Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seven Things I've Learned

by Stephanie Black

First, an announcement: Author Cami Checketts is doing a book giveaway on her blog, and today she is spotlighting Methods of Madness. If you’d like a chance to win a copy of my book, hop over to Cami’s blog.

And now, for my regularly scheduled Wednesday ramblings:

My upcoming release now has a final title. They decided to keep my working title, Cold As Ice. I’m pleased; I think it works very well for the book. There are a lot of, you know, cold things in there. Snow. Ice. Rocks. Hearts. I’m now fifty-fifty on their keeping my original titles or replacing them--they kept two and changed two (The Believer was my other original title). I’ve been happy with all my titles, and I’m grateful that they changed the ones they did, because their final titles were far better than my working titles. For instance, my working title for Fool Me Twice was Enter the Shadows. I know, I know. It was a lousy working title for that story—just a generic suspense-ish type thing. I COULD NOT come up with a good title for that book, no matter how much I tried. But I love the title Fool Me Twice. It’s perfect for the book. And Methods of Madness is a wonderfully creepy title.

I recently signed the contract for Cold As Ice (which is a contract addendum—you don’t have to go through the whole huge original contract that you signed for your first book and sign that all over again; it's still valid. They just add on the new book and any contract changes). Included on the addendum for my new book is the date of our original publishing agreement, which I signed in April 2004 when they accepted my first book. So. Hmm. What have I learned in the nearly six years since I signed my first publishing contract? Here are a few things:

*Publishing a book was the amazing fulfillment of a longtime goal, but it was far from being the end of the journey. It was a gate that opened onto a new path—a path that includes its own boulders and potholes, alongside the thrills and successes. There are no guarantees. Perseverance and flexibility are two keys to success in publishing.

*No matter how many books I’ve published, every time I submit a new manuscript, I’ll still worry. Will they like it? Will they accept it? And each time a new book is released, I’ll worry, wondering what readers will think and reviewers will say. With each new book, there’s more of a sense of having something to live up to. Will fans who liked my previous books like my new one? What if they utter those dreaded words, “Well, I really liked her other books, but her new one was disappointing . . . ”?

*The amount of time that a new book is front and center is really very brief. The big displays in the front of the stores, the ads in catalogs—it won't take long before that new release will be out of the spotlight and newer titles will take precedence. If I want to develop a readership and a career as an author, I need to keep the books coming. I’m still not a very fast writer, but I’m faster than I used to be.

*No matter how many people love my books and no matter how many good reviews I receive, sooner or later, someone is going to dislike what I’ve written and say so publicly. And it will sting. I guess I haven’t managed to overcome—and will probably never overcome—the wish that everyone who reads my books will love them, even though I know intellectually that tastes vary widely and one reader’s five-star wow is another reader’s two-star dud.

*One of the greatest blessings in a writer’s life is a good editor who is always willing to work with you until you’re both happy with the final manuscript. I’ve been blessed to work with two wonderful, talented, and patient editors. Thank you, Kirk and Angela!

*Authors love hearing from readers and really appreciate it when a reader sends a note saying how much he/she enjoyed the book. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write to me. Those positive messages are such a thrill. Hey, someone loved my book! Hooray!

*And, as I've mentioned before, the LDS writing community is such an incredibly supportive group. I had no idea when I signed that first contract what a wonderful group of people I would come to know through my writing.

And now . . . time to get back to work on my manuscript (see #3 above about needing to keep the books coming . . . )


At 1/20/2010 2:14 PM, Anonymous Jordan McCollum said...

Great lessons. I'm working on developing a thicker skin now, but I don't know if it's working, LOL. (If it makes you feel any better, it hurts my feelings when I see as less than stellar review of one of your books, too.)

And I'm off to go enjoy some vintage Foreigner. Your book already has its own theme song—recipe for success!

At 1/20/2010 2:15 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

Smart things to have learned. Some of them I hadn't thought of before and it gives me the desire to really cherish the journey--not just what I think the destination will be.

At 1/20/2010 3:06 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...


Good luck with Cold as Ice. I will be watching for it. As someone who has been published in the non-LDS market, I look forward to the possibility of an LDS publisher accepting a manuscript. I recently sent out a rough first draft to a person who posts regularly over at for a test read (something I've never done before) and he really liked the story. Of course he did make some positive suggestions about needed changes. Now I will work on making changes and eventually, if a couple more readers give me a positive response, I'll submit to somebody.

I think most writers (unless they're really arrogant, or Stephen King) probably sit on pins and needles while waiting for a publisher's response. My mindset is if it happens great and if not I'll try harder.


At 1/20/2010 4:27 PM, Blogger One Cluttered Brain said...

6 years????
Jeez. Well at least you know that it will be published someday.
I think writers are stubborn people. I mean they have to be because they keep sending their writing out OVER and OVER again until it is accepted.

I'll hop on over to that blog to see if I can win one of your books. You can't win unless you try. ;)

At 1/20/2010 4:30 PM, Blogger One Cluttered Brain said...

I am a writer also. I enrolled in Nanowrimo in 2009 and FINISHED! I also have like 3 other stories in my head just waiting to get out on paper.
I enjoy writing. Not so much the revision part, but I do that stuff too.
I too also like how supportive the LDS market is. VERY supportive. And a good editor is a must from what I hear. (I hear Tristi Pinkston is a good editor to work with.) *Only in my dreams.* SIGH.

At 1/20/2010 5:06 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

One Cluttered Brain - a good editor is a must for an accepted manuscript (go Kirk!), but I didn't have one before I got published. The only people who read my first manuscript before I sent it off to a publisher was me, my mom and my sister. (Although Julie Bellon did read the first chapter and offered a couple of good suggestions.)

At 1/20/2010 5:48 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Jordan, you're so sweet! Thanks! And when I told my husband the title, he responded by sending me a picture of Foreigner . . .

LT, great thought on cherishing the journey. That's so true.

Charlie, good luck with your new manuscript! That's awesome.

One Cluttered Brain, writers definitely do have to be stubborn to keep trying! And I'm sorry about being unclear in my blog--that date from six years ago was for the original contract I signed after they accepted my first book; it's just on the new contract because that's when we made our original publishing agreement. I'll go fix that confusing line in my post right now.

And that's fantastic that you completed Nano! Wow! That's a huge achievement.

I echo Sariah--I didn't have an editor before I submitted my book. I did tons of revision and rewriting, read lots of books about fiction technique and got feedback on the manuscript, but I hadn't worked with a professional editor yet.

At 1/22/2010 11:53 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Every single lesson here: SO true, and even if you know them intellectually going in, it's a different ballgame when you're living them.

At 1/24/2010 7:15 PM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

I can't wait to read Cold as Ice. I loved Methods of Madness. I love suspense novels, and yours are very suspenseful.
I would one day love to write children's books. I have never tried to publish anything. I did take an aptitude test and was accepted to the "Children's Institute of Literature" but have not wanted to pay to take the classes. I loved writing back in high school, I used to write poetry too. Maybe one day I will get back into it.

At 1/24/2010 11:51 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thanks, UTMom!


Post a Comment

<< Home