Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GUEST AUTHOR C. LEE MCKENZIE ON PUBLISHING, TRADITIONAL AND INDIE!


Deb asked me to address some questions that might help others when they go through the publishing process the first time. I think this is a great idea. I could have used some answers from those who preceded me, but I was so new to writing and publishing fiction that I didnt even know what to ask.

Anyway, here are my answers to Debs Questions  

 Question: What was it like going through the various stages of editing?

My first and second young adult books (Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of LasPulgas) were traditionally published, and I was fortunate to have a fantastic editor for both. She had twenty-eight years of experience in the publishing business, and she was a published author whom they hired to acquire and edit books for them. She suggested one change in the structure of the novel Sliding on the Edge, which I did because it was a great suggestion and because she knew what she was doing. Also the change was a matter of writing an Epilogue, which took me only about half an hour because I knew exactly what it had to say. Why I didnt write it before is a mystery to me, but as I already explained, I was very much the novice.

With these two books, I did three rounds of line edits using Track Changes. The goal was to have no comments left in the document. For Sliding on the Edge, I estimate I spent a total of 30 hours stretched over two weeks. Its hard to tell exactly how much time I spent on this, because I had questions, and after asking them, I had to wait until the editor got back to me. With The Princess of Las Pulgas there were only a few edits and they took about three hours in one sittingwell, I took some short breaks. Between communications with her, I remember a lot of waiting and worrying. But I do that about anything Im uncertain about.

With Alligators Overhead, the book I published on my own, Id asked an editor friend to do the final edits for me, but she was called away on an emergency, so I foolishly did those final edits myself. The first edition had errors, and I was horrified. I quickly fixed those, but hated that my first Indie book initially went out with at least ten typos. Never again. If I go Indie for another book, it will be professionally edited up to the publication.

Question: Id like to know how you went about deciding on a cover, or did your publisher help you with that, too? Did they find you the artist for the cover, or were you on your own?

For my first traditionally published book, the publisher chose the artist and then sent me three concepts for the cover. I asked friends and family to weigh in, and we all chose the same one. Personally, I love my cover. Sliding on the Edge has the idea of a girl in crisis and alone. It has the horses and the rural setting of the story. Its not sexy or glam like some YA fiction, but the story isnt a sexy one, and the only glam in it is a beautiful horse, so the cover made sense to me. For The Princess of Las Pulgas, the publisher presented the cover already chosen. I had no input.

Question: What headaches did you suffer, what surprises came up, and what, if anything, went easier than you expected?

The editing was a bit boring, but I did it chunks. I had to chunk it because if I didnt, Id make more mistakes. I estimate my on-task time for each editing period was about an hour. Then Id take a break. Choosing the cover was painless. The whole pre-publishing process was relatively easy. It was the post-publishing process that gave me headaches.

During my debut launch, Sliding on the Edge didnt arrive in time for a major bookstore event. Then when book two was published, I arranged to present a paper at a Florida National Council of Teachers of English, so I could sign The Princess of Las Pulgas. Those books didnt arrive, so I wound up signing Sliding.

One thing most new authors should expect is to pay for a lot of travel expenses. As it was, I didnt mind paying to go to this event because I wanted to go and had planned to anyway. The issue was that the publisher didnt support me as an author who was just starting out.

To read more about that experience, see THE WRITE GAME. So, I guess you could say this was the time the real headaches happened, and I was constantly surprised by the publishers choices. They wouldnt do a paperback or an eBook. The only format they made available was a hardcopy. They wouldn't create the Look Inside feature that Amazon has as a marketing tool. My hands were tied until I asked for and got my rights back.

 Question: What did they tell you might be your sales outlook/projection (or do they
stay out of that), and do they offer any promotion help or at least ideas?

Their job is to choose titles they think will sell, so I assume they had confidence that my book would appeal to their readers because they paid me a healthy advance for each book. PW would say my advances were good, especially for a new author. This publisher was going for a contemporary/realistic niche in the market. They didnt do speculative or dystrophic fiction, so I think they hoped to carve out sales from those who weren't interested in angels and fairies and zombies. I had nothing to do with sales projections, but a lot to do with marketing. I just didnt understand how much at the outset. It was never stated how much or exactly what I was expected to do. The publisher suggested I hop on Facebook and Twitter, and that was about it.

When I realized I had much more work to do if I expected Sliding on the Edge to do anything, I contacted bookstores, libraries, and local schools. My best support came from my local newspaper, and articles they printed netted me several book signings in my town. Later those book signings led to annual writing workshops and high school visits. I was building my network in person, while I was building it online. This paid off for my second and third books, because I had the contacts and they emailed me to visit their schools or appear at book signings.

The publisher held two book signings for me. The one in Florida that Ive already mentioned and a second signing in L.A. at the ALA Conference. In L.A. they had a booth, and I met many authors in person that I had only contacted via social media. It was a good experience in that I visited a lot of different publishing houses and got a sense of their books and their style.

Question: How much time goes into your own marketing of your books, and is it more or less than you expected, and how much time does that leave for writing?

With book one, I was unprepared for marketing and all that it required. I blogged a bit and I signed up for Facebook and Goodreads (which still confuses the heck out of me). I even started Tweeting, something that baffles my family. You do what?

But I was behind the learning curve on marketing, so I didnt do a great job, and I was hacking away at book two, The Princess of Las Pulgas, so what had been a wonderful writing experience with book one, turned into a real job with this second one. I was up at four in the morning to write until at least seven, then doing social media and trying to find time for the rest of my life. Sleep would have been nice.

Question: What would you do differently in the future?

I would be more savvy at marketing. I would spend more time building my network of followers and concentrate on how I want to be seen by readers. I think I would invest in a truly good marketing firm. But realistically, back then when I was dealing with book one, I didnt know if Id sell that book. I was paddling in a very large sea without a clue about how deep it was or how far I might go. It seemed ill advised to spend so much money before I had an inkling about how my book would be received. With book two Id at least found a paddle for that boat and I had something of a following online. I was being asked to contribute to anthologies, so I did that and I garnered more attention for this second book. I paid for two ads on FB (they did nothing for my sales). I did a giveaway on Goodreads and started getting good reviews. Id do more on Goodreads if I had it to do again.

Since that first publisher, Ive already moved through a different publishing experience. As I said, with my middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, I went Indie and used Outskirts Press. I chose them based on a friends recommendation. They provided editing (this was about the same experience as with the traditional publisher), interiors (dingbats and fonts to enhance the look of the page) that were interesting, photo galleries for me to choose the basic cover, then they had artists enhance the cover to suit my story. You have marketing options with them as well.

The downside is its expensive, but the upside is that when you dont know anything about how to publish a book, you can learn. I didnt have time to do everything myself, so Outskirts Press was a solution at the time.

My third young adult book has just been accepted by a small press, Evernight Teen. So this next experience will be different again.

Double Negative will come out as an eBook, then if sales support it, they will do a POD paperback. I like this idea and it makes me think this publisher has a smart business plan.

They have a strong social media presence, and they will help with sending the book out to reviewers. They will also contact bloggers and do some online promo which looks like giveaways and contests linked to some of their other books.

I will do a blog tour on my own, and Ive already started asking for help. Since the pub date is July, Im scrambling to pull everything together fast. Fortunately, I now know a little more about what marketing is expected of me and how to do it.

While theyve suggested some marketing strategies, theyve not given me a specific must do list outside of posting their logo on my website, visiting their FB page for authors regularly and contacting reviewers.

I just completed the editing process. Again, they use Track Changes and there were few edits, mostly at punctuation level. I seem to forget commas pretty regularly.

See C. Lee McKenzie at http://cleemckenziebooks.com/


C. Lee McKenzie is a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places, then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains where she lives with her family and miscellaneous pets. She writes most of the time, gardens and hikes and does yoga a lot, and then travels whenever she can. 

She takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives, came out in 2010. Her short stories appear in the anthologies, The First Time and Two and Twenty Dark Tales. In 2012, her first middle grade novel, Alligators Overhead, came out. This year Double Negative, her young adult story about a functionally illiterate teen, will be out as an eBook.

 

 


 
 

75 comments:

  1. Marketing sure does take a ton of time, hard to find time for sleep indeed haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. We all need robots, one to work, one to sleep, one to play... wait, no. Let's keep that one for ourselves. :-)

      Delete
    2. You're so right, Pat. More than I ever imagined. Now I do have to be organized. :-)

      Delete
  2. That is an excellent series of questions, and every author should be interested in the responses. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

      Delete
    2. Debi was very thorough. I liked her questions because it let me rethink a lot of what I now take for granted, but didn't understand when I began.

      Delete
  3. I'm so thrilled to see Lee's post. She's a wonderful writer, excellent person. Great questions, Debi. It's great learning more about Lee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was very happy with her answers, all info writers need to know before they submit.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Joylene. I appreciated Debi asking me to visit her site.

      Delete
  4. Lee is a well of information. It's great to have the blogs and social media to connect. Yet, often I feel as if I still have no idea as to what I'm doing.

    Waving at Debi :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I just pretend I know, and sometimes I'm even convinced. :-)

      Delete
    2. You're the diva of getting the word out about your books, Mary!

      Delete
  5. Why does blogger keep giving me comment errors? I want to smack it. lol

    Anyway, as I was saying, it's wonderful that we all share information these days. I still often feel as if I have no idea as to what I'm doing.

    Hello to Debi :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. These are great insights into the publishing world. My publisher is a small press, so what they do is a little different from what bigger companies do. I hope to publish books with a publishing house in the future, so knowing what they do now will help me then. Thank you, C. Lee and Debi! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are so many different publishers out there that I'm sure ten people would have ten different experiences.

      Delete
    2. I love how the business has opened up with so many possibilities for authors.

      Delete
  7. This is quite insightful and it would feel like one is in a boat without a paddle at first. very interesting about the marketing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not knowing what to do in the way of marketing is the part that scares me to death.

      Delete
    2. I often lose track of where I am. I have lists just about everywhere these days, then, of course, I lose the lists. Madness!

      Delete
  8. While i'm not a writer, i am fascinated with all that it takes to publish a book. The details never cease to amaze me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is surprising, isn't it? You'd never know how much work it takes by looking at those little vessels of words. :-)

      Delete
    2. I'm trying to inform my friends because they think I zip off manuscripts while eating chocolate coated peanuts, then send the books off and relax. It takes me a while to stop laughing at their comments, but then I straighten them out.

      Delete
  9. A book comes alive in the editing. Great interview!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

      Delete
    2. I'm always surprised when authors don't love editing. I think it's the best of times for the book and the author.

      Delete
  10. This is such a thoughtful, comprehensive post. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good one. C. Lee is great, so kind to share her story here.

      Delete
    2. Glad you stopped by, Liza. Thanks so much.

      Delete
  11. You bring up a good point here in that writing is still a business and thus has to be marketed. As with just about any other product, you can have the best one out there but if you can't sell it, it won't do you any good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. And I really did think there was some magic dust that the publisher would sprinkle over my books to make them highly visible. How wrong can a writer be?

      Delete
  12. There's a lot of good information in this post. I've self published three book, but I'll be shopping my first book of fiction soon. I need all the help I can get.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having published three books already, at least you will have an idea about marketing strategies.

      Delete
    2. Good luck with the shopping. It's not for the faint of heart. Let us know how it goes.

      Delete
  13. What a terrific interview, and so much wisdom to share! I think Lee is fun and fascinating already, and was happy to learn a bit more about her variety of publishing experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad she was willing to share it here. :-)

      Delete
    2. Waving at you Lynda! Thanks for stopping in to say hi. It's always great to see you.

      Delete
  14. Thanks for the insights C. Lee and Debi. I think working in chunks on edits and revisions is an excellent approach. If you try to tackle them all at once or skip around, it is easy to make additional mistakes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes and I find I'm in danger of shredding the whole thing and starting over again when I go with the global attack.

      Delete
  15. Thank you, C. Lee and Debi, for the great questions and answers! Very helpful and very appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you find the post helpful. I was really happy to get C. Lee's advice here.

      Delete
    2. I'm really glad I could do this. Honored, in fact. Debi has a super blog.

      Delete
  16. HI Debi and Lee - great post ... I can see you need to start and just move forward - but all experiences are different ... and I'd like to be able to do what I wanted and not have my rights taken away ...

    I know two elderly authors who 'refuse' to have their books in Amazon - makes life not very easy to get sales ...

    I know I'll go the ebook route to start with and then extrapolate that out with some 'novella' style publications ... and it will be slow and sure I hope ...

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck. I change my mind every day on what my eventual approach will be. :-)

      Delete
    2. I think eBooks are a great idea. It gives you a shot at a wide audience, and then you can always do a print version. I see that as the way a lot of publishers are going to do business.

      Delete
  17. Great guest post! Thanks for going into detail about your journey. I'm surprised at the bigger publisher not even covering basics like the Amazon Look Inside feature. And I keep hearing about authors who have to do all of their own marketing even when signed to major publishers. As a total introvert, I was kinda hoping the publisher would take care of all that if I ever got signed :-) I don't mind sitting at a booth, but giving talks and presentations? Eep!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your response made me smile, such an echo to my thoughts!

      Delete
    2. I think you'll find presentations the most rewarding promo experiences you'll have. It's great to meet people who have read or want to read what you've created.

      Delete
  18. It's funny she mentions revising in chunks. Right now I'm in revisions on my second (traditionally published) novel and I'm doing 10 pages at a time. I get overwhelmed if I try to do too much more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh. I go with ten pages as my editing chunk, too. :-)

      Delete
    2. Whatever you're chunking plan, it's good. Some days I did a few lines. Other days I did a few pages. It just depended on my mood and the edits, but it did average out to about an hour before I needed to stretch and clear my head.

      Delete
  19. Great interview. You asked great questions and got some really fantastic answers. I enjoyed reading it. I'm always interested in the publishing experiences of other writers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With so many different publishers out there, and all contracts varied, it seemed something that would find interest and help a lot of newbies. I'm so glad C. Lee was willing to share her time and experiences.

      Delete
    2. Hope some of it helped, Holli. Thanks to Debi for the super questions.

      Delete
  20. Excellent Q&A. I found the marketing answer especially interesting, as it seems that's where most writers have trouble since writing and marketing are so different -- not the easiest assignment to handle for the creative mind (marketing, so rooted in reality), so perhaps hiring someone is the way to go. Thank you for sharing your view and experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hiring professionals is a good idea, but you still have to do a lot yourself. Wish I had better news.

      Delete
    2. Either way a person goes, it's bound to be a lot of work, but worth it.

      Delete
  21. Some interesting points here, particularly the marketing. That is such a colossal amount of work and I agree that it's better to have a team doing that for you or it swallows you up. However, when it's first boo stage and you have no idea whether it will take off then you have to do that yourself. Blood, sweat, more blood and tears!

    On a side note: I have moved my blog to www.julessmith.co.uk. I now have follow buttons on my new site - hoorah - and you can now add me to your reader. My RSS feed - http://www.julessmith.co.uk/feed
    Thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Jules. I'll stop by your new spot in cyberspace to say hello.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for sharing your new site so we can find you. :-)

      Delete
  22. This is so fascinating and helpful to hear your insights, as I'm a debut author staring down my first book release next month! Eek! It's all so intimidating, and I'm a marketing ignoramus, so I appreciate the advice on where to focus and what to expect. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry I got to this so late. How is it going?

      Delete
  23. Her varied experiences with her books has given Lee great insight into the publishing/marketing aspect of the writing journey. You can't buy this kind of knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Tweeting... say it ain't so ;) Yes, everything - good books and bad ones - seems to depend on marketing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really true. I wish just having a well-written, interesting book was enough to ensure sales. That would be wonderful.

      Delete
    2. Sounds like a plot to me - as in fiction ;)

      Delete
    3. Maybe the fear of all the marketing to come is what's got be dragging me heels through a novel. :-)

      Delete
  25. "Debi O'Neille" has been included in our Sites To See #389. Be assured that we hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/08/sites-to-see-389.html

    ReplyDelete