After many years of rejection in the publishing world (for more on my journey, read my first post here) I decided to publish an original novel on a community writing website called Wattpad back in 2011. Six months later, I’d had 6 million reads of my book, Life’s a Witch, and after a year, nearly 18 million. Because fans were requesting their own copies of the book, I decided to publish it myself in paperback and in e-book form. Shortly after, I received a bit of attention in the media, which led to a 3-book deal with Simon & Schuster. IndieReader has asked me to share my experiences with transitioning from self-publishing to working with a mainstream publisher and that’s what this column’s all about.
Since my last post, I went into writing hibernation. I had about six weeks to write the prequel/spin-off to my book Life’s a Witch. In order to pull in new fans, as well as give my existing fans something new, Simon & Schuster and I decided to start the series off with a prequel to the book that will actually launch it all. Because we didn’t want to lose momentum on the interest we have in the series, we knew we had to get the first book, What the Spell?, out very quickly (we’ll start pubbing the book in 3 e-installments beginning in October, and then in hardback on January 1, 2013). This led to a deadline of six weeks until the first draft needed to be turned in, something I felt was doable since I’m now writing books full-time.
That’s not to say that a deadline as tight as this one was easy—even with being able to dedicate all day, every day to writing this book, it was a challenge.
Now, I revel in deadlines and to-do lists. When I’m faced with a project that needs to get done, I have no problem meeting it. So, it wasn’t difficult for me to stay on-point and make sure that my 10 pages were finished at the end of each day. And to be honest, the pace with which I wrote allowed for about a chapter a day, which was helpful in letting the story move along organically. Since I finished a fully-formed section of the book each day, I didn’t have to read over what I’d read the day before to remind myself of where I was. I think this kept the flow consistent and helped to get the story out in real-time.
However, by the end of the book, I was fried. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t an isolated case due only to a fast deadline. My brain is pretty much dead by the time I finish writing any of my books. Because I’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping these characters and their stories every day for weeks on end, I’m usually ready for it to be over when I write that last line. That’s why, typically in the past, I’ve always given myself a month off after finishing a book, in order to rest, relax and reboot before turning back to edit it. This is so I can get a little bit of space between myself and the story, and so I can look at it a little more clearly while revising.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time left in my deadline—did I mention I’m a stickler for due dates?—and so, the day after I finished writing What the Spell? I had to go straight into edits for it. Now, I’m new to working with a publisher, an editor, my agent—all the hands that are involved in getting a book to the shelves—so I was hesitant to admit to any of them that I was burnt out. I didn’t want to show weakness. Didn’t want them to think I wasn’t capable of doing what needed to be done. Because, after all, I’d agreed to the deadline in the first place. But about three days before I had to turn in the first draft, I broke down and told my agent how I was feeling. And can I just say something real quick here about agents? A good agent isn’t just out for how much money they can make off of you. A great agent is your biggest supporter, your fighter, a cheerleader when you need her. My agent, Kevan, has become one of the most instrumental people in my writing career. She fights for my rights as an author, reminds me of why I write, picks me up when I need it, offers to read my early drafts and listens when I freak out. So, when I told her how I was feeling, she suggested I tell my editor, and even said we could ask for an extension if I felt I needed it. No judgment, just understanding. Hearing that she was on my side and that the way I was feeling was normal was such a huge help. It’s what encouraged me to keep editing.
Then, I told my editor how I was feeling. And I’ve got to say, my relationship with her is blossoming into something I never could have expected either. You’d think a large corporation would be all business; you have a deadline, you stick to it. But what I’ve experienced at Simon & Schuster is, they care about people first, business second. My editor, Alexandra, told me I could take another week if I needed. She recognized that it was a lot to write in a short amount of time, and ultimately we need to do whatever we needed to get a great story. And if that meant giving me more time, we had a little wiggle room. She expressed that she believed in me and if there was anything I wanted to talk about, she was there. Well, that was really all I needed to hear from her. Knowing that she understood what I was going through and was behind me 100 percent was a huge weight off my shoulders. She reinforced that I wasn’t just a machine churning out words. I was a person just like her.
So, reinvigorated by these select people who’ve become my partners in crime, I crawled back into my writer’s hole and finished editing. I turned in the first draft (on time I might add), feeling pretty good about the job I’d done. Of course, I’m anxious to hear what they think—I think as a writer, we’re always going to doubt ourselves and the work we put out—but I know that whatever notes I’m given, they’ll be to create a stronger product. And I think this experience has shown me that although writing is a very solitary thing, I’m not alone in producing this book. And that’s a pretty great feeling.
There’s another thing that happened as I was winding up my deadline, which really gave me an energy boost though. One of the assistant editors at S&S, Amy, invited me to go with her to a teen author signing/reading the Friday before I was to turn in my first draft. I met her there and ran into about half of the S&S team I’ll be working with in the coming months (publicity, editing, marketing, etc). Everyone was so friendly and nice, and it felt like I was a part of something really great. The event turned out to be amazing. I’d never seen anything like it before. The authors (there were six in all) acted out the scenes from each of their books, so the audience was able to get a more interactive experience. Everyone who participated (Corey Whaley, Siobhan Vivian and Stephanie Perkins to name a few) was hilarious and warm and genuine. Afterward, Amy took me around to all the authors and introduced me to everyone. The authors I met were so inspiring and it really put everything I’d been feeling into perspective. I’m not the only one who’s ever felt the way I did about this writing process and one day I was going to be up there, doing what I love: talking about books with other book lovers. Not only did it spark something in me that had sort of gone to sleep while I’d been sitting in front of my computer writing solo, but it gave me a renewed energy. They’d given me my groove back. Now I can’t wait to start on re-writes, and to experience everything that’s to come in the next few months!
Brittany Geragotelis is a former magazine editor and author of the upcoming series Life’s a Witch, being published by Simon & Schuster. Her first book, What the Spell? will be published in hardback on January, 1, 2013.