I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!
Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Elisa Nader, author of ESCAPE FROM EDEN, published by Merit Press on August 18th, 2013.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Total Pantster. I do know the beginning and the end (mostly) and I sometimes outline a scene before I write it, but I like to see where the writing takes the story. I’ve tried outlining before, and find that the writing is less fun for me, and I worry I may have lost a discovery I would have made if I wasn’t following the outline.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
My first novel took ten years. Yep. Ten. The second took three, and the third, the one that actually got published, took a year. I hope the pattern of it taking less and less time continues.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
My puny brain can only work on one writing project at a time.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Not at first, no. Mainly because I was so naive about writing. I just sat down and wrote not knowing anything about craft or plotting, or anything at all really. Once I started learning those things by reading books on writing, then the fear came. All I could think was “I’m doing this wrong!” Well, I had to stop that crazy train before it left the station because I would have never gotten anything written if I thought I had to follow rules to write.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
One. I snagged my agent with my second manuscript, and we sold my third manuscript.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
Oh, girl. I have thrown out so much work! It’s depressing and horrible and evil but it has to be done. There were times where the story wasn’t working, or I found myself not excited about writing it — a sure sign no one is going to be excited about reading it . I just trashed a project a couple of months ago because my agent and I weren’t feeling it. It didn’t have that spark. They say kill your darlings but sometimes you have to murder them in the bloodiest way possible.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
I took a class on writing through Mediabistro. The instructor was an editor at Harper Collins and really liked my manuscript. Her friend was an agent and she told him about my ms. That agent ended up being Michael Stearns. He happened to be at SCBWI NYC conference the year I was attending so I introduced myself and he told me to send it to him. Michael liked the manuscript, but was too busy to take on new clients (he’d just started Upstart Crow Literary right around that time). So he passed it on to his partner at Upstart Crow, Danielle Chiotti and she loved it.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I actually did query while I was waiting for Danielle to decide if she wanted to rep me. I queried a lot. And I got a lot of interest, but once they read the manuscript, they eventually said no. It sucked because I was sure if they said no, Danielle would, too.
I didn’t figure out why I kept getting rejections until I had my first talk with Danielle. The manuscript wasn’t ready! It was big and bloated and over-written. But Danielle was an editor before she became an agent and she saw its potential. She worked with me to really get it into shape before submission.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Make sure your manuscript is ready. Like, really make sure. Have people read it, give feedback - workshop it if you can!
And once you send it out to agents, do what I did. Drink.
It’s hell. And it’s hell again once you have an agent and submit to editors. But we all get through it, and you can, too. You are not alone!
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?
My first book just went on sale and it was weird and exciting and scary.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
That they expect you to write another book! I mean, come on!
Seriously, though, the hardest part for me has been my expectations vs reality. I thought my release day would come and it would be this huge, exciting thing. But it was just another day, probably because my book was released early by the publisher for whatever reason.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I’ve been using Twitter and Facebook since 2006, and Tumblr I think right after it launched. I work in the internet industry, and at that time specifically social media so I had to use those social networks for my job!
I do a lot of my own marketing because I have to. I mean, you really can’t sit back and expect the publisher to do everything for you!
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
I did build my network before I had an agent. I joined SCBWI, and took classes and made connections that way. Then started following other writers and authors on Twitter, retweeing their stuff, friending them on Facebook, etc. I did this a few years before having an agent.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Yes. Especially if you don’t have a big marketing and publicity team helping promote your book.