Hi all. Faith here. I am in deadline hell, and so I asked a new pal to post today, about her path to publication and any advice she has for our readers. I met Alethea Kontis at a con this year and fell in love with her go-to attitude, her moxie, her energy, and her tiara. (See her bio for that part, link at the bottom.) 🙂 Take it away, Alethea!
Hey everybody! The goal was always simple: publish a fantasy novel like the ones I loved so much when I was growing up.
The paths to our goals are rarely ever so simple. My path took years.
Eight years ago, I received the magical call from Candlewick Press asking me if they could pleasepleaseplease publish the first AlphaOops children’s picture book (age 4 and up). It was a fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, a giant affirmation from the universe that writing is what I was meant to be doing. It was also a giant kick in the pants.
The clock was ticking. I had two years before AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First would be published. Two years in which to place my foot solidly in my beloved science fiction/fantasy genre in my own name. I happen to like my own name, and I didn’t want to be pressured into a pseudonym. I’ve heard far too many horror stories about that.
Then suddenly there was a real-life horror story: the Indian Ocean Tsunami. I pitched an all-star all-benefit anthology, Elemental, to Tor and landed it. Elemental was an SF/F anthology–100% of the profits went to Save the Children, for victims of the Tsunami. Arthur C. Clarke did our introduction, and many stories within went on to be reprinted in a lot of Year’s Best anthologies.
In the middle of that project, I sold a novelette to Realms of Fantasy (“Sunday”) and started publishing a regular essay column in Apex Magazine of Science Fiction and Horror (“Beauty & Dynamite”). By the time AlphaOops released, I was in the middle of writing the non-fiction Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion–since Sherri had already named a character in her series after me (Ravyn Kontis), it was only natural that I publish it under my own name, thus adding to the mystery of the series. That fall I sold the second AlphaOops book, and more short stories. I attended a TON of conventions to learn everything I could, to see and be seen. And so on, like we’re all told to do like good little authors.
It’s easy to see why it took Enchanted (YA fairytale) almost six years to go from that original novelette (“Sunday”) to published novel. But here at the end of those tumultuous years, I seemed to have achieved that rare Gaiman-like status where the next thing I write could be a television screenplay or Wonderland poetry, and no one would bat an eyelash.
For those of you who have ever been tempted to (or already do!) publish in multiple genres, to multiple publishers, across multiple demographics, I’ve put together a list of ten things you don’t want to forget while drowning in the chaos that inevitably becomes your life.
1.) Get Lucky. Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson says that hard working people make their own luck. It’s true! The harder you work, the higher you raise the level of your ability, credibility, and visibility. Opportunities will suddenly seem to “fall in your lap.” But it’s not really luck; it’s you.
2.) Say “Yes.” Be brave. Don’t be afraid to pitch the impossible, or to have the impossible pitched to you. “Can you have a book proposal by Monday?” “Can you write me a 2000-word essay on fairy tales in television?” “Can you come up with a word from Alice in Wonderland for every letter of the alphabet?” Say yes. Make it happen. (And then See #8.)
3.) Make Goals. You *will* get distracted. You must have a way to pull yourself back on track. I keep to-do lists–everything from “call Mom” to “go to the post office” to “write Magical Words essay.” I update them every few months as things get scratched off. Up at the top, in all caps, is always the long-term goal. (“WRITE SEQUEL.”) Putting everything on dead trees keeps your poor brain from having to maintain a constant running tally. It already has enough to think about.
4.) Stay True to Yourself. “Do what you love and the money will follow,” right? There are things that you love. DO THEM. Talk about them on your blog. It’s not always writing. Puppets? Finger painting? Fashion? Making low budget horror films? Be passionate about these things, and be excited to share them with the world. This way, your work becomes about YOU, and YOU are ultimately what you need to sell to the world.
5.) Be Your Own Celebrity. Some folks call this “branding.” I call it being the best YOU that you can be. What is it that draws you to celebrities? What do they do that you don’t? Whatever it is, give it a try. Go live your life and enjoy it. Others will love enjoying it with you vicariously.
6.) Have Great Role Models. Be they Muses or Masters, these are the people in your field you aspire to be like. Find that person and emulate their behavior. Let them guide and inspire you. Let them be the reason you push yourself harder every day. Those people to me? John Scalzi. Mary Robinette Kowal. Janet K. Lee. Sherrilyn Kenyon. The Waterworld Mermaids.
7.) Make New Friends, But Keep the Old. People will seek you out and get to know you because of your work, but don’t think of them as fans. They are friends. Over the years I’ve found that complete strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet. At the same time, don’t forget your roots. All those people you knew in high school (and some you didn’t know) may suddenly be very proud of you. Don’t hold grudges. Celebrate that pride.
8.) Say “No.” Discipline is mandatory for those of us with too many irons in the fire. It’s incredibly tempting to take on more than you can handle. You will have to pass up on some possibly amazing opportunities. Trust me when I say that the people asking will be far happier with a quick rejection than a long, drawn-out tease resulting in ultimate non-delivery.
9.) Be Awesome. Like the Nerdfighters say: Don’t Forget To Be Awesome. Always wear your best behavior and most optimistic attitude, even (and especially) when you don’t feel like it. It’s a very small world, and you never know where your next great opportunity might come from.
10.) Give Back. People will be passionate about what you are passionate about. Be sure to spend some small percentage of your copious networking time letting your fans know about other authors, genres, and charitable organizations in which they would be not be remiss in investing their time and money. Judge a few contests. Give some great critiques. Introduce a friend to a friend. Comment on some blogs. There’s a reason you went into the writing business–you love books. Now that you’re part of the industry it’s your responsibility to leave the place nicer than when you came into it. Thank you.
I actually have three books coming out this summer: Enchanted, which is hitting stores right now (but May 8 is technically the release date), The Wonderland Alphabet, an ABC boardbook of verse based on Lewis Carroll’s books and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Janet K. Lee (also May), and the paperback edition of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First (July).
The due dates have allowed me to plan a PR blitz—which no publisher will ever, ever do for you until you are already making millions and don’t need it. You have to do it yourself, all of it yourself, which is a blog or seven for another time. For my own PR blitz, I am putting myself on book tour this summer (no help from the publisher, c’est la vie) and to pay for it, I’m hosting a Chip In site for fans and friends who would like to throw in a few dollars for my gas fund. My God, have you *seen* gas prices?!? All contributors will be entered to win a one-of-a-kind necklace from Dixie Dunbar Studio (my sister who was featured in Vogue), and my father has generously offered to match all donations.
My bio and a picture are here: http://aletheakontis.com/about/bio/