Monday, August 29, 2011

Sneak Peek

So, this last week I got a peek at the preliminary cover for OF POSEIDON! And it was...breathtaking. Seriously, I almost cried, that's how pleased I was! Love, love, LOVE it.

Which leads me to reveal a secret to you: I was secretly dreading the cover reveal. Thing is, the author doesn't really have a make-or-break say in the end about the cover. I kept having these nightmares about an AQUAMARINE-like cover. I'm not picking on that cover, but it's not suited for the YA crowd I wanted to target when I wrote OF POSEIDON. And oh sure, the author can protest on a cover (which I would only suggest you do if you have valid reasons). For instance, check out Mandy Hubbard's experience with her preliminary cover for RIPPLE. Her publisher agreed with her (professionally presented) reasoning, and changed it. But ultimately, the publisher will go with what they think will sell the book.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how I ever doubted the capability of Feiwel and Friends' art department. I mean, get a load of these covers:

I'm not sure why I ever doubted them at all. First-timer jitters, maybe? In any case, even after KNOWING what they are capable of, they still greatly exceeded my expectations with the cover of OF POSEIDON.  I have the image saved as the background on my computer, and sometimes I just stare at it and think, "Wow. That's going to be mine. Wow."

It stays true to the story, but it will catch the attention of any bookstore browser. Sigh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

'Tis the Season--of Swag!

It's Swag Season, which means it's time for another giveaway! If you happen to be a (freaking lucky) newcomer, let me explain what this is:

The Season of Swag is the 5th season, the OTHER white meat giving season, if you will. And it lasts for an entire year, right up until the release of my YA debut, Of Poseidon (OP), which is set to assault bookstores in Spring of 2012 (Feiwel and Friends).

To participate in the Season of Swag (and therefore be eligible to win, you know, swag) you must do this:

1.) Become a follower of my blog.
2.) Follow me on Twitter.
3.) Tweet about the Season of Swag and include my Twitter handle (@ByAnnaBanks) so I can confirm you've been a good little Tweeter and followed the oh-so-easy rules.

In two weeks, I'll enlist to pick my winner. In addition, the winner of each monthly giveaway will also qualify for a chance to win the Grand Swag: A mountain of all things OP, including a hardcover copy signed by MOI (for those of you who don't speak southern, MOI means me).

Now, for this month's swaggish giveaway: A signed copy of Ann Aguirre's Enclave, which is wholly awesome. Don't believe me? This is the first sentence: I was born during the second holocaust. And. I'm. Hooked.  Still not convinced? Then by all means, read the 150+ Amazon reviews for Enclave. Then maybe you'll come to your senses!

And did I mention THIS copy is signed???

Now, run along and do your very bestest to win.

And remember, this is just the beginning. For the rest of Swag Season, be on the lookout for more book giveaways, including more series and some signed copies, gift cards, and critiques.
So, no matter if you're in Mexico, Greenland, or NYC, 'tis the season of Swag!

Friday, August 19, 2011


A co-worker of mine just warned me that I might not want to pursue writing (insert snarky, defensive reply here). That writing requires a thick skin, and it's a hard business to break into (insert another sarcastic reply, and be creative). After our (brief) conversation, I figured that she either stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, or she knows someone (besides me) who writes.

And while I'd love to continue to be scandalized, and to roll my eyes, she has a point. And I'd like to share (or rather, reiterate)that with you.

Writing is difficult. Albert Einstein thought it was difficult, folks. So it's going to suck for you many, many times. But don't give up.

When I think of the struggle writers go through to get published, I think of the Titanic. At first, it's a pretty morbid comparison (spoiler alert: It sank). But if you think about it, the Titanic didn't sink because of one big, obvious blow to the hull. It was a series of gashes, all strategically placed by that murderous iceberg, which ultimately brought it down.

And so it is with writers. We rarely have that Eureka moment where we say, "Because ______ happened, I'm giving up writing." No, it's a series of events. A line of holes. How many holes are you fighting right now? Not sure? Let's see:

1.) Time constraints. Maybe you work full time, or two jobs even, and have a family. Finding time to write means giving up things like sleep. Sacrificing sleep can really work you over. And so can sacrificing writing time, in the overall scheme of things.

Solution: Find balance. Make a schedule. Can you write on your lunch hour? Can you write after your kiddos go to bed? Can you wake up earlier? Don't expect too much of yourself. Slow and steady.

2.) Rejection. All kinds of rejection, all kinds of little holes, right? Agents, hole. Editors, hole. Heck, even a negative critique can puncture a hole in our perseverance. Self doubt settles in like rust on those holes. Add that to lack of sleep as mentioned above, and you're taking on water right?

Solution: Don't take it personally. Also, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Another good strategy is to keep going. Rejected on a query? Send out another. That one rejected too? By all means, hit send again. Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND was rejected 38 times, people. Run along and read rejection stories of famous authors RIGHT NOW. Print them out and keep them handy. Then smile, and keep going.

We ALL get rejected. I did. You will. Keep going anyway.

What other holes can pock your perseverance? How do you patch them up and keep cruising?

Monday, August 15, 2011


I STILL WORK FULL TIME AT A BANK. (Anna BANKS, get it???) Yes, I'm one of those saps who always told myself that I would quit as soon as my writing took off. But...has it taken off yet? Here are some reasons you might not want to quit just yet.

1.) Should you live off your first advance? That's a personal decision. For me, the answer is no. Know this: Advances don't come all at once. They're broken up into three parts: First advance after signing the contract. Second advance after acceptance and delivery of the manuscript to your publisher (which means it's how the publisher wants it after line edits). Third advance when the book goes to print. There could be months in between these payments. It's not like your bi-weekly serving of paycheck casserole. Be warned.

2.) You DO know there'll be taxes, right? In fact, literary agent Kristin Nelson suggests you skim the cream from the top and send it to the IRS IMMEDIATELY. That's a lot of money to part with all at once. And something to think about before you haul off and quit the day job. In fact, this entire blog post helped me make the decision to stay at my day job.

3.) Marketing. How much of this money are you budgeting to market your book? We're told over and over that publishers, even traditional publishers from large houses, are spending less and less on marketing. Much of the cost is left up to the author. Remember, this sparkly debut of yours will make or break you. If your sales are horrible, how likely are you to get another contract? Not very. And a direct link to sales is public awareness. I'm not suggesting you spend your entire advance on marketing, but at least make sure you know that if you want to promote your book beyond the scope of what your publisher has planned, you will bear the cost of it.

4.) Royalties. The startling truth about royalties is that a very small percentage of authors earn out their advance and see royalties. And most of the time, it takes years to see an earn out. So, if you're planning on living off your royalties, uh....

5.) The economy. Say after your first book deal, you NEVER SELL ANOTHER. Does this happen? You bet your sweet aspercreme it does. Now you've lived on your advance, you've got a few years yet to collect royalties (if you even do), and now you're heading back into the 40-hour army--if you can find a job at all in this economy. If you're one of the lucky ones who can, you're starting on the bottom again with benefits, vacation time, seniority. Was your two year hiatus worth it?

Now, this is all not to say that I wouldn't quit in a heartbeat if I felt I could. It makes me ill to think how much writing I could get done in the 40 hours I'm slaving for someone else. But until I get my baby feet a little more established in this grown up industry, I think I'll stick with the bank. The fact is, I wrote the book which sold while working full time. I edited it, queried it, edited it, then I edited. Also, I edited it some more. All while working 40 hours elsewhere. It can be done. And while things will get busier around release date, right now, I'm still sane. Is this the right decision? We'll see...

My question to you: What would it take for YOU to quit your day job?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Public Thank You Note

It occurred to me recently that I might want to start putting together some acknowledgements, since OF POSEIDON will be in book form very shortly. That way, I can be a brown-nosing do-gooder and have it ready for when my editor inevitably asks for it.

But...aren't acknowledgements supposed to be the easiest part of the whole book? 'Cause ummm, they actually kind of suck. On the one hand, I'm so terrified of forgetting someone vital, crucial to the success of this project that I bought a notebook and pen specifically for articulating my thanks whenever my thanks hit me.

On the OTHER hand (and yes, I'm ashamed there's another hand to it), I'm mulling over not including some people who *probably* expect to be mentioned. Oh sure, crit partners and supporters and die-hard readers and agents and editors will go in there, but not because I feel obligated to publicly thank them. No, these are the ones who go there without thought, because OF COURSE I'm so grateful for everything they've done to make this work a success and I know that without any one of them it might have fallen flat on its face.

But I'm talking about those other people, people who didn't help at all, but who I feel obligated to add, just because they're related to me, or because they might have read a single chapter of this book and gave a nice comment about it. Other people who didn't support my writing at all (or very, very little), but who might be offended if their name isn't mentioned.

And I've decided to not mention them anyway. Because I'm not a sell-out when I write, and to me, that includes acknowledgements. Besides, I don't have sixty pages to include the post man from my previous address who said he can't wait to read my book. I have to make room for the hard workers who made it possible for the post man from my previous address to read my book.

Sorry if that sounds snooty. :(

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Winner O'Swag!

Drum roll puhlease.....*reaches into an Abraham Lincoln-style hat and pulls out the name of*...Becky Taylor! Actually, it was that picked Becky, and I thought it was a very fitting choice. Here's why: As I prepped this post for the winner announcement, I flitted over to Becky's very cool blog in order to link it...only to discover that not only had she Tweeted about my blog contest, but she actually dedicated a post on her blog about it. So umm, I'm a little creeped out that knew she completely deserved Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. (Did you know that Becky's first YA novel, Ascendant, is repped by Emma Patterson of the Wendy Weil Agency? Well, now you do, my friend. Now you do.)

So congrats to Becky, and thanks so much for your word-o-mouth efforts! For everyone else, stay tuned for details of the next Season of Swag giveaway coming soon!

Also, stop by Mindy McGinnis''s blog de awesome, Writer Writer Pants on Fire tomorrow to read a little ole interview with my own self. Mindy's calling it the SHIT interview series: Submission Hell--It's True! I think she might be onto something here!

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pen Names-Should You? Would You? Could You?

At some point in every writer's career, the issue of whether or not to use a pen name arises. (Spoiler Alert: Anna Banks is my pen name! Muhahahahahaha!)

Here are some good reasons to use a pen name:

1.) Privacy. This is not one of the reasons for my own decision to use a pen name. Here in Small Town, Florida, everyone knows you, your business, and whose cows you tipped when you were thirteen years old. So they already know that you slipped on a cow pie and fell flat on your back in it (which you completely deserved, because tipping cows is evil). Yup, if you came to Small Town right now and asked around, you could probably get my address and blood type quicker than an ice cold sweet tea.

2.) Real Estate. Meaning location on the shelf at a bookstore. Books are stocked on the shelves according to author last names. My real last name begins with a Z. No bueno. 

3.) If your last name is absurd. Like, if my last name were Banana...Enough said.

4.) If your last name is common. Like Smith, Johnson, Frufugutzen. You might not want to be lost among the other Smiths, Johnsons, and Frufugutzens. Which is perfectly fine.

5.) If you plan on writing in different genres. For instance, if you intend to write erotic romance as well as eye-twitchingly sweet YA, possibly you'd want to consider a pen name for one (ahem, or both) genres.

What other reasons are there for using a pen name? What are the cons? You tell me.

And don't forget, today is the last day to enter my Swag giveaway for the month of August. Don't miss out on a chance to win Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, in hardcover. For the official rules, go here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crossing Over, Part 3

In case this is your first time stopping by, I've been journaling my experience as a newbie author going through the publishing process for my debut YA novel, The Gift of Poseidon. You've stumbled upon Part 3: Line Edits and Copy Edits. Now, have a seat and no talking...

Line Edits

Are exactly how they sound. The editor goes through your manuscript line by line, checking for voice, style, wording, consistency. Probably more, but this is what I noticed in my own sacrificial, manuscript. The editor circles things and draws lines through them and writes notes in the margins that say, "Cut, ok? Dragging down the dialogue" or "This doesn't sound like something he'd say" or "Ew! Gross! Cut, ok?" (Truly. I blushed for days on this one.)

And yes, I said she wrote in the margin. I'm told that some editors like to use a program similar to theTrack Changes function in Word. You can just accept or decline the changes. My editor chose to print the MS, write all over it, and ship it to me. Which was the coolest thing ever. I used her notes and suggestions to revise the MS and emailed it back to her. As for the MS she shipped to me, scrawled-on and bleeding, I kept it as a keepsake. After all, this is the last time I'll ever go through this for the first time. :)

Copy Edits

Copy edits are the technical stage of editing. Again, the freshly line-edited MS was shipped to me, but this time, I was told NOT to change the MS and email it back. This time, I was to make notes as to what I wanted to keep or decline, and send only the notes back.

Though the copyeditor put me on Front Street a few times about my grammar, most of what came into question was related to my world-building. For instance, whether or not a certain word should be capitalized when it referred to an aspect of the Syrena world I created (Syrena are mermaids). She set up a style guide for my writing, meaning that if my character said, "like" instead of "as if", then that character needed to say this consistently throughout the MS.

Also, the copyeditor questioned whether or not to use italics, hypens, ellipsis. And when I say questioned, I mean she broke out the Merriam Webster and bladowed me with it. But sometimes, I didn't give a crap what the good ole' MW said. Sometimes I made up my own word, like, "fwopping" for instance, and I was going to keep it. Which is okay. Because that's what copyediting is for. :)

Now for the confession. I had a mini-meltdown during copyedits. I know, I DO know, how crazy it sounds to get emotional during the comma, period, semi-colon phase of editing. I mean, offing some punctuation isn't really a tear-jerking kind of activity. What happened was that I began to doubt myself and my ability. Not that I've never done that before (I'm a writer, remember?), but the thing is, when the MS is done with copyedits, it goes STRAIGHT TO ARCs. Book form. To you, the reader. Which means no more changes. Which means this is my last chance to impress you, to hook you, to protect myself from the evil book reviewers you are (well, you know, COULD be). And it scared the hello kitty out of me. There is a permanence about copyediting that makes it emotional. You'll see what I mean when you come to that bridge in your own journey.

But to end on a positive note, did I mention I got to see the copyright page??? Complete with ISBN???