Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Publishing Journey--Part 9

Some updates: I turned in my next manuscript today (Daughters of Jared). Also, check out my holiday book signing schedule on the sidebar.

Read Part 8 Here

My Publishing Journey

Part 9

Writing the next book proved to be an interesting experience. For those of you familiar with the story of Abinadi, he is a man who is asked by God to preach to a group of wicked people. Abinadi warns them that if they don’t repent, the Lord will destroy them. They, of course, throw him out of the city and King Noah threatens his life. 2 years later, the Lord asks Abinadi to return. Abinadi knows it’s a death sentence and is eventually captured and executed. Not a cheerful story to tell.

I had planned all along to write in the point of view of Alma (high priest in King Noah’s court) as well. I had planned for him to take up a chapter here and there, but as I started writing, he really nosed his way in and tried to take over the book. His character became an equal secondary character with as much storyline as the main character, Abinadi.

I also didn’t know who Helam was until about 200 pages into the story. I decided to make him Abinadi’s brother and so had to go back through the book and weave his character in. Helam ended up becoming quite pivotal to this book, as well as the sequel (Alma).

Several changes were in the works when I turned in Abinadi. I had a new editor and the book wasn’t coming out in hardcover. Also, my publisher wanted to move away from “series titles,” so although Abinadi would technically be the beginning of a next series, it would be promoted as a stand-alone book.

I was now on my 3rd editor. Ironically, my 2nd editor became the contract editor on Abinadi (even though when she was my editor, a contract editor did “Land of Inheritance”).

There was no real debate on the title for Abinadi. It was going to stay plain and simple. The editing process went very smoothly and there were no real glitches. During 2007-2008 you might remember that the economy took a massive plunge (due to those high gasoline prices). This trickled into all industries including the publishing industry. Reports were coming in that Simon and Schuster had laid-off 125 employees. It was felt by everyone and trickled into the smaller presses as well. Many friends of mine were having book contracts canceled or release dates pushed back.

I was lucky enough that Abinadi retained a 2008 release date, but only barely. It was pushed to November. This wasn’t so fun for promotion since I really only had about 4-5 weeks of promoting before the holiday season ended. So I went out on a limb (money limb) and purchased an ad on the local radio station (KSL). I first paid for the radio personality to do a live read of the advertising copy. Then I was told that he couldn’t do a live read because my book was too religious (translate “too Mormon”). I guess even in Utah, that becomes an issue. So the radio station produced the commercial instead of the live-read.

The only thing that really caused me a bit anxiety with Abinadi was the cover image. It was literally not finished until a couple of days before the book was released. How can that be so? It seems that a book can go to press, then later the cover is glued on. But I never had the cover image in advance to do any sort of pre-promotion.

My editor asked me for character descriptions because they were thinking of photographing live models for the cover. In my opinion, it would have resulted in poor sales, since it would either look like a YA novel or a Romance novel. That same weekend I was at a book signing and browsed through the covers. I found a couple of other historical novels that had live model pictures and asked the employees if the men picked up these books and bought them. The resounding answer was “no.” My publisher and I had gone to all the work of changing my name to H.B. Moore to attract the male audience, and now with the Abinadi cover, there was potential to alienate them.

So about midnight that night, I wrote my editor, telling her all the reasons why I didn’t want Abinadi to have live models on the cover. They ended using one, but it was just the “tied hands” and looked great. I guess I just needed a little more confidence.

Abinadi would eventually go on to win a Whitney Award for Best Historical (which was a shocker since I’d won the year before with Land of Inheritance), and it also won 2009 Best of State in Literary Arts.

My favorite reader response about Abinadi came from my son who was 14 at the time. When he told me he finished the book, I asked what he thought. He didn’t look too happy. He said, “Why did you have to kill Abinadi at the end?” I said, “Because that’s what happens in the Book of Mosiah.” He said, “So? You could have changed it. You made everything else up!”

1 comment:

Michael Knudsen said...

Wow, no matter how "established" you get, it seems that every book is another roller-coaster ride! I'm right with you on live models on book covers. I begged my publisher to use a "headless" picture of "tuxedo guy" for The Rogue Shop, and it turned out perfect. Live models are too Jack Weyland and too 1980s (man those things look dated now, don't they?). Our books deserve cool, timeless covers!