Amy Reed On Letting Go Of Control Once You Are Published

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 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 Amy Reed. Her new novel, The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World (July 9, 2019/Simon Pulse) is about two teens from the wrong side of the tracks whose lives crash into each other and start a surreal series of events that may lead to the apocalypse. Amy is a feminist, mother, and Virgo who enjoys running, making lists, and wandering around the mountains of western North Carolina where she lives. You can find her online at amyreedfiction.com. 

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

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I have very little control over what happens once my manuscript is out of my hands and turns into a real book, like how much marketing support it will get, how much it will sell, and what kind of praise or criticism it will receive. Writing and publishing is just a long bumpy process of letting go. The less I depend on external validation, the more at peace I am on this crazy ride.

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?

My first couple of books (Beautiful and Clean) felt very authentic to me as an artist (or artiste, I suppose—I was still very much living in the wake of my MFA preciousness), but unfortunately my response to the success of those books was to become a lot more focused on writing what I thought I was supposed to write, what was “on brand,” and writing lost some of its magic. Then my daughter was born and I moved across the country, and something shifted for me.

The Nowhere Girls was about me reclaiming my passion for storytelling, my own voice, and my love for the lives of my characters and readers. My new book The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World (July 9, Simon Pulse) was the most fun I’ve ever had writing because I allowed myself to really play with fantasy and surrealism for the first time. And my next book--which will remain mysterious for now since it hasn’t officially been announced yet—is the weirdest (and maybe best) thing I’ve ever written. 

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

Planning my own book tours. I don’t do that anymore. I pretty much just do one release event at my local indie, and I’ll do local events with friends when invited, and of course whatever my publisher plans for me, but I’d rather put my energy into my writing.

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

That my books are not for everybody. I write about dark stuff because those are the stories that resonate with me, and they are the ones I needed to read as a teen. But not everybody wants to read those stories, and that’s okay. I have never been a conventional person, and my books are not conventional. And as we evolve, we are both getting even more unconventional.

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

For the last six years, I’ve (mostly) been able to write full time, which is a great privilege and gift that I really try to not take for granted. I’ve also made some incredible friends along the way, which has been a lifesaver in this often very solitary profession.

Continuing To Write For Yourself... Seven Years After Publication: Jodi Meadows

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 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 Jodi Meadows, who debuted in 2012 with Incarnate. She wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She has also authored the Orphan Queen Duology, and the Fallen Isles Trilogy, and is a coauthor of My Lady Jane.

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

Definitely!  

Over the years, my perspective on writing and publishing has absolutely changed. It’s had to. I’ve had books my publisher has gotten behind and supported . . . and books they have not. I’ve said good-bye to editors and publicists, and gotten to know and appreciate new ones. I’ve written books I thought would be my next book, only to find out they would not, and later found myself writing books I hadn’t imagined would be on my Also By page. 

The seven years since my first book came out haven’t killed my hopefulness, nor my love of writing, but some days it takes more of an effort to find my optimism. I have a lot better sense of things that can go wrong (and right!).

Now, the way I talk about writing and publishing is still hopeful, but tempered with carefully measured reality.

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?

 Both. Can I choose both?

When I have multiple ideas I’m excited about, I often consider which one will be easier to sell—which one might be the best next move for my career.  

There’s a book I’ve been working on off and on for years, but I won’t dig into it and finish it until I don’t need money anymore; the book is unlikely to bring me riches . . . or even pay a few bills. I joke about it, but it’s also not a joke.  

When I decide what to work on, I follow the characters as I’m writing and editing, but I also keep in mind what I want the book to be. It’s my job to find a balance between those two things.

In a way, I learned this lesson pretty early on in my career. Incarnate was my first published book, but it was the seventeenth novel I finished writing. I’d spent a lot of time before that writing to trends, following whims, and trying to produce what I thought other people wanted – instead of writing what is the most me. And I always, always remember that when I’m making choices. Ultimately, I am my own target audience. If I’m not happy with the book, no one else will be either.

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

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career so far, and because of those, I’ve had to learn how to do a lot more than just write a book; I’ve had to learn how to sell it, too.

In some ways, I like feeling as though I have even a crumb of control over how my book performs, but it’s also upsetting to realize that I have to do so much of my own promotion and marketing, or it just won’t happen. (Most authors are in the same boat.) It’s also made me aware of just how limited my reach is. 

Sometimes, I think about that time our debut group had a chat with the group ahead of us. It struck me how disheartened – how world weary – the other group sounded when they talked about the business, and I couldn’t understand it. They had books out! Their dreams had been realized! But even just a few months after my first book released, I completely understood how the shine rubbed off the dream.

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

Travel and public appearances.

I’ve always been a shy introvert, much more comfortable at home than anywhere else. But over the years I’ve overcome a lot of travel anxiety (I do not miss those sleepless, panic-filled nights before the airport) and figured out how to speak in front of people without wanting to curl up and die. I’ve learned how to fake being an extrovert for a little while (and how long I need to recover).  

All that was not easy for me, but absolutely worth the effort. I still get nervous, but the reward is seeing readers and other authors. That is truly one of the coolest parts of being an author. 

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

Before I got published, I believed having a book or nine out in the world would make my life different. Maybe even better in some ways. But so far, my life is relatively unchanged. I do travel more, people read my books, and when I’m anxious it’s pretty easy to trace it back to publishing now (thanks, publishing!), but as I answer these questions, I’m still in my pajamas (they have holes in them), I want more coffee, and the cat box needs to be cleaned. My life did not spontaneously morph into movie deals and people who are paid to clean the cat box for me.

 And really, I’m glad about that. It keeps me grounded. 

NJ Simmonds on Marketing Yourself

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is NJ Simmonds, writer of YA fantasy, romance, and historical stuff that she totally makes up. A tiresome feminist killjoy, she's really bad at sitting still or keeping quiet. Her first book, The Path Keeper, releases today!

Are you a Planner or Pantser?

I’m a Planner Plus – because I’m also a dreamer. I spend months and months thinking about my stories before putting fingers to keyboard, imagining them like a movie in my head. It’s not until I’ve ironed out every little detail and plot-hole that I plan it chapter by chapter, and then write. It means that I don’t have that dreaded messy first draft so many people battle through, filling in gaps and spotting plot issues.

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

A lot less time now that I’m on a deadline for books two and three. My first book, The Path Keeper, took three years, but back then it was a hobby and I re-wrote it dozens of times. Book two took about nine months to final draft and the last in the series will have taken me about five months. Less I hope. I’m nearly at the end of the first draft. I did take just three months to write a YA contemporary once, but so far no publisher wants it – so maybe I should have taken more time with that one haha.

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

I’m a multi, multi, multi tasker. I am currently planning the launch of book 1, editing book 2, writing book 3, planning my next series, subbing my standalone novel, I have five half-baked book ideas in note form – oh, and a job and two kids! This may explain my tense shoulders and insomnia.

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

No. Mainly because I was doing it for cathartic reasons. I had absolutely no expectations of anyone reading it or of taking it all the way to publishing. My two children were under three years of age when I started, and I was very exhausted, unhappy and unfulfilled. I started writing as a way to express myself and to escape, it became my savior.

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

None. But that’s because I knew nothing about the publishing industry or agents and someone I knew, who was a small-time agent, snapped up my first novel and offered to rep it. I was very nonchalant about it all and said ‘OK, let’s see if you get anyone interested in it, if not I’ll self-publish’. I had zero expectations. After a year of rejections, she folded her business anyway, so I was left unagented. At that point I should have started from scratch and got another agent – but instead one of the publishers showed interest, so I continued solo.

I always wonder whether, had I subbed to top agents from the start, whether my journey would have been different or if I would have trunked the first book after a few No’s.

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

Oh lots, but in my mind they are just little buds that have been put on ice. When the time is right, I’ll tend to them properly and watch them bloom. Most are only 5-10k words in - nothing major, just a few chapters. The only reason I stopped was because I had publisher deadlines with the series so had to focus on that, or because other ideas came along that were more exciting.

My unfinished books are all YA contemporary. I plan to focus on fantasy for a bit longer so may revisit them at a later stage. 

How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

I’ve had a complicated route to publication, as The Path Keeper was first published by a small UK publisher who dropped YA after a few months – so I had to find the series a new home after being out just four months.

When the first edition hit the shops back in 2017, the entire experience was overwhelmingly surreal. I was in a London Waterstones, my book all over the shop, and a queue of people waiting to have it signed. I couldn’t believe it was my life – especially when it was beside other YA greats such as The Hate U Give and Caraval!

How much input do you have on cover art?

The first time around, with my first publisher, it was quite a lot. I filled in a form, hated their first attempt, and they basically did what I asked and I loved it. Now that I’m with a new publisher, and the book is hitting the USA and the rest of the world, I’m very very nervous. My background is in branding and marketing, so covers are so important to me – in fact a lot of the negotiations before I signed with my new publishers was about positioning, to ensure that they saw the future of the series the same way I did. They’ve been amazing, listening to my ideas, research and suggestions…so we’ll see. I’ll be seeing the cover soon. It should be beautiful, it has to be, we are definitely on the same page.

What social media ISN’T is a sales platform. It’s there to build your brand, connect and interact. It is not successful when all you do is sell yourself on there..png

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

I’ve learned so much the hard way. Having been signed by an agent in 2015, then losing her, then signed to a publisher in 2016, published 2017, then leaving that publisher and not getting a new one for nine months (unagented) has been a really steep learning curve.

Even though my series is finally getting the attention it deserved first time around, I have definitely been subjected to all the highs and lows. My biggest lesson has been that authors are expected to do a huge amount of self-promotion, and you earn very very little to begin with. I wasn’t prepared for either. I was also shocked by the fact that it’s not that easy to get into a bookshop, so don’t think just because you’re signed that your book will be in the Barnes & Noble store window. It probably won’t be.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

A huge amount. Marketing is my day job, so I have a website, a blog (although it’s not as active as I’d like it to be), Twitter, Instagram, a Facebook page and a number of groups. I’m regularly guest appearing on book club groups and other people’s blogs too, plus when the first edition of The Path Keeper came out I managed all my own PR so organized TV, radio, press and events myself across four countries.

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

As I mentioned before, I knew nothing about writing and wasn’t even on Twitter when I began the book. Had I set out to be a published writer from the onset, and what I tell people, is start building your platform NOW. Start a Twitter account and blog and document your journey. People buy people. I can’t tell you how many books I have bought because I like the person on Twitter, and they finally got published. So do it pre-agent – you’d be surprised how many agents are on there watching too.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

100%. But then I lecture on corporate storytelling and self-branding as part of my job – so I’d be crazy to say otherwise.

What social media ISN’T is a sales platform. It’s there to build your brand, connect and interact. It is not successful when all you do is sell yourself on there. No one likes that. Is there a correlation between sales and followers? No. But it IS great brand exposure/PR and it will encourage people to take you seriously, and remember you/give you a chance when they’re in a book shop.