Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing
Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.
I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.
Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.
*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*
😼 😼 😼 😼 😼
Today I have the pleasure of a well-known author’s company. I have been a fan of her’s for just almost 3 years now. When I picked up her book, Sea Glass, I was captured by her writing style, her incredible world building and her exquisitely crafted characters. I couldn’t get enough of her other books. If you are a teen or have a teen in your house, you will know exactly who I am talking about. If you love reading books written by story-weavers then you will know her too. She has carved a niche in readers’ hearts all over the world. She has written 3 successful series of books and many short stories. From when her first novel, Poison Study, was published in 2005, nothing has held her back from creating new worlds and weaving new stories.
So make yourselves comfortable as the talented Maria V. Snyder and I have a conversation about Publishing.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about you as a beginning author and can you tell us the best advice you ever received before being a published author?
Maria >> I started writing because I was bored at work (shhh…don’t tell!). I’ve always enjoyed reading and being creative and I had dabbled with painting, acting, and dancing, but lacked the confidence to pursue any of those for my career. The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting. Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything. But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!
2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.
If you were starting out now as an author, would you still have made the same choices in publishing that you have made?
Maria >> Good question! At the time I was sending my first book, Poison Study around there were other options like self-publishing, digital formats, and print on demand available, but I really wanted to be published by a traditional publisher and if I hadn’t sold the book, I wouldn’t have pursued those other options. In today’s market, e-publishing is more popular, but I think it’s very difficult for a new author to stand out without spending lots of time and energy on marketing. If I was just starting out, I think I would still try to find a traditional publisher first before looking into e-publishing, but I wouldn’t rule it out like before.
3. How long did you spend in the pre-publishing trenches before you got an agent?
Maria >>About four years.
4. Rejection comes with the territory in the publishing industry.
Did you receive many rejections before signing with your agent? How did you persist submitting in spite of the rejections?
Maria >> I received 40 rejections from agents for Poison Study. After I exhausted all the agents who represented fantasy, I submitted the book directly to the publishers. I had a list of 20 publishers and I was determined to send the book to all of them before putting it away. While all this was going on, I wrote another book, Storm Watcher for kids ages 8 to 12. When I finished that book, I sent it to 20 agents and actually found one who wanted to represent me. When Poison Study found a publisher (#18 of 20), I called my agent and asked her to negotiate the contract. She asked me why I didn’t send her Poison Study when I was searching for an agent. I told her she hadn’t listed fantasy as one of the genres she represents and she said, “Oh, I take anything I like.” Sigh! This was back in 2003 – she never did sell Storm Watcher, however, I recently sold it to a small publisher (Leap Books). Even after 9 years, I didn’t give up on it. It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.
5. Many unpublished authors believe that the golden ticket to success is signing with a top literary agent. Would you agree and why/why not?
Maria >>In my case, I sold Poison Study on my own and my agent helped with the contract. However that was 9 years ago and many publishers were still accepting unagented submissions – I found 20, but today a writer might only find 5 as editors are relying on agents to pick the gems from the slush pile. An agent is very helpful and I always suggest you try to find one first, but if no one is interested, then to go ahead and submit on your own. Be careful about which agents you query – not all are reputable. I’ve an article about finding agents on my website here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice/findingL.php
6. Do you get nervous when a book submission and a new contract is under way, worrying whether it will be accepted or not?
Maria >>Yes! During contract negotiations, I’m always so thankful to have my agent. He (my second as my first passed away) loves to negotiate and I can hear the glee in his voice as he reports to me on how it’s going. He also gives me feedback on my novels as I working on them so I know if I’m in the ballpark or not – since he’s been in publishing forever, he knows if one of my projects won’t fly with my editor.
7. Can you share with us the process you go through once you have finished writing your book up until the time it is published?
Maria >>After I send off my book, both my agent and editor read it and send me comments. I revise based on their comments and re-submit. Then I get the copy edits and a few more comments from my editor (or her assistant). I revise again, and either agree or disagree with the copy edits then re-submit. Then I get the galley proofs and I have to go through every single line, looking for errors and typos (not fun) and then type up ALL the changes on the Author Alterations (AA) form (which is hell on earth) and send in the form and the pages with the changes. About six weeks before publication, I receive a box of books in the mail (always fun!). During this time, I’m also making up bookmarks with the cover art of the new book, updating my website, writing newsletters, preparing for blog tours, sending out review copies to bloggers and media, and doing a ton of other marketing and promotion. With Touch of Power, I had two blog tours (one in the US and one in the UK) and did a number of events for the Australian release.
8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet and readers/fans can now have and often demand to have more direct access to authors. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?
Maria >>Social media is wonderful! I always encouraged my readers to contact me through email, but I noticed once I had a Facebook page, the number of emails I received went down. The trap is spending too much time on these sites and not enough writing your book. I’ve fallen into that one many times. If you’re a new author, I’d suggest that before your book is released, that you set up a website, blog and make a Facebook page at the least. Some authors also do Twitter and Goodreads and other sites, but I think if you have too many, it’ll suck up all your time. I use Facebook, Goodreads, my blog and website and I’m barely keeping my head above water (and I have a quarterly e-newsletter, too). The nice thing about my blog is – it will automatically show up on my Facebook and Goodreads pages, saving me time. I’d suggest you set aside a certain amount of time each day for social media and stick to it so it doesn’t dominate your life.
9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in the Publishing Industry, and what has been the greatest challenge for you?
Maria >> The biggest lesson was that not all books/authors in a publishing house are equal. Certain titles and certain authors get more support and more marketing dollars because their books sell like crazy. It’s not personal, it’s business. The greatest challenge for me is to say no. I really enjoy marketing and promotion and visiting schools and answering emails, and doing Q&As, that I don’t write as much as I should. Plus my children are teenagers and will soon be off to college and I want to spend time with them – so juggling all my commitments is a constant challenge.
10. One of the most important relationships any author has is the one with your editor.
Have you had one trusted editor for the length of your writing career or have you had a few different editors?
Maria >> My very first editor, the one who called me to offer my first contract left the company six months later. I’ve heard horror stories about orphaned authors and I would have had a heart attack, except my new editor called and told me not to worry since she was going to take me on. And I’ve had the same editor at Harlequin since! Love you Matrice!
11. There is a lot of talk about how Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing are at loggerheads with one another.
What are your feelings about the rise of Indie Publishing and the digital book format?
Do you believe it can work alongside traditional publishing or is it a threat to traditional publishing?
Maria >> I believe the rise of Indie Publishing is great for authors. It gives authors more options and greater control over their stories and more control over what type of stories they write. I think it will also lead to changes to the traditional publishers’ contracts that will be better for authors. They’ve always been the gate keepers and authors had to agree to their terms in order to see their books published. This isn’t the case anymore. I think most publishers are adapting to the changing climate and both Indie and Traditional will exist together in the future.
12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?
- I’d tell her to do lots and lots of research – there are a few success stories about self-published books hitting big like Amanda Hocking and E. L. James, but there are far more stories about low sales.
- I’d also recommend he hire a professional artist – book covers are still important no matter the format.
- And I’d suggest no matter what the format, that she give away copies of her books to book bloggers/reviewers – that’s the best way to generate interest and buzz about a book.
Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about Publishing and your writing journey. Thank you for the many generous tips and advice you gave. I know, that you made the Traditional Publishing process much more transparent for me and many others. I think we can all relate to you when you tell us “It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but
I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.”. Rejection is a really difficult pill to swallow and the literary world is such a subjective world that it is hard to know what the perfect formula is for acceptance. “The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting. Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything. But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!” – I have to agree that is Brilliant advice. Persistence in writing and determination in seeing your book published is key. Thank you again Maria. It was a true pleasure to hear your views on the “many ways to skin a cat” in Publishing. ~ Kim
Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to fantasy novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster. Born in Philadelphia, Maria dreamed of chasing tornadoes and even earned a BS degree in Meteorology from Penn State University. Unfortunately, she lacked the necessary forecasting skills. Writing, however, lets Maria control the weather, which she gleefully does in her Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass). Maria returned to school and earned a MA in Writing from Seton Hill University where she is currently one of the teachers and mentors for the MFA program. Her published young adult novels include Inside Out, and its sequel, Outside In, both are about the dystopian and fully-contained world of Inside. Her latest release is Touch of Power, which is about healer dealing with a plague stricken world.
You can find her at:
Her Website: http://www.MariaVSnyder.com
Her Blog: http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com