Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to 2014! What a better way to start the year than with Wordleberry’s very first author interview!
I love Lily’s way with words. I thoroughly enjoyed both her current works, and with her newest novel “Fairway to Heaven” releasing on the 8th of January (squeeeee!) I asked her if I could interview her, to which she accepted, yay for us! I put a lot of thought into composing my questions; this is my first author interview. In the end I asked Lily exactly what I, the aspiring author, wanted to know. Not realising how many questions I asked, then loving the huge reply from Lily, it was decided to put the interview into two parts. Today we talk about breaking into the market, self-publishing versus traditional publishing and Lily’s process. In two days on the third of January I will post the second half – everything you want to know (well everything I wanted to know haha) about “Fairway to Heaven”.
Hi Ali – thanks for having me – it’s a pleasure to visit your blog. (Your blog is vey pretty, might I say!)
Breaking into the market.
“His Brand Of Beautiful” was your debut novel and was published in March 2013 by Escape Publishing. When you were first searching for a home for this novel, how many agents/publishers did you submit to before finding Escape?
Oh – how long have you got Ali? Answering this question is tricky, because I submitted His Brand Of Beautiful to many agents and publishers over 12 months, and it was rejected. It was rejected for good reason. The book wasn’t ready. I had so much to learn. What helped me was feedback from entering RWA contests (such as the STALI – Single Title And Loving It); and critique partner feedback. Also – time was what I needed. Time getting words on a page. Time spent re-reading, deleting, reading craft posts, learning. It was invaluable to me.
In April of 2012, a scene from HBOB made the finals in the RWA’s First Kiss competition and that was an indication to me I was getting on the right track with the story. Then late in 2012 I realised that even after working on it for such a long time, I still had the start all wrong. I started it in completely the wrong place. When I fixed this for the final time and submitted it again to those who’d yet to see it – that’s when I started getting the good feedback. For example, requests for the Full for the first time, and then that glorious Saturday when I got ‘The Call’ – or actually it was ‘The Email’. In that weekend I had offers of publication from Crimson Romance, and Escape, and I went with Escape because Kate Cuthbert is lovely, and I thought given it was an Australian story, I’d like to be with an Australian publisher.
After I signed the contract with Escape, I had two further requests for Fulls on HBOB, from Wild Rose Press & Entangled. But it was all a done deal by then.
At what point did you decide to move away from traditional print publishing and the search for an agent, directing instead towards e-publishing (with brands such as Escape) and self-publishing?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. Honestly, if a print publisher had picked up HBOB, I would have leapt at the chance, just as I leapt toward Escape. In regards an Agent – that was just SO HARD. I felt like I couldn’t get any kind of foot in the door. Again part of this was the book wasn’t ready when I began submitting it. By the time the book *was* ready, I think I’d exhausted my list of agents.
So that might be a word of warning – when you think you’re ready to submit the book – you really are probably not. Make sure you’ve had other sets of eyes reading it (not your friends)… take on board the feedback you get, revise, revise, revise (leave it at least a month and then read it again) and then start submitting.
Now – I’m not worried about agents anymore. One day it might happen. For now what’s important is getting more work out there, more titles under my belt and learning, learning, learning.
Would you do anything differently if you had to do it again?
(See my answer above).
Patience isn’t my virtue. I get terribly impatient toward the end of the writing process. I want to hit send. I want to hit publish. I have to really train myself hard to make sure I send the book to CPs and then Beta readers and finalise, finalise, finalise.
After the release of “His Brand of Beautiful” with Escape Publishing, what led you to self-publish your novella “The Goodbye Ride” so soon after, and why did you choose to self-publish?
The Goodbye Ride is a novella set in Hahndorf (tourist mecca town in South Australia in the Adelaide Hills – it’s a glorious little town) and it is set over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend which in SA, falls in June.
So I had the novella finished by April 2013, and I did submit it to Escape, but in the time between me submitting it, and hearing back, I’d continued to work on it. (See – I’d been impatient again – I submitted the book to Escape before I’d even had CP feedback). Somewhere along this line, I discovered Marion Archer of Making Manuscripts, and she offered to Beta read The Goodbye Ride for me. With Marion’s feedback, and then with my CP feedback, I ended up adding almost another 12,000 words to The Goodbye Ride and it became a far better story. Unfortunately Escape never saw the book again from this point, because time was marching on, and as I mentioned, I wanted to have it available by the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
I am an editor by trade. I felt that I had a clean manuscript without errors, and with the changes suggested through my round of Beta reader/CP feedback, I could get it ready to go. I also knew a certain graphic designer [Bright Eyed Owl] who could make a cover for me. And I felt confident in working through the self-publishing process on Amazon. So I felt there was nothing to lose and everything to gain, in me getting a second Lily Malone book out within those few months (March 2013 for HBOB, late May for TGR).
“Fairway to Heaven” is being self-published. What lead you to making that choice?
My dreadful impatience! Fairway is set on the beautiful beach at Geographe Bay in Western Australia and it’s a summer story. I really love the concept of ‘Reading in Real Time’. I feel the book is ready to go and I just don’t want to put myself on that rollercoaster of waiting for a publisher to get back to me. Possibly because I’ve been through it with The Goodbye Ride, I feel more confident about making this decision this time. I value my relationship with Marion Archer, and with Bright Eyed Owl who has done me another wonderful cover, and I’ve been lucky to have critique partners/Beta Readers in Kylie Kaden, Jennie Jones and Juanita Kees, who have all read the book and given me brilliant feedback.
As a self-publishing Author, what can you not live without?
Beta readers who give honest feedback!
When do you know a piece of work is ready for the real world? Do you have a set of steps to follow or do you go with your gut?
At the end of the day it’s a gut call. I’m not too proud over the words I’ve written to not be able to take feedback – as a journalist and editor – I cut my stuff all the time. But I have had to train myself to realise this publishing caper isn’t an individual thing. Outside eyes are invaluable. My CPs are not just professional contacts, they are reading and writing friends that I trust implicitly.
But even with their suggestions and comments, at the end of the day it is my gut call about what to revise, what to rework. It is my story and I’m the one who knows what these characters would and wouldn’t do. Any author would say the same!
There are a lot of novice writers like myself out there, on the cusp of the publishing world. We are at the stage of deciding whether to follow traditional or self-publishing. What is your advice to us?
I would say go the traditional route first. There is nothing like the sense of validation when a publisher tells you they want your work. Kate Cuthbert’s call at Escape – and the other editors who expressed interest in my book – they help me understand my writing has a market. This has made me more confident about all my subsequent decisions.
To be successful with self-publishing, being able to market and advertise yourself, and develop your readership is key. What social media tool do you find the most effective for attracting new readers?
Oh – I don’t know an answer to this one and I bounce this around with so many writing friends. I think above everything else, the key thing is to write the next book. Don’t get so stuck on social media trying to promote the book you’ve just published, that you forget to write the next book. I’m pretty sure most people agree that the more (good quality) stories you have in the market, the more chance of someone stumbling across you… or looking you up if they come across a book they like. So when it’s written, promote it as best you can, send your baby out into the world, soak it up for a while… and get back to the next book!
What is your favourite part of the whole process?
Editing, I think. I always picture editing as kind of like going for a haircut. At first, the hairdresser (editor) can cut huge chunks out and let them fall to the floor, after she’s cut off those big chunks, she starts shaping and refining and the cuts get smaller and more intricate and layered. (Layering is a key word – I enjoy that part of the process which is a ‘craft’ part).
Wow! We’ve got this far and I haven’t even asked Lily about her new release, “Fairway To Heaven” yet… so let’s save that for next time.
To find out more about what makes Lily tick, visit her blog: www.lilymalone.wordpress.com and check the About pages.
Lily is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lily.lilymalone
And Twitter: https://twitter.com/lily_lilymalone
Australian Contemporary Romance
His Brand Of Beautiful and The Goodbye Ride
Both on Amazon now!
See you all in two days for Part 2 of my interview with the Lovely Lily Malone!