01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Long & Winding Road - AKA Traditional Publishing

Hi everyone! I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

IT came in the mail on Monday. The galley for my new novel, Courage, all three hundred and fifty plus pages.
You can’t see me, but trust me, if you could you would view an older black woman who is somehow managing to do both a happy dance and heave a heavy sigh of dread.

Here’s the thing, I am a hybrid author. My first and now this, my fourth novels, were/are being traditionally published. My second and third were Indie published. I also have numerous short stories and flash fiction in magazines. (That reminds me, I have to finish off a new story for the Spring issue of the Arlington Almanac.) So I know things about different sides of the publishing spectrum. Which is why I signed a contract with Harper Collins and I am eagerly going Traditional with my new, Middle Grade novel, titled Courage.

For the next three weeks I will be rationing my time to be certain I finish this final look through of the three hundred and fifty plus pages of the novel I spent months writing, and then even more months revising. This is the last time I will go through my own words before publication. Since, in the words of the old jingle, “the quality goes in before the name goes on,” and I will be my name on book, I have responsibility for the final look-through of every page.

And then it’s off to the hell country know as promotion.

Having traversed both paths to publication, I know that traditional publication is a long, winding road. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for anyone unwilling to face a mountain of rejection. I finished this story in 2015. It was sold in 2016. I did not bother to count the rejection messages in between. Suffice it to say there were almost as many as I received for my first novel, PULL. But at least they were all nice comments.

I spent much of 2017 doing major revisions and edits. My wonderful editor at Harper Collins, Karen Chaplin, gave me great feedback and numerous suggestions. Some I took, others got the push back necessary to preserve my original artistic vision - buy me a drink sometime and maybe I'll tell you more. I will say the ending was re-written three times. (With the third re-write largely going back to the elements I put into the first re-write.) This was important, because while all authors know that the opening has to be the strong hook that pulls readers into your story and prepares them to stay with you for the long ride, the ending too is critical. That’s the part that has to leave a reader ready to say the ride was worth it. It should also have them want to take another journey with the author.

I have deliberately not re-read my manuscript in months. That’s part of the process, an author needs eyes as fresh as possible for this last step between herself and her readers. My heart thumps as I open that first page and read that
Chlorine fills the air.” 
Maybe not the most perfect first line ever, but fitting for a boy who is about to stake a leap into the air and learn that even in the midst of something as bitter and unpleasant as the stench of chlorine, he can find the goodness of friends and family. That he needs to learn the lesson of the final line, that
“Everyone deserves forgiveness.” 
(Yeah, I know. Three complete re-writes of the two ending chapters to get to something that simple. So shoot me.)

Courage hits the shelves in the spring of 2018. This MG novel from Harper Collins is the story of six twelve and thirteen year old friends living on Chicago's South side, including T'Shawn, who finds himself living through a remake of the prodigal son drama when his older brother returns from prison. His friends set out to save him, and their neighborhood.

Now, on to promotion, one of those aspects of my profession that I have always abhorred. See, I even bring out the big words just to show how awful I think it is. Promotion is a requirement, whether you are Indie or Traditionally published. I just finished having a consultation with a marketing manager to gain some pointers.

Hey, maybe more about that next month.


Judith Ashley said...

Congratulations again!!! HarperCollins is lucky to have you as one of their authors, BA. Sending positive thoughts that when "Courage" comes out you'll get great sales on your Indie books from new-to-you readers (oh, and maybe new readers too as that's one of your goals).

And please do share promotion ideas next month! After all RTG's guests will be talking about "What's New in Publishing" - Marketing and promotion information will fit right in.

BTW do you ever read your books once they are published?

B. A. Binns said...

Judith, absolutely I will talk about the information I gleaned. It was a writing conference and included a private fifteen minute session with an expert from a major publishing house. The woman also gave a workshop and a keynote speech on the subject. I'm still digesting and deciding how to put what I learned into practice to enhance both my brand and the new book - and how those activities are/must be different.

As for reading my old books - nope. I did with my first two, and inevitably began thinking what I should have done instead. I can look at someone else's work and see wonderful, brilliant, writing, I look at my own and see pages of flaws and wonder why did I put it that way, and so on. I already wish I could start from scratch with this one, yet my publisher says everyone who reads it is enthused, so I bite my tongue and am only looking for absolute errors like repeated words or something.

Besides, I have so many new stories fighting for their turn to get out, there's no time to spend time with the old stuff.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Congrats on the new book--looking forward to hearing more details in your next post! :-)

Maggie Lynch said...

Congrats on the galleys. I was pleasantly surprised to see that you have paper galleys. A lot of publishers are going to online galleys these days.

I am 100% with you on not going back and reading a previously published book. Though I do take peeks if a reader tells me about a favorite scene or page (because I have, of course, forgotten it by now). I know my earlier books are not as good as my new books. But it's okay. Everyone starts somewhere.

I hope you have an amazing hybrid career with indie books helping the trad books and vice versa.

Madelle Morgan said...

Congratulations! I hope the publisher lines up the reviewers/reviews that will entice bookstores and libraries to stock the book...and so get it in the hands of kids who need to read the inspiring story.

I wish you much success!

Diana McCollum said...

Good Luck on sales!!! Major congrats on landing a contract with Harper Collins. I look forward to hearing your take on marketing.