I’m happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Songbird by Karen Heenan. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to read and review this book for you, but instead I have a fantastic guest post from the author. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for providing the guest post for me to share with you.
Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father.
As a member of the Music, the royal company of minstrels, Bess grows up with in the decadent Tudor court, navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers.
Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend is her only constant but as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Now, Let me share with you Karen’s experiences and advice on the publishing process.
‘Get out of your own way’ by Karen Heenan
I’ve been a writer for most of my life. I learned to read young, because I had mother who, if interrupted when she had her nose in a book, would say, “Unless you’re bleeding, it can wait until I finish this chapter.”
It made me desperate to know what was inside those covers. Not long after I learned to read, I realized someone wrote those books, and unlike my aspirations to ballet, which required toe shoes and lessons and talent, I could learn to be a writer. It still took talent, but more than that, it took hard work, and lots and lots of reading, which was no hardship.
For a long time, writing was something I did in secret, for me, that got me through my early teens and then kept me going during years of office work that drained the light from my soul. I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t had the outlet of writing during those times, but I don’t think I’d be happy.
The idea of writing for publication was scary. It was unnecessary; I wrote for myself. Letting other people—strangers—read my writing seemed like being naked in public. I didn’t need the exposure. I did it for myself. That was enough.
Until one day, it wasn’t. I decided to submit my book (an earlier version of Songbird) to see if I could get an agent. In 2015, after a period of rejection—I didn’t keep count of how many times I heard the word “no”, but it was a lot—I got an offer. The agent suggested changes to improve the book, and I made them, all the while thinking, “How dare you!” because obviously, in my eyes, my book was perfect.
It wasn’t. After a year, the agent and I parted ways, Songbird returned to my hard drive, and I spent a few years licking my wounds. In the fall of 2018, I rewrote the entire book, realizing—surprise!—that the agent’s comments were not only valid, but she’d gone nowhere near far enough in her suggestions. I cut 15,000 words without losing a character or a scene, and even added an epilogue.
One more try, and I then would give up.
While I was working on the dreaded query letter, I saw something interesting on Twitter: there were a lot of book pitches in my feed. It was a pitch contest. Pitch your book in 280 characters or less. Agents and publishers like your tweet to express interest.
Hmm, I thought. Interesting, but I’m not ready. I don’t even have a query letter. I’ll try again next time.
I went upstairs to clean the bathroom, then came right back down, typed a quick pitch into my phone, and closed my eyes. What was the worst thing that could happen? I did it twice more before the end of the day, resolutely not looking at responses until it was over.
And there were responses. Only three, but still. Two were agents, and one was a small publisher. I responded to each, sending a query letter (which I quickly finished), and the requested samples. One agent still hasn’t responded, another wanted rewrites I wasn’t comfortable with (changes that would have altered my style and voice too much), and the publisher was interested in the book as it was, with only standard, non-painful copy edits and tweaks.
I signed a contract in February, 2019, and my book came out in November.
The moral of the story: get out of your own way. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
Thank you for sharing that, Karen, good advice for those fledgling writers amongst us!
If you would like to read Songbird for yourself, it is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great content and reviews:
About the Author
Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she learned to read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams – which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing.
She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband.
Connect with Karen:
Facebook: Karen Heenan Writer