It’s been just about a year since we agreed to a deal with Harper Voyager to publish my debut novel, PLANETSIDE. A year seemed like a good time to talk about what happened after the celebration stopped. I think we focus so much on getting that deal that sometimes we don’t think about what comes after, so I thought I’d talk about it.
I know not every author experience is the same, so hey, your mileage may vary. This is one story. For reference, I’m not a guy with a six-figure contract. I signed a two book deal for mass market paperback and digital release, and the first book, PLANETSIDE, is due out on July 31st, 2018. That’s about eighteen months after we first agreed to the deal. Here’s what has happened since then. It’s probably not as exciting as one might imagine.
While I was still on the high from getting the deal, David Pomerico, my editor, contacted me and asked me for ideas about a cover. He asked me to create a pinterest page with some covers that I liked and some of my vision about what parts of the book looked like. Since the publisher already had the book and I hadn’t started book two, I didn’t have much writing to do, so I made a pinterest page, messaged an artistic friend, and started putting things together. As one does when something is new and exciting, I did that in about a week and then had nothing left to do. Like scary amounts of nothing. I didn’t really know yet what book two was supposed to be about, so I didn’t really have any motivation to write it. So mostly I just danced around the office a lot. Allegedly. And I got a publicity packet to fill out for my publisher, most of which I didn’t know how to fill out because honestly at that point, it was still kind of a dream. Also I started dieting so I wouldn’t look fat in my author photo. You know…priorities.
As I passed a couple things to David, I got a chance to ask him his thoughts on book two, and before the end of January he told me that he thought book two should follow the same character as book one. He told me the elements of book one that were exciting to him and that he wanted to continue, so that gave me a good framework for what I wanted to do in the sequel. I can’t tell you much about book two without spoiling book one, but suffice it to say that book one really didn’t scream out for a continuation. It’s a stand-alone story. So I worked through how to start, and in February I started writing the zero draft of what I was then calling PLANETSIDE 2.
By about the middle of March the zero draft sucked, but it was done and it accomplished its purpose. It helped me see the story. The problem was that the mid-point was coming in around the 28,000 word mark, and in an 85,000 word book, that’s not good. And so I set out to write it again. I wasn’t working at the time, since I was transitioning out of the military, so I started the first draft soon after and got that finished up by about the end of April. It still wasn’t ready for anybody else to see, but it was done. In late April I had a photo shoot with a local professional for my author photo, which wasn’t something I’d done before. Basically an hour of walking around downtown Savannah, getting my picture taken. So if you wonder ten years from now why I still have the same photo, that’s why.
I rewrote book two again, and finished it on May 27th. I think it’s important to note that nobody actually wanted book two at this point. My contract called for me to turn in an outline of it in September, but starting a new job as a teacher in August, I wanted to have a lot of the work done. I sent it off to Rebecca Enzor, JC Nelson, and Morgan Levine, my first round readers. They all read it really fast and when I got their initial feedback, I finally knew it didn’t suck. They had ideas, and I loved them, but I wasn’t ready to get back to it right then. That was a mistake. But a few things happened. I went on vacation, I got my edit letter on book one, and Pitch Wars (Where I was a mentor) spun up. That was a lot. The edit letter was wonderful. The notes that David provided really hit home for me, and I was able to finish them pretty quickly. Then I started teaching.
September came around and I sent my outline to Lisa Rodgers, my agent, for her comments and then fixed it and sent it to my editor. It would be October before I got back to writing book two. The first week of October I got a surprise email with the initial mock up of my cover, which is amazing. I loved it immediately. More on that soon. I rewrote book two, and by about mid-November I had it off to Dan Koboldt for his notes. I was in a time crunch, because I was trying to get it to Lisa by the beginning of 2018 so she could get notes back to me in time to meet my deadline of April 3, 2018, to the publisher. Dan worked fast and his notes were brilliant. I had a lot I wanted to change after that. Thankfully I had seventeen days of Christmas vacation to rewrite it. After going to my son’s graduation and visiting family, seventeen turned into about seven. I think I had thirty or so pages re-written at that point. So I rewrote forty pages a day for seven straight days to finish it out. Sometimes that took two hours. Sometimes it took six. But I knew I had to have it done before I went back to school, and I made it with about half a day to spare, which was perfect because my copy edits came on January 2nd and I had two weeks to do those. A couple of snow days (in Savannah!) later and I’d finished those early.
And that’s where we’re at. Lisa is reading book two, which has a new tentative title, and I’m researching things like book bloggers and promotional opportunities until I get it back. I’ve got an outline for two possible book threes (one in the same series, one that’s something totally new) and I might start writing one of those here in the near future. I expect that the pace will pick up pretty soon. I’ll have another re-write on book two in about a month, and I’m sure there are other things I haven’t learned about yet. Maybe I’ll share those next year.
PLANETSIDE is available to add on goodreads!