Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writing Past Your Fear: Author Interview with C.L. Collyer

Of all the genres that you could choose, what made you decide to write a picture book for children?
 As a young child I was very lucky that I had parents who read to me and my siblings nightly. We grew up on books by Marjorie Barrows, Beatrix Potter, Milne, Tolkien, Twain etc. In school, English composition and literature were my favorite subjects. Fascinated by the magic and fantasy found in children’s books, it became a natural inclination to write in the same genre. I’m only sorry I waited so long to pursue this passion. Aside from being a father and grandfather, I have always loved children and if even in a small way, I can make a child smile or laugh by writing or telling stories, I have accomplished what I cherish most.

Who encouraged you along the way?
My wife Cindy has been extremely instrumental and encouraging in my writing.

Who helped you polish your story?
I have an editor that I use as well as asking friends and even family members who I trust explicitly to give unbiased reviews.

Are you active in any writing critique groups?
 Yes, I belong to the SCBWI as well as two Facebook subgroups.

 Prior to writing this book, what was your publishing and writing background?
I absolutely knew very little about publishing a year ago. In high school and university I wrote short stories and articles for college courses and even stealthily wrote papers for classmates. I have been writing commercial content for years as a marketing & communications executive.

Did you try the traditional route of seeking a publisher and/or agent to market your book?
Quite frankly, I thoroughly researched the publishing industry as far as books were concerned, when I first started to write my book.  I discovered it is a rapidly changing industry run by old-school publishers burdened with legacy procedures. Most traditional publishers will not accept submissions unless they come through a literary agent. The process, if followed the traditional way, can sometimes take months before a publisher says yes or no. 

 Agents take their time and if they like your manuscript will tender it to a publisher(s). They want 20% of your sales as a fee. When you take all the other discounts and fees publishers/distributors take, there really isn’t a whole lot of margin left. 

The Vanity publishers are also problematic. As an author, you pay for everything up front, i.e. printing, marketing, advertising etc. Even if your book does well, you continue to pay dearly. Based on my research, I decided to go solo. Perhaps it’s taking longer for market presentation but I am controlling my expenses and destiny.

Were you overwhelmed in trying to learn everything about publishing from print format to cover design and marketing?
Truthfully yes, but only to a degree. As a commercial writer, research was always something I did and became very adept at. I was lucky in so far as discovering my illustrator and my book designer using extensive Google searches. I have never laid eyes on either of them. My book designer, in turn, was able to introduce me to a reputable U.S.-based printer who printed my first book. I never met them either. The marketing aspect was a little more onerous and I am still learning a lot as I go along. Being a marketing consultant, of course, has helped immeasurably. 

What are some of the promotions that you’ve done for the book that have been the most successful?
 The Goodreads Giveaway promotion, although just recently done, will be good in time. Getting positive reviews from both experts and readers has helped to get others  interested in the book. I did submit the book for a Moms Choice Award, which it got and which gives it some validation. It has also been submitted to Kirkus and Publishers Weekly for professional reviews and assuming that it gets the kind of reviews I expect it to, will go a long way in helping the book go into bookstores and libraries. I have arranged for several readings at various Barnes & Noble stores, small independent bookstores and at libraries over the next couple of months. I did exhibit my book at the American Library Association convention in Orlando through the IBPA and did a book signing there which got the book into the hands of librarians across the country.

What would you tell other authors to avoid?
Fear! If you are referring to new authors like me, avoid fear! Undoubtedly it can be a daunting task going into uncharted waters. But planning, research, doggedness, unrelenting passion for what you do will overcome every obstacle and ultimately every fear.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
Rejection is never an easy thing. No one likes rejection. But rejection can be all part of the learning curve. One must remember that most rejection in the sense of business is not personal. It’s not you that was rejected but, in this reference, your book, your artwork or your manuscript was rejected. If you find out why it was turned down, go to another literary agent, a different publisher, marketer or distributor.

I remember taking my book to the head of youth services at a very large local library. She said the illustrations in my book would prevent her from requesting the book for her library. She thought they should be more subdued. One of the reasons my book has been accepted by bookstores and other libraries has been the illustrations. They all love the vibrancy and color and fun characters that were developed. If I crumbled at the first rejection it would have been a monumental error.

How do you handle writer's block?
Writing generally has been easy for me. If there’s a hard part to it, it might be the occasional writer’s block. I will have days on end that I can write and write and maintain a fair semblance of continuity in the theme. There are other times where, for any number of reasons, I stop dead in my tracks. With my wife’s encouragement, I stop, turn off the computer and leave my home office and get involved in something totally unrelated. I may be able to go back to it later that day or maybe not for several days. It happens to everyone who writes. Just don’t let it be a permanent cul-de-sac.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog? Tension, etc.?
I would have to say starting can be the hard part. At this time, I am actually writing a series of children’s picture books that are all based on the same cast of characters with different storylines. I have chosen to write these books in narrative-poetry style and I want to keep the same rhythm and metric through each book. It can be tedious.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
If there was just one thing, I would say that it would have to be that old-boy legacy. Notwithstanding the seismic changes in the industry, it is very evident that there’s still a lot of gratuitous attitude around. The people who have been in the industry for years won’t acknowledge the changes that are imploding around them.

What frustrated you the most?
Singularly I would have to say that what I just spoke to above has been the most frustrating. When you know that you have a good story book and you are getting rave reviews from readers about the quality of your storyline and illustrations, but you still have to follow time-consuming protocol, that’s frustrating.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I had started writing children’s books, and other genres, sooner. I love the fact that I can make children smile. When I read about and see how many children in American families don’t have books or are not read to, and when I see the various school systems not only in America but everywhere else that lack the resources to buy and maintain an adequate supply of books for children, I am frustrated and angry. I wish that I had started earlier so as to make a lasting contribution to fill the void, however little that is.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
I would have to say that it is to be yourself when you write. Don’t try to be another J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Beatrix Potter or Dr. Seuss. Be yourself. Write in your own style and use your own thought processes. But if you do have even a modicum of talent, write, write, and write! If grammar and punctuation is an issue, editors can take care of that. No one but you can recreate your thoughts.

Do you have any other works in the process?
Yes, the Jacky Foster Adventure series is a planned six-book project. I have actually written the basic manuscripts for all six books. The second book is expected to be published in mid-November. I have also started two children’s short stories but have set them aside while finishing off this second book.

Any other tips or words you’d like to share about writing?
Writing is like any other profession. You have to have not only a sparkle of interest but a fundamental knowledge. When you discover a talent within yourself, exploit it to the fullest. Be consumed with passion for your talent and write. Read books by authors who write in the style you feel you want to write in. If you have a purely scientific mind you might not want to start off writing young children’s fantasy picture books.

That's it for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about C.L. Collyer's books, here's two links to get you started:   

1 comment:

  1. I have bookmarked this for future reference. Very informative, especially the promotions section.