June 4th update: This deal for 11 DRM-free ebooks ends at midnight tonight (EDS time)!

 

My book Rejections, Romance, & Royalties is in an 11-ebook bundle this week at StoryBundle, all DRM-free books on the craft & business of writing professionally.

Pay $5 and get a 6-book bundle, including my book; pay at least $15, and get the additional 5 bonus books and a 40%-off coupon for Jutoh ebooking software. You can also allocate part of your purchase price to foundations that encourage young people to read and write.

The bundle includes books by award-winners, bestsellers, and career writers, and there’s a lot of great information in these volumes.

All Covers Jutoh Large


And here’s a sample chapter from Rejection, Romance, & Royalties:

Orphans of the Storm

Once upon a time (come on, who doesn’t love a story that begins that way?), I sold my first book, a romance novel, to Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises (a.k.a. The Evil Empire).

As first sales go, it was a fairly painless process. Several months after I sent them my manuscript, I received an encouraging letter from an editorial assistant saying she liked my book and was passing it higher up the food chain. A few months after that, I received another letter from her saying that the book was getting favorable readings, but acquiring a new author was a lengthy process at Silhouette, one which required patience and time. Then, about eleven months after I’d mailed in the manuscript, I received a FedEx letter from an editor at Silhouette; they’d been trying to reach me for several days, but there was no answer at the phone number I’d given them, and so they wanted me to call them.

(This was back in the spring of 1988. I didn’t have a computer, I had never heard of e-mail, and I didn’t own an answering machine.)

So I phoned them. The editor who’d signed the letter answered the phone, gushed nicely about my writing, and made me an offer for the book—an offer that was roughly the advance sum which, based on my research, I expected from them. The editor (whose name I’ve long since forgotten) praised my talent and said she would like to see everything else I had written. She explained that she’d be interested in buying several books per year from me.

I was, needless to say, thrilled!

The editor’s revision requests on that first book were neither arduous nor unreasonable. I completed them easily, turned in the final manuscript, and got paid. And, as requested, I sent her the rest of my work: two more complete manuscripts, and one partial.

The next time I heard from my editor was when I received a letter from her announcing she was leaving Silhouette and, indeed, leaving the publishing industry entirely (which is why I don’t even remember her name anymore). Her last day in the office, to answer questions or deal with her writers, was the day the letter was mailed and (obviously) several days before I received it. Her letter assured me I would soon be assigned to a new editor. She didn’t make any mention of the manuscripts that I had sent her at her request.

When I finally received another letter informing me who my new editor was, I phoned her so that we could get acquainted, talk about the book that I had in production there, and talk about the manuscripts which were now presumably sitting on her desk.

I only remember her first name, and only because it was so comically unsuited to her personality: Joy. She was a listless, sour person who told me that I’d been shoveled onto her already too-heavy workload along with a bunch of other writers whom, like me, she really didn’t want or have time for.

I asked when my first novel was scheduled for release. Joy didn’t know and was “too busy” to find out.

I asked about the three manuscripts which I had submitted at my previous editor’s request. Joy didn’t know and was too busy to find out. I reminded her of my option clause; Silhouette had sixty days, from submission, to give me an answer on those manuscripts. She coldly informed me she had no idea when she’d have time to read them.

A couple of months passed with no contact from Joy. So I phoned her. She never phoned back. I phoned her again. She still didn’t phone back. I phoned yet again—and caught her at her desk this time. She hadn’t looked at my manuscripts, had no idea where they were, was too busy to look for them, and didn’t really have time to waste talking to me. I reminded her that the option period had now expired, so an answer would be appropriate. She responded with irritable indifference and ended the conversation.

I had been (perhaps you’ve heard the term before) orphaned.

This is one of the many pitfalls of publishing that you don’t really think about (and perhaps don’t even hear about) when you’re trying to break into the business. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s nonetheless a typical enough experience that a writer should be aware of the possibility.

Being “orphaned” usually means that your editor leaves the publishing house, for one reason or another, and the editor who gets you in her place doesn’t particularly want you or care about your career. She didn’t discover you, didn’t acquire you—she’s merely inherited you, and she clearly wishes she hadn’t.

Some writers wind up leaving publishing houses (involuntarily) after being orphaned; because it’s not just the publisher who buys and believes in your work—it is very specifically and importantly the editor. Without an editor interested in your work and championing you within the house, you probably have no real future there.

Now, let’s clarify: Being orphaned does not necessarily lead to problems. There are numerous instances where your new editor is just as enthused about your writing as your old one was, perhaps even more so. There are many instances where you are just as compatible with your new editor as you were with her predecessor, perhaps even more so. There are editors who inherit you and automatically call you up to tell you how excited they are about working with you hereafter. There are editors who, before making that call, spend all weekend reading everything you’ve published with their house so they can chat intelligently with you about your work. So let’s not panic. Being orphaned is not always a disaster. It’s not even always an awkward or difficult thing.

In my case, however, it was a genuine career crisis. I knew no one at Silhouette Books, and none of them knew me. I was a brand new writer with one modest sale under my belt. It’s very common for writers to disappear after just one or two sales, so no one at Silhouette would have ever wondered why I had never survived beyond my first book with them. I was powerless and friendless, and I had been inherited by an editor who very clearly just wanted to get rid of me. An editor who wanted me to disappear, because I represented nothing to her except extra work that she didn’t want. An editor who, just by stalling me, rejecting me, and dodging my calls, had the ability to make me disappear.

This went on for five months. The closest Joy ever got to reading my work was to farm out one of my manuscripts to a free-lance reader who, she then told me, gave it an “unfavorable report.” Joy explained to me that, based on that reaction, she herself didn’t expect to like any of my work, and she doubted that I would make another sale to Silhouette.

Wow, can’t get much clearer than that, can she?

I panicked. I knew that in order to save my fledgling career, I had to do something to get past this (I use the word loosely) editor. She was a serious impediment to my professional survival. So I did something I almost never do: I sought the advice of my father, science fiction writer Mike Resnick.

At his suggestion, I wrote a carefully worded letter to Joy’s boss. I praised Joy effusively… and remarked on how terrible I felt about the way she was so overworked. I commented on her tremendous work ethic and personal charm… and mourned that she was so busy, she’d gone five months without having a chance to read any of my optioned manuscripts. I expressed tremendous admiration for Joy… while reflecting that it just seemed unfair that she was afflicted with so many writers she didn’t even have time to return my phone calls. And I nobly volunteered to be assigned to another editor—someone who, while perhaps lacking Joy’s warmth, brilliance, and efficiency, might actually have a chance to read my submissions.

In other words, I asked for a new editor and explained my reasons, while being careful not to openly criticize the one I was with. I also copied the letter to Joy herself, so that I wouldn’t appear to be going behind her back or trying to stir up trouble.

It worked. Joy’s boss phoned me personally for a long, friendly chat. She never criticized Joy in our conversation, but she clearly understood that it was a bad situation and I needed to be moved. Within a week or two, I was reassigned to another editor—one who spent the weekend reading the book I had under contract there and all of my new submissions, then phoned me, made me an offer, talked about how enthused she was about working with me hereafter, and did all the other things that a good editor does when she inherits a writer. She and I worked together for several years at Silhouette, and we have remained friendly ever since those days. So the story has a happy ending.

So, when your editorial relationship isn’t working out, you can ask for a new editor. A smart publisher knows that editors and writers work better when they’re teamed with the right individuals. (Unfortunately, not all publishers are smart; but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.)

However, if you’re going to do this, your editorial problems need to be real problems, not just a case of an editor who didn’t buy a book you wanted to sell her, or whose personality you’re not that crazy about. Also, remember that although most publishing houses will humor this request once, they’ll rarely do it twice; if you have problems with your subsequent editor there, then you are likely to be regarded as the problem. So before asking for a new editor, make sure that you’re positive that any change would be an improvement. (In my situation with Joy, I was quite positive.)

Asking for a new editor, while well within your rights as a writer, is a delicate political move. You may have many good reasons to hate the editor, but she is an employee (possibly even a favored and longtime one) of the house. So it’s best to be as tactful and non-accusatory as possible, while nonetheless making your needs known to your editor’s superior.

As for Joy… she left publishing forever only a few weeks after I got reassigned, so you’re in no danger of running into her. (A lot of editors you’ll meet along the way leave publishing forever. Really. It’s not just the ones who work with me.)

And remember the editorial assistant who kept sending me nice encouraging letters before my first sale? She later became my editor for a couple of years. She eventually left the business, but we’ve remained friends all these years. (And just to clarify: She did not leave the business because of me, okay?)

                                                                * * *    

You can purchase the bundle of books at Story Bundle for only a few more days, so grab it now.

For a limited time only, my nonfiction book on the working life of the average downtrodden professional novelist, Rejection, Romance, & Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer, is in a book bundle (a group of DRM-free ebooks sold as a set, a herd, a gaggle!) with a bunch of other cool books on the craft and business of writing, including:

  • The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer
  • Writing Into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Playing the Short Game by Douglas Smith
  • Making Tracks – A Writer’s Guide to Audiobooks by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Business For Breakfast – Vol 1: The Beginning Professional Writer by Leah Cutter

They’re available at: http://storybundle.com/writing

You can get that whole set of ebooks for as little as $5. But if you decide to pay at least $15, you also get this whole set of bonus ebooks:

  • Break Writer’s Block Now! by Jerrold Mundis
  • Writing Horses – The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr
  • The Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Pitfalls of Writing Fantasy by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • 30 Days in the Word Mines by Chuck Wendig

The bonus package additionally includes a 40% discount coupon for Jutoh, an ebook creation tool for all platforms.

The purchase price also allows you to donate a portion of the money to Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers, both of which causes help nurture future generations of writers.

StoryBundle offers a book-buying model that lets you decide what you want to pay and how you want your purchasing dollars to be allocated. Find out more when you visit http://storybundle.com/writing to purchase this great package of books on the craft and business of writing, written by bestsellers, award-winners, and career novelists.

All Covers Jutoh Large

I did a radio interview today on Cincinnati Edition, hosted by Mark Heyne on WVXU, in tandem with MillenniCon Chair, Christy Johnson. Here’s the recorded feed, which runs about 25 minutes:

http://wvxu.org/post/author-laura-resnick-will-be-special-guest-weekends-millenicon-29-cincinnati

 I’m GoH (guest of honor) at MillenniCon this weekend. Here’s a link to the con:
http://www.millennicon.org/


And here’s my schedule:

FRIDAY

 7pm:    Opening Ceremonies        (Harrison/Garfield)

 8pm:    GoH Reception        (Con Suite)

 10pm: Guilty Secrets           (Taft/Grant)
Things we’ve written that we didn’t tell anyone about; movies and books we love that we secretly love but keep a secret. What happens at this panel stays at this panel.
Resnick (m), C. Hartwell, C. Matthews, S. Rechtin

 

 SATURDAY

 11am: GoH Reading (Harrison/Garfield)

 12pm: GoH Autographs (Lobby)

 2pm:    Women and the Future (Taft/Grant)
Will women become the new men in the 21st century?” Women are attaining the majority of college degrees, and are the more numerous sex in our country. Women are often the head of the household and bread winner today. Single motherhood is almost a norm today. How will this affect society and relationships in 20, 40, 60 years?
Sax (M), D. Waltz, L. Resnick, C. Matthews, H. Davis, S. Rechtin

 4pm:    Make ‘Em Laugh (Taft/Grant)
Writing comedy and humor in SFF
Resnick (M), C. Stasheff, A. Matthews, C. Matthews

 

SUNDAY

 11am: Authors & Pets (Harrison/Garfield)
Pets are often incorporated into SFF writing. Come learn how some authors are challenged and inspired by their pets.
Waltz, L. Resnick, S. Leigh, M. Resnick

12pm: GoH Autographs (Lobby)

2pm:    GoH Q&Q      (Harrison/Garfield)

3pm:    Closing Ceremonies (Harisson/Garfield)

 

Years ago, I was a recovering romance writer looking for a new genre, and I wrote a proposal for an urban fantasy series that I felt was exactly what I should be writing: A comedy series set in New York City and featuring Esther Diamond, a struggling actress (I was also a recovering aspiring actress) who gets involved in supernatural misadventures via her career. The proposal included a brief description of the series, synopses for the first three books, and the first three chapters of book one, Disappearing Nightly.

As readers of the series already know, in Disappearing Nightly, Esther is performing in an off-Broadway flop called Sorcerer! when the leading lady really vanishes during the disappearing act. After several more performers around the city mysteriously disappear during their magic acts, Esther joins forces with Dr. Maximillian Zadok, an elderly mage who specializes in unraveling mystical mayhem. She also butts heads with Detective Connor Lopez, a skeptical NYPD cop who finds Esther attractive in green body paint—or anything else.

Max and Esther would become partners in paranormal crime-solving as the series continued, and Esther’s relationship with Lopez would become more serious and more conflicted. Structured like a mystery series, the books would mostly (though not always) be stand-alone stories, and the series would be open-ended. That is, the characters confront Evil as a day-to-day job that someone’s always got to do; there is no specific entity or master-enemy who can ultimately be defeated or destroyed to remove all Evil from the world (or from New York City).

However, neither urban fantasy nor comedy was popular in the fantasy genre when I wrote the Esther Diamond proposal. This meant that selling the series would take some persistence. But, alas, I was letting my work be represented by literary agents at the time, and too many agents (including all four of my former agents) approach selling books with all the enthusiasm and commitment that I bring to thinking about cleaning my oven. In a pattern that typifies my experiences with literary agents, my then-agent sent the Esther Diamond proposal to three editors, they all rejected it, and the agent promptly declared the series unsaleable, refused to send it out ever again, and thereafter bit my head off whenever I raised the subject.

 A few years later I fired the agent, and then I sent out Esther Diamond on my own. Within weeks, I got a good multi-book offer for her.

Unfortunately, though, that publisher did a poor job of publishing the first book, including a terrible cover, bad pricing decisions, and no marketing. This happens a lot. (And lest you think, “Ah! A literary agent would have known not to sell there!” Actually, the agent I’d recently fired placed other writers with that same publisher while refusing to send Esther Diamond anywhere.) As you’d expect, the book sank like a stone (which also happens a lot). Responding exactly the way most publishers usually respond to their own publishing mistakes, the publisher canceled my contract. So this series, which it had taken me years to get aloft, was shot down and lying dead in the water once again.

Meanwhile, in a fit of “conventional wisdom” idiocy, I had hired my new/fourth literary agent to “represent” me after I got that book deal on the table by myself. This was a very expensive mistake on my part. She collected 15% of that deal and never took the slightest interest in my career again. From then on, it became progressively harder to get my calls returned or my emails answered. And now that I had been dumped by the publisher and my career was in trouble, she made it clear that I was as welcome at that agency as a corpse at a vegan banquet.

Technically, I fired that agent; but that’s a lot like saying, “I filed for divorce after discovering my spouse had left me.” Then I (foolishly) queried some other agents. They were all negative about my plan to find a new publisher for Esther Diamond and even more negative about my writing. (If you were thinking that 20 book sales protects you from agents telling you that you can’t write–hah!–then think again.) Before long, I realized that it was well past time to give up on agents and concentrate on getting another publishing contract. So I once again researched the market and submitted Esther on my own… And, once again, within a few weeks, I got a good multi-book offer for her.

(Sidebar: Giving up on literary agents proved to be one of the very best business decisions I’ve ever made. I’ll talk about this more in future posts (and I’ve talked about it often in my Nink column and on other people’s blogs), but my career has improved so much since I quit working with agents that I regret not making the decision years before I did, and it’s difficult to think of a scenario in which I’d choose to go back to working with one.)

The editor who took a chance on this canceled series was the inimitable Betsy Wollheim, publisher of DAW Books—who won a well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Editor in sf/f in 2012. (Her co-publisher, Sheila Gilbert, got a long-overdue nomination for the same award in 2014.)  DAW Books, which is a small independently owned house (distributed by the Random Penguin empire), is very different from any other publishing house I’ve ever worked with, in that they treat me like a respected professional associate and treat my work as a valued asset. My experience with other publishers for many years was consistently that I was typically treated as something between a necessary nuisance and a crack whore, and my work was treated as anything from filler for holes in the schedule to street garbage. So, needless to say, I have been very happy at DAW Books and hope to keep writing for them for a long time.

I could tell I was finally at the right house with this book early on, when DAW (in an example of how differently they work than all my previous publishers) asked me what cover artists I was thinking of for this series–and it turned out we both had the same top pick: the brilliant Dan Dos Santos, who has done all but one of the the DAW Esther Diamond releases to date. (Dan was not available to do the reissue of Disappearing Nightly, which dropped into the schedule on short notice after I got the rights back. The DAW cover for DN was done by the talented David Palumbo, who was very professional and great to work with.) I also worked well together with DAW editorially and on production, and this is a better series as a result of being at that house instead of any other. So things have really worked out for the best, despite the long hard road that Esther Diamond traveled to get here.

The first book we did together was Doppelgangster, Esther #2, followed by Unsympathetic Magic and Vamparazzi. By then, I had rights back to Disappearing Nightly and the original, doomed edition was no longer in print; so I did a few minor revisions to the manuscript (it’s a luxury to be able to do some continuity fixes on book #1 of a series after you’ve written book #4). DAW repackaged it with the Palumbo cover and released this reissue the same year it released Esther #5, Polterheist, which was followed by The Misfortune Cookie a year later, and then Abracadaver in November 2014.

I’m now working on Esther Diamond #8, Goldzilla, set on Wall Street, and ED #9 & #10 are under contract with DAW. (That doesn’t mean the series ends with #10; it just means that’s how far we’re contracted at this time.)

Deep into writing this series now, after years of trying to get it off the ground, I still feel that this is exactly what I should be writing (though not the only thing that’s exactly what I should be writing), so I’m in this for the long haul. And I hope that readers will be, too!

Esther Diamond: Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Unsympathetic Magic by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Vamparazzi by Laura Resnick
Esther Diamond: Polterheist by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: The Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick Esther Diamond: Abracadaver by Laura Resnick

 

Esther-DiamondThe next Esther Diamond novel–in which Esther, Max, & friends confront Evil in its natural habitat, Wall Street–finally has a title: Goldzilla.

Quick refresher, the previous series titles are, in order: Disappearing Nightly; Doppelgangster; Unsympathetic Magic; Vamparazzi; Polterheist; The Misfortune Cookie; and Abracadaver.

And frankly, coming up with a fantasy pun for every Esther Diamond title is a bitch. There are times I could hit myself with a brick for having started this pattern in the first place. But by the time I realized around book #4, Vamparazzi (and I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to come up with that one), that this was going to be hard to sustain, it was too late. The pattern was already established, and my publisher-and-editor Elizabeth (Betsy) Wollheim of DAW Books was by then adamant and exacting about it.

I spent weeks (maybe months) flinging titles at Betsy for books #5 and #6, all of which she kept rejecting as not clever enough (and sometimes deplorably lacking in even the faintest glimmer of cleverness). At one point, frustrated by how long the work was getting stalled by this problem (because the ED plots arise from the premise implied in the titles), I blurted, “I can’t be clever all the time!” To which She Who Must Be Obeyed replied, “Yes, you can. We pay you to be clever all the time.”

(And, well, speaking from experience, that’s still easier than being paid to clean kennels, wait tables, clean houses, make cold calls, take orders from martinets, or deal with the public during the holidays.)

I finally thought up Polterheist and The Misfortune Cookie during the World Fantasy Convention one year, which Betsy and co-publisher Sheila Gilbert were also attending. So I hunted them down, said each of these titles, and got the right reaction–a quick laugh. (And, finally–thanks be to Fortune!–got title approval.)

That’s how I know an Esther title works, or at least has potential to pass muster with La Wollheim: When I say it to someone, they laugh. (The real challenge, then, is to make my editor laugh.) If I get a puzzled frown or a politely wan smile from my test case, then I know I have to keep searching for a title.

That’s also how I know if someone is a potential Esther Diamond reader: When they ask the title of something I’ve written recently and I tell them, they laugh. That’s someone who might go look for the books now.

In contrast, there are people–including a few dear friends of mine, so this doesn’t mean they’re “bad” people or dumb or anything like that–who look puzzled and say, “What?” And I say, “Doppelgangster” or “Vamparazzi,”  or whatever. And they again say, “It’s… what?” And I repeat the title, and they say, “It’s what?” And when I explain (ex. “it’s the word doppelgänger combined with ‘gangster,’ so the story is about mobsters who are dying mysteriously soon after seeing their own perfect doubles–which is what a doppelgänger is”)… they look at me with pity and doubt. Experience has taught me that that’s someone who’s not likely to become an Esther Diamond reader. (Humor is very individualistic, and the author’s own notion of what’s funny isn’t ever going to hit everyone’s sweet spot–not even the sweet spot of every person she counts as a true friend.)

Anyhow, Abracadaver proved to be an even steeper hill for me. I spent weeks sending titles to Betsy, who never cracked a smile (phosphorically speaking). And after a few weeks, I kept hearing this title in my head, but I didn’t know what it meant, and it had nothing at all to do with the plot I’d been working on, so I ignored it and ignored it and ignored it… Until eventually, in weary desperation, I sent it to her–and got a prompt response indicating, That’s it! That’s your title!!

Which was great, except that… I had no plot idea for the phrase “Abracadaver,” and I had a plot started that didn’t go with it. Arrrggghh!!

However… the exact same thing had happened with The Misfortune Cookie, and I actually wound up with a much better story, as well as a better title, by going along with Betsy’s exhausting standards. Which is why she’s the editor and I listen to her. Every time she has insisted a title wasn’t good enough, then after we finally settle on a title… I look back and see that, yep, she was right, my previous suggestions weren’t very good, and this is the right result. I also don’t even really remember the story ideas I was working on for Misfortune Cookie and Abracadaver before getting final titles, so probably those story ideas weren’t that good, either.

But when it came to Esther Diamond #8, I was really stuck. Even I hated all the titles I was coming up with, most of which I never even showed to Betsy. Finally, since I had to get a move on, I started sending her a few titles, none of which worked. Aware of my ill-concealed desperation, she asked me for details about the story, in which Esther and Max get involved in a Wall Street caper and encounter greed, riches beyond the dreams of avarice, greed, bankers and traders and brokers, greed, corruption, greed, gold and loot and money, greed…

And it was Betsy, praise be upon her name, who came up with Goldzilla, which perfectly fit the still-vague vision I had for this book which is pretty much about (in case you didn’t catch it) rapacious greed–and where it leads. So this, too, is an example of why it’s good to have an editor who really gets what you’re doing. (Compared to some publishing houses I’ve dealt with, where I worked with editors who didn’t even know who I was or why I was bothering them when I tried to discuss my contracted projects with them.)

So that’s where we are–we have a title! And I’m working on the book. I hope that the brilliant Dan Dos Santos will again do the cover (he’s done all but one of the previous Esther covers), but I don’t have information about that yet. I also don’t have a firm release date yet–will post it when I do.

Meanwhile, in related news, I’m very happy to say that Abracadaver made SciFiChick’s Best of 2014 list! Sci-Fi Chick is a reviewer who reads an extraordinary number of books each year, in addition to interviewing authors and maintaining a cool website.

The 7th book in the Esther Diamond series, Abracadaver was released in November. I’m grateful to DAW Books for acquiring the series from me after it was dumped by its previous publisher after one badly-published book (DAW subsequently reissued Disappearing Nightly, the first Esther novel), believing in this series, and doing such a great job with it. And I’m so happy that readers enjoy the books–which I love writing!

So, my thanks to everyone who has been enthusiastic about Esther Diamond!