REDBOOK Magazine picks The Opposite of Me by Deb Sarah as a”Bookmark” selection for its March issue! Writes REDBOOK: “As early as elementary school, it was crystal clear: Alex was the pretty twin, Lindsey was the smart one. And since then, they’ve shaped their lives around those labels. So what happens when the piece of your life that most strongly defines you is challenged? With her smart, soulful novel, author Pekkanen explores the place where self and sisterhood intersect.”
The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, Australia gives a rave review to Deb Sarah’s The Opposite of Me: “It’s warm, it’s whimsical, and it’s a winner”!
Audio publisher Der Hoerverlag acquired German audio rights to Deb Alicia’s Simply From Scratch. And, to the left is the cover of the North American edition!
Deb Maria continues her book tour with a stop at the prestigious “Book Revue” in Huntington, NY this weekend. Next up on the list, Borders in Scarsdale! You can pick up 101 Ways to Torture Your Husband in stores or online now. More info, articles, and event pics at www.101WaystoTortureYourHusband.com
Alumni Deb Meredith has just been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel for Posed for Murder. Her next book, Dead in the Water, comes out May 11, 2010. Congratulations!
Our guest today is Barbara Poelle, a literary agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
Barbara began her publishing career as a freelance copywriter and editor before joining the Goodman Agency in 2007, but feels as if she truly prepared for the industry during her brief stint as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles. She has found success placing thrillers, literary suspense, historical romances, humorous/platform driven non-fiction, and upmarket fiction and is actively seeking her next great client in those genres, but is passionate about anything with a unique voice. Barbara has a very hands on approach with the craft and editorial details of the books she represents, and loves working with her clients to take their writing to the next level.
Thanks, Barbara, for stopping by the Debutante Ball!
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When my client Tracy Kiely (do you have your copy of MURDER AT LONGBOURN yet?) connected me up with Alicia to guest blog on the topic of “next books”, I got my little grey turtleneck out and adjusted my glasses and cleared my throat and got all agenty and prepared to grandly pontificate on things like branding and intent and series versus stand alone and blah blah blah. Then I stopped to check in: have you made sure before you move on to “next book” that you have taken the time to get everything you can out of the first book?
I am not talking about signings and blog tours and social media reaches and learning experiences and “hey, who knew you had zero say over your title and cover art”, and “man, I have grown as a person and a writer” and “gee, seeing the book on the shelves is a reward in itself”. Those are all important, of course, but that’s not what I am going for here. I mean did you truly, deeply, voraciously enjoy EVERY ASPECT of being a published author that first time around? Did you roll around in your accomplishment, dive into it and scoop it over your face and arms like Scrooge McDuck in his money vault? Have you applied the 100 Sacred Squeezes to your book one?
What’s that you say?
You don’t know what I am talking about?
I am talking, of course, about a legendary tome, heretofore believed to be mythological, the existence of which I will confirm for the first time ever on this blog … Barbara Poelle’s Ye Olde Manual of First Book Accomplishments. Specifically the list heretofore known as The Sacred Squeeze Addendum which, by following, ensures you got every last drop you deserve out of having your first book published. For example:
1. Did you buy yourself a present and wrap it and then tear it open on your pub date, gasping in delight at your own thoughtfulness?
2. Did you make your spouse/partner/significant other wrap themselves in saran wrap and serve you a champagne flute using the book as a tray?
3. Did you send a copy to the address of that chick who was mean to you in junior high, but enclose a note to someone with a totally different name and only by some craaaaaazy, waaaacky once-in-a-lifetime mail fluke did it fall into her hands?!?!? (Never mind the 50 bucks you spent to find her on people search and the two hours you spent Google-stalking her to make sure. That’s all a write-off.)
4. Did you lick melted dark chocolate off of the title page? (Cookie dough will do here in a pinch.)
5. Did you get out of a dreaded social engagement by calling the host and with regretful tones describe how your editor just emailed and needs you to “blueline the sellthrough to FOS and reup on the D&A in order to sustain uptrend” and you have to regretfully pull out of the evening?
6. Did you budge in the drop off line for carpool, hold your cell up to your ear and mouth “sorry, my agent” and roll your eyes?
7. Did you tear open your box of author copies, explode out onto your front steps, hold it aloft and scream “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba!!!”
Now, due to legalities including Fair Use Law and of course, the Cone of Silence Initiative, I am only able to share seven of them, like the highly effective habits, but this is the best part…you can GUESS at the rest in the comments section. GO.
Last week, I sat down to do my Deb post on deadlines. Then I double checked the topic and saw we’d already done deadlines and the actual topic was love. This week, I sat down to write my Deb post on deadlines. And then I got a sense of déjà vu and sure enough, we’ve already done deadlines. Anyone care to guess what March 1st, is for me? Yep. The deadline my second book is due to my editor.
To be honest, there’s something in the above paragraph that’s not true. I didn’t sit down to write anything. Why? Because I don’t sit down, I walk on my treadmill while I write. Seriously.
About a year ago, the writer Arthur Slade saw a news program about a company making treadmill desks for big corporations. You can watch that video here. Now, Art is nothing if not cheap ingenious and he knew he could make his own treadmill desk for much less than the $5000 or whatever that company is charging people with more money than sense Corporate America, and he built his own. For a long time, despite the fact my husband thought both Art and I were nuts, I coveted Art’s treadmill desk. Last November, I found a used treadmill for sale just about the same time I came into the exact amount of money they were asking for it. Destiny or insanity? I like to think the former. My friend, Ken, helped me move it home and then he built the fancy desk you see in the picture.
Getting used to writing while walking only took a few minutes, but looking down at my laptop screen made me very dizzy, so I bought the large monitor and Ken added a shelf to his innovative treadmill desk design. The treadmill desk has been wonderful! At the end of the day, I actually have more energy than when I sit all day. Plus, it forces me to take a break because I need water!
Side note: I’ve noticed whenever I show this to friends, they invariably call their spouse in to see it and say, “Honey, this is exactly what you need.” They never seem to want it for themselves!
By now you’re all wondering if I sat down to write this week’s post and thought the topic was my desk or something, aren’t you? Well, no. I didn’t. For one thing, I’m not sitting (remember?). I’m walking at a nice 1.5 miles per hour while I type this. In fact, I’ve walked 85 minutes so far today while checking email, doing marketing, and writing this post. That’s 2 miles without leaving my house!
So back to the topic of the week. My next book. See, I pay attention sometimes. Oddly enough, despite what everyone says about your second book being your hardest, this was the easiest book I’ve ever written. I finished it last week, ahead of schedule! I attribute it to the treadmill. For one thing, when you’re walking while writing and you get stuck, your feet keep moving. For some reason, this seems to keep my brain moving too. Oh, and it might be possible that this book was easier because my dare-I-say genius agent made me do a proper synopsis. Of course, when I told him that my second book was supposed to be hard, but it wasn’t, he said, “Well, your first one’s not out yet, so you don’t have that pressure on you while you write it that everyone’s talking about. I’m sure your third one will be really hard though.” Gee, thanks, Michael!
I guess I’ll just keep walking and writing and hope for the best. Here’s a little bit about my second book, due out from Putnam someday (not sure when yet). The Right & the Real by Joelle Anthony follows a seventeen-year-old whose father throws her out of the house when she refuses to join the cult he’s gotten involved with, forcing her to survive on her own; but when Dad finds himself in danger, she comes to the rescue armed with her newly acquired street smarts.
Once you actually write a book, people only see the finished product. They are shielded from the late nights, the 40 pound weight gain, family negligence, writer’s block, deadlines, and eventual panic attacks that set in during the book writing process. It seems sooo darn easy when someone holds your perfectly packaged finished book and wonder aloud: “So when is your NEXT ONE coming?” Who am I? Friggin David Copperfield?? Like I can just pull finished books out of my EAR? (or another orifice I need not mention).
Actually, what’s with the massive rush? Can’t I just enjoy the yummy success of such an accomplishment? It’s like when you have a baby…you haven’t even gotten used to the idea of your once FETUS now living and breathing OUTSIDE OF YOUR BODY and there’s your mother, your friend, or some annoying neighbor asking you “So when is Ethan getting a little brother or sister???” Again, it’s not like going to the grocery store and getting in the checkout lane! Planning for another birth (of fetus or book) requires deep thought, planning, and TIME to actually get it done. Something debut authors/mothers/full-time radio dj’s don’t have too much of. Heck, I have about 10 books swirling around in my head…if I only had 8 minutes to myself a day I could actually consider writing my next one.
I must say one book idea I’ve actually thought of penning is the story of 5 debut authors who start a group blog, and discuss their entrance into the exhilarating world of book publishing. Oh wait a minute.. that would be OUR story. Hmmmm…. I wonder if there’s something there? (long pause) Naaaah. Who would actually want to read about that????
But just in case it happens it was my idea FIRST! lololol
I sought the perspective of my agent, Laney Katz Becker of Markson Thoma Literary Agency, on this week’s topic, “Next book.”
Prior to becoming an agent, Laney was an advertising copywriter and freelance journalist, as well as an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. She grew up in Ohio and is a graduate of Northwestern University. You can read her full bio here.
Thank you, Laney, for sharing your point of view on The Debutante Ball!
“For most authors of fiction or nonfiction who are thinking about their next book, the first thing they should do is talk to their agent. Not all authors want writing to be their full-time job, and authors’ goals vary. Some authors are speakers, and they want a book to supplement that job. Other authors are writing to help boost their profile in their day job. Once I know what kind of career my author desires, we talk further about the best way to work toward that goal.
“But, if you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, for ‘next books,’ I recommend that authors stick with what they’ve done. So if they’ve written fiction, the next book should also be fiction. Same with genre: If it’s a thriller, then the next book should also be a thriller. Why? Because most authors are trying to build a readership—and if they stay within ‘their’ category, it’s easier to do that.
“Consider this: A reader finds you on your third novel of suspense, let’s say. The reader really loved your book and naturally, is eager to see what else you’ve written. Keeping within a category/framework makes it likely that if readers liked one of your titles, they’ll like the others, and keep buying, and keep reading, and hopefully, keep recommending you to their friends. Jodi Picoult is a great example of this, as she’s built an entire franchise—one book at a time.
“But the rule is, there is no rule! There are some occasions where an author already has great name recognition, and may be inspired to write something else or try something new. They (and their publishers) trust that readers will follow.
“There are also times when authors are writing within a genre (romance, for instance) and the author may want to try her hand at upmarket, commercial women’s fiction. That’s probably more doable than moving from writing how-to books to sci-fi, let’s say.”
My next book is finished! At least, the first draft is done.
I can’t believe I just typed those sentences. You see, I wrote The Opposite of Me while my two oldest boys were in school. I had lovely long stretches of time in which to drop off the kids, walk the dog, brew a pot of tea, fire up my computer, and sink into my manuscript. From typing the first sentence to the last, it took about nine months- not an enormous amount of time to write a 100,000 word novel.
When my agent sold The Opposite of Me, I was six months pregnant. I had a vague idea for my next book, but it wasn’t fully formed. I had pregnancy brain, for God’s sakes! I could barely remember my husband’s last name at times (it’s Clooney, right?) let alone the strands of a a book-length plot. I churned out a few chapters in between my free-lance writing and editing of my first book (I FedExed back the edits two days before I went into labor) but left most of the work for after the baby was born. I think I had a vague idea of curling up next to the baby in bed and tapping away on my laptop.
I’d forgotten that babies need to nurse approximately 46 hours a day, and they go through about as many items of clothing in an hour. In writing this next book (which doesn’t yet have a title), I had to give up long, silent stretches of writing time. I wrote when the baby napped or when I could score a babysitter. I wrote late at night, first thing in the morning, and in the carpool line. Somehow, line by line, page by page, the book took shape.
Second books are notoriously difficult. I read an interview once with Elizabeth Gilbert in which she said something along the lines of, “It needs to feel familiar to readers of the first book, but different. And better. So the same, different and better!” No problem! I knew I wanted to stay within my genre (commercial women’s fiction) and that I wanted to write in the first person again. I wanted my second book to be funny but touch on serious themes. I really hope I achieved that. My book is about a woman who wakes up one day and discovers she is married to a completely different man. That’s my 30-second elevator pitch – and I hope I’ll get to tell you more about it very soon.
Now it’s done. I’ve turned it into my agent, and I’m waiting to hear what she thinks. Please wish me luck!
I was advised by author Manda Scott to finish the next book before the first one comes out. If you don’t, bad reviews of the first book will convince you that you can’t write, and good reviews will convince you you can’t write anything that good ever again! Yes, I can see my mind would definitely do that to me, so I’m working on it.
These are the stages I’ve already been through:
1) During editing of The Whole World, we (obviously) focused on scenes that needed work. So the book seemed to me to be constantly out of context, in flux and impossible to judge.
2) Then, checking over the copyedit had me reading scenes I hadn’t glanced at in over a year (because my editor had been wholly satisfied with them), and I read the whole thing through in two sittings. What a great book! Superb! Panic: How will I ever write another novel this GOOD?
3) Reviewing the subsequent “first pass pages” I was utterly bored with how many times I’d already (and recently) read this absolutely pedestrian, predictable, tedious pile of paper. Bonus: a second book of *this* quality seems entirely doable!
I’m somewhere in between now. I adore The Whole World, but also feel like I’ve seen the trick from backstage: I know how it’s done, and I know how to (try to) do it again. It’s lovely, but it’s no longer amazing, not in the literal sense. I don’t look at the text anymore, at all. I’m convinced that if I so much as flip through the ARC I’ll see some small error or infelicity that will haunt me. But I’m proud of it, and hopeful for it. May 25th isn’t too far away.
I’ve handed in the first half of the next book. This is how that went:
1) I write and polish the first half. I have hope that it might be wonderful. I deeply fear that it’s awful.
2) I give it to my agent, who critiques some small things (very helpfully!) but mostly likes it. I fix things–she was right.
3) I visit New York, and listen to my agent tell someone else that the tension in the new chapters is so vivid that she physically hurt after reading them. I start to feel really, really good.
4) I hand it in to my editor. He reads it in three days. He LOVES the new character narrating the first section. He has some clarity issues with the police investigation–he’s right.
5) The half is officially “accepted” by Random House. I get paid. This is tremendously satisfying.
6) I book our homeschooled kids into an all-day, every-day play class for a week so I can work on the next chapters.
7) New panic: how will the next narrators ever live up to that first one??
…and that’s where I am now.
PS–And how cool is it to live in Cambridge? I just booked my sweetheart and myself for an all-day crime scene investigation workshop at a local manor house. I’ve taken classes there before–very civilized; lots of tea and cookie breaks.