So I’ve been doing this series called Evolution of the Book, which has primarily focused on the emotional process of writing, editing, and trying to sell my novel. Thanks to those who’ve stuck with me through the ups and downs, the rejection letters, the unraveling that happened to the book during the editing process, and the scary move of buying the book back from its first publisher.

Now, as many of you know, my book sold to HarperCollins and will be published September 21st of this year. Here’s the pretty cover:

I want to continue to make this series useful or interesting to you, and I’m happy to describe what happens behind the scenes. But there’s so so much… from pitch letters to titles to covers to blurbs to edits to copy edits to galleys to foreign rights to marketing to good and bad reviews. So I’m going to ask you for questions.

What would you like to know, either about this book or about what happens behind the scenes of a book getting published? Leave your questions here in this thread and I’ll answer them in upcoming posts. My hope is to take some of the mystery (i.e. terror) out of the process and to pass along any information that will help you make better decisions along the way. Thanks, as always, for being here!

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SUSAN HENDERSON is the author of UP FROM THE BLUE (HarperCollins, 2010) and founder of the blog, LitPark, a literary playground for writers.

12 responses to “Taking Your Questions”

  1. Judy Prince says:

    Great idea, Susan!

    I’d like to know *all* the things you mentioned: “from pitch letters to titles to covers to blurbs to edits to copy edits to galleys to foreign rights to marketing to good and bad reviews.”

    Looking forward to your explanations, examples, stories, advice, suggestions.

  2. Greg says:

    Hey Susan,

    I finished a novel in February and a few weeks later my agent dropped me because he recently realized “[He] can’t sell humor.” I feel like I went from having dozens of connections to having very few, and at this point my query is out to 12 agents and 13 small presses. (It was out to more of both, but have been getting rejections.)

    I guess my restlessness has taken over and it’s blocked me from writing much of substance since getting dumped. I’m working on a second novel, but it is moving very slow. I need my mojo back.

    So is there anything I can do with my novel as I wait to hear back from all these entities? Should I ask authors to read my unpublished novel and get blurbs to use in my query? I fear doing something like serializing the novel online and then a potential suitor backing off because he/she/it doesn’t want the work out there already, or because it looks pathetic and impatient and immature… or something in that vein where I put my foot in my mouth because I’m just too impatient.

    The book and queries are out to everyone I thought was a fit, so I’m at a complete standstill, but I think I don’t have to be.


    • LitPark says:


      Sadly, the process to becoming published has lots of these infuriating and discouraging moments. But there are plenty of agents who represent humor. The best way to find those folks is to ask your friends who have agents and look in the acknowledgments section of books that are most similar to the one you’re trying to publish. Also, you can go on http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ (I think it costs $20/month–definitely worth it in the agent-seeking state) and you can plug in categories like humor or literary fiction or mystery and find agents, who they rep and what they’ve sold.

      No need to have friends read your work, and don’t syndicate or self-publish. Once you have an agent, you can ask all of those things — some may welcome pre-pub blurbs and some may welcome publishing portions of your novel online — but that’s all part of building a relationship and a strategy with your agent.

      • Greg says:

        Thanks for the insight, Susan.

        I’ve reached out to some of my author friends over the past few months and every one of them has offered me the email address of their agent, and of other agents they think might be a fit. I’ve also joined Wordhustler.com and pay their nominal monthly fee — $5.99 — and get a lot of insider info there. So, luckily, I haven’t had to just throw my queries out there. I feel like I’ve been pretty calculated and patient so far, but I’m worried about a misstep if I get too impatient.

        Erika Rae recently sold her book and she had her opening chapter posted on her website for a while, and I was wondering if I should do anything like that…

        • LitPark says:

          Sounds like you’re doing it just right. And what great news about Erika!

          The reason I’d hesitate about posting a chapter is because unless you suddenly get 5,000 comments and can boast about that on Twitter, I don’t know that it will grab the attention of anyone who’s in a position to take you on.

          As far as stirring up interest, one thing that does seem to influence agents and editors is to show you have a built-in reader base. Say you have a blog about rescued greyhounds and a great big community of opinionated greyhound owners. Then, when you announce that you’ve written a novel that features a greyhound, you can point to your audience and start to build their interest in the book.

          But you may not need to do that sort of thing at all. The fact that everyone you asked stepped up to help says something about the reputation you’ve built among other writers. All of that matters, and I think you’ll find your new agent sooner rather than later… and then you can move on to the next, nerve-wracking step of sending your manuscript out on submission. 🙂

  3. LitPark says:

    So glad to see some questions coming in, and I’ll get to them tomorrow and then more in detail over the next several weeks. Today got away from me… my neighbor is in the hospital and I’m now suddenly potty-training a puppy and making food- and clothes-runs to the hospital.

    Will be here fully and soon. And Greg, don’t lose hope. Your story sounds strikingly familiar to a lot of now-successful authors!

  4. Jim says:

    Hello Susan,
    I’ve read all your previous entries in this space here and loved them. I am a longtime writer that just recently met a lovely young lady who finally challenged me to do something with all the words I am feverishly typing over and over and over.
    I am starting to try and work on my writing but don’t really know where to start. I’m checking out a workshop and while I don’t really have any questions about the process of getting published I wanted to say that your posts have been pretty awesome to read. I realize this will be a struggle and to just kind of keep my chin up.

    Quickly, if you don’t mind, I would like to askwhat you think of group workshop type classes. Are they a good idea for a writer with small amount of college level experiene in writing?

    • LitPark says:

      Ooh, starting is easy. There are two fabulous online workshops. One is Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com/ – there are separate wings for poetry, short stories, novellas and flash fiction. Zoetrope tips toward literary fiction. The other workshop, though it’s more of a writer’s community and the workshop is only a fraction of it, is Backspace – http://www.bksp.org/ – and the writing there tips a little more toward commercial writing and thrillers.

      I know Zoetrope better so I’ll describe it a bit. You post a story on their critique site. The best way to prompt reviews of your story is to review other stories. If you are cruel or trash their ratings, they will probably not give you a return review. Slowly, you will start to discover whose reviews are helpful and people will notice the same thing about you, and that’s how you begin to build a more personalized workshop. But lurk a while first and get a sense of the personalities on the site and what people are finding helpful or not.

      Later, you can try workshops like Yaddo, Bennington, or Squaw Valley, but this is a great place to start.

  5. LitPark says:

    Oh, wow, I wrote the longest reply to this this morning… all about Zoetrope, etc. I must have forgetten to click the add comment button.

    Will try again after I walk the dog.

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks so much for that!
    I’ve created an account on zeotrope and look forward to getting my work to other people for their review as I’ve never really had other people read my work.
    I really appreciate the info!

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