Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just Published - Nikki Logan

Please join me in welcoming Nikki Logan to Just Published! Nikki is a newly published author, having had her first release with Harlequin at the beginning of this year, but will soon be a multi-published author with the book giant. What a first publisher to have! Nikki is also an Australian and lives in the amazing land down under. OK, so perhaps I’m biased but she’s from the beautiful Western Australian region of the country and the only author Harlequin Mills and Boon has out there! 

The details of Nikki's first book are below:
Title: Lights, Camera…Kiss the Boss
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Sweet/Tender)
Words: 51, 500
Publisher: Harlequin Mills & Boon
Date Published: February 2010
Availability: Still available in e-book form Harlequin 
Blurb:
If hotshot TV producer Daniel Arnot nails this new show, a promotion's in the bag. He needs the X factor to smash the ratings, and she's just walked through the door....

Ava Lange is meant to be a gardener, not a presenter, and she's not too impressed by blast-from-her-past Dan's underhanded attempt to persuade her otherwise! But did she really just hear him say: Lights, camera, kiss the boss—I mean, action!

Excerpt: An excerpt can be found here

Nikki, how would you describe what you write?
I write nature-based, contemporary romance. That is, all my stories have a nature flavor, are set in a wild place, center around people who live or work in wild places. They are, of course, romances first and foremost and I try to write realistic ‘could happen to you’ type stories even if their occupations or backgrounds are a little unusual.

What a fascinating premise. What’s generally your writing process in a nutshell?
I find the writing process a bit of a mental download. I sit down and start at page one and just start writing and the words tumble out. I usually have a firm idea of the setting of the book (including the nature plot), images of my main characters and an inkling of what their core conflict is going to be. Usually about 1/3 of the way through I have a light-bulb moment in which all the pieces come together and I *know* the character well enough to have a much firmer idea of their GMC, so then I go back to the start and feed that new information through what I’ve written and then keep going from there. I am a fast, focussed writer but a really slow, am-sure-there’s-a-leaf-I-should-be-watching-grow editor. I hate the editing part. I edit as I go (for grammar etc) but I really dislike having to revisit a story and structurally rework it once I’ve typed ‘the end’ even if I know deep-down it makes the story better. But that’s the price I pay for whizzing through the first draft. If I stopped and did chapter by chapter I probably wouldn’t have such a time of it at the editing stage. But then I’d lose momentum and momentum is what keeps me engaged in the story (both as a writer and a reader).

I really get that. What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
I have written for work pretty much my whole working life and I had an attempt at a romance when I was about twenty. It was terrible and I gave up because I wasn’t brilliant immediately. Twenty years later I had some time off and needed a project, so I decided to write a single title set in Africa. I had no contact with writer’s organisations, I’d barely been reading current releases, I just started and I wrote the story I wanted to read in four months. (Still love that book *sigh*). Then I sent it out to God-and-everyone to see if anyone thought it was publishable. I found Romance Writers of Australia and, through them, a whole bunch of competitions that I could enter it in. It immediately did well in competition at home and in US, but got nothing but rejections from publishers. So while that was still doing the comp/judging/submission rounds I decided to write a category (targeting Blaze) to see if my voice suited series romance. That MS won its only competition in which the now M&B Executive Editor, Kim Young, was the final judge. She contacted me to have a chat about my writing. In the interim I’d written ‘Lights, Camera…’ as part of the Australian equivalent of NaNoWriMo and then shoved it in a drawer and moved back on to my Single Title. She asked to see anything else I had (but not the single title which didn’t suit for obvious reasons) and I sent her the only other manuscript I had. She sent me minor revs on that a week later and bought it about two weeks after I subbed to them. Hurrah! Moral of the story…. Keep writing. Always, ALWAYS have something else to give them. Stay prolific. One day, when you sell, you’ll have a heap of back-list to draw on. Nothing gets wasted.

How did you pick your publisher?
I picked Harlequin because they were the largest publisher of women’s fiction with the greatest scope for something a bit different. I was determined to write my nature-based romances because I believed there was a potential and underfed market there and a large international audience potentially. Also as a contemporary writer they have such success with contemporary stories and sales. But in real terms the choice was taken out of my hands by Kim Young’s interest in my work; she got to me before I got to them.

So, what's your call story?
I completely missed what was going on when Kim Young first emailed me to introduce herself and let me know she was interested in me doing some revisions on the book she’d seen at that point (the one targeted at Blaze). I took it at face value and thought she wanted to ‘test’ me somehow, see how precious I was about my work, how easy to work with. I thought how lovely that they find the time to encourage new writers. LOL. When she sent through revisions on the book that became ‘Lights, Camera…’ she was carefully reserved and I still didn’t realize what was truly going on (later I realized the necessity of using reserved language so that they don’t build up author hopes in case they end up passing). After I’d subbed the revisions and Kim wrote wanting to make a time to ask ‘a few more questions’ I was convinced I’d messed up the revs and she was calling to break the bad news. Our diaries and time-delays just weren’t compatible and it ended up taking days for us to connect. By then I was ready to burst with the anxiety of it all. Fellow Romance-line author Melissa James said ‘Nikki, they don’t call long distance to say they don’t want your book’ but then Silhouette author Rachel Bailey (my regular voice of reason) tempered that with a caution not to build my hopes up, just in case. Little did she know I was already doing a bang-up job on tempering my own excitement. So much so that when Kim finally said “I’m thrilled with the revisions you submitted and I’d like to offer you a two-book deal” the words barely penetrated my prepare-for-the-worst mindset and my response to her was underwhelmed. She even had to ask me ‘is that okay?’ LOL. Then I got excited. Really, really, really excited. First tell was my husband who went straight out to get celebratory take-out, second was my mum who had been a huge advocate and support and then my crit group who were sitting by their computers anxious for news and who raised ceilings all over Australia (and one in Switzerland) when I emailed just three words to the loop address:

Two. Book. Deal.

How did I feel about it… numb. Then excited. Then terrified. Then embarrassed by what a dufus I’d been on the phone. Then excited again. Then terrified – I have to write a second book. Then numb again. This went on for days.

That’s an amazing story. Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
No and no. I did have some vague thought that it would be easier to get an agent when you had a book under your belt but that’s not necessarily so. I negotiated my own slight improvements in contract and the world didn’t collapse so I’ll just keep going that way for a bit, I think.

What’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
Revisions aren’t bad. They feel bad at the time, they feel shocking and unjust. But I am yet to send in a book that isn’t better for revising. I do think that revisions risk ‘pasteurising’ books, it’s really hard to revise to someone’s specific tastes while maintaining your own voice/style and of course your editor’s job is to ensure that your book is still meeting the reader ‘promise’. They patrol that line very carefully and know when I’ve crossed it much better than I do. My revs to date haven’t been shocking, so I’m fortunate. I have heard other authors having to virtually rewrite on occasion and that would be massively demoralising. You kind of think that once you’re good enough to get published then that’s it, you can’t go backwards, but it does seem like even pubbed authors can miss the mark. Slip back. But at the end of the day your editor is much more interested in working with you to fix it than in simply rejecting it out flat.

As for the editor/publisher relationship… I don’t really have one with the publisher per se (although I like the people who pay me and send contracts!). The Australian office of Harlequin Mills & Boon work really hard to ensure an author relationship which I really appreciate otherwise I’d really only know one person in the whole company I work for… my editor. The most important thing to know about editor/author relationships is that it is a partnership. Both of you have the same aim, ultimately. To sell books. They know the market best and you know your story best. If both parties remain true to their strengths and don’t get overly concerned with each other’s area of expertise then you should have a successful partnership. I know there are authors and editors out there who are totally BFF and good luck to them, but for me, the relationship I have with any editor is a professional one first and foremost. Their loyalty (and their career) lies with their employer, not with me, and so I make sure that I’m fulfilling (and even exceeding) the terms of my contract at all times. My goal this year is to get better at asking for what I want/need. I spend the first year worrying that I’d be labelled high-maintenance if I asked too many questions, but it is genuinely and truly possible for them to forget you or your book exists if you don’t nudge from time to time. Believe it!

I've just changed editors (the Senior Editor at HMB's London office changed recently) and I'm really looking forward to getting to know my new Ed and seeing how she works.

That’s great insight. So, how did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
I see everything on Amazon long before I get anything from the publisher. Amazon knows all. LOL. My first cover made me weep and not in a good way. It was the UK version and I’m not a fan of the stock-photo route that they’ve taken over there on the Romance two-book bundles. I thought it was a dreadful cover to be on *my* first baby. But then a day later the US version went up and I *love, love, loved* it. It was everything I could have hoped for. Much later the Australian one went up and that’s lovely too, very single title. I choose wine for their labels, I bet on horses according to their colour, I buy books because of covers. Covers matter and I wanted a good one.

At Harlequin, you do have some input into covers. They have a mechanism called ‘AFS’ Art Fact Sheet. And you fill that baby out online with mountains of information that all the people attached to your book select from - art department, titles department, blurb department, marketing department. Keep in mind that the only person who actually reads your book is your editor (or his/her staff), Everyone else works off the AFS from whatever corner of the world they’re in. So the devil is in the detail there. I give them as much as I possibly can in that including images of inspiration that I send through my editor. Nothing wishy washy, only hard pics like settings or important characters, etc.

In the case of my upcoming release ‘Their Newborn Gift’ I sent a heap of photos of the Kimberley region to make sure they ‘got’ the unique color palette of the north of Western Australia. Below is Model Paul Francis who was the visual inspiration for 'Reilly' the Kimberley-based rodeo rider from 'Their Newborn Gift ' and a shot of the Kimberley region.




The end result is that my hero looks like he's in the outback and the colors are close to right, and my hero is a ringer for the man I described in my AFS. So you have to be happy with that.

That’s great. What was release day like for you?
There is no such thing as ‘release day’ I’ve discovered. You have a date but (to quote Pirates of the Caribbean) that’s 'more of a guideline than a code'. For a start your book goes out to advance readers weeks early, then the Direct market (the people who subscribe) then the e-book version is avail a month before shelf, then books appear on shelves ahead of ‘shelf date’ in some places and after in others. So people are reading and commenting on your work long before it ‘hits shelf’. Then you have a UK date, a US date and an Aus/NZ date. These are getting further and further apart. Presumably I also have dates in other countries but I have no idea when those are. I rely on Google alerts to keep me informed with nice surprises ('oh look... I'm out in Norway...')

And how did you market your book?
As a harlequin author I have the advantage of brand recognition and trust behind me. People will buy my book simply because it’s Harlequin. But there is a lot to be said for marketing me which coincidentally markets the book. Establishing yourself as an author is almost more important than promoting your book, it seems. First-book offers a lot more scope for promotion (everyone loves a first book story) and Harlequin look for evidence of market response to you and your book. How? Blogs, appearances, social media Twitter (love it) and Facebook (love it less) and I get out into my community and market myself as an author because people (especially libraries) love a local author. I’m fortunate in being the only Western Australian presently published with Harlequin so I’m riding that wave as long as it lasts in my home state.

Yeah, and that's why I'm targeting Harlequin as well! Nikki, what’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
How unimportant I am in the scheme of things. LOL. Every person in the process contribution is at least as important as my own. Sure, I write the book but if the person writing the blurb is terrible then who’s going to pick up that book. If the cover sucks or the title is uninspiring, people are going to go to the next book on-shelf, if my editor hasn’t patrolled that ‘promise’ fence line well enough, will I disappoint readers. If the copyeditor is lousy all my typos will go through. It really is a team sport and the frustrating part is I can only control one part of that. The only person who spends longer on the book than the author, though, is the editor who carries it right through the revision, copyedit, marketing, production, release process.

At the end of the day, what do you think were the factors that got you published?
Fresh voice? Fresh angle? I write younger than I am and quite ‘filmic-ly’ (given my training in the film industry). I think that makes my books accessible to the TV generation because they can ‘see’ it unfold in their minds. And the nature based thing is still unusual enough to be a market difference.

But primarily it’s because I got my work out there. I was the full competition slut, I’d enter an envelope. But the investment in time and postage sure paid off. It achieved its goal which was to skip right over the top of the slush pile and get straight on a desk. The best prize ever.

The competition route can certainly get you in front of editors quickly. What’s your 5 year plan look like?
My immediate plan is to keep producing (volume), so that I can have multiple books out in the many, many markets. My feeble financial forecasting suggests to me that I’ll need six+ books ‘out there’ in order to approximate a survivable wage. I would like to write full time. That’s my goal. I’ve written four books and a novella in a year and that’s on top of full-time work so I can only dream about what I could do if I wasn’t working, too.

Longer term I’d like to live in a forest somewhere cool, tapping out books in my timber cottage *sigh*.

That sounds nice LOL! So, what’s next for you?
‘Their Newborn Gift’ releases in US/UK in June as the final book in a three-book Aussie continuity called Outback Baby Tales. This is the one set in the Kimberley. My first cowboy book and my first baby book in one.

After that I’m representing the Romance line (along with a Modern, an Historical, a medical) in a UK-release-only anthology called ‘Harlequin New Voices’ with a story called ‘Seven Day Love Story’. I was extremely pleased to be asked to wave the flag for Romance. Then the second book of my original contract comes out in October in UK (US sometime after that) as 'The Soldier's Untamed Heart'. Beyond that, I have two other books all queued up waiting on release dates and I’ve just subbed my seventh for Harlequin.

OK, I think you’re doing well on your goal to be prolific! What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
1. Write. Just write. Don’t get caught up in the politics, don’t get bogged down in the loops and blogs and endless workshops which suck your time and your focus. Work out what you want to say and just say it in a book that you would like to read.
2. Keep the ‘sale’ in perspective. It’s like planning a wedding. Yes, getting the whole bridal party safely to the church is a big deal but you have a lifetime of marriage ahead of you. It just can’t be all about the wedding day.

Wow, what a great analogy. It really puts things in perspective and I can actually take that advice to heart myself at the moment. Your level of productivity is certainly a great testament for that! Nikki, thank you so much for your open and really inspiring answers and comments. It was a pleasure to have you and best wishes for your upcoming releases. ALL of them LOL!

In closing, here's a picture of Nikki with her dog Mr Snufalufagus when he was a pup. Seriously! © Studio Noah.

If anyone would like to reach out to Nikki or is interested in finding out more information about her stories, you can find her at:
Email: nikki@nikkilogan.com.au
Webpage: http://www.nikkilogan.com.au/
Blog: Nikki blogs at lovecatsdownunder.blogspot.com
Facebook: Fan page: Nikki Logan
Twitter: @ReadNikkiLogan

12 comments:

  1. A really great interview! Thanks Nikki! Thanks Kaily!

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  2. What a fantastic interview! Great insight! Congratulations on all your success, Nikki.

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  3. Dear Nikki, this is your voice of reason. ;)

    Great interview! And I've read this book and loved it to pieces. Can't wait for your next one!

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  4. Thanks for the great post chuck full of great information. I am presently working with Harlequin M&B for a medical romance. I am in the second re-write. Fingers crossed!

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  5. Fabulous interview Kaily and Nikki. Congrats to you both!

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  6. HI Nikki and Kaily!

    Congrats on all your success, Nikki! I loved your got "The Call" story. I adore reading those. Best wishes for tons of sales with Lights, Camera, Kiss the Boss!!

    Awesome interview, Kaily! :)

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  7. Great interview Kaily, loved it!

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  8. So sorry I'm late, ladies, but this was another fabulous interview! Nikki, wishing you all the best with your writing career! :)

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  9. Lacey, glad you enjoyed it!
    Rula, thanks for stopping by.
    Rachel, Hi and welcome. Thanks for supporting Nikki. I got your email and will respond shortly.
    Hi Wendy, I have my fingers and toes crossed for you. Good luck!
    Thanks, Jackie!
    Sarah, yeah, I love hearing the call stories, too.
    Susan, I hope you found something useful to take away.
    Cari, thanks for stopping by. I know how busy you are...

    Nikki, thanks again for your wonderful insights and for sharing your incredible success story. I loved having you and wish you continued publishing success!! You are certainly an inspiration.

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