into what my world has been like for the past month.

The first step for me was getting the story out. I get asked a lot “How in the world can you write so much?” My answer? I have no clue. I really don’t. All I can tell you is that I constantly have some sort of story running through my head. When I ran cross country and track in high school I’d run through scenarios in my mind to pass the miles…and while I pushed carts at Hy-Vee…and before I’d fall asleep at night. Pretty much any time I don’t have to think or focus on a specific thing, my brain is cooking up twists and turns in the story currently running through my mind.

 I wish I could show all of you my shoebox full of picture books I wrote and colored when I was little! Funny stuff. From the time I learned to read in elementary school I was hooked on stories. I loved going to the library to hear the librarian read us a story. And if you ask my parents, they’ll tell you that I spent most of my weekends curled up reading novels as a kid. That’s just the kind of kid I was…I was and still am perfectly fine spending the weekends chilling with a good book. Now, my weekends are spent writing my own books! It’s nuts.

That’s the best answer I can give people when they ask how I do it. It literally just comes to me. For this first book, I got the idea two or three summers ago. I planned on starting it last summer, but I kept stopping myself because I thought I would hate it. I’ve always loved writing, but for some reason I thought I would get bored writing such a long work. Well, I can tell you right now, that isn’t the case. I can spend two-three hours working on a book without realizing so much time has passed. Still, when I started writing I was worried I would get stuck in the middle of this story with no idea how to end it. I’ve realized how important it is to have the beginning and ending of a story figured out before getting too into it. The middle will pretty much write itself if you have the ending figured out. With my first story, I knew exactly how I wanted it to end, and I had the perfect beginning for the sequel all figured out. When I started the sequel I realized that I had no idea how I was going to end it and I was simply wandering around in a never ending story…good thing I finally figured out a good ending! And just like I knew it would, once I decided on an ending the rest of the outline fell into place and I am so excited to dive into this project with all I’ve got.

Once I got over the fear of getting stuck, the book really took off. I kept it a secret for a while because I was afraid people would think it was too high a goal to reach for, that no one would want to publish me. But I found that when I told people I was writing a book with the hopes of getting published, everyone was pumped and nothing but supportive. Once I had that support I finished the story and started researching publishing houses. It was important to me to find a Christian publishing house because my book is all about Christ. This book is a way for me to reach others for Christ…I look at my audience as my mission field. As I was praying about this project I prayed that God would take it as far as it needed to go and that it would reach the people God wanted it to reach. This project isn’t about me; it’s about reaching people for Christ. I found two publishing houses I liked; one was more of a self-publishing house and one a more traditional publishing house. The self-publisher was cheaper, but I knew it would be harder to reach the audience I wanted to reach with that one. But I requested information from both of them anyway, and I got emails and phone calls from both houses within three days. I decided to send material into the traditional publishing house first because I knew if it was accepted the book would go farther. I prepared myself for rejection though, because my publishing house, Tate Publishing, only accepts about 4% of manuscripts submitted each year. Scary. It’s terrifying to send off something you’ve worked so hard on and that you think is good. But, I know that stepping outside the comfort zone is an important step in reaching goals. If it feels comfortable and easy, your goals aren’t high enough.

The first thing I had to send in was my three best/favorite chapters, a synopsis of the story, an explanation of who I thought my target audience was, and the total word count. I think I was up till three in the morning one night working on all of that, and my heart was pounding when I hit send. I can’t believe I even slept that night. Two days later, Wednesday, I was elbow deep in bread dough when we got a package from UPS from Tate Publishing. I immediately started freaking out and washed my hands as fast as I could and tore into that package right away. My heart about burst out of my chest when I pulled out a 30 page Publishing and Distribution Contract! I called my dad, crying, to let him know the amazing news…they wanted to publish me!

This is where some big giants came and stood in front of me. I was thrilled, but also kind of bummed because I had to come up with a very large amount of money, a refundable publicity retainer. I get the money back after 1000 copies of the book sell, but still…I had to come up with the money within ten days. And people were very suspicious of the fact that I had to pay to get published. So let me clear the air about this. Tate Publishing house is a business. A business that wants to make money. But, they absorb all the costs of production, which is about $27,000. The refundable retainer I paid for is for publicity; books don’t sell themselves. With that money I have a publicist assigned to me to help me set up book signings and to ensure that my books sells so that I can sell 1000 copies and earn that money back. It’s an opportunity cost; I have to pay to ensure that my book sells. The self-publishing house was cheaper, but I know I’d struggle to get my book out there because it would only be available online. With Tate, they print books for me, have them available online at their website and on Barnes and Nobel and, plus it will be available for iPads, Nooks, and Kindles. They really push all their books and help me every step of the way, something I know wouldn’t be available at a self-publishing house. And who knows…maybe one day I’ll sign onto a big publishing house and get paid the big bucks to write. For now, I need to get my feet wet and my name out there. It’s a risk for Tate to publish me; I needed to make an investment in this. And I’m thanking God that I found investors to help me with the money: my father, grandparents, Aunt Brenda and Uncle Clint. What an answer to prayers! Without them I would have no hope of getting published.

Once I had the money I signed the contract and sent it away. And that’s where it’s gotten totally fun and exciting. I got an email right away with the formatting instructions for my manuscript. I then spent an entire day going through the manuscript making all the changes, which they said looked excellent. They scheduled it for production, meaning they will send it through a couple levels of editing and make it look all pretty. This is where the book will come alive and look professional. They will choose an appropriate font and illustrations for the breaks between sections within chapters. It’ll be a couple of months before the real works gets started, but apparently it goes really fast after that. They haven’t given me a date yet, but it’ll probably be about 6-8 months before it’s all done and ready to hit the shelves. In the meantime, they reserved a domain name for my future website…! That’s right…I’m using my married name on the book and website! Ben is pretty pumped about that J And since I sent in my payment before the end of May, I also get a Facebook page and a 15 second commercial that will air on some major T.V. channels such as: ABC Family, Animal Planet, Bravo, CMT, CNBC, CNN, E!, ESPN&ESPN2, Food Network, Fox News, Hallmark, HGTV, History Channel, Lifetime, MTV&MTV2, NFL Network (lol), Nickelodeon, SyFy, Spike (lol!), TBS, TLC, TNT, TruTV, TV Land, VH1, and The Weather Channel. So be watching in a few months for my book title: Another Ending, By Sara Whitley! Whoop whoop.

And, that’s about it! Pretty easy! But, it was surprising to get published on my first try. That doesn’t happen often, which gives me hope that this will be bigger than I imagined. I do get royalties for my work, which is fancy author talk for money, haha. I get money off the first book that sells, unlike other publishing houses that keep the money until after a certain number of books sell. Royalties will really help Ben and I pay for our wedding so my parents don’t have to shell out so much money, which is awesome. And if Tate decides to accept my sequel as well, those royalties will help us in our first years of marriage when money will be tight. Hopefully we can start paying off our loans right away after graduation. Ideally I would like to work a few years doing something with my Social Work degree, but it would be awesome if I could work from home when we start having kids. But having my degree in social work and getting a few years of experience will give me new ideas for books!  Believe it or not I already have an idea for a third book in this series, as well as ideas for a few other books as well Crazy stuff.  

Right now I’m working two jobs and writing in my spare time. I’m about eight chapters into the second book, but I won’t reveal the title or details for a while. My priority right now is to get school and a wedding paid for, and that means I must work my butt off this summer and simply write in my spare time. But it helps fill the hours that I miss my fiancĂ© like crazy…he’s living in Sioux Falls for the summer. I’m thinking about getting a newsletter sent out, and I need to start designing a business card now that I have a domain name! I can’t get over that exciting little detail. My dad is my business advisor, and I went out and bought a ledger book to keep track of expenses. I have to look at this like a business, and boy am I glad I have a banker father and a business major fiancĂ© to help me with all that. God is good and ALWAYS looking out for me. I have totally felt his hand throughout this whole ordeal, and I am beyond excited to see lives touched and hopefully changed because of my writing. If it reaches just one person for Christ I will consider it a success. It will be awesome to hear back from readers about what God has done through reading my book. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. So, if you’re wanting to pray for me, don’t. Pray for my readers. God takes care of me by providing me with endless ideas. I don’t worry anymore that I will get stuck in the middle. If I feel some writers block I step away for a few days and He always gets me back on track. So pray that my writing will reach the hearts it needs to and that those hearts will be open and willing.

That’s all for now! Be looking for more blog posts later on as I learn about where my book is at. And when it hits the shelves…the biggest way to support me is to buy the book! I am starting a list of book stores to do signings in, and if you have a store in mind please let me know. I can set up signings anywhere I want to if the owners are open to it. So let me know! Thanks for your interest and support, all. It’s great to already have fans cheering me on.