All month on All The Kissing, we’ve been discussing traditional publishing. There are as many pathways into traditional publishing as anyone can imagine. Three of our founders—Alexa Martin, Maxym Martineau, and Tricia Lynne—are either already traditionally published or about to be traditionally published. We asked them to sit down and share their experiences: how they got to this point, what they love about it, what they don’t love about it, and which insights they wanted to share. Read on to follow the often-twisting path to publication for each of these talented authors.
Alexa, Maxym, and Tricia, thank you for joining us today on the blog. First, tell us briefly about your upcoming releases.
Alexa: My next release, FUMBLED, is the second book in The Playbook Series and comes out on April 23rd.
A second chance doesn’t guarantee a touchdown in this new contemporary romance from the author of Intercepted.
Single-mother Poppy Patterson moved across the country when she was sixteen and pregnant to find a new normal. After years of hard work, she’s built a life she loves. It may include a job at a nightclub, weekend soccer games, and more stretch marks than she anticipated, but it’s all hers, and nobody can take that away. Well, except for one person.
T.K. Moore, the starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, dreamt his entire life about being in the NFL. His world is football, parties, and women. Maybe at one point he thought his future would play out with his high school sweetheart by his side, but Poppy is long gone and he’s moved on.
When Poppy and TK cross paths in the most unlikely of places, emotions they’ve suppressed for years come rushing back. But with all the secrets they never told each other lying between them, they’ll need more than a dating playbook to help them navigate their relationship.
Maxym: My debut is called Kingdom of Exiles, and it comes out on June 25, 2019 with Sourcebooks. To quote the blurb from Goodreads:
“Fantastic Beasts meets Assassin’s Creed in this epic, gripping fantasy romance from debut author Maxym M. Martineau.
Exiled beast charmer Leena Edenfrell is in deep trouble. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—and now there’s a price on her head. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes him an offer he can’t refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.
If only it were that simple. Unbeknownst to Leena, the undying ones are bound by magic to complete their contracts, and Noc cannot risk his brotherhood of assassins…not even to save the woman he can no longer live without.”
So basically, stabby assassins and bewitching charmers who can tame magical creatures. And then there’s kissing. Swoon.
Tricia: My debut, MOONLIGHT & WHISKEY, is slated for release March 12th.
When life gives you curves, you gotta learn how to rock them.
Successful businesswoman Avery Barrows likes her dips and curves, but she’s sick of the haters telling her that she should be ashamed of her body instead of embracing it. Determined to send them a big f*** you, Avery resolves to cut loose during a girls’ trip, hightailing her quick-mouthed, plus-sized self to New Orleans. So, what’s a smart woman with a little extra gotta do to get laid in this town?
Not much if you ask Declan McGinn, the lead singer of BlackSmith. Tall, dark, and tattooed, with a body made for sin, Declan prefers his women as curvy as his guitars. Avery’s sharp tongue and keen mind makes him want her even more.
As they burn up the sheets, Avery and Declan realize this is no one-night (or even one-week) stand. But for all of her bluster, Avery isn’t sure she can handle any more rejection. Besides, Declan has demons of his own. Now Avery has a choice to make: play it safe, or place her trust in the hands of a man who’s as tempting as the devil himself.
What was it like being on submission?
Alexa: Submission was everything and nothing like I expected it to be. I think, after the agent wait, query and search, you feel like you’re used to the wait. However, I also think that once you get your agent, you have this false assumption that your wait to become published is over… and that is false. The wait felt heavier for some reason to me, like all of my hopes and dreams depended on it. Also, because I was lucky enough to land my (rockstar) agent through the agent round in Pitch Wars, this wait was longer. I think I was most nervous that if no editor wanted it, my agent would realize she made a mistake signing me. I know now that that is a bit crazy. Most of the pressure, I put on myself.
Maxym: Oh boy. Submission. It’s like querying on steroids. Like Alexa and Tricia, the wait was a bit agonizing, even though I didn’t end up waiting for long. I know the process is completely different for everyone—I’ve heard other authors talk about how it was years before their story was picked up. I was super fortunate in that my MS was picked up relatively quickly. My agent was transparent with me about who we were submitting to, when we submitted, and any responses we got. I think it’s important to have that conversation, because some people might not want to hear about rejections or passes, whereas others want to be involved every step of the way. (I was definitely the latter.) When we got the offer, my agent called me, we screamed excitedly together for a few minutes, and then we got into the nitty-gritty details. We ended up signing with Sourcebooks, and I couldn’t love my editor/house more.
Tricia: Going on submission is such an individual thing. The experience, the emotions, they’re different for everyone. I was both excited and terrified by the process. I constantly refreshed my submission list. I went out on submission right before the holidays and assumed I wouldn’t hear anything for several weeks or months. And like Maxym, I wanted to know EVERYTHING. But the holiday passed and I anticipated the first rejection––I just wanted to get it out of the way, but it didn’t come. I started to annoy my agent with questions like, “is this a good thing or bad thing that we haven’t had any rejections?” *insert agent eyeroll*. Like Alexa, I was secretly afraid my agent would figure out she made a mistake in signing me.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long after the first of the year. Before I had my first rejection, I had my first offer. But that wasn’t the end. There was interest from another house and a few weeks full of angst and hair pulling while decisions were made. In the end, I signed with the editor who brought the first offer.
What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve experienced during your publishing journey?
Alexa: I think how long it is. Not that I’m complaining… at all. I was offered my book deal in July and we didn’t announce until September. I’m not good at secrets, it was torture. I also have learned that publishing really is a group effort. Without my agent, editor, the marketing team, and everyone who has helped me, Intercepted wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it’s been.
Maxym: I went into publishing expecting extremes: the long wait to finally find a publisher, little input on things like cover art, little chance of a print deal, no advance, changes to my story I wouldn’t agree with, unrealistic timelines—you name it. I came prepared for all that, so I guess my biggest unexpected experience was having all of that flipped on its head. I have such an amazing relationship with my editor and house, and I’ve been beyond fortunate to work with my team on ideas for my novel. I honestly feel like they listen and take my thoughts into consideration. They came to me with their concepts and asked for honest feedback, and I never felt like it went unheard. I firmly believe my story is better because of the work they’re doing, and I can’t thank them enough.
Tricia: I have to agree with Alexa. I never really got why it takes a year from signed contract to book release. I knew about developmental edits, copy edits, and cover design. I didn’t know about cold reads (which come after copy edits), galleys, and advanced reader copies. I knew little about marketing and how much time goes into marketing a debut author. Readers become attached to certain authors and we tend to buy whatever that author puts out next. It’s difficult to get readers to invest their time in a new author, and there’s A LOT that goes into convincing them to take that chance on a newbie. Yet, it’s so important to build that fanbase, so that you become a their next one-click author.
What’s it like working with a marketing team? Do you still market on your own?
Alexa: I’m lucky enough to be working with an amazing marketing team at Berkley, they’ve pretty much taken charge. It’s not that I’m afraid to overstep, I’m just trying to learn everything that I can. I have to admit, it’s such a huge relief that I don’t have to stress about it. But also, that I have such great people standing behind this book and wanting it to be successful.
Maxym: I’m still a little far out, but I’ve had a few interactions with my marketing team at this point and I have zero complaints. If anything, I could use this space to compliment them and champion the work they’re doing! I’m going to a few events this year, and they’ve already jumped in with both feet to make sure I have what I need. There are still some things in the works (amazing, wonderful, secret things. Teehee.), and I can’t wait to share them with all of you. Their ideas and plans for Kingdom of Exiles are fantastic. We just did a cover reveal and book trailer, and I am so in love. I really feel like they’ve got my back!
Tricia: Whoa boy. Marketing is its own job. Because my debut is ebook only, I’m taking on a lot of marketing myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have the full support of my publisher, and the marketing team has been outstanding, but with print deals, marketing budgets tend to be bigger than with ebooks. I’m my own publicist, advocating constantly for my book. And the list of things to do is endless. Establishing relationships with bloggers. Leveraging my own contacts for blurbs from influential authors (like Alexa and Maxym). Facebook ads and cross-promotion opportunities with other authors. SWAG. Being engaging to build my social media following. Coordinating my own giveaways to go along with whatever the marketing team has planned.
Frankly, it’s overwhelming. Huge props to indie authors. My head swims on a daily basis with all the stuff I need to do marketing-wise, and how to balance that with daily life, and still find time to write.
My advice is all authors should be prepared to hustle for the sake of their work. It’s not typical anymore to find authors who have only to write, turn it in to the editor, and write the next thing. Learn as much about book marketing as you can while you’re on sub. And if you don’t have to use what you’ve learned? Gravy, baby.
What’s your favorite experience or moment that has happened so far?
Alexa: This one is hard because I’ve had so many. I think it has to be the first time I held my book in my hands. That was something I’m not sure I even dreamt about when I first started writing. It was amazing.
Maxym: Holding my ARC. It was such a surreal experience to open the box and find my books waiting for me. Beyond that, I’d say it’s seeing some of the amazing artwork for said secret things that are happening in my book. For those of you who might not be aware, Kingdom of Exiles features a whole cast of magical beasts, and the main character uses a bestiary to keep track of their traits, characteristics, powers, etc. So I created a bunch of information and reference docs for every creature and was able to hand that off to my team, and they’ve created some spectacular things. I can’t wait to share them.
Tricia: Since I’m not going to get to hold this one in my hands (sigh), I’d have to say that the best thing to happen so far is that Publisher’s Weekly gave Moonlight & Whiskey a STARRED review.
THAT was huge for me. I was just up late googling to see if reviews had showed up on any new blogs, and BOOM! There it was. And it was STARRED! Holy sh**. I just got the print edition in the mail with my review in it, and not even gonna lie––I’m having that sucker framed. They called it a “sensual masterpiece.” Game over, man. I wish I knew who the actual reviewer was because I’d send them a bottle of Bushmills 18.
What were revisions like for you?
Alexa: I think, because my introduction to revisions was Pitch Wars, where I had to rewrite my entire book, my opinion is a little skewed. They were not bad at all. I think it’s about keeping my mind open and even when I get frustrated trying to work them out, remembering that my book will be so much stronger for the changes I’m making.
Maxym: I’m going to call out my editor on this because I love her so much. When she sent in my revisions, she prefaced the email with something like, “They’re really light, I swear!” … And it was like a nine-page document of ideas in addition to in-line comments in the MS. I literally laugh-cried through the whole thing. To her credit, the changes weren’t that extreme—there were some ideas that required going through the MS with a fine-tooth comb, so she was extra careful to explain all of her thoughts in depth ahead of time. And I absolutely love that about her. She was so easy to brainstorm with, and I really appreciated the time she took to provide me all the feedback she did. It was instrumental to the book’s progression, and honestly, I’m mad at myself for not seeing the things she did. Her insight is invaluable. So if her light edits are always going to be nine-page docs, then bring ‘em on. My book is better for it. (Please, for the love of tacos, let her never have a “serious” edit for me.)
Tricia: My edits were quick and relatively smooth. I love my editor, Sue, and she and I gelled really well from the go. I could tell she loved my book and her suggestions served to make the story so much stronger. We had only one little thing we disagreed on. Actually it was just a single sentence. When I explained to her why I though it should stand, and how I could work the rest of the page to get the effect she wanted, we both came away pleased. It’s crucial to be able to communicate with your editor. Sue also totally gets my sense of humor, which helps, but remembering that any suggestion an editor makes is because they think it makes the work stronger is soooo important. Although, it’s equally important that, as an author, you know which hills you’ll die on.
What would you tell your younger yourself now that you didn’t know before entering into the world of publishing?
Alexa: Do it. Don’t overthink, don’t self-sabotage, just write what you love. Also, practice some patience because this is not a speedy industry!
Maxym: Embrace the journey. There are going to be ups and downs, moments of self-doubt followed by instances of extreme joy. That’s normal. Honor every one of those feelings, because this path is unique to you. No one else can go on it. Even someone writing in the same genre, with the same agent and the same publishing house, will have a different experience. This experience is yours. Enjoy it for all it’s worth.
Tricia: Don’t wait so long to do it. If writing is what you love, then that’s what you should do. You’re capable of so much more strength and beauty than you realize, but if you’re afraid to try, you’ve already failed.I wish I would have followed my heart in college, and often wonder where my writing career would be now if I’d pursued it twenty years ago. Don’t let that be you.
I was having new writer angst about half way through Moonlight & Whiskey, and I wondered if I could finish the manuscript. My mom, who is a goddess, sent me a quote that stuck with me to the degree that I’ve placed in Moonlight & Whiskey’s dedication.
“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” — Erin Hanson