Categories
Writing Life

How a manuscript becomes a book (Traditional Publishing Edition)

How a manuscript becomes a book by Robert Batten is a refresh of one originally posted on robertbatten.net late last year.

September marks the beginning of Spring in my home state, and the arrival of the Tasmanian Writers’ Festival. Last year, I was lucky enough to score a place in a masterclass on publishing for authors, run by Bradley Trevor Greive. If you don’t know the name, he’s the world’s best-selling humorist, having published 24 books and sold more than 30m copies in over 115 territories. That’s a lot of books — if anyone could help me understand the publishing industry better (and how to get my books into the world) it’s him. So I turned to him to clarify for myself, exactly how a manuscript becomes a book.

The session did not disappoint. My debut novel has been picked up by a publisher, but it got there through a fairly non-standard path, leaving me clueless about the traditional process. I still have a huge amount to learn, but I know a lot more than I did before the session.

The great news is BTG is a wonderful person who gave me permission to share his most useful tips on my blog, so here we are. Absolutely all credit goes to Mr. Greive, who not only shared this content, but was generous to donate his time at the festival so the proceeds could go towards the local writing community.

Note: the following has been written by me from the notes I took during the session, it isn’t an exact reproduction of BTG’s words (nor the entire course). I feel the need to point this out so you understand: a) any genius here is all his; and b) anything that doesn’t make sense, or is plain wrong, is my error.

Further note: if you ever get the opportunity to attend a masterclass with BTG — I strongly recommend doing so.

Yet another note: this post is entirely concerned with understanding the traditional publishing process. It doesn’t look at self-publishing or any other model, but that isn’t a judgment on non-traditional publishing.

Without further prevarication, I give you the most important tips and takeaways from the session (according to me).

Be a pack

“There is no such thing as a lone wolf.” I’m paraphrasing BTG here as I can’t remember the exact words, but the message is important (and mirrors my experience); making a book is a team effort. Even if you write a perfect manuscript, there are a myriad of tasks that must be done to make it a successful book. Self-published authors take on many of the activities usually handled by a publisher, but even there, the most successful usually rely on others for at least part of the process. So, if you accept you need to work with a team, it behooves you to know who they are…

When I started this process, I had little idea how the publishing process worked, nor how publishing houses were structured. Here are the basic departments:

  • Editorial: your editor, editor’s assistant/reader, publisher, etc. all live here.
  • Design: responsible for the visual design work. The level of exposure and author will have to this department depends on the nature of the work. A novel will typically be mainly about the cover whereas a children’s picture book will be much more involved.
  • Production: these are the people who actually print the book.
  • Distribution: gets your book to warehouses and retailers.
  • Marketing / Publicity: self-explanatory.
  • Legal: handle your contracts, ensure you stick to it, and protect it in different regions.
  • Finance: handle and pay royalties.

There are a range of publishers out there, both large and small. Don’t be surprised if smaller publishers, in particular, outsource some of the above.

Publishers are people, not companies

This is important, and will be mentioned again later. There are two parts to this:

  1. Terminology: a Publisher is a company that publishes books. However, a Publisher is also the title of a senior member of the editorial department.
  2. Strategy: people decide who they want to publish. You need to win over an editor and a publisher (the person) before you get near the publishing board. Every single one has their own tastes and personalities. Within a single publishing house, one editor may dislike your work whilst another loves it. Always remember you are working with people.

Know the steps

This was an eye-opener for me. The process from submission to book publishing in a traditional publisher is likely longer than you thought. Here’s what the process may look like:

  1. You send in your submission.
  2. Submission goes to a reader. This may be an assistant editor, the reception staff, or a volunteer. If the reader likes your submission, they pass it to an editor.
  3. If the editor also likes it they’ll make contact and probably ask for more.
  4. If the editor still likes it, they take the book to their publisher (the person).
  5. If the publisher likes it, they may choose to take it to the publishing board. Note the “may” here — the publishing board is competitive, so if the publisher has multiple “good” manuscripts from their editors, they may only take the one they think has the best chance of succeeding at the time.
  6. The publishing board is made up of the publishers (7-10), plus advisors from other departments (marketing, finance, legal). Each publisher competes against the others, arguing why their book is the one that should be published using the limited funds available in the budget.
  7. If the publishing board decides to go ahead with your book, you receive an offer which you / your agent / your lawyer negotiate and accept.
  8. Editing happens. You forget what the outside world is like, rewriting over and over again, until finally…
  9. 3-18 months later your book is published.

Timing

How long each step of the process takes can vary greatly, but here are some rough guides to set expectations:

  • Submission: 4-8 weeks.
  • Offer: Up to 12 weeks.
  • Contract Process: 2-4 months.
  • Editing / Rewrites: 3 months – 2 years.
  • Production: 3 – 9 months.
  • Publication: 9 months – 2 years. Note: there’s usually a clause in the contract which provides a window of time the publisher has to release the book before you can keep the advance and go elsewhere.

Strategy

There’s a heap to unpack here — people have written numerous books on this alone, so again, these are only the top tips I came away with. First up, your overarching strategy:

  • Understand your motivation. Know what’s important to you.
  • Understand the process (above).
  • Know who you are speaking to (the reader, the editor, the publisher, the publisher’s board). You need to keep each of those people in mind when crafting your submission.
  • Give them what they need to succeed. Understand the process and write your proposal to support each step. Make it as easy as possible for the publisher to prepare their argument for the publishing board (i.e. write it for them).
  • Don’t waste their time. Include everything they need, nothing they don’t. Your submission is one of thousands, if yours is too hard they’ll move on to the next.

Be a sniper

Sending out your manuscript to every publishing house you can find like the wild spray of a machine gun is considered unprofessional and can burn bridges. If you want to go down the traditional publishing route, you are looking to build long-term relationships. Do your research, select your target, hunt them down, one by one. No simultaneous submissions.

Remember, publishers are people, not companies. Finding the right editor/publisher is much more important than the imprint they work for, so do your research, build a hit list of editors you would love to work with, and approach them specifically — regardless of which imprint they work for, even if some work at the same publisher.

How do you identify the editors you want to work with? Research your favorite contemporary books from a relevant genre. Who were the editors? Often, the author thanks them in the acknowledgments, so check there first, but the internet is a vast and beautiful resource. Build up your list, identifying the publishing house they’re currently at (for contact details, and to ensure you obey the submission guidelines). When you submit your proposal to them, don’t forget to include why you want to work with them.

Build relationships

As an author, your relationship with your editor (and agent) is the most important professional relationship you will have. Pick these people carefully and treat them with respect. Which brings us to a very important rule: “Never sign on with an agent/ editor/publisher whom you wouldn’t invite home to dinner.”

Hold on to your rights

The big publishers have broad capabilities across multiple regions, but in many cases, your offers will come from publishers who operate in a specific country (or a small number of countries). They may ask you for global publishing rights, but you should be hesitant to grant this. Generally (rule of thumb here), you are better to only sell the rights to publish your book in the regions they operate. Why?

  1. Capability: a US publisher is equipped to produce and sell your book in the USA. But if they have no presence or network in Australia, how can they push your book? An Australian publisher will be better equipped to get your book on shelves in Australia.
  2. Distribution: the publisher will typically have distribution channels optimized for their region. Take the previous example once more: your US publisher may work with major distributors such as Baker and Taylor or Ingram, who distribute to Australian bookstores, so there’s no barrier to Australian bookstores ordering your book. Or is there? Bookstores have arrangements with distributors that if they can’ sell all the books they order, they can return the unsold copies. This allows bookstores to take a chance on new authors. Basically, all Australian bookstores will have accounts with US distributors like Ingrams, but the hidden catch is they can’t / won’t return unsold stock due to the shipping costs. This means they’ll be much more conservative about ordering copies of these books compared to a book with an Australian distributor.
  3. Income: sell your manuscript to a single publisher and give them global rights and you get one advance. However, if you sell to a US publisher and only grant them the US rights, you’re free to then sell it to a UK publisher and get a second advance, then to an Australian publisher for a third advance, and so on.

That’s it for now. The session covered a lot more, including detailed tips and guidance on how to structure and write a proposal and what to watch for in publishing contracts. Again, I want to acknowledge and thank Bradley Trevor Greive for donating his time to the Tasmanian Writers’ Festival, and for giving me permission to share my takeaways. Buy his books, and if you get a chance take one of his master classes

Read More by Robert Batten

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Author Interview

Interview with Author Jason Pomerance

(Read through to the bottom, where there is a link to a free novella by Jason Pomerance!)

There’s a novel out now called “Women Like Us,” and it deserves your attention. It is a wonderful tale of a broken family picking up the pieces, trying to find compromise amidst dysfunction. Each character is wonderfully crafted, and the tale itself will move you to laughter as well as tears. The novel first caught my eye on inkshares.com, as its prose is honest, emotional, and flowing. I was caught up in the story immediately, and when I finally received my copy last month, the book did not disappoint.

“Women Like Us” is the debut novel of Jason Pomerance, who is no stranger to storytelling, being an author of screenplays (as well as a filmmaker). He was kind enough to grant me an interview, and I hope you enjoy getting to know this emerging author.

jasonheadshotBW-2.jpg
Jason Pomerance, author CREDITED BY: Steven Murashige

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jason.

I’m just your typical writer/reader/food-obsessed sometime chef and surfer (although I’m a much better surfer in my head than I am in reality. In reality I sort of suck at catching waves. But I just keep at it!).

What was the inspiration for Women Like Us?

I’m a huge fan of road trip stories. Maybe because there’s such great potential for transformation. There’s just something about being on the road that seems to have meaning in terms of growth and change for characters. So the original inspiration was to do a story about a mother and son on the road. In fact it started out as a screenplay, but the more I wrote an outline version the more it was feeling more like a piece of fiction so I just kept going.

How long did the novel take to write/what is your writing process like?

It’s hard to say exactly how long because I didn’t sit down and write it start to finish all at once. I’d pick it up, but then be pulled onto some other project and I’d go back to it when I’d get the chance. My process is not to outline too much or think too much about it ahead, but just let it flow. In fact I have to say on this book, the characters totally took me by surprise.

Edith Vale, for example, is the character who many people say stands out the most, but she started out as just a minor player. Then she sort of took on a life of her own and the plot diverged from where I thought it was going — so it became not just about mother and son but also about mother and slightly demented mother-in-law! I have to say also Mrs. Vale sort of came to life fully formed — I’m not sure what I was channeling but it was very clear early one who she was and what she was about.

Are there any autobiographical elements to the novel?

I think there’s always a part of us in whatever we write, so I’d say yes, for sure. Susan, for example, is a chef, and although I’ve never worked in a restaurant kitchen, cooking is big part of my life. There’s a little bit of surfing in the book and, like I said, I try to surf as best as I can. Like Edith Vale, I enjoy the occasional Manhattan (well, for her it’s pretty much nightly) and like Edith I can be a little persnickety about the way I think things should be done!

Do you have any advice for other authors and artists?

This might sound a little cliched but just follow your gut and follow your voice. There’s always going to be plenty of people telling you that you can’t do something, or you’re doing it wrong but if you believe in what you’re writing (or whatever you’re working on, if it’s some other art form) it doesn’t matter. The nay-saying is just noise. Also, never quit. Never give up. Just find a way to forge ahead no matter what because in the end it will pay off.

Like with Women Like Us. There were points I never thought this book would see the light of day, but now I can hold the book in my hand, which is such a great thing. I’ve seen it on the shelf in a couple of local bookstores and I see people writing reviews of it on Amazon. It’s all very gratifying but if I’d listened to the doubters it never would have happened.

Do you have any other stories or projects you are currently working on that you’d like us to know about?

Yes. I’m trying to get to the finish line on another novel. CELIA ON THE VERGE might fall more into chick-lit territory (for some that’s a good thing, for some not so much!). It’s about a woman who thought she had her whole future planned out but everything becomes upended when a package arrives in her mailbox 40 years late! When Celia tries to complete the delivery to its rightful recipient, many complications ensue!!

You are a filmmaker as well. Tell us a little more about your work in film.

I’d hesitate to say filmmaker because I’d reserve that for directors and I’ve never really felt the pull to direct. But I’ve been a Writers’ Guild-card carrying member of the movie business for a long time. I’ve sold a couple of pilots on the TV end, and worked and many studio projects. But it’s always tough seeing anything through to its final form — kind of like the book business but maybe even tougher because as a writer you have very little control.

I am a co-producer of a project that’s been a passion — it’s my screen adaptation of Charles Dickinson’s novel THE WIDOWS’ ADVENTURES, which until recently was set up with Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda attached to star. I fell in love with this book from page one, and somehow I am determined that the movie will come together at some point. It’s another crazy road-trip story, which makes sense because as I said I love them, but in this story, the one who does the driving on a cross-country journey is blind while her beer-swilling sister gives direction (they only drive on backroads in the dead of night and very, very slowly!).

The book, by the way, is available on Amazon in both physical and eBook versions — Anybody who likes road trip stories should check it out, or one of Charles’ other novels. He’s an extremely talented writer.

You are donating a portion of your profits to the Beagle Freedom Project. Tell us about the charity and what inspired you to work with them.

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the Beagle Freedom Project, but we already had one beagle when I heard about the work they do — I had no idea beagles were even used for medical and cosmetics tests, and what The Beagle Freedom Project does is negotiate with the labs to get them released when the labs are done with them. Whether or not you are for or against animal testing, I don’t think anybody could condone what most labs do, which is euthanize the dogs (or other animals — BFP also works to free cats, rabbits, pigs and other animals).

Anyway, we signed up to foster and then adopt one of these dogs. Derric was part of a group called the Midwest 10!! He’d been in a lab for the first five years of his life. These poor guys have spent their lives in cages and don’t know how to do anything (never really even been outdoors) but he’s been a joy to have and I can’t imagine life without him! During the pre-order phase of Women Like Us, I did a couple of contests that were connected to a Beagle Freedom Project donation, so I just decided I’d continue it as a thank you, because there are a lot of supporters of the group, and they were very supportive of Women Like Us. Their link, by the way, is http://bfp.org

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Jason at home with his happy beagle, Derric

 

Related Links:

To view and buy “Women Like Us” on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Like-Us-Jason-Pomerance/dp/1942645104/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472761204&sr=8-1

The “Women Like Us” page on GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30007119-women-like-us

Jason Pomerance’s Website:

http://www.jasonpomerance.com

Jason also has a FREE four-part novella called “Falconer”, which you can read here: 

http://hollywooddementia.com/author/jason-pomerance/

 

Post originally appeared in Renderosity Magazine, 09/13/16

Categories
Writing Life

YOU are NOT an impostor! How to destroy Writer’s Impostor Syndrome!

We’ve all been there…Writer’s Impostor Syndrome is real…

You’ve worked hard to achieve what you have to this point as a writer/author. Whether you are just finishing your first draft, manuscript, or you’ve already published dozens of books, you’ve felt it. It lingers in the back of your mind, and on your best days, you ignore it. With your shield in hand, you fend off the attacks of self-doubt, hyper-criticism, and feelings of fraudulence. Those days feel good. They feel really good. But as it is true in every other walk of life, the writer’s life has a sinister parasite that attacks us when we are down. It has a name. 

Writer's Impostor Syndrome

Turns out just about everyone on the planet has felt this way…

Fledgling writers and seasoned vets feel the same crushing self-doubt, and quite a few have shared their views on this phenomenon. In fact, a quick google search of Impostor Syndrome in writers will show you that greats like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Maya Angelou have spoken out on the subject. The reason I am writing this blog today is that it is an issue that I struggle with. While this article may be cathartic to me, I also hope that what I present can help you if you feel the same weight. There are a ton of perspectives out there, and although this blog is targeted at writers, I think something has been missed.

It’s not a writer’s problem, it is a human problem…

Sometimes as writers we get so wrapped up in our words, and more aptly our label as wordsmiths that we forget that we were first human. Doubt is a human experience, and it is one of the best teachers we have available. It lets us know when we have something to work on, and we have plenty to improve on as writers. It springs from fear. Fear keeps us alive in some cases and cripples us in others. If we take it further, we realize that doubt in itself a mental state, and as such, it can be changed. The best part is that it can be changed, even if it can sometimes feel like it weighs a thousand pounds. To help get a grip on how it comes about I want to ask you three questions.

1. Why do you write?

2. Who gave you permission?

3. Who can take it away from you?

If you’ve answered honestly then you are on track to finding your sword in this battle against doubt. Just for fun, I have put my answers here in case you’ve struggled to answer for yourself.

Why do I write?

I write because it is in my blood. Not in so much as I come from a family of writers, in fact, no one in my immediate living family has published to my knowledge. What I mean is, doubt is a human experience. The same is true about storytelling. I am keen on telling people that I am a storyteller first and a writer second. The reason is that writing is the sacred vehicle for the relation of information that we as humans want to share with others. When we write, all we are trying to do is to tell a story. To share an experience that we have had. I know that when I write, whether it be blogs, fiction, or poetry it is because I want someone else to experience the ethereal worlds that I have. I write because it is in my nature, and I am sure it is no different for you. Of course, there is the aspect of fame and fortune. Who doesn’t want that? But if you are truly looking deep enough you will see that the drive comes from a more primitive, magical place than being monetarily rewarded or critically lauded.

Who gave me permission?

Now logically we can think about answering this question by taking a pragmatic approach. Your readers did right? The people who pay for you to keep writing. Self-published authors or even “aspiring authors”, more on why I despise that term in a moment, are more conflicted by Impostor Syndrome than traditionally published authors. It seems obvious because we require more validation to make us “feel” like we are writers or authors. This entire subject is about feeling. Whether or not we feel like we are true, successfully writers. I want to stop you right there and go over two things that are massively important, at least in my own life philosophy.

1: As long as you call yourself an “aspiring” author, you will always be just that.

2: Validation is good but unnecessary

3: What you “feel” directly impacts what happens externally

Now that may sound like a bunch of new-age hippie dippy crap, but I am here to tell you it is true in more than one way. If you go back to our previous point that doubt is a mental state, one that can be changed quickly and easily then you have to know that by enacting the reversal or the anti-thesis will provide a shift in the mental state. For instance, the “aspiring author” label. It limits our possibilities by creating a mental state that we have not yet achieved our goal, which in the beginning was to write. Now it may have become inflated over time to include other things like being a “best-selling author” or being “critically-acclaimed”, that is fine. But it overshadows the original goal, the building block of your success. To simply write! Everyone who has ever achieved something knows this truth, that bigger goals are only met by achieving smaller goals. When we achieve the smaller goals the bigger goals begin to crumble in front of you. The most productive and successful people in the world have told us this for time immemorial. As writers we know that you cannot write a book without writing chapters, chapters without writing paragraphs, paragraphs without writing sentences, sentences without writing words. If you were looking for validation, then you have it. You’ve written something. If you have done any of the aforementioned things then I want you to take a second and think about something.

Picture

NOW…Not Later, Not in a few years, NOW

Take that and chew on it for a minute. Really dig deep, think about it, congratulate yourself, and feel it. Feeling it is the most important part. When you feel the gooey internal goodness of finishing a great sentence, or paragraph, or chapter it leads to the creation of a good feeling book. This is how you crash through feeling like an impostor. How and Why? Because you are achieving the smaller goals. Because you are matching your internal reality with your external reality, and when you do that you can dramatically increase your output in writing. When you dramatically increase your output, not only in quantity but in quality then you set upon achieving the secondary goals like getting on a best-seller list. Now you have more validation, and the good “feeling” keeps on rolling in. 

Then something really special happens… A realization and an answer to two of the questions I asked you to ask yourself.

Christopher Lee, on writing and Writer's Impostor Syndrome

Now I know it sounds easy. It is and it is not!

It is a constant battle, but you can win!

Once you’ve shifted that mental state and gotten yourself back on track, writing yourself into your goals of being a critically acclaimed, best-seller, becomes a reality. You will begin to “feel” good. But wait, self-doubt and its ally Impostor Syndrome are durable demons. They will come back, no matter how much validation you have received, and they will come back when you have let your guard down. 

So What Do You Do When Writer’s Impostor Syndrome Strikes?

There are a great many ways to dig yourself out of the doldrums of doubt, but I have gathered a few quick tips to help you on your way. The first step though is identifying the problem. Because of its nature doubt is also a sneaky little bastard. Often times we will identify a different problem when doubt is the real culprit. Example: I have writer’s block. I don’t feel motivated, etc. So analyzing our situation and determining what is going wrong takes a new level of awareness about our chosen craft. Doubt can disguise itself as procrastination, writer’s block, over-researching, and not hitting our writing goals. If you are experiencing these symptoms then it is possible that doubt is the root cause. If you “feel” that it is, then there are few quick tricks to help you get through it.

1: Talk to other writers/authors and ask them about their experiences and what they did.

Your community of writers, which I hope you are developing daily, is a key resource in this battle. They can help you in many ways, by telling you of their experiences, what they did to get out, and sometimes by validating your work through critique. You need to leverage your fellow wordsmiths from time to time to keep you on track. This is why I always say that your focus on social media should be Good Habits and Good Relationships. The self-publishing community is ripe with helpers, like me, who want to see everyone succeed in telling their stories. So don’t let doubt make you feel like you can’t reach out. I know through my own experience, being afraid to contact an author in an echelon just above me can be terrifying. You think they don’t have the time to bother with a peon like me. Well, it simply isn’t true, some may not have the time, but I know that they will reach out in some way to help. The reason: They have been there themselves, and they know the discomfort you feel. Clearly, they have done something to get over it, that’s how they reached that higher plane. When you see a fellow writer succeed, don’t be afraid to ask them how they did it, or are doing it.

2: Keep Writing by trying another form or work with a different medium altogether.

As I stated earlier, the heart of writing is storytelling, or conveying a meaning, idea, or feeling to another person. When our chosen craft or medium begins to falter, it is good to seek inspiration elsewhere. Remember that this doubt is a representative of fear. That our ideas will not be accepted, or worse that we will not. This stunts our artistic flow, our poetic muse if you will. We tighten up and then start beating our heads against the blank page. We feel trapped and inadequate. It is hell. Remember though that there is a way to move through it. Keep the flow going!

Louis L'Amour on Writer's Impostor Syndrome and Writer's Block

The key thing to remember here is that it doesn’t have to be writing. Other mediums, photography, painting, music, poetry, essays, articles, it doesn’t matter. Get back to basics for a minute and start telling stories again. Fuck the grammar, write free-form, stream of consciousness if you have to. It rocks anyways. Try out a new writing prompt, a new genre, get your feet underneath you again and you will find yourself running soon.

3: For god’s sake go Read, and Read about Writing

Gals, Guys, and everyone in between, I know how hard it is to read. As writers, we have a unique space in the library. We want to belong alongside the greats, we want our stories to be read by the world and because of this drive we often forget the key ingredient that makes our writing better. After all, if we make our writing exceed the standards we held yesterday, and we do this effectively each day with intent we will find ourselves growing beyond what we thought possible. That will bring validation and those good feelings into the equation again.  But how do we improve? By writing, and even more important than writing we must make sure to READ and read voraciously. As Douglas Wilson says in his must-read, Wordsmithy, “Read until your brain creaks. I agree with him, his words have inspired me to fix one of the things that are wrong with my craft.

The simple fact that I do not read enough…

The more you read with intention and joy the better your writing will become. Read the greats, read crap, read comic books, read romance, science fiction, read dictionaries, read etymologies, read quotes, just READ. You will never retain it all, but it will shape you and it will give your voice a reboot. Do this and you will see your voice and style grow. Remember that you never want to mimic your heroes entirely. Remember that most of the ideas in this world have already been spoken about by someone else. What makes your story, your writing unique is how you tell your story. No one in the world can tell the story like you do, your voice is colored by the vast array of experiences you’ve had up until this point in time, and you can leverage that voice. Make it stronger by expanding the experiences and ideas that shape it. READ READ READ!

Stephen King, On Writing. Perspectives on Writer's Impostor Syndrome

4: Reflect on why you are writing in the first place! Journal, Meditate, Get back in Tune!

That last quote brings this final point into closer focus. It sinks us deep into a place of introspection and reflection. This is a practice that is again a human experience first, a writing experience second. Take some time to reflect on why you are pursuing this craft in the first place. Writing is no different than any other craft in that from time to time we lose track of the big WHY? Journaling is a great way to jot down your thoughts about writing, about how you feel, and why you believe you need to be a writer. Meditation is another good way to process the feelings that can get bottlenecked when we face the fraudulent phony disease. After all, in the practice of meditation, we shed the facade that we present to the world. Believe it or not, you do this when you write. Your words, carefully selected and placed in a particular order reveal something about the true you, the deep you, the you that isn’t visible. Writing is meditation, and sometimes meditation can help us through the tougher times. Beyond those two quick exercises, there is one other tip I’d like to share. 

Get UP! Stop staring at this screen!

Get out there in the world. Smell the fresh air, feel the breeze, listen to conversations. Experience. This is one of the most powerful tools in the writer’s toolkit. If you harness the power of your observation not only will you have a better grasp of description, dialogue, and feelings but you will be healthier for it. Go for a walk in the wood. Let nature recharge those batteries. Grab a cup of joe with an old friend and rebuild connections. In my college years a professor I had once said something that has stuck with me throughout the rest of my years. He told us that we were not yet ready to tell stories, because we had not experienced enough of life yet. How could we tell stories about a world we hardly knew? It seemed ridiculous to me, that is what we were paying thousands of dollars in tuition to learn, how could we not be ready? His message was simple. We hadn’t lived enough to effectively embrace the craft. I am now twelve years removed from his classroom and though I feel I have blossomed in many ways, I still think he is right. I need to remind myself daily to step away. Walk, get out, hear sounds, smell smells, talk to people, listen to the world. For we cannot tell stories of this world, or any world if we have no understanding of how it operates.

Take action against the demon of doubt…

In closing this topic I hope that you now realize that you are in fact NOT AN IMPOSTOR! You are not a fraud, You are NOT A PHONY! You are a WRITER and one day if you really go and get it you will be a damn fine wordsmith. Say it and feel it. I AM A WRITER! Go outside and scream it if you have to. Feel the elation that it gives you to embrace the achievement you’ve unlocked. Things will happen if you enact the steps of achieving small goals, balance your internal feelings with your external reality, and work hard at fortifying your position. The best weapons against doubt and Impostor Syndrome are being a well-equipped wordslinger. If you take the steps necessary to address your craft then you have nothing to doubt because you are being the very best writer that you can be. You did that, and you gave yourself permission, and no one can ever take that away from you. Ever. 

I’ll leave you with Neil Gaiman’s view on Impostor Syndrome…

Writer's Impostor Syndrome according to Neil Gaiman
Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Deborah Munro: On writing, science, and merging worlds

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Deborah Munro, author and biomedical engineer. Deborah’s debut novel Apex is currently in production and will likely be released in 2019. Let’s dive right in shall we?

Welcome Deborah! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming book, APEX?

I grew up in rural California in the historic gold mining town of Placerville. I spent much of my childhood outdoors, playing, camping, hiking, and fishing, and my parents were land surveyors, a family business I helped out with from a young age. I developed a strong appreciation for nature, and the animals in it. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 to teach biomedical engineering at a local university, and the beauty of this state quickly won my heart. When I decided to write my novel, APEX, I chose rural Oregon, because the setting was similar to my hometown, but remote enough to support the theme of the book—genetic engineering gone horribly wrong.

Your book APEX deals with genetic engineering. Can you tell me about how the plot has been inspired by your real-life work as a biomedical engineer?

I am an avid reader, and I love science, so when I came across an article about walking stick insects and their extraordinary evolutionary history, I was intrigued. Scientists have discovered that walking sticks have had and lost wings at different points in time. As far as I know, this is the first example of a higher life form re-evolving a significant characteristic after losing it. My mind immediately starting thinking, “What if an animal could re-evolve a characteristic?” and APEX was born.

Science, technology, and innovation are all prominent themes in your book. What is the process like for you when you come up against a subject that isn’t in your wheelhouse?

My mind is like a sponge when it comes to learning about science and technology. I am an inventor myself, and I have almost a dozen patents. Whenever I learn about something new, I’m curious to learn more, and I’ll dive into the research with glee. I’ve read countless journal articles and books about the science in my book, and it was fun for me to do.

One of my goals with my writing is to educate people about science in an entertaining and exciting way. Our future on this planet has many challenges, most of them related to finding a balance between the needs of humans and those of other life forms. APEX explores one of those topics, which is right to life. Do all animals have an equal right to life, even if they were genetically created?

Your book is currently in production and expected to hit shelves in late 2018 or 2019. What have you learned during the editing process?

Everything takes longer than anticipated. My book has gone through an extensive rewrite and only partially resembles the manuscript I originally wrote. I just submitted my third draft to my editor, and I have no idea how much more work will be required to make it my best story possible. I think the key is to be patient and trust the process. My book has a birthdate, but I don’t know what that is yet.

What does your writing routine look like, and do you think there will be more novels in your future?

I’m not a fulltime writer, and my day job also requires a lot of critical thinking and writing, so I find I write in spurts. A week may go by where I’m unable to write on my manuscript at all, but I keep my writing brain active by participating in social media writing prompts, creating blogs, and posting newsletters. I find I make the best progress, however, when I work piecemeal. I set a goal of 1000 words per day, and I often break that up into two or more sessions of just fifteen to twenty minutes. That ends up being an impressive 7000 words a week, and it keeps the story fresh in my mind, so I don’t have to back track and reread before beginning again.

I fully intend to keep writing. I’ve set APEX up to have a sequel if I want, but it’s a standalone novel. I also have another partially completed manuscript that is waggling its eyebrows at me, and I’ve done the research for a third novel that will likely be a romance, but with lots of environmental issues thrown in.

I have a technical book coming out in June on DIY microfabrication. It’s a guidebook on how to collaborate with open-use national laboratories to design and build your own microsensors for use in medical devices, etc. I will be hosting a seminar in Chicago in mid-June, so I’m self-publishing my book to be ready in time for that.

What advice would you share with authors out there working on their first book?

The most shocking thing I’ve learned about becoming an author is that it’s not about your book. Yes, you have to write the book, but the key to success is marketing yourself (not your book) on social media and via email blogs. There are thousands of people out there who would love to read your book, but they don’t know you exist unless you advertise yourself. It is so important to invest your time in building a following several months to a year before you start promoting your book. People need time to get to know you as a person, and you want to become a trusted source of content. So post, post, post about topics in which you have a personal interest. If you’re funny, use it! I’m not, but I have a strong science background and a love of nature, and with that, I have gathered more than 5300 Twitter followers and 8000 newsletter subscribers in just six months.

When I finally get word that my book has been passed on to the copy editor, that’s when I’ll start pushing for pre-orders, but not yet. For now, it’s all about audience building, as I know some percentage of my followers, however large that number ends up being, are going to want to buy my book. The larger the number of pre-orders, the larger the pool of potential reviewers to boost my book’s ranking, and I’ve heard as a general rule of thumb that your book will sell double the number of pre-orders once released.

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If you would like to learn more about Deborah, you can follow her through her website – deborahmunroauthor.com. Her novel, Apex, can be pre-ordered here.

Interview first published on JacquiCastleWrites.com

Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Cari Dubiel: On Writing, Libraries, and Podcasts

Cari Dubiel has been a librarian for twelve years, and currently has her first book, How to Remember (a novel billed as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets What Alice Forgot) in production for a 2019 release. Cari was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

First, I want to say congratulations on receiving a publishing contract for your book, How to Remember. Is How to Remember your debut book?

Yes! I’m so excited to have achieved my crowdfunding goal with Inkshares. I met the goal for the Quill imprint before it was sun-downed.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story and where you drew your inspiration?

The story follows Miranda Underwood, a neuroscientist, and Ben Baker, a computer programmer. Both of them set out to solve their personal mysteries one year apart. Miranda searches for the cause of her amnesia in 2017, while Ben fills in the blanks in 2016. He’s investigating his mother’s suspicious death.

Most of my stories spring from my frequent crazy dreams. I woke up with this idea, and I started to wonder what would happen to someone who found herself with this affliction, especially if she was an introvert who didn’t have many friends. Cut off from her job – with a company that’s complicit in the situation – she has to reach within herself to find inner strength.

What does your daily writing routine look like? Do you always write at the same time each day?

I have two little kids and the schedule of a public librarian (a lot of evenings and weekends). Every day is different! I write at least one chapter a week, about 2500 words. I squeeze the time in when I can get it, either in the mornings before my kids get up or when they’re in bed. Then there’s the rare glorious time when my parents take them for the weekend!

In addition to being an author, you are also a librarian. As someone who is surrounded by her pick of books, who are your favorite authors? Any underappreciated gems that you have stumbled upon?

That is a tough one. I read widely – picking favorite authors would be like picking a favorite child! I’ll highlight a few of my recent favorites, though. I just discovered Tom Sweterlitsch (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) – he writes about bleak, dystopian futures, time travel, alternate universes. He explores the dark heart of humanity, which sounds depressing, but both books illuminate the human spirit as well. I also recently finished a preview copy of Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway, a character-driven mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. I couldn’t stop rooting for the protagonist, Hal – yes, a likeable narrator in a thriller – they still exist!

Being a librarian, have you always known that you also wanted to write? When did you begin?

I’ve been writing since third grade. The two things I love the most in life are reading and writing, so I’ve always known I wanted to be a librarian and a writer. Of course, as a child I did not know that a librarian’s job is not, in fact, reading books all day. But we do get to talk about books, which is exciting!

What should new authors know about getting their books into the various library systems? Is the process different for self-published authors?

The first rule is to treat librarians with courtesy and establish a dialogue – a genuine, authentic conversation. Focus on why readers will like your book – make the librarian want to read it!

If you are traditionally published, the librarian might just buy the book for her collection. But for small press, indie, and self-published authors, you may have another hurdle to jump. It always helps if you are able to donate a copy, but if that’s not possible, make sure she knows where she can purchase it. You can also offer to present a program, but again, come prepared with the “hook” for potential attendees.

Always ask your librarian what you can do for her! Tailor your approach to each library as needed. I suggest starting with local libraries or those you have a personal connection with. Get the book into enough readers’ hands, and if it is a quality product, it might go viral.

Are there ways for authors to help each other out in regards to achieving a library presence?

As more authors make connections with libraries, they can share information about how individual systems operate. Libraries are so different – they have different resources, funding, populations. They offer services and programs based on the needs of their communities. Some writers’ organizations also have library outreach. I was the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime for five years, and we did a lot of work helping authors connect with their local libraries and vice versa. I know the Horror Writers of America has a similar program.

Is there any additional advice you would give to new authors who wish to have their books in libraries?

Look into electronic distribution! Electronic media in libraries is growing more every year. In my library, the most popular services are OverDrive and hoopla (with the small “h”). Every library has different subscriptions, though, so check to see what your local library offers.

Tell us about the podcast that you are involved in – ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Our podcast started in 2007, when my coworker, Beth, and I decided we needed an outlet to talk about books we loved. Back then, podcasts were not as sophisticated, though they were popular. The Wall Street Journal described us as “two girls talking on a bus.” We’ve retained that format, although we have revised our website, gone on many tangents, and had four kids between the two of us. We also took a break last year, since Beth got a library director job and I became a department head, but we’re back with new episodes now.

Podcasts are booming. What needs do you think creative podcasts are serving in the literary world?

I have to admit I’m not much of a podcast listener – not surprisingly, I prefer audiobooks! But I love the idea of podcasts as a way for creative people to produce and distribute their own media, amplifying diverse voices that may not otherwise find an audience. I’d like to seek out some writing-related podcasts to help me stay motivated, so I can hear those voices!

Thank you for your time, Cari. Any other parting advice that you would like to pass on as someone who is immersed in literature in both her day job and her personal life?

To stay sharp, I like to play outside with my kids – I hope better weather will come to Northeast Ohio soon! I also play the bassoon, and I love nerdy stuff, especially board games. The literary life is fantastic, but as with any job, breaks are essential.

 

Read more about Cari’s upcoming book How to Remember.

Interview first published on JacquiCastleWrites.com