Category Archives: Publishing

On the slow pursuit of Overnight Success

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post over on Tumblr about success.

I’d just walked into a bookshop in Edinburgh, hoping, as many author do, to spot my own work tucked away somewhere on the shelf. When I found not one, but two major displays–a table stand and a wall runner–I stood very still, trying to make a memory, and then, realizing I couldn’t be counted on, I snapped a photo instead. The photo doesn’t do the feelings justice.

These days I see my name paired more and more with the words “overnight success”, and I’ve heard that the average overnight success takes 10 years. It’s taken me 9, so if that means I’m ahead of the curve, so be it.

I started writing when I was a kid, poetry mostly, didn’t try my hand at anything longer than a short story until I was in college. I wrote my first novel as a sophomore, an acid trip through the underworld that will never be published, but it got close enough for me to get my first true tastes of failure. A literary agent, a year on sub to publishers, five separate acquisitions meetings. Five times getting all the way to the door and then being told it wasn’t good enough to go through.

I was a college senior when I decided to try again.

It would have been easy to walk away–failure isn’t fun, and I was pretty good at other things that wouldn’t take so much flesh, but I couldn’t bear the thought I was a fluke. Pride and all that. Plus I had this idea swimming through my head. Two sing-song lines about a village and a witch and a secret in the wind.

It was called THE NEAR WITCH, and the summer after I graduated, it sold to Disney.

It didn’t get much press aside from the fact it was a debut (the industry loves to tout debuts, as though lack of experience is the natural precursor to massive success). The book was in a select number of stores for a very short time, 1-2 copies max, and disappeared by the end of its first season. Out of print at 18 months.

I wrote a sequel, THE DARK REMAINS, but the publisher decided after it was written that they’d rather have something else, so back into the drawer it went.

Instead I wrote THE ARCHIVED, about a library of the dead. That one got a bit more traction, and a loyal cultish following, but by the time its sequel, THE UNBOUND, hit shelves, I’d been informed that the publisher wouldn’t be finishining the trilogy. It had earned out, but still under-performed by some invisible, unknowable measurement. (The hardcover of THE ARCHIVED was just taken out of print.)

At 25, I was scarred, terrified that my career was over, because I’d given something everything I had, and it wasn’t enough, and I didn’t understand how or why or what I was supposed to do next, and part of me wished I’d walked away back when that first book didn’t sell, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. And my anger, my frustration, my stubborn resolve was louder than my fear, so I sat down and wrote something else.

It was a book for me. A book to restore my joy, to remind me why I did this masochistic thing. And it was a secret, a sheltering of the creative process so that that no publisher could take away what the writing of it gave me.

That book was called VICIOUS.

It was a strange supervillain origin story and it took me to a new publisher, Tor, that took a chance on me. And that, over the next four years, would restore my faith in myself and my industry. The book itself was a risk, a niche, but I had an editor who championed me and a team who believed in my work and nearly 3 years after release, that book is still selling strong.

Also in the midst of the dear and chaos and loss of that first series, I signed a work-for-hire contract for an early Middle Grade at Scholastic. The book were designed for Scholastic Clubs and Fairs titles and sold more than 600,000 copies, and STILL got turned down by Barnes and Noble. I never got to see those on shelf.

My eighth book, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, was probably the one that launched my ship, the one that first garnered me that title of “Overnight Success”, though it would be refurbished with each subsequent release. ADSOM was the first title to get great store placement, amazing reviews, and it’s still selling strong–the hardcover is now in its 9th printing, the paperback in its 6th, and every signing I do is filled with fans of Kell and Lila, Holland and Rhy, and it’s an amazing to have a readership that cares as much about these books as I do. I recently sold TV rights, and was signed on to write the pilot episode.

My ninth book was part of a multi-author platform at Scholastic. I hope I didn’t tank that series. It feels like I might have, or maybe it was just winding down, as series do, but I’m really damn proud of that book.

My tenth book, A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, the sequel to A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, was my first book to ever hit the New York Times list. It was the first time I got to go on a national book tour, and see hundreds and hundreds of readers, some who were new, and some who’d been with me since the beginning.

THIS SAVAGE SONG was my 11th book. It was my first YA since THE UNBOUND, a strange, dark, existential novel about what it means to be monstrous, what it means to be human.

And this past week, it debuted at #1 on the New York Times list.


This is not a post meant to brag.

Success is a thing so largely out of our control.

Overnight Success is almost always a myth.

Half of this industry is luck, and half is the refusal to quit.


A Year in Review, A Year Ahead

I’m writing this post on New Year’s Day from my parents’ house in France, which looks–quite fittingly–like something out of a fairy tale.


My New Year’s Eve…


A lot of people tell me I’m brave for being willing to up and move across the world, to take my roots with me or trust in them to hold, but my parents are truly inspiring. My father has been a Type 1 diabetic since he was a child, and was told he’d never see 50. This past year he turned 66, is in better health than most people half his age, and followed a dream he had since his 30’s–to buy a home in France.


My mother, who didn’t speak a word of French (though she’s learning), agreed to pick up her entire life and go with him, to help make that dream happen. If that’s not bravery, I don’t know what is.


Looking back at *my* year, it certainly had its own adventures.

I finished a graduate degree at the University of Edinburgh, and earned a Masters of Science in Medieval Art History.


My Tor editor, Miriam, and I spent a week in Edinburgh celebrating ADSOM, plotting the final installment…


…and toasting our new four-book deal!



61vgDYmMOlL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_   A Gathering of Shadows Final   23299512

I got a tattoo to mark the things I’ve already accomplished, and those still ahead.


A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC took 2nd in the Goodreads Choice Awards, right below NEIL F*CKING GAIMAN.


I read a whopping 104 books:


I celebrated the release of A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC on two continents. And that book would go into 5 printings in the first month. It would sell in Brazil, Germany, Poland, and China. It would become a major success. I, of course, had no idea.

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I fostered a crazy Pyrenees puppy named Zeke.

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I fell madly, deeply in love with Scotland.


And I bought my very first apartment in Nashville.



I don’t know how to top that in 2016. I don’t know if it’s possible. But here’s what’s in store.

In 3 weeks, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC hits shelves in paperback.

In 7 weeks, A GATHERING OF SHADOWS will come out in hardcover. In 7 months, my new YA, THIS SAVAGE SONG, will hit shelves in hardcover.

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With AGOS, I’ll go on my first major publisher-sponsored tour.


Over the course of this year, I plan to finish writing the ADSOM series. I plan to write the sequel to THIS SAVAGE SONG. I hope to finish the sequel to VICIOUS, as well as a new MG project.

I’m setting another 100-book reading goal, because I honestly feel like that intense immersion in words and styles was an education unto itself.

My two words for the year are DISCIPLINE and SANCTUARY. At first they might seem incompatible, but both are essential for a sane and productive environment. I need to hold on to my writing discipline, but I also need to carve out safe and healthy mental space. That means not looking at reviews, not engaging in toxic or self-destructive behavior, not ego-surfing or dwelling overly on things out of my control. It’s going to be a challenge, but I hope I can rise to it.

Overall, I am simply hoping for a healthy, productive year. And who knows, maybe a few adventures around the bend😉


Vlog: On Scotland, How I Write, Whether or Not I Have a Time-Turner, and Other Inquiries

More than a year without a vlog? For shame.

But behold, the elusive V in her native habitat.

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The Journey to A Darker Shade of Magic.

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You guys, the time has finally arrived.

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC–my 8th novel, and the first in a brand new fantasy series with Tor–hits shelves this week.

I vividly remember pacing my front yard in the snow more than two years ago, telling my beta reader about this idea I had. It wasn’t even an idea. It was just a moment, a collision between two characters in an alley. That moment would go on to spawn four Londons, a system of magic, and a cast of strange, powerful, and ambitious deviants, and is Part V, Chapter V in the finished book.

I remember several months later, driving through Texas with Carrie Ryan and Beth Revis, telling them about this crazy idea I was working on, my first ever crack at full-on fantasy.

I remember sitting in a car in the middle of nowhere, telling my agent the project was broken, and that I didn’t know if I could fix it, let alone turn it in to my editor.

I remember my agent convincing me that it wasn’t broken, that the pitch alone still gave her chills, and that she would pry it from my fingers if she had to. I remember her telling my editor was brilliant, and that together we would make it everything it needed to be. And she was right.

I remember late-night emails with my intrepid editor, talking through everything from world-building to weapons, coats to invented languages. Last minute tweaks and changes, cover ideas and final art, and picking the knives at the top of each chapter. I remember reading the book for the final time and realizing that I was reading it as a reader, not the writer, and knowing that it was ready to go to print. I remember that shift from uncertainty to excitement.

So far, each of these moments has belonged to me, but now the book, and its future, belongs to you.

This book, as the dedication says, is for the one who dream of stranger worlds.

And I hope you enjoy it.


* * * * * * * *


If you’re looking for ways to support a book as it makes its way into the world, there are several things you can do.

–Obviously, if you’re able, you can buy it. This is the surest way to support a book, and an AUTHOR.

–Once you’ve read it, please consider leaving a review online, at B+N, Amazon, GR, etc. This is one of the easiest ways to make an impact, and it really does matter.

–Make sure your local store and library has it in! You can always ask, and you can request it.

–Talk it up to your friends, your family, your school, your workplace. Basically run through the streets shouting its name like a lost pet.

–If you love the book, check out the author’s backlist. If ADSOM if your first read of mine, check out VICIOUS, which just came out in paperback.

–If you love a book, spread the word online. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Youtube. Interest and passion are contagious.

–A fun fact: there’s this theory called the 5 Touch Rule, which basically suggests that as consumers we interact with a product 5 times before purchasing it. I’m a firm believer in this when it comes to books. If you can be one of those touches, please do.



Deadline hangover.

New video.

Finished books.

Much flail.

You know the drill, lovelies.

Comment to win!

Two more steps on the path to world domination.

Hey, lovelies!!

Two very, very cool things have happened for VICIOUS in the last week, aiding my little supervillain book in its climb to world domina–I mean success.

First, last week, Publishers Weekly named VICIOUS one of the Best Books of 2013!!!!


I was shocked and humbled, to say the least, and really, really excited.

And then!!!

I woke up this morning to learn that VICIOUS had made the official ballot in the Goodreads Choice Awards. I was completely speechless.


I just can’t even. You can’t see it in the screenshot, but I’m in that category with Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson.

If you want to go vote, you can click HERE.

I know I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again. I’m not lying when I say that every step counts. Every review. Every purchase. Every tweet. Every spread word, and shouted word, and whispered-in-a-library word. It all counts. Some books come into the game with hundreds or thousands of voices already behind them, but most come with only a few, and if they’re lucky, those few are loud.

I have felt so very lucky, because even when VICIOUS did not have many voices, those voices were loud. They continue to be loud. And people seem to be listening.

So thank you.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to be a voice, because I hear them, and others hear them, too, and it really does matter.

Life update! Finished drafts, trips to LA, and THE UNBOUND approacheth.

Agh, I’ve been such a bad blogger! So sorry, lovelies. But it’s obviously time for a life update!

Two weeks ago I found myself at New York Comic Con, and had the surreal opportunity to promote VICIOUS and THE ARCHIVED at the same time. Between the back-to-back signings, and the panel alongside epic authors like Lev Grossman and Kami Garcia, I was equal parts exhausted and exhilarated.


(Photo credit: Viking Books…I’m the one with horns)

I was also ON DEADLINE.

A week and a half ago, I finished the draft of my 7th book (9th if you count the two that will never be published). The book still has no title, and it recently got pushed back (only 3-4 months) to make sure I have the time to make it the strongest book possible. But having a first draft feels like a major accomplishment right now, especially in the midst of so much travel and strange and awesome and distraction.

Here’s a few visual hints about the project:





I cannot wait to say more😉

Anyway, the day after I finished my draft, a film crew flew out on behalf of Scholastic to shoot footage of me for the official Book Clubs and Fairs DVD, yet another first, and another surreal experience in a season dedicated to the new and humbling. They were absolutely lovely, and I am still processing the fact that EVERYDAY ANGEL’s trailer, complete with my commentary, will be in every single classroom pre-fair. Because of my inclusion in the promo materials, it also means that EVERYDAY ANGEL itself will be guaranteed in every. single. fair. Which is just…wow.

Two days after the Scholastic shoot, I drove up to St. Louis to see two of my best friends, toast to finished drafts, and do a signing at a bookstore (Subterranean) where I worked for a semester during my time at WashU. It was a much-needed sanity break.

And then, the day after I drove back to Nashville, I set out for Los Angeles.

I’m not allowed to talk about WHY I went to LA yet (hopefully soon) but suffice it to say, it was a surreal and humbling experience. And in addition to all the secret-y work meetings, I was invited to the Bad Robot offices. *dies* Yes, Bad Robot, as in JJ ABRAMS’ PRODUCTION COMPANY. I snagged this photo from the waiting room:


The offices are as strange and cool and secretive as the man at their helm, and I am still geeking out about the experience. I also totally stole a button from that jar.

(T’s are being crossed and i’s dotted in other parts of LA, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to share the AMAZING NEWS soon. In the meantime, apologies for being a tease.)

And now, at last, I’m home. For the rest of the fall, in fact, aside from a jaunt to Charleston for YALLFest in a couple weeks (I hope to see some of you there! In addition to paneling, I’ll be signing all three books, THE NEAR WITCH, THE ARCHIVED, and VICIOUS).

In other news, my glorious writing chair came. Behold:


It is a 1920’s style Georgian Wingback, and it cost a fair portion of my soul, but I’m convinced it will be my red violin, and follow me through time. One day I’ll live in a little Scottish apartment and the chair will be my only piece of furniture and it will still feel like home.

And finally, THE UNBOUND.


You guys, THE UNBOUND comes out in 3 MONTHS. I cannot even handle that. I’ve been so caught up in VICIOUS things, the release has snuck up on me! One of the reasons it’s been so stealth on the approach is because we are not doing ARCs.

Before you start BOOing, or making rude gestures, or pouting, here’s what I have to say: there are only 3 months till release, and you probably wouldn’t have time to read the ARC anyway :p But seriously, it was a decision made by the entire Disney team, as well as myself, and I stand by it.

I hope you’ll stand by me.

The success of THE UNBOUND is more important than ever, and I need you with me.

Also, you will have a chance to read the book early, if you want to. We’ll be giving away a very select number of access buttons to a full digital copy, mostly through giveaways and twitter contests, so if you snag one of those, you’ll be able to download a full e-arc.


In only a matter of days (on November 8th), the first 100 pages of THE UNBOUND will go up on Netgalley. It will be auto-approved, so all you have to do is click the download button. As with book 1, no pressure, if you’d rather read it all at once, but if you DO want the sneak peek, it’s yours.

And the only thing I’ll say about those pages is that there is a lot of Wesley in them. There is a lot of Wesley Ayers in the whole book, for that matter. I teasingly said on Twitter the other day:


Annnnnd I think that’s everything right now. I’ve officially caught you up.

Looking ahead:

November promises to be a daunting month.

I’m revising the second book in the EVERYDAY ANGEL series, and will soon be revising an adult project as well. Additionally, I’m hoping to log between 25,000 and 30,000 new words, though I haven’t decided yet where they’ll go. I have two projects I’m currently enamored with, both in the bony stages, and would love to put some meat on each. One I’ve been planning for more than TWO YEARS, and feel like it’s finally time to start.

Regardless, I will try to be a better blogger in the month ahead! And hopefully the next time I blog it will be with NEWS.

Cheers, lovelies.

COVER REVEAL: Everyday Angel!!!

Hello, lovelies!

I’m so excited because I finally get to share the cover art and jacket copy for my upcoming Scholastic series!

For those who haven’t heard me talk about these books yet, they are a lower middle grade trilogy about a very peculiar guardian angel (a bit Doctor Who, a bit Peter Pan) and the three different girls she helps, and the first books is called NEW BEGINNINGS (the next one is called SECOND CHANCES).

Without further ado, the cover (the final one won’t have the pink bar)!


So for those who know my usual fare–blood and death and things that go bump–this might seem a bit of a departure, but I’m really excited, and honored to be part of the Scholastic team (you guys, I’m going to be in Scholastic Book Fairs, they are going to fly out and film me for the official DVD materials, I can’t even, my childhood, it weeps for joy).

And while my usual taste–like my usual fare–skews darker, and usually comes with an appropriately angsty or sinister or morbid cover, this cover is a perfect fit for this series.

Here’s the pitch:

There’s more to Aria than meets the eye. She’s a guardian angel. And to earn her wings, she’ll have to help three different girls.

Aria’s first mission is Gabby Torres. Gabby’s brother is sick, and Gabby’s been so worried about him for so long, she’s forgotten who she is. When a new school offers her a fresh start, Gabby learns it’s hard to make friends while keeping half her life a secret.

Then Aria shows up. Aria, who knows exactly what to say and do to make Gabby feel better. Can Aria help Gabby find herself again? And will Gabby still trust Aria when she discovers what her new friend really is?

I know this series won’t appeal to everyone in my current fanbase, but I’m really proud of it, and hoping it will appeal to your children, or to the child in you. And luckily for my darker-minded crowd, I’ve got many things in the works for you😉 2014 promises to be an exciting year in this little corner of the universe.

PSA — Authors, bookstores, and the books that are–and aren’t–in them.

Hey lovelies!

So. PSA time.

Every single day I get messages–tweets, fbs, emails, etc–from people letting me know their store doesn’t have my books. Or at least, not all of them.

Sometimes it’s because my book isn’t being published in their country, and then I can apologize (not in my control) and direct them to an awesome site like Book Depository (which ships to dozens of countries for free).

But often it’s that their US store–be it their chain store or their indie–doesn’t carry my books. Or doesn’t carry whichever one of my books they were looking for. Chain stores especially have a time frame during which they carry a new title. It depends on a variety of factors, but one of the biggest is shelf space. YA has a huge turnover, a vast number of new books coming out, and that means they have to make room. Sometimes a new hardcover gets a year on the shelf, sometimes 6 months, sometimes 2-3.

I feel like I’ve been lucky. Each of my books has gotten better bookstore placement. When THE NEAR WITCH first came out, Barnes and Noble only took an average of 2 copies. When THE ARCHIVED came out, it averaged 5-6. When VICIOUS hit shelves a week and a half ago, it had absolutely awesome placement.

But store size is also a huge factor. Even VICIOUS, which has New Arrival placement in big Barnes and Nobles, and New Science Fiction and Fantasy placement in medium stores, is not being shelved in EVERY Barnes and Noble. THE ARCHIVED has lasted 9 months, but is fading from shelves at a rapid rate as the stores make sure to clear their stock before the paperback hits shelves in January.

And indie bookstores are a whole different beast. Since indies place their orders independently–where chain store stock decisions are made in blankets–there’s just no way to guarantee that an author of book gets onto the radar of every indie bookstore. Trust me, if there were a way, I would have found it (so would everyone else in the industry).

Every time I get one of these notes, telling me a store didn’t stock my book(s), it’s like a little punch in the chest. Not just because I WISH that every store had all my books, but because many times people say they bought something else instead, or simply left, instead of requesting it.

Here’s the PSA part:

Authors have NO control over which stores do–or don’t–carry their books.

But YOU, as a reader and a book-buyer, DO have control.

You can ask the store to order it.

If enough people do, a store will often start carrying a couple in stock.

Same goes for libraries. If enough requests and holds get put on a book, they will usually order more copies.

YOU are the way to ensure that the books you want by the authors you want get shelved in stores.

So please, when you want a book from a store, ask the store to order it. They will be happy to. And you’ll put a few years back on my life because every time I get that note, it strips a few days off.

VICIOUS IS HERE. (And I have so many feelings.)

It’s a surreal thing, the day when a book ceases to belong to YOU, and instead belongs to EVERYONE.

It’s a happy, sad, strange, wonderful, surreal thing.

And today, I experienced that mix of emotions for the third time, when VICIOUS officially hit shelves.

I’m supposed to let go now, to give my morbid little book up to the world and step away, and tug my skin–everything I pulled away to write and rewrite–back together, nice and tight around me.

I have never been so ready, and so not ready at the same time.

I am ready to share, of course. But not to let go. And I don’t think I ever will be, not with this book.

I miss my characters. I miss my world. And I’m so excited that other people can now discover it, and in a way I will be able rediscover it through them. Rediscover what it feels like, meeting Victor and Eli, Syd and Serena. The rush, the thrill, the shock, the surprise.

VICIOUS is the only book I re-visit, not as an author, but as a reader. Like saying hello to friends. For nearly three years, they were my friends. Still are, somewhere in my head.

Confession: on bad days, I write new scenes. Ones that take place after VICIOUS, little fragments of a story I hope one day I get to share. For now, it’s mine. But then again, so was VICIOUS😉

Anyway, VICIOUS is out there now. I hope you’ll go and find it. Give a read. Say hello to my old friends. Maybe they’ll become yours, too.

All my love.




Photo on 2013-09-05 at 10.30