Once the sale has been made, there are myriad other steps in taking a book from manuscript to finished book! Each publisher has their own process, but here’s a glimpse at what Amy Woods is going through as her manuscript becomes a Harlequin Special Edition….
Confirming a title and a cover…
I’m so glad to be back here today to share more of my experiences as a new author! It’s been a pleasantly busy few months since I sold my first book to Harlequin Special Edition.
During my conversation with my editor, when asked whether I wanted to write under my own name or a pseudonym, I chose my own name. This is something I had carefully considered before the call. I’m comfortable writing Special Editions and building a platform under my real name. In my case, if I ever choose to write in a different genre or with a different sensuality level, I may choose to write those books under a pseudonym. Whether an author wants to write under his or her real name or a pseudonym is a personal choice. The author has to consider several factors, and there is a lot of really good advice out there about making that decision.
Happily I’d already checked that there were no other “Amy Woods” authors out there, and I was able to get the URL for www.AmyWoodsBooks.com. It’s important to try to establish those social media points as early as you can, even if you don’t create an elaborate website before your sale!
As I work on revising my manuscript, there are several other steps going on simultaneously to get my book ready for its debut on the shelves. Two of those steps are figuring out the book’s title and completing an Art Fact Sheet, also known as an AFS.
I’ve often heard published authors say that turning in a full manuscript is only the beginning. As I go through the publication process for my first book, I’ve discovered that this is so true. Authors have a complex path, made up of many more aspects than just sitting down to write books. From my experience, Harlequin makes every effort to allow authors to stay involved every step of the way on the road to a finished book.
About a month after my sale–and about ten months before my pub date of September 2014–my lovely editor, Carly, let me know that it was time to start on my first AFS and to establish an official book title.
Titling the book itself was relatively simple. Carly asked me to list a few ideas, and she did the same. In creating a title, we focused on the book’s main hooks and the aspects of the story that Special Edition readers will love. My story is centered on the hero, heroine, and the heroine’s young son creating a permanent family together, and it is set in small-town Texas, a setting that many Special Edition readers really enjoy. With these key aspects in mind, I’m happy to say we settled on HIS TEXAS FOREVER FAMILY, a title I adore, and one I hope will make readers want to pick up the book.
Step Number Two was the Art Fact Sheet, which the editorial, marketing, and art departments use to create the best cover possible for the book. An AFS consists of a short synopsis of the book, descriptions of a few scenes, and detailed character profiles. Harlequin has a database set up for filling out the AFS, so I was able to log in and save each part that I worked on. That allowed me to go back in and complete it according to my own schedule before the due date. To be candid, at first glance I found the AFS intimidating. My personal writing process does not include filling out character profile sheets or detailed scene descriptions. Instead, I usually write a brief synopsis that includes the goals, motivation, and conflict of the main characters, as well as a general arc of their emotional journeys. Then, I just jump in and start writing before any further planning. So, when faced with drop-down menus covering every hair and eye color variation known to man for each character, I panicked a little. But then I put on my big girl panties, went back through my manuscript to double-check the details, and ended up learning quite a few valuable lessons along the way, which I’m happy to share with you. Every writing process is different, but here are a few tips for those of you facing your first AFS:
- As you’re writing, keep notes on what your characters look like. These don’t have to be in a formal database or spreadsheet – they can just be jottings in a notebook. For those of you who have an idea of famous people your characters resemble, bookmark links to pictures online – you’ll have an opportunity to share these with Harlequin’s art team in your AFS!
- Make a list of a few of your favorite scenes in your book. Include images of how your characters are dressed and the setting details, and describe the emotional atmosphere of the scene. This will help the art team select a scenario for your book cover.
- Write a short synopsis of your story before beginning your book, including a clear description of your characters’ conflicts and emotional journeys. Not only is this valuable in filling out the AFS, it helps you to really narrow your focus on what is keeping your hero and heroine from getting together – the heart of a good romance! You can always edit it if your story changes as you write.
- Most importantly – HAVE FUN! Even though I was a little intimidated at first, I quickly learned to love the AFS. It’s a necessary part of the publication process, but it’s also a chance to revisit a story that you love and to reconnect with your characters.
Filling out the AFS for my debut and working on an official title renewed my excitement for this book and amped up my anticipation about seeing it on the shelves later this year. By reminding me just what the core of my story is, they also helped with the revisions I’m working on now.
I hope my experience gives you a little insight into what happens “behind the curtains” in the publishing process. I also hope that you feel encouraged to know that the mysterious AFS authors talk about is not a scary beast! Rather, it’s a valuable tool for both the author and the publishing team. Until next time, happy writing!
Thank you, Amy, and we’re eager to see how you make it to your September 2014 debut! You can also keep up with Amy’s adventures on her website or on Twitter, where she is @AmyWoodsBooks. Her editor can be found on Twitter as @CarlyASilver.