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Going Once, Going Twice… Part II

Insider glimpse into auction shenanigans cont'd

Today’s quick links:

Bookish Events

ESEA Publishing Network Launch

I adore bookish events and recently had the pleasure of celebrating the launch of the ESEA Publishing Network at Hachette headquarters in the City, complete with gorgeous roof garden with views over the Thames. The party itself was a celebration of East and South East Asian publishing and adjacent people. Got to meet my fellow summer 23 debut Wiz Wharton (keep an eye out for Ghost Girl, Banana), hang out with the Bubble Tea Writers crew, and generally talk books and food while drinking Don Papa rum cocktails. The whole place was buzzing with all these amazing creatives and foodies! I came away inspired, energised and on such a high.

Bad Girls of SFF Panel

Another fun event was the Bad Girls of SFF panel at Waterstones with Kate Dylan, Saara El-Arifi, Tasha Suri and Laura Sebastian. Last time I saw Kate, Saara and Tasha together on a panel was at FantasyCon where they were trying to decide who would die first in a Hunger Games situation. This time they were throwing around ideas on methods for killing people—melting them via special kind of bomb (courtesy Kate Dylan) or via a double chambered poison teapot that could double as a coffee/tea single vessel (Laura). Both Saara and Tasha vehemently objected to the coffee/tea teapot idea not because poisoning is bad but because cross contamination in the single spout would ruin the flavour of the tea! Clearly these ladies know where their priorities lie. Highly entertaining group—if you get a chance to see them in conversation I heartily recommend it. Lots of fun and laughs and stellar books to boot.

Going Once, Going Twice… Part II

I promised to share the rest of my auction, so here is the second part! As you’ll recall from my last post, after three weeks we had three offers in hand and a fourth to come, so my agent Jamie set the deadline for opening offers (ie anyone wanting to throw their hat in the ring for the auction) for the following Friday.

Five Weeks Post Sub

When Friday rolled around, my mind was well and truly blown. Five offers in hand, ranging between one and two book offers. Cue much screaming and weeping. Not only was my book going to be published, but I’d get to choose the publishing house to do it. The best birthday present an author could ask for.

It’s a dream and a privilege to have an editor fall in love with your work and want to publish it; but five? I was thrilled, as well as very anxious and stressed. When too many good things happen at once I feel like I’m tempting disaster. That old Chinese superstition of downplaying good things so as not to attract the attention of any jealous gods is deeply ingrained on my psyche. Go ahead and roll your eyes at me, cause you can bet I’m rolling them pretty hard at myself, too. I know full well this is just another brand of imposter syndrome. I keep telling myself to embrace and celebrate every milestone, but it’s not always easy to do when my head tells me celebrating = jinxing myself. I am working to kick this resistance to the curb (sharing this experience is part of working through this). Anyways, I was stunned, shocked, astonished, and so damned grateful for the loving reception to my obnoxious heroine, Lady Jing.

Six Weeks Post Sub

The next step was to speak to all the editors while waiting for round 1 auction bids. It would have been amazing to meet them all in person, but I’d flown to Canada to see my folks the weekend after all the offers came in. Instead of in person meetings, we turned to the old pandemic stalwart: Zoom. I met each of the acquiring editors online to get to know them a little and to get a feel for how we’d get on. We discussed how they would position my book (ie how they would market the book—YA, Adult, urban fantasy, etc), what they thought of book 2 synopsis, how extensive they thought edits might be, whether my book would be a lead title, what kind of marketing strategies did they envision including whether they’d pitch to book boxes, etc. It was pretty amazing to meet editors who were so passionate about Shanghai Immortal. I cried more than once and definitely got a very big head from all the compliments! I also got to ask fun/embarrassing questions—like what parts of my book bb did they enjoy most and because I can’t help myself (I always want to know where to improve! Or maybe I’m just a total masochist lol), I also asked whether any characters or aspects of the novel didn’t land for them. Was relieved that no one had anything substantive to raise on that one. Phew!

Seven Weeks Post Sub

Once we had first round bids in hand, we had to whittle the editors down to three. That was a tough. I had to weigh how well I think I’d work with the editors, their vision for the book, and how well that vision dovetailed with mine. The financial considerations are important, but in the end, the advance (the money the publishers pay their authors up front, ie an advance on the royalties they’re hoping the book will earn) is only one part of a multi-faceted decision.

Once chosen, the remaining three sent in their final bids on Wednesday, and then it was time to choose.

Eight Weeks Post Sub

How do you choose when three amazing paths are laid out for you, lined with wonderful people and dazzling dreams for your book? Thank goodness for my agent Jamie! He was a solid guiding light through the whole process, helping me to clarify my thoughts with a super reassuring manner that’s a wonderful blend of matter-of-fact, experience, and kindness. The perfect sensible foil to my headless chicken panic. Each of the remaining three publishers had qualities I absolutely loved which didn’t make things any easier. Kind of excruciating, really.

Maybe this is naive of me, since this is my first experience on sub, but I have a special place in my heart for each of the offering editors. It’s kind of like when people are kind to my highly anxious rescue dog Obi. He’s scared of pretty much everyone and everything, and most people are scared right back (he’s big and barky and does not like strangers); so when someone makes that extra effort with him, and especially when Obi loves them back, that person forever has my love and gratitude. Same with the editors; they made my first experience on sub very special so am full of warm fuzzies for them all!

In the end, Molly Powell’s vision for the book, diverse list, and girl power team at Hodderscape was a match my heart simply could not resist.

So there you have it: after two months on sub and a five-way auction, Shanghai Immortal found her home with Hodderscape. We signed the contract a couple weeks later, and announced the deal two weeks after that in The Bookseller, BookBrunch, and Publishers Marketplace. My experience was definitely fast and furious when seen this way, though while in it, it felt very slow and full of waiting.

On my Desk

Flipping through a document filled with comment bubbles, track changes and hand written notes

Still editing… I have just under two weeks to deadline for my edits. I’ve marked up my revision map, which is essentially a high level chapter by chapter outline of the book, with all the bits that need adding/tweaking added with track changes or in comment bubbles. The revision map also includes all the seeds I want to plant for the series story arc so I can use those elements as they develop across the books.

Remember last post I mentioned I got a glimpse of the cover design sketch? Lots of movement on the cover design—I got sent the design sketch and got to pore over the black and white line sketch of the proposed cover design. Hodderscape’s in-house designer creates the design, using her experience in book cover design to guide elements and placement.

Covers are such amazing parts of the book process—because they are mini advertisements for the book, the cover needs to telegraph at a glance the genre, age category, and the vibes of the story. A great cover can sell a book; a crappy cover might not tank it but definitely does a book no favours. So Molly and I went back and forth a few times brainstorming ideas, and Natalie the designer came back with a few more iterations of design, and we added and removed elements until we had something we were all happy with.

It was so fun being involved in the process and pulling various ideas and art styles together. We chose the artist last week; she has such a gorgeous, otherworldly style, I’m so excited to see what she creates from the brief and in due course to be able to share her creation with y’all!

Current Obsession

Recently watched, and fell in love with, Love Between Fairy and Devil, a xianxia c-drama about a spunky orchid fairy who falls in love with a heartless, ruthless immortal. Wang Hedi plays the baddy immortal, and he is marvellous. He’s massively levelled up his acting skills since the popular c-drama Meteor Garden a few years back. Watching LBFAD has the added bonus of stretching my Chinese as there is lot of classical Chinese used by the immortals. Classical Chinese is a bit like Shakespearean English—some of the constructions and vocabulary aren’t used in vernacular Chinese, so it takes some practice to understand. This is the trailer if you want to have a peek. The tag line on the poster reads “You’re so annoying, but I still like you.” If you like funny, heartfelt heartbreaking weepy happy romances with a grumpy noble male lead… this is the one for you ;)

Until anon,

Alice x