Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 Authors Voice Their Publishing Insights

Interview With Children’s Book Author Elise Primavera

1.      Elise, how did you become a children’s book author? I’m actually an author and illustrator — but I started out strictly as an illustrator. Back in the day it was pretty much a case of bringing my portfolio around and trying to get in to see someone. My first break came from what was then called Harper and Row. I was given a cover to illustrate and after that a picture book. From there more books followed.

I was doing a lot of books in the 90’s for Putnam’s and after a while the subject just sort of came up about whether or not I had any interest in writing my own picture books. I wrote and illustrated three books of my own during that time. I think a lot of illustrators have transitioned into writing this way.

I wrote and illustrated my two AUNTIE CLAUS Christmas books, in 1999 and 2002. Right after that I got an idea for a novel called THE SECRET ORDER OF THE GUMM STREET GIRLS and surprised myself by actually being able to write something for older kids that were longer than forty pages. It has definitely been an on-the-job learning experience. I have relied a lot on and have learned a tremendous amount from the great editors I’ve worked with. Since that first novel which came out in 2006 I’ve written lots of different types of children’s books; a boy oriented graphic novel series, more picture books that other artists have illustrated, I just finished a more realistic illustrated novel about a girl who starts to ride horses called LIBBY OF HIGH HOPES which will be out in June 2012. Right now I’m working on an illustrated novel to be published in 2013.

2.      What have you done to promote and market your book?  Probably not enough. I will do eblasts to tell people about somewhere I’ll be or if a new book is coming out. I have a “news” page on my website with updates about what I’m working on. I’m on Facebook, (but I must confess I hardly EVER participate) I don’t do Twitter, I just started with LinkedIn.

Last year I got together with a couple of guys named Bert Bernardi and Jimmy Johansmeyer who are into children’s theater and I asked them to make a song for a picture book that I wrote and illustrated called THUMB LOVE. We shot a music video and then put it on YouTube, my website, and their site. I’m not sure if it generated sales, but it was terrific fun. Also, the publisher did a blog tour where I wrote a few paragraphs for about a dozen different blogs.

I guess that’s about it. The problem with marketing for me is time. I’m writing and illustrating my longer books and it’s very time consuming—especially the art. I don’t have a lot of extra hours to spend on marketing as well.

3.      What do you love about writing books for young minds?  I guess I just love children’s books. I was a huge comic book reader as a kid and then of course the HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I think it’s a combination of becoming immersed in a fantasy world, the characters who inhabit that world, and the images that are conjured by the words. I’ve always been fascinated by the combination of words and pictures. It’s very magical to me.

I love the work of William Steig, Raymond Briggs, Maurice Sendak, graphic novelist Lynda Barry, William Joyce, Chris Van Allsburg. I don’t love mystery stories, but I do love mysterious stories. I really like Neil Gaiman’s work.

My love for stories, and pictures, and characters, went beyond just reading them—I had a very strong compulsion to create my own and have spent somewhere around twenty-five years trying to do that. Might I add that I STILL don’t feel like I know what I’m doing every single time I start a project. But even after all this time, sitting in my studio and coming up with ideas, combining the words with the pictures never gets old to me.

4.      Where do you think the book industry s heading? If only I had a crystal ball! I hear all sorts of things; kids aren’t reading, no one wants to buy books, picture books are dead, books are headed off a cliff etc. All I can say is that I still use a legal pad to jot down my ideas in long hand. I still sit down with a pencil and eraser to begin to illustrate a book–I still have to think – Google doesn’t have my idea for my next book. Every day I just try to stay on the path and do the best books that I know how to do. With all my heart I don’t believe people will ever get tired of hearing a good story.

5.      How do you collaborate with your illustrator to tell the story so well?  I am still new at collaborating with artists who illustrate my words. To be honest I find it sort of difficult to see someone else do the art for words I’ve written. I have such a clear vision of how things should be that it is very jarring to see someone else’s take on a manuscript.

For some books, not all, I work closely with the art director and – give comments at all stages in the development. It’s kind of hard though because even when I illustrate MY OWN books a lot of times I’m unhappy with the results. It means a lot to me to get it right – but when others are involved I’m never sure how crazy I should drive people to make it perfect – the other side of the equation is always how crazy they’ll LET me drive them! I guess you could say I have issues on this subject…

Interview With Sharón Lynn Wyeth, Author and Speaker

1.      As the author of the amazon bestseller, "Know the Name; Know the Person: Decoding Letters to Reveal Secrets Hidden in Names", what do you feel moves people to buy books? People purchase books based on the book's title, the colors on the front cover, the headline on the back cover and the table of contents. We want to be entertained and/or discover something new and we don't want to have to work at it. So, when something looks both fun and interesting, we'll buy into it.

2.      How does being a speaker help you brand yourself and sell books? Speaking helps people connect with me personally. They get to see how I've used names in so many fascinating ways and that they feel inspired. The best part is that I give out useful information that can be used immediately so that people can have fun with other peoples' names.  Interpreting names of people in the audience demonstrates some of what we know about a person before we really know them. This is the next best thing to mind reading. Who wouldn't want to know how to interpret names once you see it in action? That helps me to sell books.

3.      What is your book about? We are all fascinated by names and what they mean. When someone meets us for the first time and asks who we are, we answer with our name as if that says it all. Indeed it does when you know how to interpret a name as our names give others insight into our personality traits, our feelings and out behaviors.  Other books on names give one or two sentences on what a name means. In "Know the Name; Know the Person" you discover how to get pages of information on someone based on the placement of the letters in their name using a fairly new science called Neimology® Science.

4.      What do you love about being a part of the book industry? I love sharing knowledge that can help people understand themselves and others better. Being a part of the book industry allows me to do that.

5.      Where do you think it is heading? I see people using Neimology® Science when determining whom to date; employers using Neimology® Science when hiring; parents using Neimology® Science to help connect with their children better and to help name their babies; Neimology® Science can be used to help determine who could have committed a crime or when selecting juries and you can use Neimology® Science to help you get hired and to determine whom you'd like to work.  I personally use it to help me know someone's learning style before I teach a class, and what gifts someone would like to receive.

Interview With Barbara Reid, Children’s Book Author

1.      What do you love most about being a children’s book author? I love working on projects that interest me, and I can't think of a better form for delivering artwork and ideas than a picture book.  If you get it right, the work is looked at over and over, becomes a part of a family, and may be shared for generations.  And I love the audience.  Kids are open and enthusiastic an honest.  It's always a thrill when I open mail containing artwork from a child that was inspired by one of my books.  Now it is mostly electronic, but in the past I received many heavy, squishy parcels of flattish plasticine artwork!

2.      What are parents are really looking for in the books they buy for their children? I hope they are looking for books that will fascinate, delight and engage their kids.  In the case of a picture book, it helps if the book fascinates, delights and engages the parent, because an enthusiastic reader connects to the listener and brings a book to life. 

3.      Where do you see the book publishing I industry heading? eeeek!  I wish I knew.  I do know that readers of all ages will continue to want stories, and publishers and creators are very good at producing high quality material. I think the expertise of editors, marketers, librarians, booksellers, critics, is still needed to get the best stuff out there and bring it to reader’s attention.  Not all writers have the time or ability to self promote and market.  It's pretty hard to do all that for free, so something's gotta give...

4.      Will children’s books convert well as e-books? I feel that the physical book is a very important form for young children, for reasons too numerous to mention.  Picture books as e-books risk becoming a toy rather than a book.  Not that there is anything wrong with toys, and the digital stuff can be fun and beautiful and creative.  My hope is that e-books will offer the author and illustrator's content as it was created, and the apps and do-dahs and add-ons are separated somehow so the user has the opportunity to experience both.

5.      What advice do you have for fellow authors to succeed? Creators need to focus on their work and what they are passionate about.  All the other stuff won't do much good if you don't have excellent original material.

Interview With Fiction Author Sheila Roberts

1.      What inspired you to become an author? A girl has to do something with all that imagination!

2.      What do you like most about being a published author? Getting to hang out with readers.

3.      What do you find most challenging in the process of promoting your book?  Managing to do everything I want to do. I love to promote! But as with all things in life, this requires budgeting of both funds and time. And that means I can't always do everything I want to. Darn!

4.      What advice do you have for struggling authors? Keep learning (you should always have a new book on writing on your bedside table), and keep writing (and applying what you've learned).

5.      Where do you think book publishing is heading in five years? There will always be a need for good stories and, obviously, those stories will be available in increasingly different forms. I don't think traditional print publishing is dead (too many people, including me, still like the feel of a book in their hands), but there is definitely a new kid on the block thanks to the availability and affordability of e-readers. Hopefully, in five years more people will be reading and publishers will have found ways to meet that demand that benefit us all.

6.      What was your most recent book about? THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS is out now and is about a cat desperately trying to hang onto his ninth life. This involves some serious good-deed doing, like matching up a commitment phobic fireman with the shy woman who works at the local pet supply store.

Interview With Author Jerry Gold

1. What inspired you to become an author? A 3rd-grade writing assignment. I got such pleasure from writing the story that I wanted to experience that pleasure again. Also, other kids liked my story. My most recent book, Paranoia & Heartbreak: Fifteen Years in a Juvenile Facility, is a memoir of my years as a rehabilitation counselor in a prison for children in Washington state. It is taken from the journal I kept during those years. I have since written a companion to it in which I followed five kids I knew who were in prison and were released, and about whom I had information. This book is being reviewed by another publisher. I have also written a book about one girl who was in for murder and who was on my caseload, and her attempts to deal with what she did and why she did it, and what it means for the rest of her life (she was sentenced as an adult). I intended to publish this book with my own company, and still may, but I have decided to enter it in some contests first. 

2. What do you like most about being a published author? Knowing that I have moved other people--i.e., my readers.

3. What do I find most challenging in the process of promoting my book? Having to talk about it. By the time the book is published, I'm well into writing another book. While the book is new to the reader, my concentration is elsewhere now. Also, many interviewers ask questions about the book, obviously with something in (their own) mind, that I do not get. One interviewer asked me to compare the army with my job as a counselor in a juvenile prison. I had no idea why she had asked that question or what she meant by it.

4. What advice do you have for struggling authors? If you don't feel impelled to write, then don't. For almost all writers, there are few rewards other than the writing itself. Although, nowadays it's relatively inexpensive to send a few copies of what you've written--either digital or POD-- to people you want to read it. Of course, that doesn't mean they will read it.

5. Where do you think book publishing is heading in 5 years? I assume today's trends will continue. In some book genres, digital publishing will become increasingly important, in others not so much. Literary agents and publishers will be increasingly ignored as authors make their own arrangements such organizations as Amazon and Lulu. These organizations will proliferate. Other organizations, representing themselves as brokers to digital publishers, have already started up--I expect them and perhaps other types of company to try to insert themselves into the space between author and publisher, and between author and reader.

Interview With Pet Author Mark Poveromo, Sr
1.      What inspired you to become an author? The thought that there were many people, like myself, that wanted the best (food and treats ,etc)for their pet(s) but did not know where to start to find out what to look for. So I wrote a book about pet nutrition, To Your Dog’s Health.

2.      What do you like most about being a published author? The realization that people now know I am an educated author who truly knows his/her subject matter.

3.      What do you find most challenging in the process of promoting your book? By far getting the "word" out there..it has, and still is, a challenge to let people know that my book is "out there."

4.      What advice do you have for struggling authors? Persistence pays, but you need a good promoter to "get the buzz going"

5.      Where do you think you will be in five years? I hope to host a syndicated TV Pilot…perhaps on Animal Planet, National Geographic or PBS.

6.      What was you most recent book about? Dog and cat nutrition, and how and why nutrition is so important in our pets’ lives.

Interview With Author Scarlett Ridgway Savage

Scarlett Savage is a prolific, up and coming writer who's turning her award-winning hit plays into novels. She F&%$ing Hates Me: A Love Story is  a love story for the ages as well as the story of a family struggling to accept each other for who they are . . .and more importantly, who they're not.

1.      Your book has a provocative title: She F&%$ing Hates Me: A Love Story. What is it about?  It's about a couple (Ava and Buddy) in New Hampshire who wind up living next door to each other in a retirement community. Ava and Buddy dated as teens until he was shipped off to the Vietnam War; she wound up marrying his best friend. Later Ava held Buddy responsible for the collapse of the Irish pub Buddy and her husband owned. But now, in their late sixties, due to their proximity of their homes, they're forced to deal with each other. Is it possible they can find love again?

At the same time, Ava's 36-year-old daughter, Suzanne, is staying with her in the aftermath of her divorce. When they get a call from Suzanne's daughter Molly, who plans to come for a visit before starting her freshman year, announcing that she has something to tell them. Suzanne fears that history is repeating itself, and she's about to become a 36-year-old grandmother, especially when Molly comes home with a tattooed, bleached friend, Brandon. But when Molly finally makes her announcement, no one could have predicted how ultra-liberal Suzanne would react . . .Will their family ever be the same?

2. Scarlett Savage – are you as alluring as your name? Are you kidding? My name STRIVES to be as alluring as I am!!

3. What do you love most about writing?  I love how you get lost in the worlds of the people you create; I love how people talk. When people interact, they rarely say what's actually on their mind; we talk in code. For example, if I say, "I’m going for a walk!" and storm out, what I'm really saying is, "I'm angry with you and need some space". The way a person talks reveals their upbringing, education, religion, where they were raised, how old they are--pretty much everything you need to know. And how they think, the internal monologue we all have, usually has NOTHING to do with the way people present themselves! Writing is just an excuse to study and to try to interpret the human condition.

4. What advice would you give to a struggling writer? Take EVERY opportunity to write. For your high school newspaper, your college paper; take courses. Write every day--make it part of your daily routine, like exercise or homework. Show your work to everyone that will read it. Find mentors. And most importantly, READ!! Read every day. And remember--the writers you admire
would probably look at your work and say, "You know, this kid has something."
5. You have been a columnist for One Magazine the past seven years. How does that type of writing compare to writing books and plays?  It's very different; you interview people from all walks of life, and you have to figure out what about them they want to share that would be interesting for the reader. You have to learn how to edit out the bits that might be repetitive and the bits that go on and on. You also need to look at what the people want to read about, and find ways to introduce new things to them that they might open their minds to. It's very important to capture a person's tone of voice when you're interviewing them; it's the flavor of the piece.

When you write a book or play, you're creating everything from scratch. With an interview, you're trying to interpret in a clear way someone's life and accomplishments; they're totally different animals. Writing books and plays are also very different; with books, you get to write what people think, how thinks look, you get to add information
in prose. In plays, you have to do everything with dialogue. It's a
fascinating challenge.
***Editorial Note: Sheila Roberts, Jerry Gold and Mark Poveromo were promoted by Planned Television Arts in the past year.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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