Tag Archive for: publishing

A Whole Industry Built on Vibes!!

by Linda Rodriguez

This past week, we have been treated to the spectacle of the heads of of the hugest publishing companies in the United States sitting in a federal courtroom under oath, testifying about the publishing industry. We have heard things that were patently untrue, even if the CEO making the statement is sworn to tell the truth under pain of perjury, things such as, “$100,000 is a relatively small advance anymore”. Cue writers across the land for insane laughter at this preposterous statement.

We have heard things that were quite unbelievable and yet, apparently, true, simply because they were unfavorable to the executives testifying, their publishing company, and the cause for which they are suing. Statements which admit that the current CEO of one huge publisher has totally mismanaged his company (but he still wants the government to allow him to acquire another huge publisher, apparently so that he can mismanage that one as well?), or that even the largest publishers have absolutely no idea which books will sell or how to sell the books they have acquired, or the admission that they give no marketing budget and make no marketing efforts for the vast majority of their books which fall below the $250,000 advance mark.

These court proceedings have been live-tweeted by reporters for several industry publications and others with a strong interest in the industry. Their live tweets have been seized upon by writers across the country, who have been simultaneously horrified and stunned into laughter by some of the incredibly ignorant and inept statements these CEOs have made under oath. As one writer tweeted in all-caps response after a CEO agreed laughingly with the judge that their P&L statements had no validity, “An entire industry run on vibes!!”

Most of us who have been involved in this industry and with the Big Five publishers for any length of time have not been surprised at much of what has come out in this hearing. It tallies with what we have experienced and what we have suspected all along. We have had few
doubts about the mendacity and ignorance of the people in ultimate power at these houses (as opposed to their hard-working and wonderful editorial staffs). How could we, especially after seeing and experiencing events such as the purge by one of the houses in this case of all of its
cozy-mystery writers, no matter how successful, and of their knowledgeable cozy-mystery editors, only to sign a new set of inexperienced cozy-mystery writers for vastly smaller advances than normal? (Perhaps this irrational act played a part in the fact that this company had a
disappointing record of sales for the past few years and its CEO had to publicly admit to mismanaging it?)

But even veteran writers have been stunned by the sheer extent of the lies, the ignorance, and the deliberate mismanagement this week’s testimony has displayed publicly. These men are being paid multi-millions of dollars per year, yet are clearly incompetent in their roles. At least, if the goal is what the company publicly states it is–to acquire and publish books successfully and profitably.

On social media, writers across the country are moaning, laughing, and despairing as they read about each day’s testimony. I find myself wondering how many writers, who would otherwise have had a career with traditional publishers, will turn to self-publishing in disgust at the practices so callously outlined, most of which exploit, abuse, and humiliate the very writers upon whom this industry rests. This trial has only begun. We have weeks more of this testimony ahead of us. Will publishing ever be quite the same afterward?

If I knew then…

Someone recently asked me the one thing I wish I’d known
before being published.
I thought back to 2014, the year I first signed a contract.
I was beyond excited, so full of happiness my feet didn’t touch the ground for
I signed my name to contracts with blissful abandon.
I don’t mean to suggest I signed without reading the
contract, but I was so new to publishing, I didn’t understand the myriad
ramifications of my name on that signature line.
Here I am five years older, five years wiser.
I wish I’d known I’d be running a small business. My
products are books. And, if I want readers to find my books, I must market
them. Like most new authors, I believed my publisher should take that role (my
husband still believes publishers should do that).
My first mystery, The Deep End, released in 2015.
That first release, I waited for a confetti cannon. Instead
of confetti, the universe responded with a
Still, my publisher was pleased and told me, “Keep writing.” The second release
was worse than the first. A bigger
less confetti, fewer sales. My publisher told me, “Second books seldom do as
well as debuts.”
That would have been great information to have as I managed
my expectations.
The releases have steadily improved since that second book.
I have a theory about that.
Traditional publishing companies push their latest
books—thrillers for the holidays, beach books for summer, romances for
Valentine’s Day.
I push The Deep End. I believe that once readers meet
Ellison Russell, revisit (or visit) the 1970s, and fall in love with her
extended family, they’ll keep reading.
Recently the Country Club Murders (The Deep End is
the first book in the series) surpassed 100,000 books sold.
I love spending my days spinning stories. I like editing. I
love engaging with readers. All things I expected when I took the first steps
down this path. Knowing more about Facebook ads and AMS than most marketing
executives? Let’s call that a bonus. Or a curse. Tomato-tomahto.
Five years from now, I may be writing another
I-wish-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now blog. Lord only knows what mistakes I’ll
make, but at least I’ll make them doing something I love.

Advice on Publishing Your Novel

by Linda Rodriguez
receive emails all the time asking me how the emailers can get their
own novels published. Usually, they know just about nothing of the
business of publishing, which always surprises me. If you took a year
or so to write a book that you hoped to publish and sell, wouldn’t
you owe it to yourself to research and learn something about the
business of publishing that you hope to join?

try to answer with a detailed listing of things they can do to
educate themselves about the business and to begin to connect with
the professional literary community. I have a feeling that some of
our blog friends and followers out there may be in the same
situation, so I’ve decided to write this blog post. Here’s my
resource guide to publishing a novel. It won’t get you published,
but it will give you a good foundation in the business of
publishing/being a professional novelist and get you started in the
right direction.

a novel to a major publisher today can be very difficult without an
agent. Most of the New York trade publishers won’t look at novels
unless they’re represented by an agent. Smaller specialized
presses, literary presses, and university presses will take unagented
queries during their open submissions period, if they have one. Often
they can be the best bet for a first novel that’s not necessarily a
commercial novel.
& Writers
a database of small, literary, and university presses.

of these won’t do novels, so you’ll have to sort through them.
Here’s a list of 16 small presses that do novels.

can also do an internet search for small presses that specialize in
your particular genre of novel, if you write in one of the genres.

agents, I would suggest that you check the website of the Association
of Author’s Representatives.

is the professional association of reputable agents. It’s very easy
to get involved with folks who call themselves agents and are really
running scams to part authors from their money. Members of AAR have
sworn not to do this stuff and are kicked out if they do, so you can
trust them.

good site to educate yourself and protect yourself from scammers is
Writer Beware.

is a site provided by the SFWA and MWA as a service for all authors,
science fiction or not.

the first thing you want to do is to get current copies of Poets &
, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines.
These magazines often talk about which publishers are looking for
what kinds of books at the moment. P&W focuses more on the
academic and literary writer, while WD focuses more on the
commercial or freelance writer. If your library has them, also read
back issues of P&W, The Writer, and WD.
You’ll learn a lot about the business that way.

for professional authors groups to join. There are groups for
children’s writers, mystery writers, romance writers, sf/fantasy
writers, etc. These groups are usually tremendously helpful in
learning the publishing business and making useful contacts. If there
is a chapter of a professional writer’s organization near you and
it’s not your kind of writing, it can still be useful to you in
learning the business. I once belonged to the local chapter of RWA,
Romance Writers of America, though I didn’t write romance. I
learned about agents, what editors want, what is and is not
acceptable behavior in the publishing world, what are and are not
good contracts, and tons of other things that became useful to me.
Now, we have a chapter of Sisters in Crime here, and I’m active in
it, but that time in RWA laid a very good foundation for me. The same
goes for SFWA or any of the others. The purposes of these
organizations are to help their members with the business of
publishing and being a professional—and that’s very similar
across the boards.

book I always recommend to students and aspiring writers is Carolyn
a Literary Life
I’ve written about this book on Writers Who Kill before.

the best book for looking at how to be a professional writer and work
on getting published, how to get established within the literary
community, how to make a career as a writer without living in NYC,
and much else.

I were you, friend with a book manuscript under your arm, I’d start
with these resources. I’d also go to every writer’s
appearance/reading/event that occurs in your town if it’s a small
one or a good selection if you live in a big city with an active
literary community. Buy a book, if you can. Introduce yourself to the
writer. Follow up with emails or mailed notes talking about what you
liked about their reading or book—not asking for help
with your own. Friend writers on Facebook, and follow them on
Twitter. Don’t spam them about your own book. What you’re doing
is building relationships within the community of writers. These are
the folks who can answer questions for you or later (if you’ve
built a good, real relationship) give blurbs that will help your book
sell. Basically, my advice is to educate yourself about publishing
and become a contributing member of the community. Getting a novel
published is a long, hard haul, so arm yourself with information and

best single piece of advice I could give, however, is this—make
sure you write a good novel. Get professional feedback and revise,
revise, revise until it shines before you ever try to send it out. I
suspect that a certain number of folks who are looking for a
publisher for their novel have never had anyone professional look at
it and haven’t done much with revision. Writing is an art and a
profession. Learn about publishing, the business, while you learn
about writing, the art and craft. Editors and agents have long
memories. Don’t stick out in theirs from sending an amateurish
manuscript out. Make sure that what you send is the very best it can
be submitted in the most knowledgeable and professional way you can.

of luck!

Linda Rodriguez’s Dark Sister: Poems
has just been released. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native
American Poets Visit the Middle East
, an anthology she co-edited,
were published to high praise in 2017. Every Family Doubt,
her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief,
Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will
be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every
Hidden Fear
, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last
and her books of
poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at

Chart Watching

by Bethany Maines

He looked at the chart but he look in vain
Heavy cloud but no rain
Originally, this was a post about publishing.  I’ve been singing this song for the better
part of a month feeling that it related to my efforts in self-publishing. Having
the ability to have live updated sales results is not really as fun as it
sounds. Or at least it’s not good for ongoing peace of mind. The world of
publishing has changed. Now every author must do the work that previously was
performed by publishing houses – namely, marketing. And the secret thing about
marketing that every marketing professional would prefer you not know, is that
you can never quite tell what’s going to work. So with every fresh effort, I
flip back to the chart to see if there’s rain or not. Some sprinkles, some
gushers, some droughts – and that is the way of the writing life now.  But there’s more to that song, and the rest
of the lyrics are more applicable to the real world right now than they are to any personal
concerns I have about my writing and sales.
Turned on the weather man just after the news
I needed sweet rain to wash away my blues
He looked at the chart but he look in vain
Heavy cloud but no rain
Much of the state of Washington, my state, is on fire. This
song isn’t much of a metaphor; it’s what we’re all doing. We’re literally out
of firefighters and the ones that are on the line are working days in a row
with little to no sleep. Firefighters from Australian and New Zealand arrived on
Monday to help and we couldn’t be happier to see them. We literally need all
the help we can get.
There is a line of mountains between the fires and my house
and still the sky is frequently a hazy yellow from smoke. Yesterday, I could
look at the sun directly because there was so much smog that it was only a
burning circle of orange in the sky.
Sometimes my state feels culturally divided by that chain of
mountains, but this fire has turned us all into obsessed weather forecast
watchers. My facebook feed is filled with pictures of rain – a virtual rain
dance for our home and our friends. Weather forecasting has taken a giant step
forward due to computing speeds and modeling, but Washington is still one of
the toughest places to forecast. All the data in the world can’t entirely
predict if rain is going to fall. We all watch the chart, but so far, heavy
cloud, no rain.

So, if you’re a praying person, pray for some rain. If you’re
a donating person, you can view this article from local reporter Jesse Jones, for where to send donations. Washington thanks you.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie
Mae Mysteries
, Tales from the City of
and An Unseen Current.
You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video
or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s Alllllivvvvvve!!

by Bethany Maines

It’s here! It’s here!  Tales From the City of Destiny is
finally available for purchase! 
After what seems like months of writing, proofing, and review it
actually exists as a really, real book. Does this feeling ever get old?  I don’t think so. Last year, this
project was just an idea, barely an idea even, and here it is as a physical
object that anyone can hold.

As a graphic designer I marvel at
this phenomenon every time something I’ve dreamed up comes off the press. From
invitations to signs everything looks slightly different in real life than when
I began the creation process. Some things look better, some things are disappointing and some
things are neither bad or good ­– just different. And while every single time
it’s still cool that something I dreamed up is now a real physical object, the
dissonance between idea and reality no longer surprises me.
Except when it comes to my
books.  Somehow the process of
turning a word document that barely contains my invisible friends into an
actual book is… amazing. And I hope all of you will purchase your own copy and
enjoy reading about my invisible friends as much as I have enjoyed writing
about them.

Bethany Maines is the author of
the Carrie Mae Mystery series and 
Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube
video or catch up with her on 
Twitter and

Who Defines Me?

By Evelyn David

I was talking to a friend whose oldest child is in the midst of the college admissions/decision process. Needless to say, it’s very different from when I was a senior in high school. Granted that was a minimum of a million years ago, but if you weren’t going to the state university, you applied to three or four schools in the fall, and come April, you got your letters: fat envelopes signaled acceptance; thin ones were polite no’s. It was probably the only time when being fat was a good thing.

By the time my oldest was ready for college, things had ramped up. SAT prep was a given. Students applied to many more schools. But a dozen years later, when my youngest was in the college mode, there had been a sea change. Among other things, the whole application process was now online. No stamps were involved on either end. College admissions had become a multi-million dollar industry, with private college admissions counselors charging as much as $40,000 for their services.

But here’s what hasn’t changed, even from when I applied to school.

Rejection still hurts. Whether it’s from your first-choice college or it’s from a publisher who has decided that your mystery doesn’t fit their needs – it’s painful to the core to be told that you don’t make the grade. There are usually lots of reasons for the rejection that have absolutely nothing to do with you or your work. But when you’re in the midst of it, when you’ve gotten the real or virtual “thin” envelope, it’s very personal and the wound can run deep.

Most writers are full of self-doubt. Being rejected merely confirms your worst fears about your talent. You can sell 100,000 books through Kindle Direct Publishing, make more money off your self-published mysteries than you ever did through traditional publishing houses – and you’re still looking for outside confirmation that you’re a “real writer.”

Or is that just the insecure me talking?

I can remember when my oldest got deferred from his first-choice college (the decision on his application was put off until the regular admissions cycle). He was hurt; I was devastated. But when I pulled myself together and thought it through, I was able to tell him what I need to remember myself.

Don’t let someone else define you. Whether it’s an admissions officer, an editor, or a reviewer, you can’t let their decisions, be it reasoned or capricious, affect your sense of self-worth. You are who you are, valuable and worthy, regardless of whether they decide to let you in “the club.”

I wish for each of you fat envelopes that say yes to your dreams. But if a thin envelope is delivered, don’t stop believing or pursuing your passion. You may have to take a different route to achieve it, but your worth is never in question.

Marian aka the Northern, often insecure half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries – e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- KindleNookSmashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- KindleNookSmashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords
Lottawatah Twister – KindleNookSmashwords
Missing in Lottawatah – KindleNookSmashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery – e-book series
Murder Off the Books KindleNookSmashwords
Murder Takes the Cake KindleNookSmashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- KindleNookSmashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) – KindleNookSmashwords

Love Lessons – KindleNookSmashwords

What is it I’m doing again?

How I Think Publishing Works
by Bethany Maines
As the author in residence to my friend’s and family, I frequently receive questions about the publishing industry.  Well, let’s be honest, frequently is stretching it.  More like occasionally, but I still get them and usually it goes something like this…
Them: You published a book? That’s cool.  How does that work?
Me: Well, you write a book, try to get an agent, and then the agent sells it to a publisher.
Them:  Yeah, but after that, how does it all work?  And what’s this thing with Amazon that I’ve been reading about lately?
Me: Uh… Does any body need more salsa? I have to go get more salsa.
After awhile I just couldn’t eat anymore salsa, so I did some research and I thought some of you might be interested in what I found out. This, in broad strokes, as far as I can tell, is how books get to you.  Don’t worry, I’ve also included a handy infographic.  If you feel that I am incorrect in some way, please comment and let me know.  This information is relatively hard to get in a linear progression, so I’ve had to piece it together as I come across it – I welcome all input.
Agents select manuscripts and sell them to publishers.  At the same time Publishers also seek out manuscripts on their own – either from celebrities or from their “slush pile.”  A manuscript gets selected to become a published book. The publisher has a couple of options for distribution; either they have sales reps who sell the book directly to booksellers and club stores (like Cost-Co and Sam’s Club) or they sell their books to distributors and wholesalers.  Distributors and wholesalers sell books to bookstores, club stores, and they also sell to the non-bookstores like Fred Meyer, Target, gift shops, airports, and grocery stores.  Publishers set the release date and release e-books at the same time that a distributor sends books to bookstores.  Bookstores buy books at a 40-50% discount and sometimes have as much as 6 months to return books (if they don’t sell) to the publisher or distributor/wholesaler for either cash or credit against future purchases.  Which is how an author’s sales can look great the first week after publication, but not so great months later after “the returns” are in. Publishers and booksellers also provide an internet location to buy the book.  Then you, the reader, buy the book and/or e-book.
Now we get to Amazon.  Amazon decided that it did not need wholesalers and most distributors… because they didn’t.  They get their books directly from publishers or from distributors that represent publishing houses that don’t handle their own sales. Wholesalers and distributors are mad at Amazon because Amazon has essentially cut them out of the business.  Bookstores are mad at Amazon because they feel that Amazon, due their deals with the publishers, can undercut bookstore prices, thus driving them out of business.  Amazon has also offered a service to writers that let them self-publish (also known as vanity publishing) print-on-demand books and e-books; writers, of course, took to the process like a duck to water.  With that much content floating around, next Amazon decided that it doesn’t need publisher’s either, because they can buy their own manuscripts and sell them.  So… publishers, distributors, wholesalers, and bookstores are all mad at Amazon.  So far the only people who aren’t mad are the consumers and the content providers – readers and writers.           
Interestingly, I looked at the prices for print-on-demand books through Amazon a year or so back and I remember the number as being about $9 a book.  Which, I thought, was a little high, but manageable if you were selling the book at $15.  I recently looked at Amazon’s print-on-demand options and saw that they had raised the prices significantly and added additional fees for “expanded distribution.” Which leads me to speculate that Amazon may be attempting to let the air out of the self-publishing balloon.  After all, why would they let self-publishers provide cheaper (and possibly just as good) content on Amazon distribution channels when it would be a direct competition to their own publications?
There’s plenty more to be said about publishing, self-publishing, marketing, and how publishers decide who gets what marketing dollars, but that would be a subject for another day.  And now, please enjoy your infographic.

Dear Gentle Reader

I am but a hopeful author with a new book that will appear in the marketplace eighteen days yon.

I realize you may not know me from Adam, and we’re not likely related (although my ancestors did sow ample seeds across the Middle West so if you reside amidst the corn and wheat, we may be distant kin). It’s highly probable you could bypass my name on Ye Olde Bookshelf, skipping straight from Queen Anna Maxted to Sir Alexander McCall Smith. But if you pause because you admire the comely cover of Little Black Dress—and perhaps even read a page—I would be in your debt.

Though I am no fledging scribe, each new book feels akin to a new child. After all, when I toil, I shut myself up in the tower like Rapunzel. When hard at work, I barely remember to let down my long hair so Prince Edward can send up a basket with bread and water so I won’t starve. Meanwhile, the rooms below get thick with dust, the weeds grow tall, and Prince Edward wonders, “Will I ever see my fair maiden again? Is she lost to me?”
As much as I can’t wait to finish scripting THE END and send off my tome to my publisher (tied to the talons of my falcon, Leonard), it gives me jitters just the same. I know that once I let loose those words, a crew of magical elves will descend upon them. Some of them are wizards in worlds called Marketing and Publicity. Others do mystical things in a land called Production. You must have a special passkey to enter any of those, or so I’m told.
Oft’times I’m tempted to remain in my tower forever. It’s a cozy spot, to be sure, and I spend so much time in a made-up world where I have some control that the forest beyond seems truly scary. There be dragons with fiery breath and claws that may tear my words apart. There be angry townsfolk with pitchforks who may oppose the language used to tell my tales. There be trolls who scrawl messages on the sides of the bridges, telling weary travelers: BEWERE OF THIS BUK. IT BE AWFUL.
Despite my misgivings, I will descend from my tower when my opus is launched. It is both my duty and my curse. So, be kind, Gentle Reader. Know that I have done my best to spin a tale that entertains you and your kinfolk. Believe that I have dripped sweat from my brow and drained emotion from my heart to compose a yarn that pleases you. And if I fail, I fear I will have to try again.
For those who have bestowed kind words upon my works, I am forever in your debt.  Should I ever have a pig to spare, it will be yours (and the apple in its mouth as well).
As Ever,
Susan McBride 

The Write Stuff

We’re excited to have Brittany Roshelle with us at The Stiletto Gang today! Brittany is a freelance writer and an aspiring author of young adult fiction. Her blog, The Write Stuff, is where writers, authors, and book lovers converge to learn insider tips into the publishing world, read exclusive author interviews, and win book giveaways. Previously, she was a journalist for The Examiner as the Columbus Relationship Advice Expert. Currently, she writes for the online women’s magazine, Betty Confidential, as a Betty Fan Blogger. She recently completed her first novel and is actively pursuing agents.

Stiletto Gang: How long have you been writing?

Brittany: My father actually paid me a dollar per story when I was a little girl. He loved that I loved to write. As I grew older, I would journal every day, so much so that I often filled up a new journal every week. Since I loved to read often, I bought a new book every week as well. All of this led my father to lament that he should have bought stock in Barnes & Noble had he known what was ahead for him and his wallet.

Stiletto Gang: Where did you get the idea for your blog?

Brittany: I think a lot of people talk about writing a book, but that’s just it. It’s talk. The reason I held back from writing is that I come from a family of scientists and mathematicians. The idea that I might pursue a field that doesn’t require an advanced degree seemed laughable. And while books are everywhere, how one gets published is a big secret to most people.

I created my blog, The Write Stuff, with the goal in mind that I would contact as many authors as I could and publish their stories, their tips to publishing. Not only did I want to give any writers out there the help they needed, but I wanted to show everyone who was skeptical that getting published is possible.

Each week I interview someone new, whether it’s a New York Times bestselling author or someone with their first novel. I ask about their story, chat about their new book, and host a contest. It’s the ultimate place to learn insider tips to the publishing world and the best place to find inspiration, especially if you’re an author-in-the-making.

Stiletto Gang: What’s something important you’ve learned along the way?

Brittany: There’s no one road to publishing. Every author has a unique story. For some it took seven novels before they made it. Others got an agent three weeks after they sent out their first query letter. What is the same, though, is that everyone persevered. They’re authors today because they never gave up the dream. They kept writing, revising, and trying to get published. While publishing a book takes time, you can either be your own best friend or your biggest roadblock.

For example: What do Dr. Suess, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling all have in common? They’re authors who were rejected multiple times by publishers. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had said, “Enough’s enough,” and gave up? While no one can say if your writing will ever make you that famous, who’s to say it won’t? You just have to hang in there.

Stiletto Gang: You also have another blog for Betty Confidential. Tell us about that.

Brittany: Yes! I have a Betty Blog called Chocolate Covered Chick Thoughts. Each week, the Betty fan bloggers and I are asked a question by Betty often relating to the most recent celebrity scandal, and it’s our job to spill on our real life relationships. Each Friday the top blogs are featured on their main website. So far, my articles have appeared every Friday.

I have the best time writing my articles. I try to throw in as much humor and advice as possible without being too serious or personal. I absolutely love it.

Stiletto Gang: You recently finished your first novel. What was that like?

Brittany: My biggest dream for as long as I can remember was to write a full-length novel. That dream has finally been realized. It feels so wonderful and gratifying…I really cannot explain it! But it’s important for me to keep in mind that my job is not over yet. The road to publication can be broken into two basic steps: writing the best novel you can write and getting it published. Right now, I’m teetering on the edge of phase two in the process. I can clearly see that writing my novel was the more enjoyable part. Spending all day inside my characters’ heads was fun, insightful, and heart-warming. Now that I’ve finished the manuscript, the business side of it all starts. The next step is to send out my query letter.

Stiletto Gang: What has the querying process been like for you?

Brittany: Reducing your book into 250-350 words is incredibly difficult. By far harder than writing the actual book. That being said, it’s all part of the process and I’m eager to learn as much as I can. Creating a killer query letter is at the top of my list; and, after working on it for a few weeks, I think I’m close to it.

Stiletto Gang: What’s the title and the genre of the manuscript you’re currently pitching?

Brittany: The Popular Girls, and it’s a contemporary YA novel. It’s an edgy tale of a young girl and her quest to find her self-worth in our fast-paced society.

Stiletto Gang: Do you think your blog has helped you finish your book?

Brittany: Absolutely! Writers have to get out there and connect with other writers. They need to do their research. Part of that is paying attention to how other authors have navigated their way through the publishing industry. More importantly, having my blog has been a way to meet new, wonderful people, and it’s a daily exercise in writing for me. You’ve got to keep those writing muscles strong and healthy.

Stiletto Gang: What’s the hardest part about writing?

Brittany: For me, it’s the end. Through the process of writing a novel, you grow very attached to your characters. I don’t like having to let that go and end it!

Stiletto Gang: Do you have any writing rituals, or something you keep on your desk everyday while you work?

Brittany: An iced white mocha latte. Often times I use it as my reward after hitting my word count. Besides that, I just need a clean workspace and a silent cell phone…and did I mention chocolate?

Stiletto Gang: Brittany, thanks so much for coming by today and sharing your story! We’ll definitely be checking out The Write Stuff and all your author interviews and contests. And good luck with your book (fingers crossed).

Ned Rust, Undercover

Ned Rust lives with his family in Croton, NY, and works in the publishing industry. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Rocket, and The Stranger.

I work in the book-publishing industry. I can’t really say much about it in public like this because I happen to work in a somewhat high-stakes area, and, as you would have soon guessed from my nervous, backwards-scrambling sentence-structure, I’m deeply paranoid.

I don’t quite blame the industry for making me this way. I’ve only been working in the field for 5 years and there were signs I was given to an inflated sense of self-worth (i.e., people MUST be interested in finding out more about me) and over-caution from before. Like how I compost any piece of mail that has my name printed on it. Yep. Right in there with the coffee grounds and the watermelon rinds. I have a theory that the identity thieves will find my fly-infested compost bin as malodorous and generally daunting as my spouse and children do.

Except when companies use non-biodegradable stickers—“Affix this to your mail-in coupon for a free bonus subscription to Yachting for Kids!”— everything works out pretty good. In fact, the years have proven that promotional offers—and letters from my parents I can’t bear to look at—nicely balance the “wet” compost of kitchen scraps. With time and stirring, you’ll have a lovely loamy—and, importantly, informationally secure—mix within six months.

But there are things within the publishing industry, as you may have discovered yourself, that could begin to make even a well-balanced person paranoid.

I could go on and on, but this is my first ever blog entry and prudence tells me I should maybe start with just one topic. Beyond composting, I mean, which I don’t expect is what Maggie and Evelyn were expecting from me.

So let me touch on one topic that’s near the beginning of the publishing alphabet and never fails to make me look over my shoulder—agents . . . literary agents.

I mean why do they even call them agents? Who else is an agent? Insurance people (creepy). Internal Revenue Service folks (creepy). Operators in the MI5, ATF, CIA, OSS and FBI (I rest my case).

And what do they do? You don’t go to school for it. You don’t need a license. There isn’t even an accreditation or support organization for them—like lawyers have the Bar Association—at least so far as I’ve heard. I mean have you ever seen a news story about a literary agent getting defrocked by her or his peers?

Maybe part of the problem is they don’t seem to do anything they might even have to bother putting on a frock to accomplish.

So far as I can tell—and I should confess I don’t have a lot of direct dealings with them and that I know one or two who seem lovely in person—agents need 2 principal things to make a living:

1) Enough paralegal-level savvy to hoard and be conversant with the appropriate legal forms and contracts to make writers promise to give them a hefty portion of any money they might make and to understand that the generally guile-less publishing houses aren’t taking any legal advantage.

2) The ability—through experience, charm and, or, connections—to get calls & emails answered by the people who acquire manuscripts and sometimes by those who market the finished books at the publishing houses.

The rest of it—recognizing good writing, answering the telephone occasionally, light xeroxing, brushing one’s teeth before going out in public—most of us regular folk have down.

But somehow they keep on doing their thing. Even now, in the 21st century, they’re taking often double-digit percentages out of author’s and publisher’s hands.

I mean, isn’t that a weird system? And there’s like, no transparency whatsoever. So you never know if like Agent Y is brother-in-law to Publisher X.

And you never really know if Agent K really does have your best interest at heart and thinks you could be BIG, or whether he’s just treating you like a mineral claim that may or may not prove to contain valuable gems but the land’s so dang cheap, why not just go ahead and put a binding deed on it so nobody else can do anything with it?

Oh well. I don’t really have anything specific to point at, but the whole scene just makes me nervous. Speaking of which, I think I hear somebody out at the composter.


Ned Rust