Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wendy's Sweet publishing deal

Wendy Higgins is the latest inkpop sensation to land a coveted contract with HarperCollins through the writers community. She shares with us some insights into her publishing journey so far.

Would you give us an insight into SWEET EVIL and how you came up with the idea?

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences? This is life for sons and daughters of fallen angels in SWEET EVIL.
Anna, a tender-hearted Southern girl, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.
A cross-country trip forces Anna and Kai to face the reality that hope and love are not options for their kind. When it’s time for Anna to confront her demons, will she choose to embrace her halo or her horns?

This is the hardest question to answer [how she came up with the idea], because it was a ton of little things, and I don’t know where to begin. Basically, once I’d decided I wanted to write for teens I began brainstorming, just for fun. I’d never written fantasy, so I assumed I’d take the realistic route. But then angels and demons popped into my head because of an adult satire I’d read the week prior. I’m fascinated by angels, so it was fun to throw ideas around in my head. It came together very quickly. Within that same day I’d created the main characters, what their powers/specialties would be, and the fact that there’d be a road trip. It came together like a puzzle over time.

Tell us a bit about your experience writing and querying prior to inkpop?

I was impatient, like most writers, and I started querying after my first draft, long before the manuscript was ready. I’d only let my best friend read it at that point. I lost track of how many rejections I received. I deleted the emails and threw away the paper rejections because they were bad for morale, but they were also a reality check. I needed serious critique from fellow writers. I started searching online, and that’s how I came across inkpop.

What was your first impressions of inkpop when you joined up?
I joined during the days when MIC (Morgan Shamy) was the Top Trendsetter. She was the first to pick my book, and then it spent a few days on the top three picks. At the time I didn’t understand exactly what that meant, but I thought it was super cool to see my cover on the home page, haha. J A lot of people gave me free reads, all of which I returned right away. My first impression was that Inkpoppers were very giving and encouraging. It was an awesome experience to feel immediately welcomed into the fold. I’m friends with Morgan to this day.

Describe for us the feelings when you found out you were going to be published by HC?
Shock, disbelief, then joy. When I wasn’t contacted by HarperCollins right after my review, I put the idea of it behind me and moved on. I was absolutely not expecting to ever hear from them, so when I did I was almost confused at first, like there’d been some sort of mistake!

Tell us a bit about the editing experience you've had for SWEET EVIL?
I had about six serious critique partners who read my whole manuscript when it was ANGEL PROPHECY, and again after major revisions. They sifted through a lot of crud and helped me whip it into shape before it got into the hands of my actual editor at HarperCollins, Alyson Day. Alyson’s notes to me mostly consisted of places where the content needed to be clarified, condensed, or expanded. I ended up cutting about 10k words, and adding back 8k in new scenes that she’d advised. Currently the story is with copy editors, so that will be the next and final step.

What's left to come for you in the publishing process and what are you looking forward to the most?
There is a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff, which I’m not always privy to. The folks at HC are putting together a marketing plan now. I’m excited to get the book on Goodreads. But what I’m most looking forward to is seeing what cover art they come up with! I can’t wait! [Neither can I!]

How important do you think social networking is for writers in today's market and what are you doing on that front?
I think it’s important, but I also think it can be a hindrance. There needs to be a good balance. Authors who are accessible online and personable will reap the benefits of building those relationships. But you also don’t want to flog yourself to death and make people sick of you. Right now I’m on twitter, I have my website, Facebook, and group blog, but I’m honestly not very good at social networking because of the time it requires. I hope to be better at it when my kids are in school.

How do you think writers' communities are going to affect the publishing industry?
Trends definitely show their faces in writing communities, and publishers pay attention. Self-publishing and online manuscript sharing are becoming huge right now. Maybe it’ll be the next big thing; you never know.

Rapid fire questions:

Angels or Demons
Angels (What, no Nephilim? *winks*)
Paper or Computer
Computer (although my 1st draft of SE was handwritten because I didn’t have my computer yet, ugh!)
Edward or Jacob
Edward in the books. Jacob in the movies.
Coffee or Hot Chocolate
Snow or Sand

Monday, June 20, 2011

A new type of slush pile

Watch out publishing world, there's a new slush pile in town. Okay, inkpop's not exactly new - it's about a year-and-a-half old. But it's coming of age this year.

The second writer off inkpop to be published by HC has just been announced - my wonderful friend, and fellow YAtopian, Wendy Higgins with her novel Sweet Evil. I've been fortunate enough to read an ARC of the first novel off Inkpop being published Carrier of the Mark by another fantastic writing pal and YAtopian, Leigh Fallon.

I'm hanging out like crazy to see these books hit the shelves as I think it will herald in a new age in publishing as it is putting the readers in the drivers seat.

For those of you who don't know how inkpop works it goes a bit like this:

  1.  Post your YA work (yep it's a YA friendly site).
  2. Members read your work and comment on it. If they really like it they'll "pick it".
  3. The most popular pieces of work at the end of each month make the "top five".
  4. "Top 5" projects are read by a HC editor and they give you feedback.
  5. If the editor falls in love with your story, they'll publish it.
Now there's been more than 50 projects make "Top 5" status and only two projects have been announced so far as getting the publishing tick.

Even work that doesn't make "Top 5" status still benefit from the community. The site was abuzz when it came out that Jeyn Roberts. was being published with Dark Inside. Jeyn only had her project up briefly as it was so good she got snavelled up quickly be an agent and a publisher before it could make the "Top 5". But members know Jeyn from the site and are excited as to read her book. It provides an additional following for members who are getting published.

When my novel Mishca made the "Top 5", it did so out of more than 25,000 pieces of work on the site - a fact I'm pretty proud of. While Mishca wasn't ready for publication at the time, the HC editor review gave me a great start on revisions. It's also the most successful piece of work on the site by an Australian writer. Personally I see that as a great marketing pitch. I know not all agents feel that way, but I wonder if attitudes will start to change once Sweet Evil and Carrier of the Mark rock the YA lit world (and having read the latter, I am sure they will!)

Similar communities are springing up with Figment and Book Country (Penguin). Figment has a specific category for authors to allow them to connect with their fans on the site. It's also great for connecting with other writers and getting feedback. The community created at Book Country is just amazing. I've gotten some of my most constructive feedback from people there. Though it is aimed at genre writers and you must be 18+ to be on the site.

While agents won't necessarily have the time to dredge through these sites looking for a diamond in the rough, I wonder how long it will take before it's universally deemed a positive thing to put inkpop success in a query letter?

I've had a positive response in Australia to my inkpop success so far, and I really hope something more eventuates from it. I think it is a great thing that the readers get the opportunity to have a say on what gets published before it hits the bookshelves. Sites like inkpop are great market research, and when Carrier of the Mark hits the shelves, we'll be able to see just how successful sites like this can be.