My Second Book and the Commercial/Genre Quick Turnaround

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A stock photo. I bought this because she looks much the way I would imagine Tyesha. This book involves the battle to create a stripper union and a heist of the Ukrainian mob.

Last week, I turned in a very rough and raggedy second draft of book #2 to my editor at Kensington. Ordinarily, writers only turn in finished material to their publishers, but the commercial or genre publishing clock is different. When I sold my book in a two-book deal, it was based on a series that I had proposed. Commercial and genre publishers’ business and marketing concept includes building a fan base for a genre and making sure the books come out less than a year after the first. In my contract, they are a year apart. Uptown Thief comes out in July 2016. The second book is due to be published in June 2017.

When I began my second book, I had a single paragraph about the novel that would follow the secondary protagonist from Uptown Thief. This would be Tyesha’s story. Part of the editing process for the first book included cutting out some of her scenes to use in book #2.

I am a pretty productive writer, so when my acquiring editor asked if I could crank out a second book, I thought, sure, no problem! Last year, I cranked out an outline, based on that paragraph I proposed to Kensington. My editor and I went back and forth a few times, and she signed off. I had a clear blueprint to write from. It just needed me to put in the time. Piece of cake.

This year, however, it has proven to be far more challenging than I thought to crank out a second book while launching a debut. Copyediting, page proofs, press lists, designing and printing promotional material, writing and pitching short pieces for promotion, going to conferences, organizing my launch event, revamping my website, soliciting blurbs, coordinating between my in-house publicist, freelance publicist, hiring then losing an event publicist, developing a strategy to outreach to social justice organizations to help promote the book. And this is on top of being a working mom.

So…yeah…the second book hasn’t been as effortless as I would have hoped. I went to my agent to ask for more time. Thank goodness I have an agent to hand this off to. Could I get 4-6 more months? She spoke to the publishers. They had a counter-offer. Could I turn in something very rough for the April 1 deadline, and the more completed book a few months later? I found this surprising, but she explained that they need a sense of the book to begin developing the marketing and packaging: a cover, jacket copy, a sense of where/how to promote. They needed a promotional cover to take to sales meetings and to share with sales reps. While the editorial wouldn’t begin until I had turned in a more complete manuscript, but the other things needed to be in place. For example, inside of the cover of Uptown Thief, there are photos of several other book covers that are being released around the same time. This piece of promotional material was developed in October of last year, 8-9 months before my publication date. So their strategy includes very aggressive cross-promotion of their titles. When I got the page proofs, they included a first chapter teaser of another book, that appears after Uptown Thief‘s final pages. So my second book doesn’t just need to be ready for its own publication date, it needs an on-time arrival as an intricate piece of a larger marketing plan that will intertwine it with Kensington Dafina’s other books, as well.

So I got an extension on the more final draft, but I turned in my rough and raggedy version to my editor last week. In the middle of scenes, it says things like DESCRIBE THE ROOM and THEY HAVE SEX, because description and sex scenes take me forever to write. I opted to complete the action and dialogue, which come much more easily to me.

So I have until June 30th to turn in the book. I selected the deadline. Uptown Thief  comes out a month later. I am certain that I won’t be able to focus on anything else as I get close to pub date. That is, anything but being a mom, running a household, and trying to get some kind of wardrobe–at least owning more than one tube of lipstick–to be ready for my fifteen minutes of fame. Thank goodness I’m a teacher and I have the summer off work. Finishing this manuscript between early May and end of June? Piece of cake. Of course, I’ve said that before…

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Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Essence Magazine, xojane, Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Mutha Magazine, Movement Strategy Center, My Brown Baby, KQED Pop, Bitch Magazine, Racialicious, Fusion, and she has been a guest on HuffPostLive. She is the author of the children's picture book PUFFY: PEOPLE WHOSE HAIR DEFIES GRAVITY. Kensington Books will be publishing her debut feminist heist novel, UPTOWN THIEF, in 2016. For more info, go to ayadeleon.wordpress.com.