Successful Author Talk With Lori M. Lee

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 Lori M. Lee. Lori is the author of young adult
fantasy GATES OF THREAD & STONE, coming August 5, 2014 from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Absolutely a Planner. I outline like a fiend. In fact, I’ve been known to have outlines as long as 50 pages. And that’s not counting the various documents on world building and characters. I have a problem.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

The first draft of GATES OF THREAD AND STONE took 4 weeks to write, and then 1.5 months to self-edit. After that, it took another month to edit with CP feedback before I felt it was ready to query, so it was a little over 3 months total. Of course, “finished” is relative considering it went through quite a few more rounds of editing once I found an agent and then an editor. The first draft of its sequel took 6 weeks to write and 4 weeks to self-edit. I was on deadline, though, which totally shook things up lol. My husband began to complain that he hadn’t seen me for a month.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I try to work on one project at a time, unless the siren call of another one is too strong to resist. I began a second WIP while writing the sequel to GoT&S, so I wrote 2k words a day on the sequel and then wrote whatever I could on the second WIP. That didn’t last longer than a week though. I managed to get a good 15k words into the WIP before my motivation began to ebb. I tend to work best when I’m completely focused on one thing.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Every time I sit down to start a first draft, there’s that paralyzing question: OMG WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ANOTHER NOVEL IN ME? Once I get past that, it becomes much easier. But man... that obnoxious voice never quite goes away.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Discounting the portal fantasy romance I wrote when I was twelve, just one. (If we’re counting the portal fantasy romance, then two :P) I’m now recycling some of the mythology and characters in that trunked book for a new fantasy I’m working on. It’s been fun breathing new life into those old ideas.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I’ve never quit on a ms before it was fully written. You just never know what it might become until it’s done! Having said that, I tried really hard to get that trunked book to work, but I knew it was time to let it go when, after getting the same feedback from my agent and CPs, I just didn’t know how to fix it. 

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. It’s a bit of a long story, but GoT&S initially came to her attention via a referral. To my delight, she loved my book and offered and now she’s stuck with me.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I queried with that aforementioned trunked novel for months. It got a lot of interest, but it just never panned out. With GoT&S, I queried for about a month before receiving Suzie’s offer.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Everyone says this, but that’s because it’s true: keep going. Each rejection feels personal and it never stops hurting, but unless you’re getting personalized feedback all telling you the same thing, you keep sending out more queries and you keep pushing forward. Achieving your dreams isn’t supposed to be easy!

How did it feel when you saw your sale announcement?

I was dying inside, but I had to remain cool and calm on the outside because I was at work at the time. So I had a mini freak out in a relatively quiet hallway before returning to my desk grinning like an idiot.

How much input do you have on cover art?

I was allowed to provide feedback at every step of the way, which was fantastic. In the end, although the final product surprised me a bit, I really love it.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

You know how everyone says publishing involves a lot of waiting? Yeah, even though I knew that, the waiting was still kind of surprising because... there really is a lot of it. Like... A LOT a lot.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I try to accept whatever opportunities float in my direction, but I’m kind of just paddling along. I blog on occasion. I’m also on Tumblr and Twitter more often than I should be. And I’m also on Facebook, although I’m trying to be better on that platform.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think you should do what’s comfortable for you. I don’t see using social media as work. Mostly I just goof around. I began tweeting well before I even wrote GoT&S, but I know authors who don’t tweet at all. It’s really up to what you want to do.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Not necessarily. Having a high number of twitter follows in no way guarantees that number of book sales. But it does help you connect with like-minded people, writers, and readers. And if a few of those people decide to check out your book, then that’s totally cool!