Goodreads, and at her Fireseed One Facebook page.
Important Lessons Learned on my Path to Publication
by Catherine Stine
Today, I’m talking about my path to publication. I’m going to go backwards, first a list of my hard-won tips, and then my story. I’ll highlight where these tips fall in my story.
1. Don’t think that a meandering route to publication means you’re not meant to write.
2. Follow all leads you feel strongly about. Opportunity comes in surprising ways.
3. Making painful choices and taking calculated risks are sometimes the best moves.
4. Your mantra: focus, focus, and focus. Keep writing.
5. Do your homework! Follow submission guidelines. Research which agent is selling what, and do not submit high fantasy to someone who likes realistic fiction. DO take a look at going trends, at least to the point of knowing what they are. Not every agent is the right one for you, even if he or she does sell what you write.
6. Get in a trusted writing group. An MFA in creative writing is nice, but isn’t necessary.
7. Think about publishing traditionally AND indie. Doesn’t have to be either/or. But if going indie, you must have a professional team, and the manuscript must be flawless.
8. Build community but don’t let the blogosphere eat your writing time. Balance is key.
9. Have fun with it! Follow your passion.
Juko and the Sea Farm
Illustration copyright 2011 by Catherine Stine
Bingo! This was my first job, first real contract, and I had to write a chapter a day because those work-for-hire deadlines are manic. This proved that I could plot, could write fast, and it fired up my confidence and passion.
Next, I decided that to concentrate on writing novels, I needed to put a hold on my art career to focus on my writing—painful decision, but a good one. I figured I could always paint later. I got an MFA in creative writing at the New School in NYC, and sold my thesis, a YA called Refugees, to Random House! How did I make that sale? I met the editor at a New School forum, and pitched the idea. She took two months with it, and by that time, I had another editor interested in reading the manuscript. I emailed her with that news. That put a fire under her to decide. She called me in to an editorial meeting. The result? If I did revisions ON SPEC they might consider buying the novel. The dilemma? The editors couldn’t agree on how the story should go. I called my thesis advisor, crying. She laughed and said that this happened a lot, and I should use my intuition and only use the comments I agreed with! Great advice, I got that contract.
Skipping ahead a few years, I published more middle-grade stories and a novel. I got an agent, changed agents, and then got a new agent, who is better suited to me. Another lesson in following your gut feeling, but also in doing your homework!
Jumping way forward, I decided that I really loved speculative fiction better than realistic fiction. And I missed art. I was itching to synthesize my two passions. I wrote a YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, that my agent loved, and we sent it around. This was when the economy was in crisis, and every other YA was about vamps and werewolves. The editorial “no” letters we got sounded like wonderful book blurbs. “Inventive roller-coaster ride!” and “Just the kind of thriller I love!” I moved on to another novel, feeling frustrated, but writing through it.
All of this time, I was studying the market, and indie was booming. It was now respectable to consider this alternative, and some folks were selling a lot. This was when I decided to take a calculated risk and indie publish Fireseed One. I rounded up a professional team: book designer, proofreader, editor, cover artist, and the best thing? I decided to illustrate it. Following the publishing news, I saw a trending of the illustrated YA, and rejoiced. Finally, I could blend art and writing! We hope to sell my next project traditionally. It fits with the market, and it’s a great story. On the other hand, I do plan to write a sequel to Fireseed One, and that would probably be under my imprint. Here’s the thing, I firmly believe that it doesn’t have to be one or the other! Traditional publishers are great and so is going indie. Think about how musicians have labels but also do projects on their own, as the incredibly successful Foo Fighters just did (recording in their garage). All of this polarizing talk of either/or is a waste of time. Spend the time writing! Build up your blog and community, but balance your time. Good luck on your quest! Have fun with it. I do.
Want to know more about FireSeed One?
FireSeed One by Catherine Stine
What if only your very worst enemy could help you save the world?
In 2089, on a changed earth, Varik travels to a lethal desert with his enemy, Marisa, who’s destroyed the world’s crops, for Fireseed, a mythical hybrid that may not exist.