Misconceptions. Anxiety over life changes. Today Show appearances–not.
Here’s the Dealey: Every Thursday for the next few months, authors–aka book-Moms and book-Dads, both new “parents” and veterans–will stop by and share their thoughts on the publication process: from conception worries (and misconceptions), to “sonogram” glimpses of illustrations and/or copyedits, to what to expect after the book is “born.” Hopefully these posts will help authors and not-yet-authors enjoy the journey of publication more. Like parenting–it takes a village, dear readers.
Alethea Kontis, aka the Princess of Awesome (trust me on this), has published both picture books and novels. Her sixth book, HERO, #2 in her YA fantasy series launched by ENCHANTED, will be out October 1st! (HMH Books for Young Readers)
“Books are indeed very much like children,” Alethea says; “and it’s funny, because people do ask me which one is my favorite. I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens. Or a favorite child.”
Joanne’s debut middle grade novel, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE (Bloomsbury) is a 2013 Sydney Taylor Notable Book , a nominee for Manitoba Young Readers Choice awards and a 2015 Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice nominee!
Joanne and Alethea are here to help me clear up a few book-birth misconceptions. Because, like parenthood, there is no “right time,” and no magical “old wives tales” to guarantee success.
Misconception #1. “I’m going to write a children’s book someday…” are magic words.
Like pregnancy, the minute you actually voice your hopes of conception (or publication) will not automatically make it so. Yes, saying you’re an author is important validation. But then you must sit down and write. And write. And write some more…
As Joanne Levy says, “When it came to getting published, I had some serious fertility problems—it took me nearly a decade to get a publishing deal, though not for lack of trying and trying. And trying. Somehow, my husband stuck through all that trying; and it turns out, trying to have a book baby is not as fun for the spouse as trying to have a real baby can be. Although I guess after a lot of false starts, anything can feel like a lot of work.
But one thing that’s important to note; finally getting pregnant isn’t the end. It sounds pretty obvious when talking about a baby, but it’s just as true when talking about publishing a book*. (*important note regarding the difference between a book and an actual child: a book never asks for the car keys or expects college tuition.)”
Fact: You must take the leap.
Misconception #2. It’s easy, right? I mean, these books are for kids.
Unlike pregnancies–there is not even a remote chance of an “Oops–I’m an author…” miracle happening. Period. (No pun intended.) Well, unless you’re the Princess of Awesome, Alethea Kontis, who did not submit her manuscript ALPHAOOPS! to publishers at all. (Do not try this at home.)
In an interview on BUZZYmag.com, she admits, “I wrote it just as a fun little story and I sent it to a couple of friends and one of those friends says, ‘Oh my gosh, this story is fantastic. Can I please send it on to one of my friends?’ And I said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ Like an email forward–we get email forwards all the time.”
What she did not expect was the phone call from Candlewick Press.
“Their art director got it,” Alethea recalls; “read it out loud to the entire department and everyone was cracking up and ‘Could they please, please, please publish my novel or my picture book?’ …What do you say other than, ‘Yes’ ?”
Fact: Yes, we hate her in a very sparkly-nice way. Which brings me to the next misconception…
Misconception #3. Once you write it, they will come…
No–not so much. Not only must most of us try and try, we must wait–a lot.
Case in point: I wrote my newest picture book, DECK THE WALLS, as a skit for my high school students to perform at a holiday assembly–years before my “first book,” GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX was published in 2002. Back then, editors rejected DECK THE WALLS because it was “too edgy,” and taught the wee ones bad manners.
Fact: I would like to therefore take this opportunity to publicly thank the STINKY CHEESE men (Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith) and Dav Pilkey’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, among others, for getting said non-edgy editors over the hump.
Misconception #4: (Which often looms secretly as the reason would-be book-parents fear taking that first step.) My life will change!
No Virginia, unlike parenthood, your life will not change drastically when the book-baby arrives.
Katie Couric will not arrive with a film crew any more than a house elf will magically appear to do your laundry. Seriously, The Today Show dropped its annual Newbery/Caldecott segment two years ago, and not because–they assured all–Snooki from Jersey Shore appeared on the show that day promoting her new book…
Even with her aforementioned success, Alethea says, “Each book that I’ve had released has been like starting from scratch. It’s a curse of publishing in different genres for different publishers — each one treats you like a debut author, even if you hit the New York Times list with a book somewhere else.
“The Elemental anthology came out in 2006 and I did my very first book signing…in London, England. But it was a 100% benefit anthology, so no one but Save the Children made any money.
“AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First was my first solo book. The publisher didn’t ask me to do any promotion (the only real social media at the time was MySpace and my website), and I didn’t do any because I had a full time day job and couldn’t afford it. Still, it did well.
“The Dark-Hunter Companion came out & hit the Times list two weeks in a row…but it was more Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book than mine. She did the touring; I did not.
“When AlphaOops: H is for Halloween came out, I thought I had it made…this was the book that would make my writing career. That was the year the economy tanked and Barnes & Noble didn’t carry the book in their stores at all, because it was too expensive. It got great reviews and online sales, but it wasn’t in bookstores. Even the booksellers didn’t understand why.
“When getting ready for Enchanted in 2012, I was prepared to pull out all the stops. THIS TIME IT WOULD WORK, and I would be able to afford to be a full-time author. At the time, the publisher only wanted the one book, while I still had the seven-book series still in the back of my head. I had a long talk with my publicist — made all sorts of notes about what I’d like to discuss, possible promotional outlets, and possible locations where they should send me on tour to sign (oh yes, I included London). I had already started a few balls rolling, and I was ready for ANYTHING. Except the part where they told me I was once again considered a debut author and I wasn’t going to have a lot of financial support from them.
Did she give up? No, no, no…
“I…became my own midwife, I guess. I set up my own launch party in NYC. I talked to my friends & fans and crowd-funded a six-week book tour in which I drove through the southeast, slept on couches, and signed books in VA, NC, SC, GA, and TN. I even scheduled my own international blog tour, involving bloggers from Romania, Brazil, the Philippines, the US, the UK & Canada. I did so much, in fact, that I spent the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 sick from exhaustion. BUT, everyone was so happy with the sales and exposure that the publisher asked for two more books in the series.”
Will there be “septuplets” then, Alethea, since there are seven sisters?
“I don’t feel like I can call the Woodcutter Sisters Series septuplets, because I wasn’t contracted for all seven books at once. ENCHANTED for me is like my Jack Woodcutter — first born, epic, and legendary. The other books I love each in their own way, and I’m fighting a unique fight for each one of them. Right now I’m trying to finish up BELOVED before HERO launches, so I can give HERO my full & undivided attention, which it deserves.
As for the last four books, well I’ve got my armor donned, a giant sword, and my fingers crossed. 🙂
Fact: I can’t speak for HERO (yet), but Alethea’s ENCHANTED and Joanne’s SMALL, MEDIUM AT LARGE are awesome books. (And ALPHAOOPS: H IS FOR HALLOWEEN would be a great pic for October…
And check back next week for the next installment of WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING–a BOOK.