Welcome to the 2017 IndiePendence Celebration!
#IndieMonth2017 is a four-week celebration of independence in publishing and spans two blogs: DaVinciKittie.com (you are here!) and my romance review site, GraveTells.com. GraveTells articles are reader focused, to help romance readers find the best new stories for their personal tastes, and the articles here on DaVinciKittie.com will appeal to aspiring authors, editors, and other industry roles. Each week is themed, to help you get the most out of your #IndieMonth2017! Ready to get started?
PS – Don’t miss out on the giveaways at the bottom of this post! There are TWO and they are both AWESOME!
Know you want to be in publishing, but not sure exactly what your niche is?
I feel you. It took me years to realize that my strength is developmental editing, and only a little tinkering to discover that the agent and publicist roles are definitely not in my comfort zone. You never know until you try, and you can’t try until you know what to look for.
You never know until you try, and you can’t try until you know what to look for.
Here are a few common roles in the publishing industry. Check out what these professionals have to say about why they do what they do and how they got started, and see if any of these are right for you.
Are you an author?
Joining us today as the Author role representative is Chelsea Mueller, an urban fantasy writer who first made a name for herself as a romance blogger. Let’s meet her!
I asked Chelsea what she does as an author, aside from the obvious—write. I wanted to know what her motivation and mission are, and here’s what she said…
My primary goal is rather selfish: To tell the story I’d most love to read. The creative side of my brain craves the outlet, but I also want to create characters readers care about and a journey that lets them escape.
And Chelsea takes her responsibilities as an author seriously. What she feels is the most important aspect to her writing is…
Being true to the characters. I want a snappy plot and a story that sucks the reader in, too, but above all else I want to do justice to the characters so my readers can feel like they know and trust them.
Are you an editor?
I, Sue Brown-Moore, am a freelance editor who specializes in Developmental edits of romantic fiction. My goal as an Editor is very similar to the Author’s: to tell the best possible story. I also add a caveat in there to “do no harm”—my job is to help authors tell a better version of their story, not to get my own words on the page.
My goal as an editor is to help the author tell the best story possible and preserve the author’s voice.
There are many types of editors, and even different definitions for similar roles. Some common editing phases are:
- Developmental (high-level story improvement—sometimes referred to as “content editing”)
- Line (manuscript-level tweaks to words on page, focus is often on voice and characterization)
- Copy (grammatical and punctuation corrections—sometimes combined with line editing)
- Proofreading (final quality check, only small changes allowed—for physical galleys, editors are even more restricted)
Do all editors do all kinds of editing? Yes and no. While many editors may be capable of performing all or most of the various phases, some specialize in one or two types. For example, my first love is developmental and I often combine it with character-level line edits, but I usually only do copy edits as part of a full-package project for an author, not as a one-off job.
Are you an Agent?
Laurie McLean is our Agent spotlight today, and here’s how she explains what she does as an Agent:
The answer to this question used to be simple: Agents sold novel manuscripts and nonfiction book proposals from authors to editors at publishers. Then, in 2008, a revolution happened in publishing with the introduction of self-publishing and social media. For the first time authors could publish their own work, market it, and find a readership without robbing a bank to pay for it. This indie-publishing phenomena forced traditional publishing to change. That includes agents. We formed Fuse Literary specifically to create the literary agency of the future to address this revolution in our industry.
An agent’s responsibilities span the breadth of an author’s professional needs. Laurie weighs in…
Our agents are career managers for our clients. From initial author branding sessions, social media audits, and 5-year and 10-year career plan development, to continual manuscript/proposal editing and polishing, publisher liaison and problem-solving, and much more, we assist our clients at every stage of their journey to and through publishing.
Are you a Publicist?
As my featured Publicist, I’m putting the heat on Danielle Barclay. What exactly does she do?
As a public relations professional, it’s my goal to put authors in front of readers so they can tell their stories to as many people as possible. Basically, authors spend more than 80% of their time promoting their virtual personas online so it’s my job to ensure that their brands are positioned appropriately using relationship and content marketing strategies and tactics. What skills are in my wheelhouse? I execute media outreach and digital outreach campaigns, newsletter list management, social media brand management, advertising support, and even publishing services like editing, formatting, and book cover & graphic design.
Publicists, like Agents, need to be able to think strategically and execute on strategies. Danielle’s thoughts:
I think, in terms of ROI, the ability to generate (early) reviews is equally as important as finding new readers for my clients. When we can pad retail sites with reviews from industry influencers we make it easier for readers to make an impulsive, yet confident decision to buy a book. This type of word-of-mouth recommendation creates trustworthiness and encourages readers to give a book they’ve never heard of a try. Increasing an author’s social reach is also an incredibly important way to find new readers. It’s called “tribe building” and marketing guru Seth Godin coined the phrase. Social media platform growth and newsletter subscriber growth can be accomplished using grassroots marketing efforts and paid advertising placement.
On getting started
We’ve walked through some of the various roles in publishing and what they do, but how did they get started? Of all the roles we’ve talked about, I imagine author is the most straight forward. If you’re called to write, you probably already do. Chelsea had a unique take on why and how she pursued writing as a career:
I used to be a journalist. It was my full-time gig, and I loved it for many years. However, newspapers became murky in their stability, career-wise, and I transitioned into marketing. Now, I love marketing, but I found myself missing writing every day. It turns out, I really needed that creative outlet. So, I began writing. Mostly for me. Mostly to decompress after work. I wrote the kinds of things I loved most to read—dark, gritty tales with complicated, unapologetic characters and a healthy dose of the supernatural.
Once I realized I had stories that I wanted to share (and that my critique partners told me I needed to get published—never discount a good friend giving you the nudge), I began the process of querying agents and following the traditional path to publishing.
My path to editing was far from straight. Trade schools and courses for the type of fiction editing I do are only recently starting to pop up, and “developmental romance editor” isn’t exactly something most career counselors would pitch to a graduating senior. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction and fantasy for as long as I can remember, so my love of stories is ultimately what led me here, but I got my start as a romance review blogger. Authors often say they have to write, they can’t not do it. That’s why I review—comments and feedback build up in my brain while I’m reading and will literally take over my waking thoughts if I don’t write them down. I was so enthusiastic about sharing this feedback that I started doing free beta reading for a few authors I admired. The transition from beta reader to editor was natural, and I’m so thankful for those early supporters who said, “hey, you’re good at this—charge for it!” Sometimes external empowerment is exactly what you need to gather the courage to make a professional leap.
Laurie’s career as an agent also came about in an indirect way…
After a successful career in high tech marketing in the Silicon Valley, I retired. But I was too type AAA to just sit around and relax. So I wrote a novel. I went to a conference and got an agent. And while I loved using the creative side of my brain, I missed using the shark side. So I joined my agent’s agency and quickly worked my way up from Associate to Senior Agent. I started selling a lot of books because I already knew the business side of agenting: time management, client management, contracts, sales, marketing, etc. And as my editorial contacts grew, so did my book deals. After I’d sold more than 100 books, I left to form my own agency, Fuse Literary, with my partner Gordon Warnock, because I wanted to fuse the tech side of myself with the publishing side.
Danielle was particularly enthusiastic about sharing how she got her start as a publicist:
Oooh, I love telling this story. 🙂 Basically, I started as a graphic designer way (way) back in the 80’s and transitioned into advertising in the 90’s. I then spent more than a decade as an ad executive working with periodical publishers. As the industry changed, and the internet made news highly recyclable, I ventured out of my comfort zone and dabbled in other industries including real estate and hospitality and tourism—but I always held marketing roles. I even did pro bono work. And that really opened some doors when I wanted to get back into publishing. In 2010 I helped with publicity for the RT Booklovers’ Convention when it was in Columbus, Ohio. On the last day of the convention, I had yet to meet one of the authors that I’d secured interviews for (Richelle Mead) so I was lingering outside of an event she was participating in, hoping for a chance to connect. When I finally introduced myself, she commented that she already knew who I was and that all the authors where talking about what a great job I was doing for RT and the attending authors. I was floored. And so incredibly flattered. And it was at that moment that I knew what hat I was meant to wear next in my career. BTW, for that convention I secured more than a 150 media placements for attending authors and model talent as well as a full page feature in The Columbus Dispatch that was valued at more than $50k in ad space. After that, I knew I was home again.
Words of wisdom
When asked what advice they would share about getting started, every one of my spotlight pros today emphasized slow and steady growth. None of these are roles you can succeed in overnight, and all require experience in a spectrum of different business aspects. Patience, resilience, commitment, determination, flexibility—all traits you should get real cozy with if you want to succeed in publishing. Here are some final words of wisdom from our experts.
Author Chelsea Mueller urges persistence.
Do not quit. Finishing a book is hard, but going forward and being persistent are keys to success as an author. This is especially important if you decide to go the route of traditional publishing. The whole process is a huge game of hurry-up-and-wait. You’ll turn a book into your agent or editor (hey, deadlines!), and then have an extended period where you don’t know what will happen with that book—will it sell, what will the edits be, etc. During that time of uncertainty, focusing on something new and working on your craft is important. Continually focusing on what comes next—be that the next book, or the next genre, or the next chapter—can be helpful.
Don’t let a single “no” stop you, if you love writing. Staying focused and continually working to improve your writing can only lead to improvement and, hopefully, success.
I love to ask people about their favorite encouraging quotes, and Chelsea picked a line from one of my favorite writing books…
I like a lot of writing quotes from both Stephen King and Ira Glass, but here’s a particular favorite from King that is one that I can feel reverberate in my sternum in those quiet moments of self doubt (we all have them):
“…stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.” (From On Writing)
Agent Laurie McLean advises sound financial planning.
You will not start making a living as a literary agent until you’ve been doing it for five years. Seriously. You’ll have to have an understanding spouse, a trust fund, a day job, or something else that pays the rent until you’ve done enough book deals to reach a critical mass of money. When you realize that it takes 1.5-2 years from contract to royalty checks, it becomes clear that you need to sell a lot of books that are all producing revenue for you to earn a living. Too many smart people get into agenting then quit after a few years because they couldn’t make it financially. You may go into it for the love of books, but don’t go into it thinking you’re going to get rich quick.
Publicist Danielle Barclay encourages tenacity.
Well, I would say it’s not for those that are afraid of hard work. I read an article (can’t remember where) that ranked public relations professional as the second most stressful job, behind brain surgeon. Don’t laugh, it’s probably true. In all seriousness, if you’re interested in becoming a publicist you must first be a sales person. Tenacity is a must. This job isn’t done until you get the placements that your client’s hire you for. You must also be extremely organized and a multi-tasker. And don’t forget grammarsmith. Publicists must be able to craft content that will attract and engage their audience. But if you’re interested in this line of work, my best recommendation would be to take an internship or find pro bono work. It can open doors. It did for me.
As for editing, my advice is to believe in your worth and start conquering your fears. Editors are paid for their insight, opinions and recommendations, and in developmental editing that feedback is often very subjective. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone else what is wrong with their work and how to fix it. Don’t be afraid to stand behind your gut instincts, and learn all the grammatical rules so that when you break one, it is with intent and effect. Now how to best deliver your constructive criticism…that’s a whole other discussion. 😉
About the pros
Meet the ladies behind today’s interview!
I know we’ve left you with a lot to think about, and you still may have questions about what the best path for you is. That’s okay! Try on the various roles and see what fits best, then tweak it to best suit your personality and style of work. Stop in below to leave a comment for any of my guests today. You never know when one may pop in to answer your questions. 😉
Enjoy the rest of #IndieMonth2017!
These are open to US & international readers! Leave a comment on today’s post, then fill out the prize widgets below to enter to win these fantastic prizes! Not sure what to chat about?
- What role best suits you? Do you know or are you still undecided?
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