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 Jill Hathaway, debut author of SLIDE, coming from Balzer & Bray, March 27, 2012. Jill Hathaway lives in the Des Moines area with her husband and young daughter. Having earned her BA in English Education from the University of Northern Iowa and her MA in Literature from Iowa State University, she teaches high school English and dual credit courses for Des Moines Area Community College.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
I'm definitely a panster, although my agent and editor are trying to whip me into a planner. Synopses are the devil. I'd much rather sail along and discover the story as I go, but (with mysteries especially) that makes for a whole lot of rewriting.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
The rough draft usually only takes me 4-6 weeks, but then I spend months and months revising (see the rewriting comment above).
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I prefer to work on one project at a time; otherwise, I lose my focus. Normally I draft a story during the summer (because, as a teacher, that's when I have free time) and then revise throughout the school year.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
I was very much afraid that I wasn't capable of finishing a novel. I'd write lots of beginnings and never see them through. It wasn't until NaNoWriMo that I learned to let my first draft suck because I could always go back and fix it. So now I go full steam until I get that first draft finished.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
I have one trunked novel from before I was agented and one trunked novel that I wrote the summer after signing with my agent.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I'm not sure I've completely given up on any of my stories. It would just take a lot of time and effort to resuscitate them, and I'm not sure it's worth it if no one's interested in buying them.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
I'm represented by the practically perfect Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency. She plucked me out of the slush pile.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I queried about 100 agents with my first (now, trunked) novel before giving up. Then I wrote a better story and landed an agent within a few weeks. I think it's all about finding the right story and never giving up.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Well, like I said, never give up. If no one wants your first novel, write another one. And another one. Until you write something awesome enough that everyone wants it.
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
Seeing SLIDE on Amazon for the first time was cool, but I can't even imagine how it will feel to see my book on the shelf at a bookstore.
How much input do you have on cover art?
None on my first cover. I got to see a cover comp for SLIDE, and then the first cover, and then (when marketing didn't go for that one) a NEW cover. I did give a little feedback on the IMPOSTOR cover (but not much). Really, design isn't my thing, so I'm fine with it.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
Everyone says this, but it's true. It's sloooooooooooooow and then it's superfast! Like I'll wait months for something to happen and then a million amazing things (cover! ARCs! reviews!) happen all at once.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I do quite a bit, but it's because I enjoy it. If I'm bored, I'll pop on Twitter and chat for a while. Blogging has become more of a pain as I don't know how much I can really share, but I try to keep up on it. Facebook is just plain fun.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
If by "platform" you just mean building connections, I say before. Connections always help--with other authors, bloggers, readers, agents, editors. It's really a community. You help others and rack up good karma points.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
I'm not far enough along in the process to be able to say definitively, but I have seen friends of mine with thousands of followers go really far (like the NYT bestseller list), but others with lots of followers have moderate success. I think publisher support really makes all the difference.