3…2…1… Liftoff! The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is launched in the UK!

Well, this is going to be a VERY long and photo-filled post! That’s because I had the most incredible time launching The Oathbreaker’s Shadow at the stunning Daunt Books Marylebone last night. Thank you so much to everyone who came out!

That’s right, my book is now officially OUT in the UK. I can hardly believe it! (Obligatory buy links to hardcover and kindle editions here!)

My day started with the making of a zillion cupcake decorations! They turned out well (if I do say so myself – I might do a little ‘how to’ later), even if they did start lifting once they entered the sun-filled room at Daunts. I’m not quitting my day job (or my after day job) to become a baker just yet. The actual cupcakes came from the supremely talented Emma Louise of Sweet Little Cakery. Her blog about it is here and her website is here.

They turned out beautifully!

Homemade book cupcake decorations

Homemade book cupcake decorations

Life of a debut author, hey? Never thought I’d be doing that on my launch day, but it was actually so much fun. My mum and sister then helped me lug over 150 cupcakes to the beautiful Daunt books.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Daunt Books Marylebone, and you’re a book lover in London (or visiting London) then you must! It is so so stunning, even if I do say so myself. And even better when you see this in the window!

An Oathbreaker-filled window!

An Oathbreaker-filled window!

The wine showed up, and cupcakes were on display, and the launch kicked off!

Cupcakes on display

Cupcakes on display

I then spent most of my time dashing around the room, trying to make sure I signed for everyone! So many people from different parts of my life came together, which was wonderful to see. Special shout-out to my mum who came all the way from Canada to celebrate with me, and I was very sorry that Dad couldn’t be there too – he was definitely missed a lot.

signing2

Check out my snazzy silver pen!

About an hour into the launch, Juliet braved the balcony with me, in true Evita-style, to make a lovely speech. I then got to say a few words of thanks to everyone, which was really nice. As I said in my speech, I could never have imagined so long ago, when I first entertained dreams of becoming a writer, that my first book launch would be anything like this. I was completely overwhelmed. And because I work in publishing, a book can sometimes be reduced to the sum of its parts: the manuscript, the cover, the AIS, the metadata, the reviews… the product, in essence. But this whole process has reminded me of something so important: that behind every published book is a writer for whom this is a dream come true. That is certainly the case for me.

Giving my speech from the balcony... not for the faint hearted!

Giving my speech from the balcony… not for the faint hearted!

crowd

With speeches over… I could finally relax! And meet and chat with people… which is what I had wanted to do for most of the evening. One of the best pictures of the night were the four young ones who attended the launch, all sitting up on the balcony, intensely reading. Couldn’t ask for anything more as an author!

readers

 

And I also asked all my guests to sign a book for me! This ended up being one of my favourite mementos of the night – I strongly recommend it to other authors!

A book signed by the launch guests, just for me!

A book signed by the launch guests, just for me!

Then, as the bookstore closed up, we moved down to The Marylebone pub, where there was some much needed food and happy hour!

Editor, Publicist, Agent and Author - Team Oathbreaker!

Editor, Publicist, Agent and Author – Team Oathbreaker!

It was finally when we got to the pub that we managed to get a Team Oathbreaker picture! Woohoo. I’m so grateful for all the hard work these ladies have put in so far. I definitely have the best team in publishing!!

My launch was, in a nutshell, awesome. I can’t have imagined it going any better, and I’m still a bit shellshocked that so many people came out to celebrate me and Raim. It was his night too, after all!

So the book is out, the wine has all been drunk, the champagne popped and the cupcakes demolished. What now? If anyone has read and enjoyed The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, please leave a review over on Amazon or Goodreads – it would be so helpful for all those fancy Amazon algorithms and such. Plus, it would just make me happy 🙂

Or, just take a look at a few more pictures! Most of these on this page were taken by my wonderful friend Sarah, and a few from my mum, Bella and Juliet too! I was far too frantic to take pictures.

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Interview with my agent: Juliet Mushens of PFD

I’m lucky to be blessed with the smartest, most tenacious and definitely best-dressed agent in the biz… the wonderful Juliet Mushens. She is the newest agent at PFD, one of the oldest literary agencies in London, and she reps a really eclectic and fun list (head over to the PFD website to find out more). Juliet has done a few interviews lately about being an agent, so I thought I’d ask a few different questions for my interview. Hope you enjoy!

One thing I’m always curious about is how you match a shiny new manuscript to the right editor at a publishing house. What’s your process? How do you get to know an editor’s taste?

Everyone knows roughly what editors are looking for: be it crime, women’s fiction, reading group fiction or YA. But above and beyond that there are so many permutations so I think it’s key to meet as many editors as possible. It’s just like with agents – everyone knows the rough genres I’m looking for but above and beyond that I have a passion for books with unreliable narrators, UST, and more than a smattering of black humour. It’s when you meet an editor and find out their favourite books, books they’ve commissioned recently, books they wish they had commissioned, that you get the best sense of where it should go. I knew when Lauren Buckland at RHCB said she had a passion for epic fantasy that she would be a good bet for The Oathbreaker’s Shadow.

What are some of the recent trends in YA literature/submissions you’ve seen?

I get sent a lot of dystopian fiction, and a lot of urban fantasy. It comes in waves: I used to get lots and lots of vampire novels, but that seems to have died down now.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of Juliet Mushens: Literary Agent? 

Each day is totally different! I normally check my emails as soon as I wake up and deal with any urgent ones on my blackberry on my way into work. Once I’m in (and have a coffee) I spend a fair amount of time going through my emails and dealing with authors and editors. These can be things as simple as ‘when will my money come through?’ or as complex as ‘the legal read has flagged up ninety-seven problems with the manuscript and the book needs to go to print next week’. Sometimes my authors are stuck with a tricky plot point and want to talk it through; sometimes my ghost-writers just want to talk to an actual person. I normally have at least one manuscript open in the background of my computer and I try and dip in and out of edits as well, sometimes for a prospective client I’m meeting, or for one of my contracted authors. Some books can go through several drafts before they go out to a publisher, or a publisher can request changes before considering the manuscript again, or an author has delivered and I need to go through it and make my comments too. During the day my phone rings a lot. I hate getting phone-calls from people who have submitted: it puts me on the spot and it’s a real no-no for me. But I spend sometimes long periods of the day on the phone to authors, or editors, discussing various queries. I will normally also be working on at least one contract which requires complete quiet, so it can be difficult to get those done in the office! And then there’s the hours I set aside to make calls to publishers before submitting, chasing up foreign rights submissions, chasing up publicity or marketing queries. Oh, and trying to actually read new manuscripts! (Edited to add: Check out Laura Lam’s interview with Juliet for an even more in-depth ‘Day in the Life’)

One for all those aspiring authors out there… what makes a query letter stand out for you? 

I think it’s my marketing background that makes me a sucker for a good or clever blurb. Cover letters should be like going into a bookshop and turning the book over – why would I read it? Make it simple and intriguing. Don’t tell me ‘and then… and then… and then…’ tell me that it’s shot through with black humour, rogues with hearts of gold, and a terrifying villain who’ll give me nightmares. That’ll make me read it quicker.

Another one for the newbies – what are a few different ways to meet an agent other than just cold-querying, and when is it definitely NOT okay to pitch an agent? 

Workshops and conferences are great ways to meet agents and I’ll have my ‘agent-brain’ on so be much more approachable. I also don’t mind the occasional twitter-pitch if it’s smart and savvy. Things I hate: trapping me in a corner at a room, cold-calling me, trying to pitch at me at London Book Fair… etc. Just be nice, and normal, and friendly and I’m sure we’ll get on.

Any last words of wisdom or advice? 

Agents are people too – sometimes we seem like terrifying gate-keepers to a publishing deal but all we’re looking for is that new book which makes us stay up all night. That’s what keeps us working hard!

Guest post from Laura Lam: The Maze of Publication

Thanks very much to Laura Lam for today’s guest post, highlighting how there’s never just one straight road to publication. Laura is also represented by my agent Juliet Mushens from PFD and her debut YA fantasy novel Pantomime is going to be published by Strange Chemistry in 2013.

You can find her on Twitter here: @LR_Lam
and on her blog: 
Laura Lam

The Maze of Publication

When I was first learning about the path to publication, it seemed like there was one agreed route. First, you write the book. Then, you get an agent. Maybe you edit with the agent. Then, the agent sells it to a publishing house. You edit, edit, edit, and then the book is on the shelf and hopefully sells a million copies. But over the past year I realised there are different ways to get published. And I ended up taking a different fork in the road.

I subbed to Angry Robot’s Open Door Month in March 2011. I nearly didn’t sub, but a few friends encouraged me, and so off it went. To my delight and surprise, it rose through the slush. I remember pinching myself and thinking: this isn’t how it works. I don’t have an agent. I haven’t written 10 books and then subbed the 11th one. I haven’t rewritten this book five times. I just put through a book I really loved and hoped they’d love it, too.

That’s not to say that iteration of that book was perfect. It wasn’t, but through the process of the Open Door, I met some online critique partners who were invaluable. Anne Lyle gets a special shout-out for mentioning in one sentence just what I needed to change.

Angry Robot passed me over to their new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, and my original reader/now editor technically rejected me. I had a revise & resubmit, and so I threw myself into revising my manuscript. I gutted it, re-arranged it, and added at least 30,000 words of new material. I’m really grateful for that second chance—that I wasn’t just written off for not being quite there yet.

I had queried a bit when I found out I was going to editorial, but my query letter wasn’t perfect (probably because the book still wasn’t). Querying the second time around was very different. My query letter was damn good, if I do say so myself, and saying that I had a publisher interested didn’t harm my chances.

I sent the manuscript to my potential editor of Strange Chemistry while I waited, and 3 days later she emailed me saying it was going to acquisitions. Highest of highs! The next day, I had a few rejections on my full manuscript from agents. Lowest of lows! Any kind of rejection is hard, whether it’s a suggestion to do radical changes or the vague “I liked it but didn’t quite love it enough.” In some cases, I think that second reason is harder. You just want to wail “why didn’t you love it/meee!” like a petulant toddler.

With one of the agents, we had a slightly more informal relationship, and so when he rejected me as a near miss (“Why didn’t you love meee!”), I cheekily asked if he had any agents in mind who might be a good fit. He gave me a few names, and one them was Juliet Mushens of PFD. My book ticked a lot of her boxes, and she read it overnight and offered the next day (“She loved meee! Yaay!”).

I had a publishing deal almost in hand before I nabbed the fabulous Juliet. Two days later, I had an offer from the publisher, and so far everything is going well. But I’m also not the only person who goes about publishing almost backwards. Anne Lyle pitched her book at a convention, Adam Christopher sort of got a deal via Twitter and found his agent that way as well, Scott Lynch and John Scalzi put up some writing online and attracted the attention of publishers. People are self-publishing to great success. That’s not to say the traditional agent->publisher route is bad in any way—it’s not, and it’s how any future deals I have will go! Publishing is changing and that means there are more avenues for getting your work noticed that before, which is exciting and wonderful.

For those of you interested in the Angry Robot and Strange Chemistry Open Door Month, today is actually the LAST day to enter this time around, but keep an eye out on their websites for future entries.

Going on submission – time to light a candle

The weather has finally turned in London, and beautiful sunshine has shifted to rain – not so good for running, but perfect weather for staying in all day to read!

Spring tends to be one of the busiest times of year for submissions, with agents and editors gearing up for Bologna and London book fairs. With my editor hat on, I feel like I have submissions coming out of my ears at the moment, and distressingly most of them are brilliant! This is only distressing as I know I don’t have the money to buy them all – or the space in the schedule!

Author hat now firmly on (I’ve decided my author hat is my Vancouver Olympics tuque with maple-leaf-emblazoned-flaps over my ears), Oathbreaker will also be making the rounds at LBF, which is doubly nerve-wracking. I asked some of the Lucky 13s about how they dealt with on submission nerves, and one of them told me that she lit a coloured candle while her book was with editors, and asked all her friends to do the same. (ETA: Thanks to the lovely Elle Cosimano for this suggestion!) I was thinking about what colour might be good for Oathbreaker, and decided that it would have to be a warm, desert colour. Unfortunately the only candle I could find at home was white and pomegranate-scented – but that works too as pomegranate is an exotic fruit, and is something I could conceivably write in to one of my scenes as a yummy snack for my main character.

The candle is burning now… in front of my Middle-Earth-in-NZ map by Weta. Here’s to wishing everyone good luck who is on submission right now (even if you’ve sold your ms to your dream house, and everything else is now an amazing bonus!)

Obligatory signing photo

Yep, today is a pretty awesome day.

Not only is it four years since Lofty & I first met in New Zealand (happy anniversary gorgeous!), but it is also the day I signed and sent off my contract to RHCB! Yup, it’s all totally official and legit now. Gulp!

To mark the occasion (in very newbie author fashion, but hey, you’re only a debut author once, right?!) I took some photos:

Mid-signing

The Oathbreaker's Shadow now officially does not belong to me! haha.

 

Januquery

Writing a query letter to an agent can be a very stressful part of any author’s journey. But never fear, Januquery is here to help! The lovely Gennifer Albin, whose debut novel Crewel is coming out in Fall 2012, has been hosting us Lucky 13ers as we critique queries throughout the month of January.

Today, it’s my turn! Head on over to Gennifer’s blog to see what I had to say about the query for a MG fantasy novel Dust and Bones.

Finding my Agent: It’s All About Timing! (or Path to Publication, Part 2)

At the end of part one, life was getting in the way of my publication dream, and it was a good thing!

2010 was a big year for me: I changed jobs from working in non-fiction to SF/F (basically my dream publishing role), and I published my first non-fiction book for teens. But making all these big changes was throwing another fact into sharp relief: I still wanted to be an author, and that dream could still be realized alongside my full-time job (luckily I have a great role model in the inimitable Jane Johnson).

I’d revised and rewritten Oathbreaker until it was almost an entirely different book from the one that was first finished in 2007. Even the central idea (of the promise knots) had changed completely. That’s when I decided that it was OK to give querying it another go, before I would devote time over to a new idea that I had brewing. The work seemed to pay off, and the first two people I queried, I got full requests from – no partials this time.

I sent off the manuscripts with baited breath, and then I did what most writers in the modern age do now… I turned to Twitter for solace:

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