This week again I was lucky enough to have a YA author give me an exclusive interview! You may remember I interviewed the wonderful Aimee L. Salter back in November 2012. At the time, she was an agented writer with a book on submission and I asked her questions about her writing process. Since then, Aimee has chosen to self-publish her amazing debut, BREAKABLE, which came out on Monday 4th November 2013. This time, I’m interviewing her about her self-publishing adventure…
Author : Aimee L. Salter
Genre : Young Adult, Magical Realism
Location: Oregon, USA
Contact: Blog, Twitter, Facebook
Bio: Aimee L. Salter is a Pacific North-Westerner who spent much of her young (and not-so-young) life in New Zealand. After picking up a Kiwi husband and son, she’s recently returned to Oregon. She writes novels for teens and the occasional adult who, like herself, are still in touch with their inner-high schooler. Aimee is the author behind Seeking the Write Life, a popular blog for writers.
My interview (22d October 2013)
Where did you get the inspiration for your book?
In early 2011 I was reading the website www.dearteenme.com, in which published authors write letters to their teen selves. As I kept reading and reading (you know, one of those days when you should be doing something else, but a website catches your attention and you just keep reading “one more post”?) one sentiment was a recurring theme in the letters. Many of them, very early in the piece, said something along the lines of “I know you won’t listen to me when I tell you this, but…”
That got me thinking – what if I could actually talk to my sixteen year old self. That line would be paramount in my letter because I know if we could sit down, she’d nod and smile, maybe even think I was right, but go ahead and do whatever she wanted anyway.
As I chewed that over – what I’d say to try and make her listen; what approaches I might take that might actually get through to her; it just kind of came to me. I could see these two versions of this one person, both with feelings and thoughts based on their point in life. Both with the same hurts and wounds – but different perspectives on them…
Anyway, I started writing that afternoon, more for my own interest than anything else. It was a hard book to write. But I’m glad I stuck with it!
Your book has just come out. Can you tell us about your (complicated!) path to publication?
Gosh, complicated is right! Well, when I wrote Breakable (then called Listen to Me), I was trying to get another book, an urban fantasy, published traditionally. Unfortunately, I’d “broken up” with my agent the year before, and I was having trouble finding a new agent for it. It took another year to refine Breakable and get an agent for it.
Brittany Howard (AKA: NYT, USA Today, International and everything else Bestselling author, Cora Carmack) picked my book up in August 2012. By November of that year her own author career took a massive leap. We were still working, revising, and submitting to editors when in June of this year she admitted she just didn’t have the time to agent anymore.
But she still believed in my book and wanted to help it find a home, however I chose to do that. So, after a couple weeks of discussing, chewing, praying, and, yes, freaking out, I decided to go ahead and self-publish Breakable rather than look for another agent (there were all kinds of legal rigmaroles I’d have had to jump through, not to mention that with the editors we’d already seen, some agents would be concerned their “pot” had shrunk).
So… here we are! “Cora Carmack” blurbed my book and is busily promoting it to her entire network (can’t TELL you how grateful I am for that!) and Brittany also has a useful network of bloggers and reviewers who’ve jumped on board to help too.
All in all, there’s no guarantees for any kind of self-publishing venture. I know that better than anyone. But I also know my book couldn’t get a better chance than this. So if it doesn’t “make it”, then it wasn’t ever going to anyway!
Getting your book out there was quite a bumpy ride, did you have moments when you thought of giving up? (If yes, what made you carry on?)
Yes. And yes. And yes. And YES. (Did I mention, &#$% YES?)
I think every writer goes through those moments (or weeks, or months – even years) where they believe it’s pointless. Or just too hard. I certainly have (and do!) but there were two reasons I never actually let go:
- I think this is what I was meant to do. I think God wants me to do it. I know I want to do it. And frankly, even if I never tried to publish another word, I’d keep writing – so why not try if I’m going to be carving these worlds out of nothing anyway?
- Every time I’d start to feel like giving up, something would happen to encourage me. I’d feel like I just couldn’t get the story to do what I wanted – then someone would read it and rave. I’d feel like my writing was poor, then I’d send the manuscript in for a critique clinic and (besides all the useful criticism) I’d get unsolicited praise for my writing. When I was (nervously) looking for an agent I got a really good response to the query. When I kept getting rejections or R & R’s I wasn’t comfortable with, I attended WriteOnCon and got several new, unsolicited requests. Then when nothing came of that and I was discouraged, I got an offer from a small, independent press. Then Brittany offered to represent me – and she turned out to be PERFECT for me. On and on and on… the number of times I’d start thinking “I can’t do this anymore”, then something good would happen…well, it just picked me up. I had to keep going. Those little stories continue to this day!
What were the challenges of self-publishing your book you didn’t expect?
Hmmm… how much time do you have? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s been some pleasant surprises in the self-publishing process. So it hasn’t been all bad. But I’d been researching self-publishing for two years. And I had the advice and foresight of a very successful self-published author. I felt like I was going into it prepared. But there’s some things you just can’t understand until you get into them.
Like, the fact that so many reviewers and bloggers just flatly refuse to look at self-published books. I actually knew this, but I hadn’t anticipated how widespread it was. I even understood why people did it (I have turned down more self-published author review copies than I care to count for my blog, and I don’t run a “big” blog). But being on this side of the coin… it actually made me angry. “What, so just because I have “self published” next to my name, you won’t even look?”
I also “knew” that the formatting process was complicated. But when you’re working through it – even with the good advice that I’ve been given ahead of time, and the fact that I’m a genuine, advanced user of the Microsoft suite, I am surprised on a daily basis at how one, tiny little slip or miss can make such a big difference to the appearance or professionalism of my book. It’s frightening actually.
But I’d say the biggest thing, and something I didn’t anticipate at all, is the fear of and sense that I’m “going it alone”. I mean, I went into this with a lot of support. My husband is behind me 100%. I have a bestselling author promoting me and blurbing my book. I have an awesome community of writers and bloggers (like you, Eve!) who are encouraging me and supporting me.
I didn’t anticipate that, when push came to shove, I’d feel so isolated by this process. The success or failure of this book is squarely on my shoulders, because I’ve done all the work. Sure, I’ve had editorial critique, and designers involved. But all the decisions are mine. The final buck stops with me on everything.
One the one hand, there’s something very freeing about that. I can do exactly what I want to do and I don’t have to answer to anyone else about it.
But on the other…no matter what the product, there’s no one actually behind it except me. If there is criticism, I can’t say “well, such-and-such made me do that”, and if there’s failure I can’t say “well, the press should have do thus-and-so.” It’s just me.
Of course, if there’s success, I get the kudos too. But let’s be honest, failure is a MUCH more likely scenario in this game. I’ve had to power through that on a mental and emotional level and prepare myself for it. I do feel prepared now. But I definitely wasn’t a couple months back. It’s an interesting ride!
Thanks for having me, Eve.
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Thanks for all your support, Eve!