Rachele Alpine On Letting Go When It Comes to Marketing

It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel too… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

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Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

I spent sooooo much time promoting and marketing my first book, and I’ve now learned that there is only so much you can control with book sales (which is VERY little).  I put some time into marketing, but most of my focus on writing more books in hopes of ensuring the longevity of my writing career. 

Let’s about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I don’t analyze a book for marketability as I’m writing it, but you better believe that if a book sells, I think about how to market it.  I always try to think of one fun or clever way to market a book that hopefully gets people talking about it. 

I’m also more deliberate and specific about what I do to market a book.  When I first started writing, I felt as if my marketing was hit or miss as I tried to figure out what worked.  I spent a lot of time (and money) doing things that might not have been worth it.  Now, I am more aware of how I spend my time.  

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

I spent so much time marketing and talking about my first book.  It was pretty much 24/7 long before it came out and long after it came out.  And the truth was, it didn’t make a difference in terms of sales when compared to my other titles.  After publishing six books, I’ve realized that the buzz around a new book only last for so long and then you need to move on to writing the next.  I live by the Elsa philosophy and after a book comes out and a couple of months have passed, I “let it go.” 

Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would? 

I’ve always been an introverted person, and it takes me a long time to warm up or talk to people I don’t know.  I was always a bit weary of social media, how easy it is for readers to contact authors, and speaking to groups.  However, I have to say that I love hearing from readers, especially young readers. Because I write a lot of middle grade books, I handwritten letters from young readers.  Although answering them is time consuming, I love writing back.  There’s just something awesome about getting and sending snail mail.

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how was it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Before being published I did have the notion that it would change my life.  The reality is that it hasn’t.  Most of my release days now pass with small fanfare from my family and a few friends.  Otherwise, once one book is out the focus is mostly on writing the next. 

I now view writing and publishing as my way of doing something in this crazy world that we’re currently living in right.  We are surrounded with so much hate right now and it’s impossible to not do try to make a difference.  Words hold so much power, and it’s that power that I focus on in hopes that I’m contributing a small part of working toward the change that is so needed in our country today.  I have a quote by Margaret Atwood hanging in my writing office, “A word after a word after a word is power.”  It’s pretty much my writing mantra these days. 

Melissa Landers Looks Back on Debut Thoughts... Seven Years Later

It’s time for a new interview seriesa… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel a little… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

Today’s guest for the NOW is Melissa Landers, a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public. Her books include the YA Sci-Fi series beginning with Alienated, the Starflight series, and the middle-grade title, Blastaway.

Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?

Yes and no. Looking back at my first interview with you, I made some suggestions that I still stand by, but find a little difficult to follow. For example, I said the best way for an author to deal with anxiety while on submission is to “put it out of mind and get to work on the next book…Do whatever it takes to keep writing.” It’s good advice, but the simplicity of it feels naive to me now. Seven years ago, I had no idea how much my creativity, confidence, and motivation would be affected by publishing. I still try to “do whatever it takes to keep writing,” but it’s not as easy. 

Let’s talk about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I still write the stories that excite me, but I also do my best to maximize the marketability of each book. I’ve learned over the years that some things make a book harder to sell than others…and because publishing is a business, strong sales numbers are the key to staying in business. 

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

 Hmm… I think what’s faded for me the most is my wishful “anything can happen” attitude when I release a new book. I used to think that if I worked/promoted/marketed hard enough, my books would hit the lists, but now I know that sort of thing isn’t likely to happen unless the publisher makes it happen. I do what I can to stay connected with my readers, but I don’t put pressure on myself to “move the needle” in unrealistic ways.

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Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?

I’ve grown much more accepting of my lack of control regarding cover design. I used to HATE that other people had more say than I did when it came to choosing my covers, but looking back, I can see some times when my instincts were wrong and the publisher’s were right. So now I keep an open mind and trust their judgment…at least more than I used to. 

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how has it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Getting published completely changed the direction of my career. When I started writing, I was on extended maternity leave from teaching. I loved my job in education, and I had every intention of returning to the classroom someday. But then Alienated was published…and Invaded and United…and Starflight, Starfall, and Blastaway. Now I write full-time, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Despite the challenges of publishing, I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.  

Liz Coley On Some Hard Truths About Publishing

It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, it’s actually called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.

Today’s guest is Liz Coley, fellow Ohioan who has been writing long and short fiction for teens and adults for more than ten years. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction, Winter's Regret, and You Are Not Alone.

In 2013, psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins and HarperCollins UK in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career? 

Last time around this blog, oh back in 2012 or so, I wrote, “Relax and trust the people who’ve done this hundreds of times.” I don’t feel that way anymore. There’s a saying in author circles, that if you stick around long enough, eventually anything that can happen will happen to you or someone you know. Publishers have folded, contracts have been cancelled, the ever-revolving door of junior editors has broken up author-editor teams, and agents have betrayed their clients. I’ve kind of lost faith that anyone can predict anything in this crazy biz. And yet they keep trying.

Let’s talk about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?

I had a revelation about my brand: apparently, I write library books. Books that are empathetic and well-written, about interesting issues and interesting humans. They are readable and the kind of book a teacher or librarian or mom would want to hand to the kid in need. I also know this isn’t what the publishers are looking for. Not high concept or sensational. Not a multibook YA fantasy romance. I’ve seen my rejection feedback; the editors may praise the writing, but say, sorry this isn’t a breakout story for the market today. Yeah. Duh. I knew that.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to earn a cent. In fact, I pledged away all my first-sale income to a worthy cause. So I write stories I think are important, and that’s why it breaks my heart a little that no one wants to publish them. There are gatekeepers, and I don’t consciously write to please them, to my detriment, I guess.

The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?

The year I sold Pretty Girl-13, a lot of things changed. I believed that my ten years of writing and attending workshops and reading books on craft and submitting short stories were finally paying off. This was the cusp. The threshold from Liz’s life part I to Liz’s life part 2. I was also on the cusp of a significant round number birthday. I said to my husband, “I’m really excited for this next decade.” I made a lot of valued writing friends, I spoke to marvelous kids at a few schools and a lot of festivals, I won a few awards, and I received letters from people who said my book had changed their path in life.

The energy of that launch period carried me through the unforeseen disappointments—my editor rejected two manuscripts for my option and released me; although I wrote three additional manuscripts after those, my agent failed to sell anything; there were betrayals of trust and financial shenanigans. And now, it wasn’t . . .

You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of a huge windstorm in Columbus that brought down a maple tree in our yard. My oldest son, about twelve at the time, very excitedly asked if he would be allowed to use an ax to cut up the tree. About ten minutes later, he came into the house and reported sadly, “That wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be.”

So, yeah. Publication was awesome. But the writing life? I’ve been hacking at that tree for almost twenty years. It wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be.

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Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?

In my dark night of the soul, with twelve and two half manuscripts under my belt, one sale, and five self-pubs that net me about $25 a year, I decided to try something different to fight the despair. I enrolled in a week-long immersive playwriting masterclass at the university. Changed my life.

Playwriting plays to my strengths—brevity, dialogue, character. The ten-minute plays that rolled off my laptop that week were deep, playful, engaging, and most of all, appreciated by the actors who voiced them, the instructors, and my first audiences. The immediate gratification of this art was an overwhelming experience, and I began developing another whole network of supportive friends in theatre. After three years of masterclasses, I became a TA, I’ve accumulated a small inventory of works to submit and/or self-produce, I founded Next Stage Cincinnati Playwrights, and my work has been performed in San Diego and Cincinnati.

And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how has it changed (or not changed!) your life?

Getting published means that one of my tales swims in the eternal sea of story-telling, like an imperishable plastic straw among the millions. Even though to date, I haven’t replicated that success, I remind myself to be content with what I have achieved: the ongoing reviews from people who stayed up all night reading; the letters I continue to receive from people with Dissociative Identity Disorder in their own lives or those of someone close to them; the recognition of librarians and teenagers who call it a favorite book; and the simple fact that my kids have a copy of their mom’s book on their own bookshelves. The fans have been the greatest gift, and on top of that, there’s a beer waiting for me in Prague as thanks for mailing an autographed Czech edition to a man to give his girlfriend. 

In terms of changing my life, because I haven’t gotten back on the all-absorbing post-release merry-go-round, I have had the time to sing at church, watch Netflix while I exercise, write plays, volunteer in literacy, captain a tennis team, and work on political campaigns. I suppose, in that sense, it is better that my publishing experience didn’t end up consuming all of me.