What it’s like being a debut novelist at Pan Macmillan / Harper Collins / Momentum Books / Indie Publishing. Part 1…

I want to be a debut novelist! Who doesn’t? I love writing, publishing, and winning competitions with all my short stories… Still when I go to sleep at night, I dream about the day my novels will be read by, you know, readers – and not just sat on my computer!

But will the reality of becoming a debut novelist actually live up to my expectations?

To find out I asked five authors – all with debut novels releasing either this year or early next year. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring their answers here. So if you want to know what it’s really like to be a debut author too, read on!

Part One: Nina D’Aleo

Nina’s novel The Last City has just been released. Yay – congratulations Nina!

The Last City by Nina D’Aleo

Novel: The Last City

Release date: 1st August 2012

Published through: Momentum Books

One-sentence description: An intoxicating blend of noir crime, science fiction and fantasy The Last City is Blade Runner meets Perdido Street Station.

Hi Nina, and thanks for taking part in this series… Now let’s get stuck in!

Nina D’Aleo

1.    Most of the debut authors I know always look tired. What’s been the hardest part of getting your novel ready for its release?

I think the hardest bit for me has been the wondering how readers will receive the story… it’s out there for all to read – to like or to hate… and that’s been pretty intense…

 2.    When I hear debut authors talking about their publishing experience, they often sound relieved. Maybe you could share your timeline with us?

a.     When did you first conceive the concept for your novel?

In the far-off past of 2003…

b.    How long did it take you to learn the craft of novel writing?

Definitely still learning!!

c.     How long from final polish to publication?

3 years I think…

3.    How many other publishing options did you explore before embarking on this particular one?

I think the story was seen by two other publishers before Momentum…

4.    What’s been the easiest part of the process for you?

The coffee drinking and chocolate eating…

5.    Apart from editing your manuscript until your eyes bleed, what else have you needed to do towards publishing your novel? Read and sign legal contracts? Write and approve marketing materials?

Yes – all of the above 🙂

6.    What promotional activities do you have planned to help launch your novel?

I have the great fortune to have the best marketing man in the world so he leads and I happily follow.

There will be a little film clip coming out soon.

7.    What aspects have you found most difficult this time around, which you don’t anticipate will be so tricky next time you publish a novel?

Good question… maybe the self-doubt, but I’m not sure if that ever goes away?

8.    Which leads me to ask what’s next? What will be your next writing project and how long will it be before its ready for the world?

I’ve got a few stories going at the moment – I tend to get half way and then re-start so that’s a bit of a challenge, but they’re definitely getting there!

9.    Finally, if you had just one piece of advice for those of us still out here waiting to have our brilliant debut novels published, what would it be?

Never give up!!!!

Thank you, Nina!

Many thanks for having me!!!!!

Next time, I’ll be asking Susanna Freymark, a soon-to-be-debut novelist with Pan Macmillan, about her experiences. Will her answers be similar, or different to Nina’s? And what about when I ask a self-published debut novelist about their experience? Subscribe using the ‘More Please’ widget above if you don’t want to miss out, or just keep your eye on Facebook or Twitter 🙂

Meanwhile, are you a debut novelist, or do you want to be? Let me know in the comments below!

Zena Shapter

I write from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud. #Ditmar Award-winning author. Short fiction for now. Novels to come. Movie buff. Traveller. Wine lover. Story nerd. Book Creator & Mentor. Founder & leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers' Group / ZF Kingbolt

18 Comments:

  1. Hey Zena, great idea. I am very curious about this, too. I would live to hear more about these writer’s timeline. Look forward to the next post.

    • Hey Sydney! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I’m curious about writers’ timelines too – how long is it taking writers to get published these days (either through traditional publishers or via self publishing)? What’s normal, what’s not? I guess we’ll find out the more we ask around…!

  2. I could be there…I TURNED A 3 BOOK CONTRACT DOWN!!!! How stupid (naive) was that? The first publisher I sent the first part of a trilogy to loved it, wanted all three books and first right to look at all subsequent work, and I said NO. Still trying to work out why, apart from the ridiculously low royalties I was being offered, and the advice to negotiate, which the publisher didn’t want to do. A fit of pique? Hubris?
    I haven’t had a skerrick of interest since (sent it to 2 other publishers before giving up).

    • Oh my. That sounds terrible! Would you care to share how low the royalties were, so that others can learn from your experience? (No worries if that’s too personal to share)

      And what do you mean by giving up?!!! Do you mean giving up with traditional publishing – surely not writing itself (*shivers*)!

      • No, certainly not giving up the writing – I am now working on my 6th MS! None published yet. i seem to be better at bashing out the words than bashing on Publisher’s doors!

        The royalties I was offered were 7.5 % of net, but nobody would/could tell me the costs that were taken out before they arrived at the net figure. I was advised by the Contract Advisory Service at the ASA that 10% of gross was normal, and to at least try and get a bit more. No advance either, which I understand is quite normal for first time writers. Would I do it differently if I were in the same position again? I honestly can’t say. I thought the Publisher was a bit of a bully, and I don’t know how comfortable I’d have been working with her, but at least I’d have been in print!

  3. Hi Zena,

    Hoping to be a debut author one day soon!

    I wonder if new authors feel they have had to make changes to their story at the publishers request that don’t fit with their initial ideas and if that is disappointing to them or just taken on board as part of the process.

  4. Yes, this is a good question, Julie.
    For me the editing process was a very positive experience – the editors did make suggestions about parts of the story that needed further attention/clarification, but the way they framed their suggestions wasn’t at all pushy – they explained their reasons and ideas, and there were lots of opportunities to talk through my thoughts on everything.
    I think, though, that I was lucky enough to have a publisher and two editors that really ‘got’ the story. So it wasn’t disappointing, it was just part of the process of making the story as ready as it could be.
    That said, maybe for other writers the process wouldn’t be so smooth. I’d be interested to hear how others felt about the process too.
    All the very best!

  5. Thanks Nina (and Zena :))

    That’s great to know Nina especially taking into consideration that (I have read) your book may be considered to be crossing (Including) multiple genres which is also exciting to note – looking forward to reading it :).

  6. Pingback: What it’s like being a debut novelist at Pan Macmillan / Harper Collins / Momentum Books / Indie Publishing. Part 2… | Zena Shapter

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