WisRWA members, Mia Jo Celeste, author of Other Than, and Barbara M. Britton, author of Providence and Building Benjamin, will be talking about book launch parties (both actual and virtual) at the June WisRWA meeting in Milwaukee. Jennifer Rupp asked them a few questions about their first year as published authors.
Jen: Brenda and Barbara, you’ve both released your debut novels within the last twelve months. Did it come as a shock how involved you would have to be in the marketing of your own book?
Brenda: Yes. Although I’d heard a lot about marketing, taken some classes and been a blogger for years, I was surprised about the time and financial commitment. That said, I like marketing—something I never imagined I would.
Barbara: Yes, definitely. Publishing has changed so much since I started my journey ten years ago. I knew I would have a hand in marketing my books, but I didn’t know I would be the driving force behind getting the word out about my novels.
Brenda: It varies. Usually I check Twitter and Facebook every couple of days and I’ve been trying to appear in cyberspace a couple of times a week, either on my blog or someone else’s. For me, it’s a lot like student teaching. Because so many tasks are new, they take longer to figure out and complete, but I’m sure that I’ll get faster and I’ll figure out which tasks are the most important to complete.
Barbara: I feel I do some sort of marketing every day because of social media. Certainly I am more involved right before, during, and after a release. With Pelican Book Group, I have an e-book release date that is different than my print release date. Twice the fun—and work. I would say my average is 5-10 hours a week.
Jen: Now that you’re a published author, do you write with more confidence?
Brenda: I hope the adage “practice makes perfect” works. Because I write more, I’m more comfortable writing and, God willing, my writing is getting better.
Barbara: Yes and no. I feel I have the basic craft of writing down pat, but doubts plague me as a published writer. I’m thinking my work isn’t good enough, or my success was a fluke. I have to silence those nasty voices and tell myself that I am writing solely for myself. If no one sees my book, that’s okay. I’ve enjoyed writing it and learning through my research.
To hear more from Brenda and Barbara, please join us at the Mayfair Mall (Garden Suites Community Room, Lower Level) on June 17 from 9-11:30 AM. It’s sure to be a great time.
In April, the Milwaukee Area will be hosting literary agent Abby Saul from The Lark Group at our meeting. With the May conference in Green Bay (which will be fantastic) right around the corner, Abby’s help with tweaking and practicing our pitches, queries, and openings, is timely.
Here’s a chance for us to get to know Abby a little better before the meeting.
Q: Your website indicates that the Lark Group is an agile and editorially focused agency. What does that mean to authors?
A: We work quickly to help our authors present the best product possible. As a new and small agency, The Lark Group is able to experiment, quickly pivot to new opportunities, and help our authors find new paths (in their writing, in the way they publish, in the way we get their books in front of editors). But the quality of the book remains paramount, and that’s where our editorial focus comes in! I’ve gone through at least two rounds of editorial revisions with all of my clients’ manuscripts, addressing big and small things, to help make their books the best they can be. So what does that mean for our authors? It means they know they have a true partner helping them get a truly excellent book published. (It also means it’s easy to get me on the phone!)
Q: Why is it advantageous to work with an agent rather than directly query a publisher?
<strong:A: Most obviously, many publishers won’t accept unagented submissions – without an agent, you can’t even get your manuscript read! Houses that do accept unagented submissions will often put those submissions at the bottom of the pile, prioritizing projects that come in from agents. So an agent helps you get your project into the house for consideration. But it goes much deeper than that.
It’s my job as an agent to know what editor is looking for what kind of project, and thus create a submission list that’s tailor-made to your project. It’s also my job as an agent to negotiate your contract (and keep the business arrangements as much in your favor as possible), to be your advocate in all things (editorial changes, marketing plans, cover design, etc), and to be a force to be reckoned with in terms of you getting paid and helping manage your author brand. It’s also my job to have foreign, audio, and film/tv contacts to sell subsidiary rights for your books. Going it alone can work for some authors, but those business and industry pitfalls (contract traps, late payments, figuring out who to contact in Germany, the force of a whole publishing company worrying about itself instead of you, and so on) can be tremendously daunting for most authors, and that makes it easy for unrepresented authors to make unnecessary mistakes. An agent is your partner in all aspects of this business, and is there to advocate (always!) for you.
Q: Do you work with self-published authors, or do writers who plan to self-publish still need an agent?
A: I don’t currently have any self-published authors on my client list, but I’ve worked with them in the past. I do strongly believe that the days of a project making it big on the self-publishing side and then being picked up by a Big 5 publisher are over. If you’ve self-published a book, you’ve self-published it. It’s not going to be traditionally published after that. But self-publishing success on the romance side can translate to a traditional publisher being interested in your next work, and that’s where you might want to think about an agent.
Agents are pros at helping authors make career changes, and moving from indie publishing to traditional publishing is a big one. Even if you want to stay on the indie/self-publishing side of the industry, an agent can help you sell subsidiary rights for your work (foreign, audio, film/tv, etc). I’ll also note that a lot of romance authors write fast (it’s impressive!) and more and more authors in traditional deals are publishing on a hybrid schedule: fulfilling their traditional contracts while also pursuing self-publishing (of a different series) on the side. Agents can help navigate having your feet in both pools, and make sure you’re respecting contracts schedules, etc.
Thanks Abby! We’re looking forward to meeting with you in person.
Join the Milwaukee area for the April meeting. Polish your pitch with Abby Saul of The Lark Group. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
The Milwaukee Area is hosting Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company on Saturday, March 18. He’ll be talking about trends in publishing, from the perspective of a bookseller. He’ll be looking at the relationships between publisher/bookstore and novelist/bookstore, as well as field questions about book launches and readings. We thought you might like to get to know him a bit before his talk, so we asked him a few questions.
Q: Why do you think Boswell is thriving?
A: Honestly, I wake up every day and ask myself that question. I honestly wouldn’t say thriving, but chugging along. Every store is two mistakes away from closing. But I definitely can credit my booksellers (particularly Amie and Jason, our buyer/managers, but there’s a lot of amazing contributions), my customers, our landlords (we’ve had two), the previous owners of Schwartz, my family, publisher support, and author support too. I would say on my part, there are a few things that help:
I am also a big fan of under-promising. It’s better to be a little better than expectations than vice versa. I’ve found that’s a good character fit for Milwaukee, which also can be a little better than you’d expect.
Q: Do I read romance novels?
A: Of course I’ve read romance novels. And I can answer that question in two ways.
Firstly, many books masquerading as other genres, or no genre, are in fact romances, from YA to contemporary women’s fiction to historical and even a good amount of what poses as literary fiction (meaning that the author also teaches in an AWP program).
And secondly, in my day, I’ve read pretty serious genre. In my past life, I was a publicist at Warner Books, which had a strong group of romance writers. I would try to read one of the books so that I could talk about them more fluently. One year I even helped run our booth at the RWA convention. I was a big fan of Dorothy Garlock, and while we haven’t corresponded in many years, we continued to be pen pals (yes, this is pre-computer) for quite a while after I left publishing. I was a big fan of our two romance editors, the now-retired Fredda Isaacson, and Claire Zion, who is still editing at Berkley/NAL. One of her current authors is Renée Rosen, who is at Boswell for Windy City Blues on March 21, 1 pm. It’s a great historical about the Chicago music and Civil Rights scene in the 50s and 60s with a romance at the center.
Thanks for talking with us, Daniel! We’ll see you on March 18.
Saturday’s meeting is open to all. Come visit if you’d like to see what WisRWA is about.
Join the Milwaukee area as they welcome literary agent Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. Laura will give live critiques of love scenes. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
WisRWA members are invited to join an exclusive private tour of the Newberry Library in Chicago. Organized by Maureen Welli, area coordinator for the Milwaukee Area, the tour should have something of interest for historical romance writers, and everyone else too. Members who’ve had the chance to visit the Newberry in the past have raved.
The Newberry Research Library is a world-renowned independent research library. It offers an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, music, manuscripts and other printed materials spanning six centuries.
The tour, scheduled for Saturday September 17th, is open to all WisRWA members, although only the first 25 to sign up may attend. The tour begins at 10:30am. Members will travel by coach bus, which will leave the Milwaukee area by 8:30am.
Those interested in joining the tour must contact Maureen (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 5th.
WisRWA member Molly Maka, self-proclaimed 1940s girl, writer of historical romance, and a veteran of historical reenactment, will be presenting her secrets to the Milwaukee area on Saturday, June 18.
As a ten-year veteran of historical reenacting of various time periods, Molly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her presentation on how historical reenacting can enhance your writing. She will demonstrate how, through reenacting, you too can create identifiable and relatable characters based in a historical context, and establish and capture the nuances of the time period of your characters’ worlds. And she’ll explain how getting involved in historical reenacting can help you get in touch with the past.
We caught up with Molly before she started pin curling her hair for the next Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to ask her a few questions leading up to her presentation.
Molly: Believe it or not I always had a penchant for dressing historically. I remember one year I asked my grandmother if she had any of her 1940s clothes because I wanted to be a 40s girl for Halloween. That might have been the first time. Another year I dressed as a colonial girl off to a ball. When I saw the gorgeous Elizabethan court dresses at the Bristol Renaissance Faire the summer after I graduated high school, I knew I had to get involved. In 2006, my dream was realized when I joined the cast of the Guild of St. George. From there I learned of other time periods people could reenact and my involvement in different eras sort of evolved from there.
Molly: I have several that I tend to favor. Let me put it back to you: Which one do you all think is my favorite and why? Go ahead and answer in the comments. I’ll give a prize on Saturday to a randomly selected commenter. And, of course, I’ll reveal the answer.
Molly: That’s tough because, even if I don’t plan to write about something, I still look for opportunities to try new things in a historical context, if only for the experience of trying it out. You never know when you can use something. My biggest bucket list item right now is to learn how to drive a World War II-era Army jeep. And I’ve had plenty of interesting adventures I’m still planning to write about. I’ll be talking about some of the best ones on Saturday.
Molly: Right now I would have to say it’s a toss-up between my post war aluminum and lucite box purse and an adorable vintage navy blue dress with navy and red polka dot accents. It fits like it was made for me. Who knows, I might just have both of them with me on Saturday.
Molly: Absolutely. I’ve got some great stories. Of course, you’ll just have to wait until Saturday to hear them.
Many thanks to Molly for sharing a little bit about herself and her passion. We’re so looking forward to her presentation: The Historical Reenactor Who Writes: How Touching the Past Can Enhance Your Story. Please join us in Mayfair Mall Community Room (Lower Level) on Saturday, June 18th at 9 AM. We hope to see you there!
Photo Credit: Claire Noonan Photography