There are certain hallmarks along the road to publication that tell you you're on the right track. The first one is when you get that first compliment from someone in your critique group. But you shrug it off and think, "They're just being nice."
The next one (and this is a huge boost to an author's ego) is when you get a request from an agent or an editor. Now this may come several ways. Sometimes you've pitched your story to the editor in a face-to-face meeting. Very scary. I did this in Dallas two years ago. (Although personally I think most editors will say "send me the partial" because they don't like to say no to someone to their face and it's easier on everyone concerned. Didn't matter to me, I still went out for a mimosa with my critique partner Sue afterwards. And yes, the picture is of Sue raising a beer, but we really did go out for mimosas. (A "partial" means they want to see the first three chapters or 50 pages, they'll specify. A "Full" means they want to see the entire manuscript.)
Sometimes you've sent in an unsolicited partial to the agent or editor's "slush pile" via snail mail or email. To get a request from the editor or agent for a full if you've submitted that way is HUGE. That's what I did with Private Property. I didn't have a mimosa after Angela contacted me and asked for the "full" but I felt pretty happy for a few days afterwards.
If the editor or agent loves it, you get "The Email" or "The Call" where the agent or editor offers you a contract. HUGE HUGE HUGE. Happy dancing time, double mimosas if not straight up champagne. Angela sent me an email that I printed off and framed. (If they don't love it ... well, we're talking about positives here, we won't get into the blues of rejection.)
Next step? You receive the contract. Mine was 10 pages long plus a couple more pages of contact information I had to fill in. Actually reading all that fine print on pages and pages of legalese, initialing each page, and signing at the end? Exciting and scary. (Since I didn't have an agent, I hired a literary attorney to go over the fine points and make suggestions for changes - well worth it, in my humble opinion.)
Then you receive (not in specific order here): edits from your editor, forms to fill out regarding your cover art, line edits (that's all the grammar and punctuation edits from a copy editor) and the finished cover art (lots of squeeing and licking of covers goes on here. If it's a print copy, galleys are sent in there somewhere too - that's a printed copy that you have to proof read.(Something I've yet to experience.) And finally you receive the "Final Copy" that will be released to the buying public.
The next HUGE step that tells you you're an author? Release day. OMG, another cause for mimosas or champagne. If you're lucky, your spouse, being the thoughtful person they are, will take you out for a celebratory dinner after which you collapse in exhaustion while at the same time thinking "Is that all there is? My life hasn't changed at all."
Something I hadn't expected to celebrate was seeing my name on the publisher's Best Seller list. I figured, especially with Private Property, that I was a new author. Who'd know me? What would make my book sell over multi-published authors? I still have no idea, but the fact that Private Property hit #1 on the MBaM bestsellers list and stayed there for close to a week shall be a high point in my authorial career.
With Private Property I checked religious every day. With Personal Protection, I figure I'm up against some stiff competition, so I'm trying not to check it. But yesterday morning after I stumbled downstairs, Gizmo Guy greeted me with a "thumbs up."
"#4," he said with a grin.
"Huh?" was my erudite response.
"On your publisher's bestsellers list. Your book. It's number four on the list," GG patiently explained.
A little while later, I opened up my email and found a note from Sue saying the same thing. (I still hadn't checked, LOL) It still amazes me that other people are following me, and watching how I'm doing. It's a new experience for me because I tend to prefer staying in the shadows, but I know part of being published means I have to shoulder the lions share of the publicity.
Mixed into the pot here are the reviews - for Private Property I had to wait quite a few months, for Personal Protection - well, I got one the day before it released. To me that meant Chrissy, the reviewer, had been looking for my book. Another affirming moment for me. (Because it was a positive review - which doesn't always happen considering reading is so subjective.)
On Friday, I hit another personal milestone. I discovered Personal Protection listed on Amazon in their Kindle section. That was a real OMG moment. Amazon is a real puzzle the way they list things. When Private Property was released, I kept checking to see if it was there. I'm not sure why it's not, they do carry novellas, but Private Property never made it. A friend of mine has a full length book out with Samhain; it's been out for several months already, yet it's not available on the Kindle. Heck Lauren Dane was twittering last night that her book, Making Chase, has been out digitally for TWO YEARS, and out as a print book for a year, and yet it's STILL not up on the Kindle. Samhain keeps chasing after Amazon (yes, pun intended) but there's still no rhyme or reason as to when the book gets loaded, or the cover either.
So why is Personal Protection up already? I don't know. I don't care. I'm celebrating. (Yes, I know it doesn't have the cover yet - that's even out of Samhain's hands and is up to Amazon to put up.) But I've discovered that I'm checking it because Amazon have their own "ratings" comparing your sales to other books (Anyone remember Amazonfail?) When I first found it, PP2 was down in the 52,000s, by Friday night it was 29,411th in the ratings. It's slowly been going up and down since then. As I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon it's at 41,583. But whose counting? Okay, I guess I am. (Hey, I just discovered that Candy Havens' The Demon King and I is at 41,016! I guess that's a pretty acceptable number to be at! Although the numbers seem to be pretty fluid and fluctuate every time I hit refresh. But I'm not fixated on them. Honestly!)
**Edited** Hey, I checked this morning and I'm at 10,215! The word is getting out! But I'm still not obsessing. Honestly! **/edit**
So now I'm wondering, what's the next step, what's the next milestone to attain?
(Well, finishing my WIP and getting another contract, but that's already been experienced.) I think it'll probably be actually holding a book in my hands, a bound book with my name on the cover. That should happen next spring -- Personal Protection is supposed to be printed since it's a full length novel.
But other than that? Probably getting an agent. Or selling to New York. Two goals I haven't even aimed at yet. But they're there. And looming closer in the horizon every day. As long as I don't turn tail, that is.
Oh, and all those mimosas? In truth I've only had one - that one I had with Sue in Dallas. I think it's time to have another one, don't you think?