Birthing a Book

On Tuesday author proofs arrived from Createspace. The feeling of holding my own book was incredible and I haven’t come down from that high yet.

Unravelled Proof copies

Of course there’s more work to be done. The production department (aka my husband) has to organize e-books for Kobo, iTunes, Google and possibly Nook; get the Search Inside feature working, follow up with the Canadian printer we are using, create an author profile on Amazon Author Central and find out where we can send a press release.

The marketing department (yours truly) is working with Wanda Lynne Young to develop a blog tour, a press release, get initial reviews up on Amazon, make some changes to A Writer of History and other tasks.

I’m drawing an analogy to childbirth. The author proofs are like an ultrasound. The remaining work to be done is like labour but the outcome will be worth it – I’m expecting years of joy!

What’s in a Name?

Some of you, dear readers, know that my name is Mary Tod. Some of you know that I plan to self-publish one of my novels in the next few months. Therefore, the question becomes under what name should I publish.

Let me tell you what happens to me whenever I introduce myself to someone in the US. He or she says some variation of “Did you know that Lincoln’s wife was Mary Todd?” Pay attention to two aspects: (1) a very famous person in US history and (2) she clearly spelled her name incorrectly: Mary Todd should be Mary Tod–shouldn’t it?

Let me tell you what happens when you Google my name. (I hasten to add that I rarely do this.) That wonderful search engine assumes I’ve spelled my own name incorrectly and instead finds millions of references to Mary Todd Lincoln, 94 million as of today.

So, what’s a writer to do?

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to write as M.K. Tod. Sharon Kay Penman can get away with Kay as her second name, but Mary K. Tod merely reminds people of cosmetics. And in case you think I should revert to my maiden name, I can’t do that either. My wonderful sister-in-law has taken it over.

So there you have it. M.K. Tod, writer of historical fiction. I rather like it. What do you think?

Who to believe readers or editors

Year end is a great time to pause and reflect and for many years I’ve done so by updating my annual plan. The first section – Where Am I? – measures goals against accomplishments. The primary goal for 2012 had been to secure a publisher for Lies Told In Silence. I failed. Well, actually, my agent and I failed.

What’s puzzling to me is that everyone who reads Lies Told in Silence (LTIS) loves it. I don’t think someone is merely being polite when he or she says:

OMG what a great read.  I loved your book and read it in 2 days – couldn’t put it down!!”

“Finished the book this afternoon. Bravo. Very, very good. What a great ending, leaves you craving for more.”

“I’m captivated. You write so beautifully. From the 1st sentence with Helene in the library overhearing her father’s conversation, I was hooked! I love your characters, am amazed by your command of the history and your ability to create a story which is so realistic, personal and charming. That it takes place in a foreign land and, yet, feels so authentic is truly amazing as well.”

“.. your ability to craft such intimate emotions really made the story believable, heartbreaking and touching. One of my favourite things, however, was how vividly you were able to describe their environments — from the battlefields to the gardens surrounding their home in Beaufort, the story captured the physical world in an amazing (and often poetic) way.”

“I got sucked into all the characters right from the get go.  The character development was fantastic.  I loved how the women were very distant with each other but once they left high society Paris the walls came down.  I liked the twists … and how you left us hanging at the end!! Can’t wait to read the next one.

And here’s what editors at various publishing houses said:

..she captured the era and the tensions of the politics well, but the story took too long to get going for me.”

“.. but I didn’t find that the writing quite lifted the characters off the page, the way I wanted it to.”

“.. Mary Tod’s debut is very fine, and that she hits so many of the signature elements of a strong woman’s novel – passion thwarted, the late realization of what might have been, plus a very neatly done ending that sets up the sequel. Tod’s ability to indicate the chaos, the loss, the horror of the war is impressive too. But in the end, I have to confess I was not as swept away by the writing as I had hoped to be, and found that, looking toward the more commercial avenue, it was rather slow going especially in the beginning.”

“the exposition has a matter-of-fact affect that prevents the story from achieving the alchemy of favourite fiction”

“..a wonderful evocation of Paris and the French countryside in the time before and during World War One.  Helene is a sweet and charming character to root for.  Yet I’m afraid that I wasn’t quite as swept away as I’d hoped to be by the story, which felt a bit quiet to me.

Their comments feel like a tennis match where an easy lob is followed by a smashing return. Of course, publishers are skittish or downright afraid these days. A debut author is an investment – believe me, I get that – with uncertain payoff. So, what’s a writer supposed to do when faced with such conflicting opinions?

Options under consideration:

  • continue flogging LTIS through my agent while embarking on a self-publishing path for Unravelled, a companion novel
  • abandon LTIS and Unravelled, work on my third novel which has a mix of present day and WWI and a healthy dollop of romance and mystery to keep the tension high
  • self-publish LTIS and assess market reaction before deciding what to do with Unravelled

Hmm. An interesting inflection point. I suspect more investigation and conversation is required before deciding. On the other hand, I’m an impulsive sort of person and the First World War centenary is coming up …