Over the summer I won a contest. It was the coolest thing. I never - EVER - win anything. So when the book arrived, I was so excited I tore into it right away.
Well you know that feeling, when you're expecting a book to be so great and then you read it and you're all, well that sucked.
Let me just tell that was NOT the case with THE IRON BODKIN. This book was total and complete awesomesauce.
I've invited the author, Amy Allgeyer Cook, to share her experience and road to publication with us.
Me: Hey Amy. *waves* Can I just say you have a cool name. I'm not biased. At all. Thanks for joining us!
Amy: Thanks so much for letting me visit today. I love your blog and am so happy to be here.
Me: Awesome! Thanks. I LOVED your book! So what made you decide to write stories for Middle-Graders?
Amy: Actually, I started out writing picture books. I wrote four or five and finally realized ... I totally rot at picture books. I use too many words and my jokes are way too long. Middle grade is a natural fit for me. I'm just a big, goofy nerdball who still laughs when people make fart noises under their arms. Needless to say, most of my books are for boys.
Me: Fart noises. Ha ha. (I'm so glad she can't smell the one my dog just ripped cause let me tell you - that was raunchy!) So picture books to middle grade...if things keep heading up you'll be working on a YA next!
Amy: Actually, the book I'm working on now is YA, and I’m really enjoying it. The book I just finished is an upper middle grade book. I won a spot in the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program so my mentor, Susan Hart Lindquist, and I will be working on that book for the next six months. I've also written chapter books, so I am happy writing anything except picture books.
Me: I knew it! So, back to THE IRON BODKIN...what was your inspiration?
Amy: At the time, I was reading a lot of books about the Knights Templar and some of the books mentioned the Priory of Sion (the supposed group that now supposedly holds the secret of the supposed Templar treasure). The idea of an ancient secret group totally hooked me and I set out to write a book where the main character was a member of one. Along the way, things changed a lot as things usually do when you set out to write a book. The ancient group is still in the book but they've switched sides and taken a back seat.
Me: I loved the entire concept of the book. The voice, I think, was my favorite part. But I also really enjoyed the journey of the characters. You are now officially one of my favorite authors! So any authors you love?
Amy: Growing up, I read lots of classics. I have six older brothers and sisters so I got all their hand-me-down books: Twain, Poe, Alcott, Austen, Faulkner. It wasn't until I was an adult that I found fantasy and fell in love with Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, CS Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Tolkien. And this generation's fantasy authors totally rock: Angie Sage, Jenny Nimmo, Kathryn Lasky, Riordan, Hale, Rowling...and I know I'm forgetting twenty or thirty that are my "all-time-favorites". Oooo--Marion Zimmer Bradley. What wouldn't I give to be able to immerse myself in Mists of Avalon again for the first time.
Me: Agreed. I have to add Poe, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Carrie Ryan and Madaline L'Engle to that list. So, how long did it take you to write THE IRON BODKIN? Anything special you want to share about your journey?
Amy: I wrote The Iron Bodkin in six months. I revised it and got some feedback, but I had no idea what I was doing at that point. Six months later, I wrote the second book and decided I should start submitting Bodkin. In lightning speed, I received ten form rejections from publishers. I decided I needed an agent instead. I submitted to two agents and one of them, Kendra Marcus, signed me.
Three years later, I'd racked up another handful of rejections -- some with frustrating comments ("Too close to Harry Potter"), some with great suggestions and some very painful ("We love it! Unfortunately, we just signed something exactly like this.")
As a last ditch effort, I entered it in a debut author contest with a small press, planning to drawer it if I didn't win. But I did win, and the grand prize was a publishing contract. However...as we neared my estimated release date, the publisher stopped emailing me (and the other new authors as well). It looked like my book was headed for the drawer.
Me: That's some journey! Phew. I need to sit for a rest. One of the things that I noticed is that you're self published. What made you come to that decision?
Amy: At my lawyer's direction, I can't give any specifics, so I'll just say that my publisher was unable to perform per our contract. However, since my scheduled release date was only two months away and I'd been marketing like a dervish for eighteen months, everyone in the world was asking when my book was coming out. It was emotionally easier for me to self-publish than to explain (repeatedly) a difficult situation I wasn't legally allowed to discuss.
Me: Wow. Sounds like publishing isn't always cut and dry. Oviously, since I read the book, I know there will be a sequel. But did you plan from the start to do a series?
Amy: It was always planned to be a trilogy. When I self-published, I wasn't sure if I would go ahead with the next books. But I've gotten some good reviews, with a couple more coming out in the next month or two, so I've decided to go ahead with book two. It's in revisions now and will hopefully be released in the Spring of 2011. It's called The Seven Wood Box...so far.
Me: Any final words of adivce?
Amy: Yes. I'd like to say something about working with small and indie publishers. Small presses are great for pre-published writers. They get fewer submissions than the big houses so your manuscript has less competition. And they're willing to accept un-agented subs. The vast majority of them are wonderful companies. But be careful. There are some 'publishers' out there who aren't what they claim to be. There are some who just aren't very solvent and some who cheat writers out of money.
Before you submit to a small press or enter a contest with one, check Preditors & Editors or Writer Beware to see if they have any negative feedback. You can also check Children's Writers & Illustrators Market or Book Market for Children's Writers. There are new editions of these each year and they cost about $20-30. Finally, SCBWI has a list of small presses on their Small Press Market Survey. These three resources vet their list carefully, so if your publisher is included in any of them, that's a very good sign.
As a final note, never, never, NEVER give a publisher (or an agent) any money up-front. Reputable companies will never ask you to do this.
Thanks Amy! It was great having you! Be sure to visit Amy at her Blog and Website.
Amy has generously agreed to give away a copy of THE IRON BODKIN to one lucky winner! Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win (of course tweets and blog posts will win extra entries, just leave the link). Contest ends Friday, October 8th, 2010. The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Monday, October 11th, 2010.