Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Deal Misconceptions

Ah, the book deal. For an aspiring writer, it can feel as if you’re Charlie Bucket staring longingly through the wrought-iron gate separating you from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, yearning for the day when you’ll be let in. Then the deal comes and you've got the elusive golden ticket in your hands! From then on life is all chocolate waterfalls and fizzy lifting drinks and elevators that can take you out into space... 

Well that’s the first bubble I can burst – Random House UK has yet to provide me with a lifetime supply of chocolate bars, although I can assure them it would really help my revisions! *hint hint*

I work as a commissioning editor for HarperVoyager in London, UK, so I’m fairly entrenched in the industry and know its mysterious inner-workings better than most (you can call me an Oompa Loompa in one of those Chocolate factories, I don’t mind). But when I first found out about my book deal, there were a few publishing misconceptions that stumped me...

1. I’ve just got my book deal! Writing will be so easy for me now.

Writing your first book is hard. It's so, so hard. It took me six years to get The Oathbreaker's Shadow into publishable shape -- six years of hard toiling -- so after that experience, I thought everything else would be gravy. After all, I've already proven I can write to a publishable standard - in fact, someone is willing to pay me to write a second book when they haven't even published the first. So that must make it easier to write it, right? And yet... from second book syndrome, to learning to write under deadline pressure, to realizing that my writer's block hasn't magically disappeared with that first advance payment, the actual process of writing doesn't get any easier. But hopefully your family/friends/pet are more forgiving of your frustrations.

2. I’ve just got my book deal! Now I must become a social media expert.

Within the first three months of getting my book deal, I’d done the following as an “author”: tweeted, blogged, facebooked, vlogged, pinterested, flickrd, linkedin and tumbld. I thought the idea of omniscience over the social media sphere was the best strategy and tried to do all things all at once. I quickly realized that there was no time for writing once all that was out of the way! The authors who are most successful at building an online presence are the ones who focus on the type of interaction that suits them best – whether that’s tweeting 140 characters or writing consistent blog posts or a creating a beautiful photo blog -- they choose what they like best and they do it well.

3. I've just got my book deal! It's all downhill from here.

Coming down from the massive high that was getting that first deal, I wondered if anything would ever match that feeling.  But every milestone since then has been bigger and better. Everything is exciting - from those first pass pages, to the first sight of the cover, to the first positive review... there are so many moments to look forward to. 

And probably the biggest writing misconception... 

4. I've just got my book deal! No one understands what I'm going through.

Yes, writing can be lonely. But one thing I never expected from getting that first deal was to meet so many amazing people through my writing - both in person and online. From this amazing group -- the Lucky 13s themselves -- to the London UKYA contingent, it's been a blast finally coming out of the writing closet, declaring myself a writer out loud, and finding this whole other community of talent people all working toward the same brilliant goal. 

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across in this industry? There are many! 

Amy McCulloch is a girl of many publishing hats: author, editor and reader. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, she currently lives in London, UK working for HarperVoyager as a commissioning editor. Other than books, she is addicted to travelling, running and Starbucks coffee. 

Her debut novel, THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW is due from Random House Children's Books and Doubleday Canada in Spring 2013. Find out more on her blog or feel free to say hello on Twitter!


  1. I'm not in enough to have found any for myself! But there are probably some misconceptions about how owns what rights once you've been published, especially if you're not one to read the fine print. Thanks for sharing these little doozys, I'll keep them in mind for myself!

  2. Great post, Amy! I have to admit, I suffered from many of those misconceptions myself. And what - RHCB *don't* give their authors a lifetime's supply of chocolate bars? Dammit!

  3. Really liked this post, Amy. And it's encouraging to hear that even oompa loompas get stumped by the chocolate factory sometimes.

  4. Awesome post. I am taking #2 to heart in a big way.

  5. Love this post, Amy! One big misconception is that getting published will somehow wipe away the self-doubt that always creeps up on us as writers. We go through the same phases(I'm a genius! I suck! This is amazing! How did I ever get anyone to buy the first one?! etc.), whether our book will be published or not.

  6. Great reminders, Amy! Thanks so much for this post.