Thursday, March 19, 2015

What to Expect When You're Expecting...the Recap on the Westside Writers AWESOME New Authors Panel!

This month, Schmooze Central hands the reins over to the delightful Cassandra Federman.  Take it away, Cassandra!!

On Wednesday March 11th, the Westside Writers Schmooze spoke with five published (that’s right, PUBLISHED) authors! Our panelists included:

-       Edith Cohn – Middle Grade Author, Sprit’s Key
-       Nicole Maggi – YA Author, The Forgetting and Winter Falls, (First book in the Twin Willows Trilogy)
-       Kirk Jay Mueller – Picture Books Author, Harriet Can Carry It
-       Sue Ganz Schmitt – Picture Book Author, Planet Kindergarten, The Princess and the Peanut, and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes
-       Tracy Holczer – Middle Grade Author, The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Interesting side note:  by way of a super-happy coincidence, the five authors participating in the panel had vastly different experiences on their paths to getting published.

Let’s begin the Q & A!
(Disclaimer: Answers are paraphrased and should not be considered direct quotes.)

How did you all get your agents? And how did you know they were right for you?

EC – Has had three agents.  As she improved her writing, she “upgraded” her agents.
She used Publishers Marketplace to see who was selling Middle Grade books well. The top 10 MG agents were her targets!
            “Go to workshops!” She met her current rep through the Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop.

NM – Has had the same agent for 10 years! Nicole’s agent helped her discover her voice as a YA author. They met at the Historical Novel Society Conference. She also recommended attending conferences, “They help you get off the slush pile.”

KJM – Doesn’t have an agent. He went to publishers directly and made sure to cite his experience as a teacher for over 30 years. (Use whatever edge you have!)
He made the mistake of sending out his manuscript before it was ready. It got rejected. Then he reworked it, selected 4 more publishing houses, and got it published by Star Bright Books.
Now his book is in Barnes and Noble and Kirk is over the moon!

SGS – Self-published two books on her own: The Princess and the Peanut and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. She worked in marketing for years and knew she could sell these books without an agent because they had a niche market. (That’s the best situation for self-publishing. Make sure to have a niche book, then go to the big companies involved in that niche and sell lots of copies to them!)
For her third book, Planet Kindergarten, Sue wanted an agent. She reached out to friends over social media. That didn’t work out great. Then she selected 40 agents and reached out to them. That failed too. She reached out again over social media and finally struck gold. “Don’t give up!”

TH – After years of writing, she finally wrote a book that matched her taste. It was at that point she knew she could reach out to agents.
            She searched SCBWI for blog posts, interviews, and anything that had to do with agents. She read and researched A LOT!
She also used Query Tracker to make sure she targeted the agents that were right for her book.
            “Timing and luck is a big part of when you sell.”

What was it like when an offer was made?
Schmoozers listen with rapt attention to
the stories of the "big moment."

EC – Just got an email. The book had been on submission for 4 months.
She controls how much info her agent gives her about where they are in the submission process. She doesn’t want to hear if her book is getting rejected or if it is close to going to acquisitions. She only wants good news once it is definite.

“GOING TO ACQUISITIONS” is when editors take the book to their bosses and sell them on the idea. Oftentimes the book goes to committee (editorial committee) first, then to acquisitions, where they discuss the potential sales and marketing.

NM – Winter Falls was on submission for 6 months before they decided to go with a smaller press called Medallion Media. Medallion bought the first book in the trilogy. They bought the second and third soon after.
The Forgetting was only on submission for 2 months.
Agents send the book out to all their connections first, then to smaller presses. If it doesn’t sell, then you and your agent may decide to discuss self-publishing.

KJM – Got an email directly, since he had no agent. He cautions writers to make sure their manuscript is as good as it can be before sending it out and burning contacts.

SGS – Made sure to retain all Film/TV rights in her contract, as she wants her book to become a TV series.

TH – Got an email informing her of the two-book deal. When your agent recommends a deal, you take it (however you feel about two-book deals). Doesn’t mind hearing about rejections.

How much editing and adjusting do your agents/editors do? What’s the editing process like and how much time do you get for revisions?

EC – Got big picture adjustments first and was given one month. Then went through 5 more turnarounds, each allowing 2-3 weeks for changes.

NM – Got 3 weeks to turnaround The Forgetting, then it was done!
Winter Falls had already gone through 18 months of notes with another publishing company before the book was dropped and it went to Medallion. Not many adjustments were needed at that point because so much had already been done.

KJM – Only got notes on specific words, but no major changes.

SGS – Agent helped with some minor edits. Once they got an offer, she went through 2 more months of editing.

TH – Agent helped with big picture edits. First edit was 11 pages of notes from her editor, and she was given 3 months to turn it around. The editor helped with small details over the course of two more large-scale edits. Then it went to copyedits (to check for typos, facts, consistency of rules in your story, etc.)

COPY EDITING is the last place authors can make major changes to their books. After copy editing comes FIRST PASS PAGES, usually given to the author in PDF format. Once authors get these pages, they cannot make big changes because the book is formatted for printing purposes. Typos can be fixed, but nothing can be done that would extend text onto a new line.]

How did you end up with your illustrators? How did that process work?

KJM – Sent his publisher a DETAILED list of art notes, which he didn't know was a major faux pas. He is grateful they chose the amazingly talented artist, Sarah Vonthron-Laver, whose illustrations are absolutely wonderful! 

SGS – Received a list of potential illustrators to choose from. Since she wants her book become a TV series, she selected an illustrator who was also an animator. The one she chose wasn’t available for 7 years, so she suggested an illustrator/animator that she’d met at an SCBWI conference. He was available and it worked out!

EC – Got a say in her cover artist. She liked the artist who did Doll Bones and they were able to get her. (The artist, Eliza Wheeler, is a member of SCBWI right here in LA!)

Tell us about the marketing process. How much do you have to do and how much does the publicist help?

EC – Your editor sometimes helps get blurbs from other authors you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. Blurbs are very important and helpful to new authors.
They are great to have for promotion if your trade reviews take awhile to come.

Fall is the worst time for a debut author’s book to come out. They get overlooked, as it is the time of year when well-known authors release their books. It is also harder to get blurbs from other authors at this time.

Our esteemed panelists - many thanks!
NM – Publishers send out ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) to get reviews and blurbs.

KJM Does presentations at various schools, since he has lots of connections there. His publishing Company, Star Bright Books, is on the East Coast, and has been very supportive and helpful by marketing and promoting his book worldwide.

SGS – “The amount of promotion/marketing you have to do with a self-published book and a traditionally published book is the same, except with traditionally published books, they take care of all the big stuff.”
She did a flashmob book launch at Barnes and Noble!
            She also created a book trailer by hiring someone off of, a FANTASTIC marketing tool! “You can hire anyone on there to create something for you for only five dollars.” Make sure you draw up a contract and retain the rights of whatever you have created.

NM – Smaller houses can be great for marketing. They have fewer books and you receive more attention from the publicist.

TH – Told her publicist that she was going to the ALA (American Library Association conference) with her debut group, and they offered a signing at the Penguin Booth. It’s definitely worth asking for these types of events even if it’s not part of the official publicity campaign. She paid for it herself, but they loved the idea.
            Follow the Nerdy Book Club on Twitter. They are an influential group of librarians and teachers!

All the authors print their own postcards, business cards, and other marketing materials. “Build a good relationship with the poor, overworked publicists!” Help them by self-promoting and coming up with inventive ways they can help you! You want them to love you!

That about wraps up the Published Authors Q & A.  Hopefully, you learned more about the process of publication and picked up some useful tools for the future!

Cassandra Federman
HUGE thanks to (the really rather lovely, doncha think?) Cassandra Federman  taking copious notes during the panel and somehow wrangling an amazing amount of info into this blog post! Charlie had to take to his bed even thinking about the effort involved. And when he saw how concise and informative her writing was, he seriously considered a move to Borneo. However, given that this would have required him figuring out where Borneo was, he chose instead to roll over and go back to sleep until the next schmooze.

Be sure to join us for the next Schmooze on Wednesday April 15th where—

We Interrupt Our Traditional Publishing Trajectory…

            --We’ll explore eBooks, aps, self-publishing and other new-fangled and fabulous ways of getting to your readers.

***PLEASE NOTE:  The April’s Schmooze has been pushed to 3rd week due to Passover.  This in no way implies that the fact that it is both Charlie and Karol’s birthday month should be “passed over.”

Until then, keep passing the open windows,

Charlie & Karol (…and Cassandra!)

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