Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Joy Preble

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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YA writer Joy Preble on agents and book deals and why she believes we will always have books


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Joy: By the time I finished the book that would become Dreaming Anastasia in late 2005, I was already a member of SCBWI and a critique group. I'd gone to a couple conferences and had been working seriously toward publication. I also was a regular on the 'Blueboards' at Verla Kay's site. Between all that and regular blog reading of newly published authors, I understood that I needed to query agents. Which is exactly what I started to do.


Jody: I'm embarrassed to say I never heard of Verla Kay's site and just now checked it out. What an awesome resource for writers and illustrators! So you had your Dreaming Anastasia manuscript and you knew you needed to look for an agent, what was that process like? 

Joy: Well, it was not wrinkle free! The first batch of agents I queried in the fall of 2005 resulted in a bunch of rejections, but one wrote a personal note that said, "You have something here. It's not quite ready, but..." She did not ask to see it again, but I knew that if I worked a little harder, she might be right. I queried my second batch of agents on Super Bowl Sunday in early February of 2006. And it was from that group that I got two requests for partials and then fulls and eventually received an offer of representation from Michelle Andelman, who was then with Andrea Brown Literary. (Later, Michelle would move on and I am now repped by Jennifer Rofe, also of ABLA) 

Michelle and I revised the book for a number of months and eventually in 2007, it sold to Sourcebooks, as the first book in their yet to be launched YA imprint. Many things happened after that: As mentioned, I ended up with an agent change. My acquiring editor at Sourcebooks left and I landed with a new editor. The new Fire imprint launch was delayed and in fact Dreaming Anastasia was finally released in September 2009, but the FIRE imprint didn't launch until March 2010. 

Jody: Quite a few wrinkles and a good four years from finished manuscript to publication, but it all worked out in the end?

Joy: Oh yes. Dreaming did well! I was thrilled!

Jody: You've talked a bit about your agent, Jennifer Rofe.  What exactly does she do for you?

Joy: All agents are your business partners. They negotiate your book deals, they cheerlead, they help build your career. They make the connections that you could not otherwise make yourself. There's a lot of press these days on self-publishing, particularly e-pub of New Adult titles. But I am a strong proponent of being agented. 

Jody: And your agent seems like she's hands on when it comes to revision.

Joy: Yes. She's an editorial agent, which I prefer. We both work together to make sure that the manuscript that goes out to editors is the strongest it can be.

Jody: You mentioned self-publishing and I know your books are traditionally published. Tell me a little about how a book deal works when you have signed on with a publisher.

Joy: As I mentioned The Dreaming Anastasia series is published by Sourcebooks. My new The Sweet Dead Life series is from Soho Press, as is the anthology I'm in. This means that I received an advance and that I also receive royalties once books earn out, as well as $ from foreign rights and film and audio and all the usual stuff. In all cases, I received half the advance upon signing the contract -- 15% of which goes to my agent, which is a standard figure and well-earned! The other half comes when I've turned in the final copy on time. Earning out means that you have sold enough books to earn back that advance. 

So for ease of math, let's say that you received a 10k advance and your book will be a trade paperback selling for $10 per copy and that you get a 10% royalty rate on each copy--that means that you would need to sell at least 10,000 copies to start earning royalties.


Jody: What about when it comes to marketing and publicity? What do your publishing companies do? And what aspects of promotion are your responsibility? 

Joy: All authors other than a rarified handful and even some of them, participate heavily in the publicity end -- through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogging, as well as book events including signings, conferences, panels... Both my publishers have always served as the go -between for many events. They pitch me to festivals, send press kits, do extensive marketing and promotional work, spend coop money at the chains and other places, place ads in places like PW newsletter, contact newspapers and bloggers and librarians. They create covers and often bookmarks and other physical materials. 

I work with brilliant editors who are dedicated to creating the best books possible with me. The list goes on and on. Everything you see in a bookstore: books facing out, end caps, special features-- by and large they are arranged by publishers. (Of course this doesn't count my in-law Pennie, who has made it her mission to face my books out in every bookstore in the LA metroplex. Shh.... don't tell anyone. She also likes to move one copy to sit by whatever the heavily featured book is. ) So I think the benefits of working with a publisher are huge. Certainly there are some self-pub success stories out there like Amanda Hocking and Colleen Hoover. If you want to be your own business totally and completely, then fine. I do not. 

Jody: Can you put me in touch with your Aunt Pennie? Seriously, though, any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Joy: Truth? I think there will always be books-- physical books in addition to other platforms. Publishing is being careful not to go the way of the music industry, which put its head in the sand way back when with Napster (do you remember Napster?!) and tried to pretend that people wouldn't want to share music files! Well, you see how that worked! Not. 

It's funny, but if you watch that old Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie, You've Got Mail, not only do you get to nostalgically hear the dial up noise, but you also see the exact opposite of what's happening today! In 1998, the big move was for the huge chains to eat up the indies. Now, the indies are honestly thriving, more and more every day. We have not lost our need for a real live place to meet and share our love of books, meet with authors we love and new authors we want to get to know. Here in Houston, we have some amazing and thriving independent bookstores: Blue Willow Bookshop, Murder by the Book, Brazos Books and others. They are run by brilliant and dedicated booklovers who handsell titles, including my own, and create a space for artistic dialogue to occur. So I am very hopeful about the future of the book!


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Joy Preble, is a former English teacher and the author of the Dreaming Anastasia series, which Kirkus calls a "well-paced roller-coaster ride of death-defying magical encounters." Her new novel, The Sweet Dead Life, is out now with Soho Press. 

You can find out more about Joy on her website www.joypreble.com









Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Steve Flairty

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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Author Steve Flairty on working with a regional press to launch an inspirational book series


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Steve:  My first book, a biography of a well-known Kentuckian named Tim Farmer, started out as a magazine article. In 2005, someone approached me about extending the article into a full-scale biography on Tim, who overcame a debilitating injury to his right arm to host his own outdoors TV program.  The person who approached me offered to fund the publishing of the book through a respected self-publisher in Kentucky. At that point I'd been attending book fairs and talking to as many people as possible about the business of writing and publishing books.  The publisher liked me, but was not interested in most of the topics I suggested for books.  When I offered the Tim Farmer story, however, they got real excited because of the high marketability possibilities.


Jody: How does a deal like that work--when it comes to money? Did you have to pay anything up front?

Steve: My “benefactor” worked out the finances with the publisher, as well as paying me for expenses and a stipend for my work.  He offered royalties, too, that increased in proportion to the sales.  For me, it was not enough money to get rich but certainly a way to make a splash into the book world.

Jody: Is that how it worked with your other books too?

Steve: No. The next four, all in a series called Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes, are published by a small, but respected one-person local publisher. I knew him and had done a magazine article about his work.  In seeking advice about the possibility for the series, I was surprised that he ASKED if he could be my publisher.  It’s worked well.  I procured my own editor.  The publisher offers to pay royalties on books he sells, but it is much better for me to buy the books at a good price from him and sell on my own, actually something I kind of enjoy.  With each of the publishers, it has taken three to five months from the time documents (manuscripts and pics) were sent until the book was released for sales.


Jody: What kind of marketing and publicity do you have to do when you're working with a small, local publisher?

Steve: Most of it! With the first book, Tim Farmer: A Kentucky Woodsman Restored, it helped that Tim had a built-in fan base in the area. Still, I did lots of one-to-one promotion.

Jody: What do you mean by one-to-one?

Steve: I constantly network—or simply put, talk to others and develop relationships with those around the writing world. I go to book fairs, and also cultivate relationships with those for whom I’ve written magazine articles.  I gain knowledge, and by doing so, learn what is really important for time emphasis.  My advice would be to treat others well, even “pay forward” in helping other writers, and it should be a daily activity.

Jody: Do you have an agent?

Steve: Since my market area is mostly Kentucky, I am content to work with local publishers who know the state’s people, and I don’t see a need for an agent.  Again, personal “good faith” networking is a must.  I like to be part of a “family literary” model, knowing that I may never make the big bucks as a result.  That’s OK--I wasn’t thinking of getting rich anyway.

As an added note, a great number of my books are sold at speaking engagements I do all around the state.  I promote my availability as a speaker almost as much as the books I write.  A “captive audience” and stories directly from the book are helpful, obviously.  Getting out and around also helps me find more stories to share.

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Steve: Though I much prefer the feel of a regular book copy in my hands, the trend seems to be toward e-books and online communication.  I am already talking to a couple of friends who are heading in that direction.  I likely will give it a try also.


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Steve Flairty is a lifelong Kentuckian, teacher, public speaker and author of five books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and four in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series. All of Steve’s books are available around the state or from the author. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly as well as a weekly KyForward contributor. Watch his KyForward columns for excerpts from his books.

Contact him on Facebook or email sflairty2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Janet McLaughlin

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 


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Tween-novelist Janet McLaughlin on finding success with a start-up company


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Janet: Before the “next steps” there were the first steps. I researched for organizations that might help me with writing the book and was lucky to find the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Agents, editors, publishers all have respect for this organization and are more likely to pay attention to the writing of its members. That’s where I found my first critique group. And that’s where I found out that I had a lot to learn about writing for kids.

My first two (or so) books were my trial and error works—a crash course in what not to do. Through the help of my group, through critiques that I got at SCBWI conferences, and with help from other writer friends, especially my critique partner Augusta Scattergood, I finally finished a book that I thought might make it in the publishing world. That whole process took about 5 years. (I’m not counting the three of decades of writing for magazines I did for before that.)

It was also through SCBWI that I learned about researching for the right agent/editor. I subscribed to newsletters, read blogs, attended more conferences. It didn’t take long to figure out that the best route to publication would be through finding an agent. And the best route to finding an agent was to write a great query letter. Which led to more newsletters, blogs, etc.! This was a long process, but a necessary one.

When I found an agent or agency that I thought would be a fit for my book (one looking for teen, paranormal romance/mystery), I would check them out on Preditors and Editors. There are a lot of not-so-legit companies out there, and this site helps sort them out.

Finally the research was done, the query perfected, the agents targeted. Now came the hard part. The waiting. And I am not ashamed to admit (because I know we all do it) I checked my email every hour or so, starting about five minutes after I sent the first query.

Jody: Your long journey sounds a lot like mine, but then, finally, you got your book deal?

Janet: Get Psyched took several years to find a home, and it truly was a roller coaster ride. At first, everything went incredibly well. After I sent my first batch of query letters, I got two responses from interested agents. One really loved the book and offered me a contract. The thing is, when you get an agent, you assume the sale of the book is a done deal. Not so. Not for me, anyway.


While I was blissfully waiting for Get Psyched to find a home, I started working on its sequel. But when I found out that my book wasn’t getting published after all, I descended into that mindset of “I stink a everything!” and stopped writing altogether. The pity party lasted about six months, but writing is so much a part of who I am.

Since I loved the characters in Get Psyched so much, and since I was convinced it would never see the light of publishing, I started a new book with the same protagonist and best friend.

Jody: You and I really do have similar journeys. When all else fails, write another book! How did things finally come together with Get Psyched?

Janet: To appreciate the synchronicity of what happened next, I need to tell you that Get Psyched takes place at a National Cheerleading Competition in a complex near Disney World. In early December, 2011 I was there watching one of my grandchildren compete. A woman was manning a booth, handing out magazines about cheerleading, and my husband, Tom-The-Promoter, who sees opportunity everywhere, told her about my work. It turned out that her company was looking for a book to launch their new business, Bookworm Publishing Company.

Voila! not long after, I was a published author. And it only took about eight years and six months!

I committed to doing a series with them, so I “dusted” off and finished the sequel to Get Psyched I had abandoned a few years ago. Psyched Out was released in late February of this year. I'm now writing the third book in the series, Fireworks, which is a rewrite of the novel with the "stolen" characters.

Jody: Tell me a little about your book deal.

Janet: I’m not sure I’d call my book “traditionally” published. But it’s not self-published, either. I didn’t get an advance, but I was okay with that. Bookworm was a new company and I was an unproven entity. But since we were willing to take a chance on each other, we adopted guidelines that suited and benefited both of us. I paid to have the books edited professionally, but they handled all the other expenses. They plan on adding an editor to their staff in the future. The royalties are equivalent to the professional norm.

When it comes to the technological end of things, I am, let’s say, challenged. Bookworm takes care of much of that end of the promoting. We work together on booking school visits and such. Getting your name recognized is a slow, tough, ongoing process. Having a company behind you, helping you, is invaluable.

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go?

Janet: I haven’t a clue. I do know from the feedback I’ve gotten since my books have been published that there are people who prefer to read on their electronic devices and those who prefer hard copies. I’m one of the latter. So I’m hoping that print books will always be available. But I have to admit. There are times when I want a book, and I want it now! That’s when I appreciate e-books.

But that’s an adult speaking. My books are for ‘Tweens, and more of them don’t have Kindles, et al, than do. So print copies are essential for my audience. But I’m thinking that will change soon. I’ve seen one-year-olds more adept at handling IPads than some adults I know.

Currently, my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble's websites, but I’m okay with that. As much as I like brick-and-mortar stores, more and more people are buying via the internet. Not only is it fast and simple, it makes gifting so much easier.

The publishing industry is changing. It has to. The world I see today is enormously different than the world I grew up in. And I believe it’s only the beginning. I’m an optimist. I think, after a couple of decades of adapting to our exponentially changing world, our lives will be richer and the better for it. There has to be a novel in there somewhere, don’t you think?


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Janet McLaughlin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her first novel is Get Psyched, a tween paranormal mystery. You can find out more about Janet by visiting her website:   www.janetmclaughlinauthor.com






*Postscript by Janet McLaughlin

When one door closes…

Shortly after I did this interview with Jody, my publishing life took a different route. My publishers and I decided to part ways due to “irreconcilable differences.” The dispute was over terms in the contract that were not spelled out. It was a matter of interpretation of a couple of words that impacted on the bottom line for both of us.

Am I upset? Not really. I learned a lot from this relationship. And I also got a lot of satisfaction out of it, too. They still believe in the books, as do I. They helped me get readers that I might not have reached otherwise. And I now have the confidence to continue my journey as an author. I just have to choose the right path.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. I am energized and ready for the next challenge. Self-publish? Seek representation? Go directly to the source, i.e. publishing houses? The only limits are the ones I place on myself.

I can feel it already. Another door opening…



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Holly Schindler

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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YA author Holly Schindler on how a long road to publication can be a blessing in disguise 


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication—what were your next steps?

Holly: A bit of backstory: when I graduated with my master’s, I dove headfirst into writing.  I’d already published a few pieces when I was in grad school, actually: poetry, short fiction, literary critique.  I was under the grand delusion that publishing a book would be no sweat!  When I’d finished my first book-length manuscript, I began submitting it in much the same way I’d submitted my shorter pieces: I used writer’s guides to see who was open to unsolicited manuscripts, I checked out what they were publishing (to find out if my manuscript was in the same vein), and I queried.  And queried.  And queried…

Jody: And that led to a book contract eventually?

Holly: No! That first book-length manuscript was never published.  I had a few nibbles, no takers.  But while I was waiting for the response to my submissions, I drafted other novels.  And I began to send out queries for those books.  Pretty soon, I was juggling several different books, all in different stages of completion.

A couple of years or so into the pursuit of publication, I started teaching music lessons.  It was the perfect setup: I’d write all day, until the kids got out of school in the afternoon.  When I started teaching, I was amazed at how similar those kids were to the kids I’d known in school—the fashion and the technology had changed, but the struggles hadn’t!  So I tried my hand at writing for kids.  My first published novel turned out to be a YA.

Jody: So how long did it take from when you first started submitting to that first book deal?

Holly: All in all, it took seven and a half years—and more manuscripts than I can count—to get that first acceptance.  I also took personalized rejections seriously, and worked to revise my manuscripts and resubmit to editors who were willing to take a second look.  I don’t know the exact number of rejections, but it was well over a thousand.  I received over eighty rejections for my debut, A Blue So Dark. 



Jody: That's a lot of rejections. But the perseverance paid off.

Holly: Yeah…You know, I’m always saying that I never would have thought, starting out teaching music lessons, that it was going to give me career direction—I thought it was going to give me some money to pay a few bills.  It just goes to show you that living your life, exploring new avenues, is just as important sometimes as writing.

Jody: That's true. And then in addition to writing, as you've said, there's the business end to this--the querying, the researching, the tallying rejections. Do you have an agent?

Holly: I actually sold my first two YAs myself, but I do have an agent now.  I got my agent the same way I got my first editor: direct submission using a query letter.  I’m a big, BIG fan of the query letter.  Most valuable piece of writing you can master.  NEVER underestimate the power of a good query.

I really love my agent—she’s placed my debut MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, with Dial, and my next YA, Feral, with HarperCollins.  But it’s more than that—she’s given me so much fantastic career advice.  I’ve been with her now since ’09, and anytime I have a question or concern, I grab the phone and call her up.  It’s incredible having someone in the business that you can talk to like that, who’s on your side…

Jody: Explain a little about your book deals.

Holly: My books—both published and forthcoming—have all been with traditional publishing houses.  The first two were with a smaller house, and my forthcoming books, as I said before, are with larger houses…

If I could go back and talk to unpublished me, I think I’d tell her how much editorial work is done after acquisition.  Usually, global edits are required—we’re talking changing events, adding or dropping characters, switching up the POV…major, MAJOR changes.  And so far, my global rewrites have usually had to be completed in about a month’s time.

That’s not to say you won’t be asked to do ANOTHER round of major rewrites when those are finished.  You may very well have to.  Again, in about a month’s time.

Jody: But you had that long stretch when you were submitting and getting rejections to practice!

Holly: That's right. I often think the greatest thing that happened to me was that seven-and-a-half-year stretch of time before my work was accepted.  As time went on, and I received personalized rejection, I learned how to interact with editors.  I emailed them as we talked rewrites—one even called so we could discuss the book in more “real time” over the phone.  And I learned how not to get freaked out by doing an inordinate amount of work in a short period of time.

Actually, I like the challenge of a fast write.  I give myself crazy deadlines even when I’m drafting new work, to push the book along.

Jody: Last question, Holly. Any thoughts on the future of publishing?  Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Holly: Wow, that’s a heavy one.  Like most anyone in the publishing industry, I don’t really have an answer.  A few years ago, I would have told you I’d never buy an e-reader.  But I’ve got one.  When I started writing, I used a real dinosaur of a computer—didn’t even have a modem.  I had no use for the distractions of the Internet.  Now, I can’t imagine not being to interact with bloggers and readers via Twitter, Skype, Facebook, my own blog.

I think as a writer, you have to be open-minded…The publishing world will always be in a state of flux.  You just have to learn to change along with the changing times.

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Holly Schindler's debut literary YA, A Blue So Dark, received a starred review from Booklist and was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth. She's also the author of the YA Romance Playing Hurt, the forthcoming middle grade The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, and the YA psychological thriller Feral.

A lover of all genres, Schindler also writes for adults, and can be found working on her next novel in her hometown of Springfield, MO.  Check out Holly online at HollySchindler.com.









Friday, June 21, 2013

In Which I Gush about My Retreat, Confess My Biggest Flaw, and Reveal My New Life Goal

And now a break from my regularly scheduled How to Get Published program to gush about my amazing retreat...

Of course, there was the usual recharging of the writing battery, the reminder of why I love writing books and being around others who have the same obsession and love. Where else can you discuss the elements of the Hero's Journey while noshing on gourmet appetizers or gripe about rejections while taking an invigorating walk in the woods? 



I go into every retreat expecting the restfulness and the opportunity to get a lot of work done without the constant interruptions and distractions of daily life.

What I always forget--even though it has happened to me EVERY SINGLE TIME I attend one of these retreats--is how much left I have to learn.

My biggest flaw as a writer (and probably as a person) is my reluctance to hear criticism. I am getting better at this! But there is always that icky feeling when someone tells me what's not working in a manuscript.

I had brought a novel with me for the plane trip--one of the huge tomes from my teetering TBR stack--Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. This book is over 700 pages but I had the absurd idea that I could read it before I arrived at my retreat. Instead, I barely put a dent in it, and ended up reading bits of it each night and then on the trip home.

Not to get into the whole saga (it's a very good book, if somewhat in need of editing) but one passage jumped out at me, for obvious reasons:

The main character, Phillip, has decided to be a painter. He asks a friend to look at his pictures and the friend says no. Phillip is outraged and asks why. The friend answers simply: "People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise."

This made me laugh because it gets at the heart of my problem. When I ask someone to read my writing what I really want is for them to say that it is perfect just the way it is.

What I learned (again) on this retreat is that my writing is not perfect. (I know, ha ha, right?) but I can handle hearing about the weaknesses and flaws without crumpling or getting defensive. And more than that, I can get EXCITED about figuring out the solution.

It helped that all of the writers there were amazingly supportive and encouraging. 


And I can't say enough about the teacher at the retreat, Kim Griswell. I actually met Kim at an earlier retreat where she was randomly assigned as my mentor.

The first time she gave me a bit of criticism--and she was so NICE about it--I struggled not to cry or make a grouchy face. I'm sure I came off acting like a jerk. Later, after I had time to stew and consider, I knew she was right, and I apologized.

That was the retreat where I heard Newbery Winner Linda Su Park give a speech about how to accept criticism. You look at the person with a blank face and say one word: "Okay." (I wish I had heard that speech BEFORE I had my meeting with Kim.)

At this last retreat, I remembered the "Okay" part and braced myself for whatever Kim was going to lay on me (but inside, I confess that I was hoping she'd just gush about how perfect my writing was.) See, I really do have to learn this over and over.

I'm happy to say that there were no tears or grumpy faces. Okay, I did argue with her. A little. But only because I was trying to understand what exactly had confused her. She was a good sport about it, God love her. And I spent the rest of the week picking Kim's brilliant brain whenever I had the chance.

Here is another thing I have to learn over and over: often that bit of criticism is the key to everything--it's the Way In that was shimmering just out of my reach. Instead of making me weary, it resonates, because it is right. I almost cried during this retreat--not out of frustration, but out of relief. This project that I have been working on for YEARS may actually be one step closer to completion.

Toward the end of the week I got a string of emails from my publishing company. The first official review of Thin Space has come in, and it is a starred review from Kirkus. Not many people outside of the writing world know what this means.

But I can tell you, the writers at the retreat knew.

Kim read the review out loud and there I was, almost crying again.

The retreat was over all too soon and I was doing what I always do as I packed my suitcase, plotting how I could come back. 

Since I truly believe that you have to ask the Universe for what you want if you ever expect to get it, here is my new life goal:

Return, next year, as a teacher. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Alessandra Thomas

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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Alessandra Thomas, New Adult fiction writer, on finding a niche in the self-publishing world


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what was your next step?

Alessandra: I wrote Picture Perfect with the intention of publishing it  myself. After it was drafted, I sent it to critique partners, made some edits, and then sent it on to my line and copy editors.

While my editors were working on the book, I put it up on Goodreads and started emailing reviewers asking them if they’d be interested in accepting a free copy for an honest review. I also became more active on Twitter.  I engaged a publicist (KP Simmon at Inkslinger PR , she’s incredible!) to set up the blog tour and release day blitz, and then we were off to the races!


Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication?

Alessandra: About three months.

Jody: That's a quick turnaround! Do you have an agent?

Alessandra:  No, I don’t.  Although I was approached by a couple of agents about representing Picture Perfect before it was published, I wasn’t interested in representation because I knew I wanted to self publish.

Jody: You mentioned that you had line and copy editors and your publicist. Did you hire anyone else?

Alessandra: Yes. I also worked with a digital formatter. The editors and formatter all cost around $1000. My amazing publicist KP Simmon, in addition to arranging a blog tour, sent out eARCs to some reviewers, while I sent them to others I had contacted personally. Then I uploaded it to all the websites et voilĂ !

Jody: What are the benefits, in your opinion, of taking the self-publishing route?  Any cons?

Alessandra: For someone like me, who’s writing in a hot genre – New Adult romance – indie publishing allows me to get my book to readers quickly and directly. I can start reaching an audience with it and see the benefits as soon as the book’s ready, and readers can decide whether it’s worthy of success.  I love that there’s no waiting period.

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Alessandra: I’m just so grateful that self-publishing exists, honestly. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to share my story with readers this easily. I think that more authors will realize that traditional publication is one way to share your work with readers, but it’s not the only way.

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Alessandra Thomas is a New Adult novelist. Her debut is Picture Perfect. You can find out more about Alessandra on her website.











Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Jennifer R. Hubbard

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 


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YA novelist Jennifer R. Hubbard on doing research and working with an agent


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps? 

Jennifer: I was already publishing short stories, but that’s a simpler process—less of a commitment. You don’t need an agent; you don’t get royalties. I knew I had to do some research before taking the plunge to novels. When I realized I wanted to write YA, I took a course in children’s writing. (Young-adult has traditionally been under the umbrella of children’s publishing.) That led me to children’s writing conferences, the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference, and the SCBWI. They helped me understand the process and the market.

Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication? Was all this wrinkle free? Or were there setbacks along the way?

Jennifer: For the manuscript I wrote right before my first published book, I had gone back and forth for a few months with an editor I met at a conference. He made helpful suggestions and I revised, but ultimately he passed. I found some interest in that book from other editors and agents, but they all agreed it needed something to push it that last step to the publishable level. Unfortunately, they didn’t agree on what that something was, and I didn’t know myself, so I set that book aside and focused on The Secret Year. 


I showed TSY to one editor whom I’d met at a conference, and even though the book wasn’t right for his publisher, he gave me some helpful feedback. I then went back and polished the manuscript for a few more months (and worked on short stories and other book ideas) before submitting it to the agent who ended up signing me.

Once I found my agent, it took another few months to get an offer on the book. After the book was under contract, it took two more years until publication. Those two years included revision on my part under editorial guidance, and then a lot of behind-the-scenes work by my publisher: book design and formatting, getting reviews, preparing publicity, marketing, etc.

Jody: Tell me a bit more about your agent--how you found him and what he does for you. 

Jennifer: I learned about agents via SCBWI, writers’ conferences, looking at the acknowledgments sections of published books, and reading publishing blogs. My first agent was a newer agent at a well-established agency, and he was actively building his list. I queried him, then sent the manuscript on request. After he read the manuscript, we had a discussion, and then agreed to work together. It was a very “textbook” how-I-found-my-agent story. We worked well together for three years, but then he decided to change careers, and I transferred to another agent at the same agency.

The first thing I noticed about working with an agent was that my manuscripts got read faster than when I was submitting on my own. But submitting to editors is only a small part of what agents do.

Jody: That's true. There's the whole business side to writing and publishing. Walk me through some of the details of your first book deal. 

Jennifer: When I got my first look at my publication contract, I was very glad I had an agent. It takes skill and experience to negotiate that kind of contract. There are all sorts of factors involved in a publication contract aside from just the size of the advance and royalties: foreign rights; electronic and audio and film rights; option clauses; non-compete clauses; reversion of rights; and so on.

Jody: And then, I'm assuming there is revision work that is expected...

Jennifer: Yes. The editorial process worked like this: my editor gave me thorough, detailed comments, and I reworked the manuscript accordingly. I didn’t have to take all her suggestions, but I took about 95% of them—they made the book better! I think we did 2-3 rounds of edits. 


Book designers created a jacket and designed the interior—picking the fonts and so forth. My editor wrote jacket copy and catalog copy with input from me. Meanwhile, the sales team was learning the season’s books and pitching them to libraries and booksellers. The publisher also submits books to major professional reviewers and award committees.

Jody: Now you're talking marketing and publicity. What things did your publisher do and what were you expected to handle?

Jennifer: My publisher’s publicist set up things like magazine and newspaper interviews, and a signing at NCTE. I set up my own local signings, for which I’ve teamed up with two local authors’ groups (the Kidlit Authors Club and the New Jersey Authors Network). I set up my own launch party and guest blogs, and got my own bookmarks designed and printed. 

Jody: And I know you are active on social media too. Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? 

Jennifer: I think it’s going to become more common for writers to do a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing, to write for a variety of media, and to interact with readers online. At the moment I’m typing this, the print market is still huge, and traditional publishers still provide some big advantages in terms of bookstore and library distribution, advance money, and editorial and design support. 

But I think digital publishing and self-publishing will continue to grow. It’s of benefit for both readers and authors to have stories available in as many media as possible: print, electronic text, audio, etc.


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Jennifer R. Hubbard is a writer of contemporary novels for young adults. School Library Journal called The Secret Year a "provocative debut novel." Her second novel Try Not to Breathe received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly.

You can learn more about Jennifer by visiting her website Jenniferrhubbard or her blog jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com





Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Kim Edwards

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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Kim Edwards, author of the New York Times Best Sellers The Memory Keeper's Daughter and The Lake of Dreams, on working with agents and editors


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Kim: I had an agent based on several stories I’d published and a few literary awards I’d won, so when I was ready to send a book out to publishers, I went to her.

Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication? Was all this wrinkle free? Or were there setbacks along the way?

Kim: My first book, The Secrets of a Fire King, was a collection of short stories, many of which had been published and won national awards.  Still, my agent warned me it would be hard to place a book of stories, and she was right.  I got lots of lovely and thoughtful rejection letters about that book, and had all but given up on placing it without a novel to sell with it.

Then, about three months later, an editor called from Norton—she had been on maternity leave and was just getting caught up.  She loved my stories and offered to publish them, and the book came out less than a year later.


My first novel, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, on the other hand, sold very quickly.  In that case, my editor had a backlog and there was more editing to do, so it was just under two years between the sale and the publication.

Jody: You mentioned that you had an agent. How did you go about getting her? What does she do for you?

Kim: I’ve had the same agent for over two decades now.  She was recommended to me by a former teacher—at the time, my agent was just starting out and was accepting new clients, so it was a good match for me, since I was just beginning and had only a few stories to send her.  While this path worked out well for me, I also find a lot of wisdom in something another writer once said to me, which is that finding an agent is a lot like dating—it often takes some time to find the person who is the right fit for your work.

It’s also important to know that agents don’t charge money to you for reading or representing your work.  They earn a living on commissions made when they sell you book to a publisher, usually 15% of the sale.

Jody: Explain a little about your book deals. Did you get an advance?

Kim: I've been published by Norton, Picador, Viking, and Penguin.  I was given an advance in all three cases—essentially, an advance is money the publisher gives an author up front in anticipation of sales to come.  Once the book is published, the royalties from each sale go to pay off the advance, and once that’s done, they come to the author.  In other words, if you had an advance of $100.00 and you earned a royalty of $1.00 a book, then you’d have to sell 100 books to pay off the advance.

Jody: What's your experience been like working with editors?

Kim: I’ve admired an appreciated all my editors, even if I haven’t always agreed with them.  In each case, the editing of the book was a dialogue where they raised questions about the narrative and characters and asked me to consider adding or deleting moments or scenes in order to make the story reach its full potential.

Jody: I like that--a dialogue. I know that some new writers (confession: I was one of these) think that editors swoop in and fix things for you...

Kim: No, but even when I didn’t agree with their specific suggestions, I always took seriously and was careful to address the source of their concerns.  All my editors have made my books better—deeper and richer—as a result of our conversations.  While I was writing The Lake of Dreams there were editorial changes at my publishing house, so I ended up working with three fantastic editors over time--a great experience.


Jody: What about marketing and publicity? How much are you expected to do to promote your work?

Kim: My publishers know the marketing world and how to get the word out about a book.  They’re very good at it.  Increasingly, however, more and more falls to me as the author—I’m expected to have and maintain a website, www.kimedwardsbooks.com to communicate on facebook, to write guest blogs and do interviews and speaking engagements, all of which they set up.  It’s possible to be very pro-active in doing your own publicity these days, and it’s up to each author to decide how far to go.  I don’t tweet, for instance, though many authors do.

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go?

Kim: I think we’re in a time of tremendous change, as significant as the invention of the printing press.  We’re in the middle of this change, so it’s hard to see what the future holds exactly.  I hope there will always be books and bookstores, because I love holding a book in my hand.  Those commercials with children climbing trees with their kindles make me laugh—you can’t charge a kindle in a tree, and if it falls it’s not going to have as soft a landing as a paperback.

All the same, e-books are a reality and fast gaining market share.  I sometimes read them while I’m traveling or on vacation.  I’m trying to stay well-educated and open in a rapidly changing world.

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Kim Edwards is the author of The Secrets of a Fire King, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, which spent 122 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her new novel, The Lake of Dreams, an Independent Booksellers pick, has already been published in sixteen countries and has been a best seller in the USA, Canada, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and India.

Find more about Kim on her website www.kimedwardsbooks.com









Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Donna Koppelman

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 




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Children's writer Donna Koppelman on working for hire


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what was your next step?

Donna: Actually, my path was a little different in that I didn’t write the book until someone asked me to.  After I wrote ISABEL, a book to be used as bibliotherapy in our region after the trauma of Hurricane Isabel, I was invited to do a book signing in Asheville.  Unbeknownst to me, Hurricane Isabel had not only had a massive impact on our coastal region, it had provoked major flooding in the mountains.  We have great friends in Asheville, so I went.

As a result of that book signing, I became acquainted with a person on staff at the Grove Park Inn.  They had been tossing around the idea of doing a children’s book based on a true story (one of the Roosevelt children had lost a teddy bear, Major Bear, in the Grove Park Inn and it wasn’t found for many years).   I said I would love to put together a proposal, and off it went.

Long story short, I had a series of brainstorming sessions with the board and CEO, and then I wrote the book.  It went through a series of changes, edits, etc. for about five months  until everyone was happy.  The illustrations were beautifully done by the same friend and artist who had illustrated ISABEL.  Her editing process was similar to mine.

Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication?

Donna: I don’t quite remember, but I think it was about a year.  Maybe a little less.

Jody: Did you have an agent?

Donna: When we were in the process of the proposal, etc., one of the people making the decision knew my friend, who is a local dentist.  She put in a good word, so I called her my agent.  But no, I didn’t have an actual agent at the time.

Jody: Explain a little about your book deal.

Donna: When we were in the proposal process, I wrote up two possibilities.  In one scenario, the illustrator and I got a cut of everything forever.  In the second scenario, they paid us very well up front, and we released the rights.  (Except the illustrator sold each of her originals and their rights individually later)


Grove Park Inn used their graphic design team to design the lay-out of the book, and they did a great job.  They had a giant costume made (by same people that make Disney costumes) of the main character, and they have a ‘room’ in the inn that is Major Bear’s room that children can visit.   Children’s menu items correspond with Major Bear.

Jody: And that book is still being sold in the Grove Park Inn gift shop?

Donna: Yes, and they sell coloring books, stuffed bears of various sizes, pencils, t-shirts, tote bags, you name it.  Also, every year at Christmas, Major Bear hosts a family Christmas party at the Grove Park Inn.  Sometimes I come and do a reading of the book and sign books for people, but I was only obligated to do it the first year.  Any additional times, they have paid me and given me a room at the Grove Park Inn during my stay.  If you have ever been to the Grove Park Inn, you understand that it was a treat to go there and work.  It’s a gorgeous place.

Jody: That sounds like a nice deal--how it came together for you, and then, the perks, like getting to stay at the inn. What's next for you, as far as publication?

Donna: I enjoyed this project very much, but I still aim to go the traditional route with my picture books.  That experience was unique (and profitable), but I haven’t sought out other opportunities to do the same thing.  (Although maybe I should. I know that Grove Park Inn has sold thousands of those books...

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Donna Koppelman's stories have appeared in Pockets and Shine Brightly. She has a masters in Education and is presently working on an MFA in Children's Fiction at Hamline University.

You can find Donna on her blog ChitChat
And check out Isabel on Amazon
and Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn here










Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Shannon Hitchcock

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 



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Children's author Shannon Hitchcock on finding success with a new publishing model


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?


Shannon: When I first started out, I had this vague notion that I wanted to write a children’s book, but I didn’t really know what that entailed. After two years of subbing picture book manuscripts and accumulating a pile of rejections, I took a correspondence class through the Institute of Children’s Literature. My instructor at ICL suggested I join the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Through SCBWI and ICL, I gained a wealth of knowledge.

It took me about ten years of working on craft before I was offered a publishing contract. In hindsight, it didn’t have to take that long, but in the beginning; I didn’t realize how much hard work goes into a publishable manuscript. Because I underestimated how stiff the competition is, I didn’t work nearly hard enough.

Jody: That's a lot of work behind the scenes and leading up to writing a publishable book. Was it smooth sailing from that point on?

Shannon: Not exactly. I started work on The Ballad of Jessie Pearl in late 2009 and completed the first draft in about six months. Many drafts later, I acquired an agent, but she couldn’t sell the manuscript. Most of the feedback we received went something like this: “My main concern is that this is straight historical fiction which is a really tough sale in the marketplace right now.” Being a bit stubborn, I didn’t give up. Instead I took my novel to a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop.

For those unfamiliar, at a “Whole Novel Workshop,” an editor reads and evaluates your novel in its entirety. Industry veteran, Stephen Roxburgh, who had recently started namelos, a small, independent publishing company, critiqued my novel. He expressed interest in publishing it, and after two rounds of revisions on spec, we signed a contract. The Ballad of Jessie Pearl was published on February 1, 2013.


Jody: You mentioned your agent. How did you find her? What does she do for you?

Shannon: I got an agent the traditional way by sending out query letters, but when my prior agent resigned, Deborah Warren, at the same agency, East/West Literary, inherited my manuscripts. Deborah subs my manuscripts to the editors she deems most appropriate, follows up with those editors, and negotiates contracts on my behalf.

Jody: What does a book deal look like with a small, independent publishing company like namelos?

Shannon: I will call my publishing deal a hybrid. It’s not quite traditional, and it’s a long way from self-published. My publisher does not pay an advance, but he does pay for all publishing costs. I have a 50/50 royalty split arrangement. My book went through multiple rounds of edits, copyedits, was professionally designed, and The Ballad of Jessie Pearl was submitted for professional reviews to all the major review journals. You can read the resumes of the people who worked on my book here.

Jody: Are you required to do a lot of your own marketing and promotion?

Shannon: The marketing strategy at namelos is to sub the books they publish for professional reviews and awards. They printed 150 copies of The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, and Nancy Hogan, head of publicity and foreign rights, sent them to the appropriate people. I have not been required by namelos to do any marketing, but they are appreciative of what I have done on my own. Basically I updated my website, had a book trailer made, and a Curriculum Guide for teachers. You can view all of those things at my website. 

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Shannon: The publishing industry is in a state of flux. Bookstore closings, which mean less shelf space, aren’t good for anybody. I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball and know how it will all shake out. Still, it’s a good time to be an author because there are more publishing options than ever before.


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Shannon Hitchcock's stories have appeared in Highlights for Children, Ask, and Cricket magazines. Richard Peck, Newbery Award-winning author, shared this high praise about The Ballad of Jessie Pearl: "With the poetry of plain speaking, Shannon Hitchcock recreates the daily drama of a vanished world."

You can find more about Shannon at www.shannonhitchcock.com 










Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 




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YA author Jennifer Salvato Doktorski on finding an agent and joining a professional organization


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what were your next steps?

Jen: When I knew I wanted to write for children and teens, I did a little online research about children’s publishing and that quickly led me to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I joined the New Jersey chapter of SCBWI and began attending their wonderful conferences, which offered would-be authors like me the opportunity to get my manuscript critiqued by agents, editors, and other aspiring authors.

I met three writers I really connected with at one of the first conferences I attended in Princeton, NJ. Though we lived in different states, we kept in touch and eventually formed an online critique group. Their input was invaluable in helping me to shape those early drafts.

Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication? Was all this wrinkle free? Or were there setbacks along the way?

Jen: It took approximately five years from finished draft to publication and “no” this process was not wrinkle free, but it was worth it! The first novel I wrote was acquired by an editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. One year into the revision process with that editor, she left Henry Holt for another publishing house. Thankfully her boss wound up taking on my book, but the change in editors delayed my publication date for more than a year.

Jody: Yikes! That is a wrinkle! But I'm assuming you had an agent to help you navigate?

Jen: Yes, I have an agent. I would seriously recommend that anyone with a finished, polished manuscript, who is seeking to publish through the traditional route, should focus first on finding an agent. I’m represented by the amazing Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg LLC. I began my search for an agent by querying agents who attended the NJ SCBWI conferences I attended. In 2009 I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature (RUCCL). 

Jody: I've heard of that Rutgers program and you aren't the only writer I've interviewed who's attended it. Tell me a little more about it.

Jen: Well, it's an amazing annual conference that offers writers who get accepted a one-on-one critique with an agent or editor mentor. I did not get paired with my agent that day, but she was one of the mentors at the conference. After the conference, attendees are given a certain amount of time to query the agents and editors who attend RUCCL. After reading her bio, I realized that my manuscript seemed to match her tastes. I queried her, she requested my full manuscript, and she signed me shortly thereafter. Three months later, she sold my first young adult novel!


Jody: What exactly does your agent do for you (besides sell a manuscript in 3 months!)?

Jen: What doesn’t Kerry do for me? She reads my manuscripts, even when they’re in that icky first-draft stage, offers me editorial guidance and advice, helps me whip my pages into shape, and submits my finished manuscripts to editors. She answers my questions about contracts, the publishing process, marketing, you name it! And sometimes, when edits or reviews get me down, she has to talk me down from the ledge. I recently sent her a mug that says “1/2 Literary Agent, 1/2 Rock Star.” That about says it all.

To date she has sold both my novels which were recently published. How My Summer Went Up in Flames was published by Simon Pulse on May 7, 2013 and Famous Last Words will be published by Christy Ottaviano Books, a division of Henry Holt Book for Young Readers on July 2, 2013. Kerry made me a published author. What more could I ask for?


Jody: Two book releases in one year is awesome. What's the back story of those two deals?

Jen: For both books, I received an advance. Each time, half the advance was paid when I signed the contract, the other half was paid when the edited manuscript was delivered and accepted by my editors. Hopefully sales of both books will be healthy enough to “earn out” those advances (i.e. pay back, sort of) at which point I will begin earning a royalty on the sales.

Jody: And you had revision work to do on those two books.

Jen: Right. At some point after the initial sale of my books, I, like most authors, received an editorial letter from my editors. These letters are often quite lengthy and can address any number of suggested edits, from character, to language, to plot and pacing. The letter may include big picture ideas as well as more specific line edits. Some editors may require one or two rounds of these types of edits before moving on to copy-editing. Somewhere between the copy-editing and proofreading phase, writers will received a set of first pass pages. Those pages get several pairs of eyes including yours and your editor’s.

Editors read and re-read your manuscript many, many times between acquisition and publication. As a writer, I came to understand just how deeply an editor needs to fall in love with your work in order to consider acquiring it.

The first pass pages are used to produce a galleys or advanced reader copies (“ARC”) of the book. Galleys sometimes look pretty close to what the finished book will look like. Sometimes, the cover and interior pages get re-designed. Publishers send ARCs to bloggers, librarians, etc.-- key people who offer early reviews and help get the word out about your book. Of course I, like many authors, took on some of these responsibilities too. It’s in your best interest to make connections with fans of the type of book you’re working on.

Jody: What other marketing and publicity stuff have you been doing?

Jen: I contacted my local newspapers, my alumni magazine and college newspaper, and regional magazines trying to get the word out. I dropped off ARCs at local independent bookstores, which resulted in scheduled appearances at two of them. One of the bookstores will be putting me in touch with a local radio station for an interview. I also cobbled together a mini-blog tour by reaching out to YA bloggers I had connected with both in the US and abroad. I ordered several thousand bookmarks, which I dropped off at local and school libraries and mailed to bloggers, librarians, reviewers and anyone else who request them. I continue to use social media to get the word out and try my best to keep the information fresh.

Jody: That sounds like a lot to do, and all of it multiplied times 2. Do you ever see yourself going the self-publishing route?

Jen: I'm not sure. I would never rule it out. But one of the biggest benefits of publishing traditionally is in the quality of the product. Both my editors pushed me to elevate my manuscript to a higher level. After going through the rounds of editing I described above, I knew my book was much better than if I had published it on my own. That being said, I think for those who do go the self-publishing route, there are many reputable editorial consultants and freelance copy editors out there who could help you polish your manuscript before you send it out into the world.


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Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is a freelance writer who has written articles and essays for national publications including, Cosmopolitan. Her debut young adult novel, How My Summer Went Up in Flames, called "A great ride,” by Booklist, is out now. Famous Last Words, a YA novel about a teen obit writer, will be published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in July 2013.

You can learn more about Jen on her website www.jendoktorski.com 




Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pathways to Publication: Interview with Leigh Ann Kopans

Have a manuscript you think might be worthy of publication and not sure what to do next? Maybe you're wondering if you need an agent and how to go about finding one. Or you're confused about what kind of money is involved--does someone pay YOU or do you have to sink some of your own savings into this venture? What does an editor do? Will you have to market this book yourself?

Last month I wrote about my first feeble attempt at publishing a book. Now I'm interviewing other writers on their SUCCESSFUL pathways to publication--from self-published to traditional, debut writers to a writer who's published 130 books, and everything in between. 




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YA writer Leigh Ann Kopans on the pros and cons of self-publishing


Jody: You wrote a book that you felt was worthy of publication, what was your next step?

Leigh Ann: I wrote One and revised it twice with critique partners, signed with an agent for it, and went on one round of submission with it (all passes.) The passes from editors were widely varied, meaning that if I was going to revise the book I’d have to “revise blind” – change a large aspect of the book without knowing whether I was changing the RIGHT aspect.

I had no idea why editors didn’t like One, but I did know that almost everyone who had read it raved over it – including my agent. I took it as a sign that the book was solid, just not a good fit for a big house. I decided I could publish it myself, and make it just as awesome as it would have been coming from any of them.


Jody: How long did it take from finished book to publication?

Leigh Ann: About one year and nine months.

Jody: You mentioned that you signed with an agent.

Leigh Ann: Yes, I did sign with an agent for One, but I chose to end our contract when she made it clear that she was not interested in being an agent to a non-traditionally publishing client.

Jody: I'm interested in how self-publishing works--how it's different from traditional and what aspects are similar. Let's start with the money... Were there any upfront costs?

Leigh Ann: Ooooh, the money question! I’m so glad you asked! I hired/enlisted LOTS of people to help with the production of One (three of the following graciously offered their services free of charge. I paid everyone else.) Here’s the lineup I had: Line editor, copy editor, proofreader, cover designer, e-formatter, 3 marketing artists, book trailer designer, and publicist.

Jody: So, basically what a traditional house would provide. I guess some writers might try to handle some of these things themselves, but you hired people to do it. And I must tell you here that your book cover is stunning.

Leigh Ann: Thanks. Yes, I knew the importance of hiring people. Luckily, I had a mentor (Trisha Leigh) who had done the whole thing already and was around to give me a heads up as to the professionals I would need (all those listed above) and those I could get along without (a print formatter and distribution service, for instance- I could do those things myself.)

So, once I have all the files (print and digital) perfectly polished, I just upload them to wherever I want to sell them, and to my print-on-demand platform.  That’s about it!

My total to hire all these professionals, plus anti-piracy services, and printing and shipping paper ARCs and other marketing materials, was just over $2000. (Yes, two thousand dollars.)

Jody: That sounds reasonable. And you seem happy about your decision to strike out on your own.

Leigh Ann: I am. The benefits of taking the indie route all boil down to one thing, to me – control. I can make the decisions as to what is best for my book, and implement those as I see fit. I can set my own budget, release dates, and prices. I can do whatever I want in terms of marketing - For instance, I ordered an initial run of 30 ARCs. When I ran out of those, I just printed some more.

I recruited a pretty large street team, and I could also really think outside the box in terms of teasers and giveaways. Artistically, I could edit (or not) as I wanted, and I had a VERY heavy hand in how the cover turned out.

Most importantly, at least for me, is that I can write whatever I want next. If I want to do a sequel, or a spin off, or three novellas all in the same universe, I can – with every intention of those being published, too. The Indie route has done wonders for my creativity and enthusiasm, because I’m writing what I want to write, not what I think has the best chance of selling.

I want to mention that I've been doing a Publishing 101 series too on my blog. Here's a link if readers are interested in learning more details about the self-publishing process.

Jody: Any thoughts on the future of publishing or what's going in the industry, as far as mergers, e-books, bookstore closings, etc., go? Do you see any of these issues as affecting you now, or in the future?

Leigh Ann: Oh, gosh. The only things I know are the things I hear anecdotally, but I do get the impression that fewer books are selling traditionally and more are finding success through self publishing than ever before. For my part, I don’t see myself ever pursuing traditional publishing again. There’s so much about not asking anyone’s permission to do something and so much potential for success that I’m very, very happy with my decision.

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Leigh Ann Kopans lives in Columbus, Ohio and is a rabbi at The Ohio State University. Her debut YA novel One, forthcoming June 11, is about a girl with only half a superpower, the boy who makes her fly, and her struggle to make herself whole.

You can find out more about Leigh Ann on her website www.LeighAnnKopans.com