Friday, March 06, 2009

Writing Journey: Part IX

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII

Happy, happy! About three months after I submitted the St. George Temple book, it was accepted for publication, to be known thereafter as At the Journey's End. Amazingly, my editor didn't ask for any major rewrites. There were a couple of minor things, but overall not much, especially compared to some rewrites I'd had in the past.

I'd worried a lot that writing a book as fast as I did this one would make the quality go down. I hated reading writers who stopped caring about the craft and just pumped out one book after another. I never wanted to become that writer.

Somehow, things just gelled with this book.

Once again, I loved, loved, loved the cover. Let's gaze upon its splendor, shall we?

(Three cheers for real artwork and a great designer!)


I liked the title they picked because several people reach a "journey's end" in both physical and symbolic ways.

Even better, for the first time ever, I got a fall release (September!), which meant a few things.

I'd get to attend the LDS Booksellers Association convention in August, a big trade show where LDS publishers and retailers roll out their fall lineup and show off their wares. I'd be able to attend the Covenant lunch with authors and bookstore owners before my very own signing at the convention where I'd have a banner of my book cover that was at least a yard tall (talk about COOL and surreal!).

I decided to pitch the idea of a temple book series to Covenant. I sat down the with new managing editor (whom I love . . . Hi, Kathy!) and my then-editor, Angela. They thought the concept was awesome and encouraged me to go forward with my next temple book.

Side note here:
It's really hard to tell my writing history both coherently and chronologically, because there's so much overlap of what happened when. So far in this post, I've referred to when ATJE was accepted and the LDSBA Convention, which were months apart. And then I backtracked by almost a year to when I first had the temple series idea and met with Kathy and Angela about it but hadn't yet drafted ATJE (even though last week's post had me submitting it).

This same thing happens with every book, so if you go back and read this whole series, you'll find lots of places where I'm backing up and jumping forward. A lot of the stories overlap in time.

An example from right now: I wrote Tower of Strength about two years ago. The following year, I wrote (tentatively titled) Band of Sisters, which won't be out until 2010 (another year from now). Since submitting that one, I've drafted yet ANOTHER book, which only a handful of people on the planet have seen a word of.

While you draft one book, you're often editing or proofing another and sometimes promoting a third. All at the same time. I don't talk about them overlapping in this series. They're discussed as individual stories and books.

Currently I'm two books out from Tower of Strength, yet as far as the rest of the world is concerned, it's brand, spankin' new.

This publishing thing is a trippy time warp.

Back to the story:
As I left the meeting, Angela had another idea for me. There had been some talk about doing historical chapter books for young girls (think: American Girl books for Mormon girls). The big hurdle: cost.

The LDS market is relatively small. Many of the costs associated with any book are the same or at least close to the same regardless of the book's length (evaluations, graphic design, typesetting, etc.). Plus, you can't do print runs into the tens of thousands like Scholastic can, you can't charge only five bucks for a copy, because the cost per book is so much more.

And really, what parent is going to cough up ten or fifteen bucks for a book for their kid if they can get something the same length in this month's school book order for $2.95?

So it's tough to make a profit on that kind of thing. (This is one big reason there is so little youth fiction in this market.) But . . . what if you could cut costs, such as on editing and revising? Maybe, just maybe there would a chance something like that could work. Mmmmaybe.

It was suggested that in order to try that kind of experiment, they'd need a writer who had a historical/research background and who could 2) turn in a clean manuscript quickly that didn't need a lot of editorial time.

Angela said that while there would be no guarantees, I might be the right person to try the experiment.

The idea excited me. I put it to the side long enough to finish and submit ATJE (see, I'm backing up in time again . . .), then got to work writing a book about a girl whose family is called to help settle St. George.

In preparation, I read as many historical chapter books for girls as I could find (the American Girl books but also lots of other, similar, titles by other publishers). I got a good feel for the kind of storyline, format, and length these books need. I had two daughters right in the target age, so I picked their brains and had them read some of those books too.

Going in, I thought it wouldn't take much additional research. Boy, was I wrong.

As Angela had asked, I wrote two short chapter books instead of just one (if this idea were to work, we'd need more than one out per year).

She'd warned me that there wasn't any guarantee on the project. So as I sent in the two manuscripts, crossing my fingers, I thought,

Please tell me I didn't just waste months of work!

Today's tour stop: Write Stuff

I'm also the guest poster at The Apron Stage AND at Blog Segullah. Come visit me!

18 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I always wondered about the market and if LDS authors who don't write about vampires make an OK living?

And I'm excited about Monday!

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, no! I know what's coming.

Heatherlyn said...

I don't know what's coming. But I think it is a good idea.

Heatherlyn said...

I also think the book covers are artistic and beautiful.

Becky said...

At The Journey's End does have a lovely cover!! And the girl's books would be a great idea... I hope what my intuition is telling me is wrong.

Heidi Ashworth said...

A banner day for Mrs. Lyon! Yay!

LexiconLuvr said...

Nice blog hook there. The suspense is just unfair. Sort of. Yes, it's your bread and butter and you can probably do it in your sleep now but the rest of us will be going without sleep until the story's end. Hey! "Story's end," "Journey's end." You're one smart cookie!

Tink said...

I'm excited for Monday. It sounds all very confusing but wonderful!

Amanda D said...

I'm still loving this series. It's all so fascinating. I love your post at Segullah and the one about red hair.

Congrats on the publication of your new book! I hope it sells out everywhere. :)

Rebecca said...

Now I'm left hanging and wondering again.

You're quite good at that! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love this series!

(This word verification is one of the funniest I've ever seen. I just have to share. It's "perspoob".)

An Ordinary Mom said...

My seven year old daughter is just getting into the American Girl books.

I can't believe how much you have going on right now with your writing!?! How exciting!

Kimberly said...

I'm on the edge of my seat here!

Heffalump said...

Hmmm. I think American girl type books about LDS girls would be pretty cool! Some of the LDS youth books I have seen seem to rip off plot lines from other books, like the magic shed that takes a brother and sister to different time periods instead of the magic treehouse that takes a brother and sister to different time periods.
With Historical Fiction it would just be writing something in the same genre rather than stealing a big plot point and I think it would be very interesting. Still, I don't have a good feeling about what will happen in the next part of your story!

Scribbit said...

"gaze upon its splendor" :)

It is very pretty! And must be very satisfying to see.

Mikki said...

Wow, congrats on your books. How awesome. I always thought I'd like to write a book, but 'eh, not sure if I've really got it in me. I love the idea for a LDS version of the American Girls books, I hope it works out.

Thanks for coming by my blog and entering my giveaway! Good luck!

Josi said...

It really is trippy the way books overlap, wouldn't it be nice to write the book, then immediately have the book released, then JUST promote it before starting on the next one? I dream of that sometimes.

Kate said...

My daughter will love these books. SOunds like you are very talented and definitely the one to write the books. I love your blog and I will be back.

Aik said...

Please count me in. =)

Do we have to enter every day for every contest or just once?

aikychien@yahoo.com

Why Suomi 100 Means So Much to Me

(TL;DR: scroll to the end to snag Song Breaker for free. Today only.) One hundred years ago, on December 6, 1917, Finland declared indepen...