On the QT | The Official Newsletter of GWA February - March 2017 | Page 8


First Time Authors Freak Out

I have a freak-out every single time I write something for a new client . I am , however , now ( mostly ) calm about dealing with book projects because I have worked on so many that I know what to expect . If it ’ s your first time working on a book , it is easy to get overwhelmed , panic and shut down . Fear of the unknown is strong , and if you ’ re prone to anxiety , your brain will always go straight for the nuclear option . “ They ’ re going to fire and sue me !”
I probably had 15 completely hysterical phone calls ( from me ) with my editor Billie Brownell while working on my first book . She would always say to me , “ It ’ ll all work out .” You know what ? It did . Say that to yourself . Positive self-talk is a standard of self-help practices for a reason — it works .
Maybe you won ’ t freak out if you know to what to expect while you ’ re working on a book . Here ’ s what commonly pushes first-time authors over the edge .
• You ’ re not offered an advance . Don ’ t sign the contract . Go back to the publisher and ask for an advance . It can be as little as $ 1,000 , but you have to get some money up front .
• You suck at photography and you ’ re responsible for providing pictures . Be honest about your photography abilities during contract negotiations and find out if there is a budget to hire a professional photographer . If there isn ’ t a photo budget , they ’ re going to have to work with what you can provide . You need to suck it up and learn about how to photograph adequately . Publishers usually have guidelines and tips they can send you . There are also tons of online resources with photography tips .
Source photos from friends and colleagues . ( Try to spare some money to pay them , even if it isn ’ t much . The professionals will scream at me , but sometimes there isn ’ t a $ 150 per photo budget . In that case $ 25 is better than nothing , and people can always say “ no ” when you ask them for pictures .) Always credit the photographers and mention them in your acknowledgements .
• You don ’ t like your book cover . Short answer : Tough . Longer answer : In the early stages of cover design , you ’ ll have some input . Be calm , professional and specific when sending feedback to your publisher . (“ This font looks too old-fashioned . This picture is not at all indicative of what is in the book . A picture of XX would be better . How can I help you find one that works ?”) In the end , though , if you ’ re not fronting all of the costs , the publisher has the final say .
Hint : Try to get cover approval written into your next contract .
• You have to turn in a complete chapter and provide photographs a mere month after signing your contract . This is the start of high anxiety for many people , but this step is necessary to make sure you and your editor and art director are on the same page . They will also use these samples to make a BLAD ( Book Layout and Design ) to act as sales materials . The BLAD is often , but not always , a template to help you as you ’ re writing the rest of your book .
• You don ’ t like the design of your book . Give comments and hope they are incorporated . As with the cover , unless you ’ re the one fronting the costs , you do not have the final say . All of the garden publishers have fairly distinct styles . Hopefully you chose to work with a publisher that has a design aesthetic you like .
• You never saw a BLAD . Let ’ s say your book involves a bunch of how-to projects . You wrote a sample project and then never saw a design to use as a template . KEEP WRITING . Once you have an approved outline don ’ t use anything as an excuse to slow progress .
• You have a quick turnaround to produce the whole book . START . Hopefully you wrote a fairly detailed outline . Copy the outline into a Word doc and start filling it in . If the whole book is too much to deal with at once make each chapter a separate doc . It ’ s easier to come back to something other than a blank page .
• Fact-checking is slowing you down . Write what you know and put XXXs or something consistent that ’ s easy to find in a search to fill in where you need to fact-check . That way you won ’ t get sidetracked on the internet and get slowed down .