Track 2: How to Turn a Book or Two Into a Writing Career


Track 2: How to Turn a Book or Two into a Writing Career

Moderator: Lynn Forbes

Ann Napolitano, Author, A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach
Carleen Brice, Author of Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters, and blogger
Ginny Smith, Editor, The Penguin Press
Jane Schonberger, Writer/producer, BlogHer Editor, Managing Partner/Editorial Director of Pretty Tough LLC

LF: Moderator introduces panelists.

AN: I'm going to start with broad questions. What is your idea of success as a writer? Opportunity? Supplementing day job? What is your definition of success?

CB: My definition of success is sustaining a career. Easy to publish 1 book more difficult to continue but to do so is success.

AN: Book I'm working on now challenges more than first. Path I'm on stays meaningful and true to me.

LF: Before you published your books, what was your definition of success?

AN: To get published.

GS: Our imprint is author driven. Hope to publish series of work over an author's career. Seeing a writer grow and seeing commercial success.

JS: Success as a writer means to be financially stable. Instead of working 9 to 5 job you're working 100 hours a week. It's a lifestyle decision with result of the kind of success you're looking for.

LF: How did perspective change going into second book?

AN: I felt like I was in a better place than with my first book. I had two books put away in a drawer before next book was published. The reality of publishing a book is different than what I imagined. As a writer, you're alone writing in a room and then you are faced with the book being outside that room, in the world. I had no idea how publishing houses operate with the first book. I became more savvy afterward. I worked as a full time as personal assistant. I had income saved. I had a family to support. Some ways I understood it better in others not.

CB: I had a two book deal with the first book. I was lucky the first book hadn't been published yet. One thing I noticed as a writer was that when the first book was in production and was working on my first draft for the second book while getting back proofs, and catalog copy from the first—I got sick of the first book, and fell in love with the second book.

LF: What about the other side, what's the perspective from the publishing house of going into the second book?

GS: As an editor, I'm looking to create more than one book with a writer. I'm in a relationship with them. It's exciting because we already have a language together. We know how to work together. Ultimately, to the book's benefit we have a network of support which we have to continue to grow and expand through booksellers, sales representatives, and publishers, for example. The write and I will have the benefit of hindsight and experience.Relationship gets deeper over time. Understand each other and work more as a team.

JS: My is experience different. My first two books were non fiction. I'm working on a series now. I worked with different editors. Each editor has a different take on your book and your work. and the marketplace changes so quickly. In publishing people move around and move on. I don't write all the books. It's the about working with the editors and the booksellers the whole time which is a bit different from these other ladies.

LF: Here's the big question. After you've finished your last edit of your manuscript, what's next? Do you play catch up on all the unfinished work around the first book or do you move forward to start next one right away?

CB: I think the experience is the same for modern women, we multi-task. It's important to check back with your life and friendships after you've finished a book. You have to come out from your own world. It's important for my mental health to start the next book right away. You get kind of crazy and it's good to channel that anxiety into another project. Another thing to do with your time is to work on marketing and building and growing your platform.

AN: Part of how I know a book is done, is when I start thinking about a new story or the next book. This one (A Good Hard Look) took seven years to complete. My first novel came out in 2004 and it was a completely different experience. So I spent a series of months to figure out how I could communicate through social media in a way that was powerful and engaging.

LF: Do you feel the pressure to start the next book?

AN: No, I feel short of time, ideas, talent if I don't start the next book.

CB: I think it depends on writer's relationship with the house. I think you have to start engaging in the next process.

GS: Check out Anne's website. She pulled some interesting themes from her novel on her website and everyone is taken with her depth of thought in her social media persona. Her social media outreach has worked well because of her en

Audience question: Had one book sold, not on bestselling list, but is selling okay. The publisher said let's see how the paperback does. Submitted her proposal for 2nd book. How do I move things along more quickly?

JS: The first question they'll ask is what you're doing to promote yourself. The more you can do to promote book, project, or theme will be helpful and will get them more excited.

GS: Put your best foot forward. Promote your book like Jane said. Don't be afraid to look at another publishing house.

CB: Show what you're doing differently. Join a community that's subject related. Do media attention tasks, have you been published somewhere recently. Be in touch about things you're doing. What blogs have you been mentioned on. Let them know that you're being proactive in your career.

GS: If you do this with your own work, you're showing the publisher you're still promoting the book.

LF: How do you feel post first book deal? Postpartum blues? Excited?

JS: Jane & I are at different places. There's really no end. Different points in cycle. Constant ebb and flow in production cycle. Each book, in our series, is told through different characters so this is an ongoing cycle.

AN: For me, I have postpartum depression each time. Putting a book out there in the world is somehow inevitably disappointing and now everyone responds in the way you like. It's nice when you own the book. Having your book out there away from you after having spent 7 years with it is about letting go.

CB: Orange mint honey came out in 2008, either long gestation or labor. Wish I would feel like it's done at some point. I haven't felt that yet. Still going to book clubs.

GS: As an editor, you work on multiple books at once. It's like being in an open relationship.

Question: I'm working on my first book with Riverhead and I wonder what to focus on. Advice to talk myself down.

CB: Worrying about all of it. I worried about everything and 99% of it didn't matter. Focus on friends, support, and writing your book.

AN: I was in different situation. I had single book contracts. I didn't have official deadline and I would have struggled with deadline, business v. creative.

JS: Take heart that you have a book contract. Someone believes in it. You've already made it though two layers, pub and agent. Long period time between when you deliver book and when it reaches the store. In that time you can do a lot as an author to build your platform and support your book.

Audience question: How do you stay fresh after honeymoon period from book 1.

JS: any publicity is good publicity.

Audience question: Naomi Woolf just got arrested...civil disobedience is always an option.

Audience question: I have 7 non fiction and 2 novels and what are creative ways to promote your book?

CB: Are you linked in w/ book clubs. They're really supportive and have paid for me to visit around the country.

Audience question: How do connect w/ book clubs?

CB: When my books were new, I reached out more. Check your libraries and indie bookstores, check their list. Book clubs help with Twitter and Facebook. You have an army of street team people.

AN: Blog tours where you guest post on people's blogs. I've also written non-fiction article series that relate to my novel for the millions and other online literary places.

JS: If there is events where you can set up book signing. I pub non fiction series about youth in sports so I go to sporting events. Royalty plus mark-up. They don't care if it's backlist or not, if you meet them at an event they're interested in, it's a good audience for selling books.

LF: How do you sustain your brand?

Audience member: I haven't heard any of the authors in this room, I need to know who you are so I can tweet about it and create buzz.

Audience member: I love the responses about birthing a book and a child and living through their lifetimes. I went to Blog World last spring, felt very powerful community. I get excited about connecting with other authors. I find strength in connecting with other authors.

AN: I joined them all at once when I was new to social media. I didn't anticipate my relationships I've developed with other writers on twitter. I have a two person writing group over last 16 years but I didn't have many writer friends. On twitter, I've found a great writing community where we as writers support each other.

CB: You can formalize that too. Girlfriends book club blog. Way to support each other. Forums to talk about questions about writing. I'm also in Fiction Writers Co-op on Facebook, we support each other both in personal and professional ways. Talk about rejections and other writer issues and promote each other. You can also support this.

Audience member: I'm Kami Wycoff from SheWrites, I think being generous and support each other. Potentially teaching helps. The Op-Ed project to write short pieces that are related to your own work is a good way to keep yourself in the mix.

Audience member: Anne small pub press in Colorado retired teacher writer group women writing the west. I also belong to Colorado intn reading association. they know about my book coming out and my name. I've also been a writing judge for poetry and children's writing books. Colorado Publishing Association. My name is out there and they're now aware of my press and book.

GS: Any of the women who have spoken out, put this in your agent's cover letter.

Audience member: I was asked to ghost write a celebrity book. But celebrity would only deal with an agent. I'm a long time journalist. Asked a mom's group if any of them knew an agent, came up with three possibilities. This led to a connection with a big NY agent. Go out of your comfort zone and ask the questions you need as a writer.

Audience member: I'm Elke. I publish Mamalogue. I would encourage you to consider yourself a business and a brand and render yourself that way.

Audience member: I'm Dana. I blog at Momover. Do projects cross your desk that you need writers for a project?

GS: It can happen although it usually comes with an agent. It's a fine way to get an agent to get that writer for hire work. You're more likely to enter there.

Audience member (Dana): I have an agent so I should work with her.

GS: Yes, esp if she's part of a larger agency.

Audience member: I'm Jenna Hatfield. What is your challenge for finding agents to work on very diff book projects: 1 fiction, 1 non-ficiton.

JS: Genres are different. You'll probably be talking to different people.

GS: Different pub niches.

CB: Any similar threads between 2 might help connect a thread that will get you into a publishing house.

Audience member: How have you sustained a living as a writer?

AN: Three to fifteen years I've sustained myself as a writer. I've taught and

CB: It's said that 5% of writers in this country are able to sustain themselves as writers. I freelance and do a lot of writing and editing on the side. I make enough that I can take a few months of and do other projects as needed.

JS: It depends on your lifestyle. I look for additional ways to leverage my product. It's like a salad.

LF: There are community groups to sustain you but how do you

JS: The harder the work the luckier you are. You have to make time to connect with writers in your community and spend x amount of time to create and maintain social media relationships.

CB: I have friends who if one book genre doesn't sell well, they'll switch genres as a way to creatively and financially support your career.

AN: Having a regular writers group is so valuable and sustaining. Being a writer can be alone and despairing so its helpful to have your community who gets you.

Audience member: I'm Suzy. I think it's important to sustain yourself. International Womens Writers Group. Great creative week for stimulation and creativity.

Audience member: What was your biggest mistake or hurdle in publishing process?

CB: I turned down opportunities. I got approached to write a group novella and I turned it down. Now I think I should have taken it.

AN: I feel like I'm trying to be more disciplined as a writer.

LF: Do you sign on an author or a book?

GS: We sign on authors. We want to partner and invest in your writing career.

Audience member: My name is Fadra. I'm unpublished and have a proposal submitted. I'm working with an agent on a book project with three other authors although it's not my agent.

GS: If you feel comfortable approaching that person, you have a natural entry there. I would meet with them one on one and maybe get a drink with that agent. Don't think of yourself as the second class citizen.

Audience member: What stats do you want?

GS: Twitter followers.

CB: Is your blog a leader in your community or field like best blogger in the field.

LF: How can a writer show a pub that if first person didn't do well that there will have an audience for a second book?

GS: I was formerly an actor. I distinguished between my creative and business sides of my career. For example, Anne wrote a beautiful novel with Flannery O'Connor as a character. Anne did her homework. She was prepared with ideas, I can write an essay here. The publisher loves your book just like you do. We need you to think creatively and to do the best work you can and do the best work possible and demand that your publisher meet you there.

CB: For the first book I had no awards, I didn't have tenure or a blog.

LF: For the published authors in the room, can you introduce yourselves?

Jan Zeff: I'm published through the BBC. Love from Hecate.

Suzy Banks Baum: Laundry Line Divine

Amy Wilson: When Did I Get Like This?

Dana Wood: Momover: The New Mom's Guide to Getting It Back Together

Susan Avery: I ghost wrote "Styling Your Dream Wedding"

Candace Walsh: "Ask Me About My Divorce"

Patty Chang: Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave (forthcoming)

Rita Arens: I edited an anthology, Sleep is for the Weak

Kamy Wicoff: / I Do but I Don't: Why the Way We Marry Matters

Jennifer Matesa: Navel Gazing

Angie Wynne: The Baby Cheapskate Guide to Bargains: How to Save on Blankets, Bottles and Everything Baby

Judith Glynn: A Collector of Affections: Tales from a Woman's Heart (Volume 1)


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