Here's a blurb from Goodreads:
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Elly asks: Was there any query so unique that it still stands out in your memory? (In a good or a bad way.)
Suzie answers: Oh, definitely. Once I got a query that was mailed to me in a Starbucks cup and there was flour inside it, so when I opened it, I briefly thought I'd been sent anthrax. Then there was a query years ago that I go in which the writer said he had "two ideas" to pitch me. One was continuing the story from To Kill a Mockingbird and writing about the characters when they were teens and adults. The other idea was wordless picture books based off of a bestselling authors paranormal trilogy. Of course, the ideas weren't written, they were just ideas, and even worse, the ideas didn't belong to him.
Elly asks: I know from experience that you have an extremely positive and supportive editorial style. How did you learn this skill? Do you have tips for making sure critiques are constructive but not crushing?
Suzie answers: Aw, thanks. I'm tempted to ask you if you're sure you feel that way, but I won't try to change your mind. I think that in part, it's easy to be constructive when I really love the characters and the project, but I always try to put myself in the writer's position. I try to think about what their vision for the book and the characters are and how to help build on that. Of course I also try to point out all the things that I love as well.
Elly’s note: I’m quite sure I feel that way! You make an excellent compliment sandwich!
Suzie asks: Now that you've published your first book and are editing your second one, what's been the most rewarding thing about working with an agent and editor in order to revise?
I think the most rewarding thing about working with an agent/editor is collaborating with someone
who genuinely loves your book. Since agents and editors only offer on projects they’re passionate about, you get someone on your team who believes in you and wants your book to succeed. That enthusiasm is energizing, which helps carry you through all those rounds of edits.
Also, pre-agent/editor, you’re doing a lot of guessing about your book and the market. An agent or editor brings editorial experience and industry knowledge to the table. It’s reassuring to have that guiding hand at every step of the process.
Question for Suzie: What do you think is most surprising thing for debut authors, as far as the difference between expectations of being published and the reality?
I think that for a lot of debut authors, they've been working so hard and being so focused on getting published that it's sometimes hard to think beyond that first book deal. Of course they have ideas for other books, but I think sometimes there's a misconception that the hard part is over. In truth, it's just the beginning. Getting an agent and getting a book deal is a walk in the park compared to the publishing process. There are so many ups and downs in the industry, including a lot of things that are completely out of the author's (and often agent's) control.
Suzie asks: What was the most surprising part of this journey from manuscript to published book for you?
Elly’s answer: I think the biggest surprise for me was to realize how many people are working behind the scenes to make a book, and trying to make that book a success. Not only the people you have contact with like your editor and publicist, but a whole team consisting of a copyeditor, proofreader, cover artist, graphic designer, the imprint’s marketing team, sales team, etc. Outside of the publisher, there are those vital early readers and reviewers, other authors who provide cover quotes, bloggers and booksellers and librarians who read and review and create lists of anticipated books. To draw a very loose analogy, if a book is like a clock face—the part we see—behind that is the mechanism that makes everything function.
I’m also surprised at all the symbiotic relationships in publishing—agents have connections with editors, salespeople have their contacts with booksellers, publicists cultivate a connection with book bloggers and librarians, etc. The publicist gives out Advance Reader Copies to reviewers and bloggers, who then provide the amazing magic of reviews and online support, which hopefully create buzz and excitement which help your book sell.
A shared love of reading connects people in a myriad of ways. It’s kind of beautiful, if you think about it.
Elly asks: What's a rule of thumb to keep in mind in publishing? (Anything at all.)
Suzie’s answer: Definitely focus on the things you can control. Try to let everything else go.
Elly: That’s the best advice.
Keep writing. Keep reading. If you're someone who's drafted a lot of manuscripts, challenge yourself to really dive into a substantial revision and force yourself to go through you book multiple times--more times than you think it needs. Focus on your love for the craft, and push yourself to make every word count. If you're someone who's revised that one manuscript over and over again, don't be afraid to set it aside and open up a blank document. Sometimes those early manuscripts are things you wrote because they helped you hone your craft. There may be a great story there, and there may be really well written lines, and yet something still just isn't quite bringing it together. Sometimes the only way to solve that is to set that manuscript aside, writing something else that doesn't have the baggage of revisions, something that you can get excited about and just dive into.
I read a lot of manuscripts that are good and yet I don't offer on them, because for whatever reason, they just don't stay with me. I would say that's the biggest difference between something I sign and something I don't: when a manuscript stays with me and the characters stay with me, that's how I know that it's worth going back and revising away potential problems.
Suzie's question: Elly can tell you an embarrassing story about me and how we started working together that sort of illustrates this.
Ha! Hopefully not too embarrassing since it all turned out well.
In 2014, I entered Frostblood in a pitch contest, and Suzie requested a partial. In the fall of 2014, I received a kindly-worded rejection from Suzie saying she loved the premise, but she was regretfully passing on the project because the heroine’s voice wasn’t quite strong enough to give her a sense of the character. I was disappointed, of course, but consoled myself that the book had made it into Pitch Wars, an online contest that pairs aspiring authors with agented authors as mentors. In September and October of 2014, my mentor, Sarah Nicolas, and my co-mentee, Shannon Cooley, helped me make extensive changes to the book.
During the Pitch Wars “agent round” in early November, Jackie and Jaida (at the time, they were both assistants at New Leaf Literary) participated in Pitch Wars, and they both requested the manuscript.
Soon after, I received an email from Suzie. I will always remember how the email started out: “So this is random I know, but I’ve been thinking about Ruby and Arcus…” She went on to say that the story had never left her and she’d been thinking about reaching out, and that when Jackie talked about loving the book, she took it as a sign. She even said she’d been wrong about the voice, and that she “must have been delusional” to pass on this project. I was so shocked that I sent a very short email that just said something ridiculous like, “Wow, this is a surprise!” and she had to email back asking if it was a good surprise. Then my brain started working again and I assured her it was the best kind of surprise, which led to one of the best phone calls of my life.
So, it all ended well, at least for me!
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Elly and Suzie! You can find Elly at:
Elly has generously offered a copy of FROSTBLOOD for a giveaway and Suzie is offering a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 25th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. Both giveaways are international.
Here's what's coming up:
Monday February 20th debut author Ali Standish will be doing a guest post with a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE
Wednesday, February 22nd, I have an agent spotlight with Linda Camacho with a query critique giveaway
Monday February 27th, I have a guest post by debut author Stephanie Garber about her new YA fantasy CARAVAL
Wednesday March 1st I have an IWSG post and an interview with Caroline Starr Rose and a giveaway of her new MG historical adventure JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY'S MINE
Hope to see you on Monday!