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shana galen

5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Sold


1. It's a roller coaster ride.
Sometimes you're up. Sometimes you're down. And there's no way to prepare. When you're struggling to publish it's an emotional boxing match. One week you're a contest diva, the next week you don't even garner an honorable mention. One month an agent requests a full, the next month you can't even get your query letter read.

Believe it or not, this beating is actually good practice for life as a published author. All the things that annoyed me when I was submitting still annoy me now. The waiting and wondering are as bad if not worse. Editors move at their own pace, and no matter how fast you write and submit, nothing short of violating your contract is going to get them to move more quickly.

But the crazy thing is that as the author, you're expected to drop everything at a moment's notice to meet each request. Without any warning, you're expected to write back cover blurbs, brief synopses for the marketing department (that will probably show up six months later on your press releases), funny anecdotes about yourself, or do magazine interviews. When you're hot it's a rush. You're important and everyone needs you. The next week, your email is so empty it looks like the Grand Canyon.

Be assured. It will fill up again. Probably exactly at a time when you don't want it to.

2. No one understands the industry.
At first I was going to write that "no one except other writers understand the industry," but then I changed it to "no one but other published authors." Still that wasn't quite right because each house has its own policies and procedures and every author's situation is different, so I thought about writing "no one but other published authors understand the industry (and sometimes even we don't)." So finally I just decided that the most accurate description is that no one understands the industry. I mean, sure, there are probably a few editors or agents ensconced in white towers in New York who know the business inside and out, but the rest of us are just sailing through the fog without a plumb line.

Thank your muse that you are a romance writer because I truly think we are the best group of artists/entertainers around. I'm on the Avon authors Yahoo loop, and even the big name authors on there are as sweet and supportive as the RWA member sitting next to you at the monthly chapter meeting. On any given day, I'm likely to see questions or pleas for help from an author who just sold her first book to Avon, an author who made the USA Today list for the first time, even Julia Quinn asking about book tours. Granted, I've never been able to answer one of JQ's questions, but I just like knowing that even JQ, Eloisa James, and Rachel Gibson don't know everything (yet).

3. You still get rejections.
Yep. It's true. We don't advertise it, but even those of us who have sold a book or two or ten get rejections. Both of my proposals for my second books (one chick lit and one historical) were initially rejected. I have a manuscript on an editor's desk right now that I suspect will be rejected. I have three proposals ready to submit, and I hope they won't be rejected, but considering my track record, can I really hope that all three will be accepted without revisions?

So hold on to your emergency cache of chocolate and your best critique partner's shoulder because it's not all rainbows and smiley faces.

4. It's expensive!
Taxes=$7320.00
Bookmarks=$369.00
Ad in RWR=$250.00
Realizing your dream? Expensive.

Yes, there are perks to being published. I admit my editor sends me free books and my publishing house pays for me to send manuscripts and revisions. But unless you're independently wealthy, that advance isn't going to cover the other costs of being a published author. Think about it. Who pays for your domain name, website design, and hosting? Who pays for the ad in RWR? Who pays to have it designed? Who pays to send ARCs to local papers, online reviewers, and local booksellers? Who pays the postage when you send cover flats and bookmarks to the SARA conference coordinator?

You do. Sure, there are ways to cut costs. You can design your own website. You might have a publisher who sends out so many ARCs you don't need to supplement. You might not want to promote your books at local conferences. I mean, everyone says author promotion doesn't really work. But it's so hard when everyone else is doing it. Does all this promotion work? Maybe. Does it drain your bank account? Definitely. Does it give you peace of mind? Priceless.

5. The author is the last to know.
People often ask me why I chose the pen name Shana Galen. I didn't. People ask me why the cover of my chick lit was changed three months before release. I don't really know. People ask if I'm going on a book tour. Hmm. Good question.

I used to work in the Houston Independent School District, and if any of you are bothered by indecision, bureaucracy, and general disorganization, I highly recommend a stint in HISD. It will prepare you for the publishing industry.

When I was a teacher, it used to aggravate me to no end that I never knew what was going on. There'd be a new policy, but no one was sure how to implement it. We were supposed to be teaching out of the green book, but the book room ran out and only had red ones left. The assembly planned for Wednesday afternoon is changed to Tuesday morning. I don't know why. I used to ask people: my AP, the curriculum director, the teacher across the hall. I used to think they knew something but just didn't want to tell me. Now I know that they didn't know any more than I.

It's sort of like this in publishing. Decisions are made and you kind of go along. You could argue, but after you've brainstormed 323 titles, pretty much any title sounds good. Maybe you figure that the reasons will be explained, and maybe they are, but refer back to #2 on this list and you'll understand why I still can't explain the need for a change to my cover.

My best advice? Admit that you don't know everything (anything, really, if you're brave enough). No one will believe you because surely someone has to know, but that's okay. You don't believe them either.

© Shana Galen


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