Friday, May 20, 2011

MMM: Christina Mandelski

In Which I Attempt to Bust Some Publishing Myths
By Christina Mandelski,
author of The Sweetest Thing

Around my house, we watch a lot of MythBusters. That’s the show where they take common urban myths (can pop rocks and diet soda kill a person when consumed simultaneously, for example) and try to prove or disprove them. If you haven’t watched it, it’s very entertaining…

There are also some big time myths surrounding being a first time published author. Sadly, none of them (that I’m aware of) involve blowing things up. But I think I’m semi-qualified to take on a few of these myths right here at my computer. Here we go:

Myth #1:
If a publisher offers to acquire a manuscript, that manuscript is in perfect shape and ready to go to print.

Nope. Not true at all. Or if there have been some books that needed minor editing, I don’t want to know. My book, and the books of most authors that I am acquainted with, all went through some big-time editing in the time between acceptance and printing. Yes, the acquiring editor loved the story enough to buy it, but he or she still may want you to cut a few chapters, a few characters, change the title or resurrect a dead mother (ahem, not naming any books in particular here).

After the first editorial round there may be a few more go arounds. In my case, I had one big edit and then a few smaller revisions, but even in copyedits (which come toward the end) we were still tweaking the language here and there.

Besides the other things going on like interior design, cover design, marketing plans, and the fact that this is not the only book your editor is working on, the editorial process is a big part of why in most cases when you sell a novel, it won’t be out for a long while.


Myth #2:
You’ve sold a book, you must be really rich.

Nope. Not really, especially not before your book is published (okay, or after). Traditionally, when a manuscript is acquired, the publisher offers an advance on royalties. In other words, if you are offered a $40,000 advance, you might get half of that up front (minus your agent’s fees) and then half after the final edited manuscript has been accepted (sometimes it’s broken into thirds). Take out the money you need to set aside for taxes, and it’s still a chunk of change, but not exactly enough to buy you a mansion in Beverly Hills. After that, you don’t get any more money until you’ve earned your advance back in royalties. All the more reason for an author to do everything they can to promote their books. And sell another one. And eat mass quantities of ramen noodles.


Myth #3:
Becoming published means you are part of an elite society of writers and you are not intimidated by famous authors in any way.

Ha. Ha. I am in awe of my fellow writers, am the biggest fangirl in the world, and an utter dork when I meet authors who I admire. Recently I went to the Texas Library Association conference and met some of the biggest names in children’s literature. The experience was wonderful, and inspiring and fun. But it was almost like an out-of-body experience, like I was floating above myself and thinking, “I cannot believe I am standing next to so-and-so trying not to faint.”

It’s true that writers of books for children and teens (the circle in which I roll) are by and large the most generous, kind and humble group of people in the professional world, whether they are published or not. So they will seldom let you treat them like gods. Even if you really want to.


Myth #4:
The topic/theme of your book can be potentially bad for you.

Okay, so when I started writing a book about a teenaged cake decorator, I swear I had no ulterior motives. I was simply telling the story of someone with a passion for making beautiful cakes. I wasn’t trying to get people to send me cake, bring me cake, or imply that I should have cakes at every signing and event in which I participate.

But it happened. At my book launch this weekend, there were cupcakes, thousands of them, it seemed. How could I not eat one (or four)? Even my critique group took to calling themselves Will Write for Cake after my novel sold. Now we have cake for every bit of good news we get, and bad news, and, well, sometimes no news is good news. Basically we have cake all the time. I wonder what it would’ve been like if I’d written a book in which the main character was gifted in, say, golf? Yeah, that wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting.

On the other hand, I also would probably be maintaining my weight and maybe have a nice tan if I spent more time on the golf course and less time eating delicious sweets. But what fun would that be?


There are a lot more myths floating around this business, and I’d be happy to help bust any others that you might have. I’ll get to them right after I finish this piece of cake. ;)

Christina, thank you so much for sharing with us!

FIND CHRISTINA ONLINE: Website | Goodreads | Facebook


  1. Mythbusters is an awesome show, and so easy to use in other settings. It's great to hear a little insight into the world of publishing and authordom.

  2. I think this is an excellent column! I'm going to spread the word. Another reason it takes your book awhile to come out? The selling season lead time--we need your book to be in printed galleys at least 6 months before it hits the stores. That's something a lot of pre-publication writers don't think about. -- Elizabeth Law, proud publisher of The Sweetest Thing

  3. I love Mythbusters it makes science seem so cool because they either bust the myth or make it plausible. love reading this interview

  4. I'm glad Christina gave us a few pointers and de-bunked some myths about the publishing world. It's a pretty cutthroat world and getting you're story told seems hard, but I'm glad Christina you stuck to you're story, because it sounds like an amazing contemporary YA novel and well...SWEET! Congrats on the debut novel!

  5. Cool post! I love watching Mythbusters with my family, and I enjoyed reading the topics Christina posted about. Though, darn, I really wish I could have gone to her signing if there were tons of cupcakes. If I ever write a book, I'll keep in mind to have my ice cream obsession play a pivotal role. ;)

  6. I loved the set up of the interview, Mythbusters = very cool! I loved reading the answers. Can't wait to read the book!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this interview! Using the mythbusters format, very original! I also liked the question about being rich after turning in the manuscript. Her breakdown of how the money is distributed was interestinh.

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