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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Writing is a Discipline: Author Interview with Louise Guy

You wrote a 10 middle-grade series in your Minecraft storyline as an indie-publisher. What made you decide to go indie? 
Going indie with the Crafters’ Club books was an easy decision. I was desperate to get my nine-year-old Minecraft obsessed son reading, and the traditional publishing route would have taken too long. If a publisher had taken the books on, I’m guessing it would have been twelve to eighteen months from contract to publication (if I’d even been lucky enough to get a publisher). 

My son might have lost interest in Minecraft by then! Selling books wasn’t my initial goal with this series. Getting one boy reading was! I made him a main character and asked for his input along the way. I was also keen to try my hand at self-publishing and realised this was the perfect series to get that experience.

What tips would you offer someone who wants to go indie to help save them from unnecessary pitfalls?
As far as tips for indie publishing, in addition to a quality story and professional edit, covers and blurb are critical. Don’t skimp on editors or covers. You’re competing with the traditional publishers, so want to ensure your quality is as good, if not better. Join Facebook groups that share information on indie publishing. The 20booksto50K group has excellent resources, as do many other genre specific groups. Indie authors are usually very open to sharing their information, so tap into groups you can learn from.

I have found that middle-grade fiction is much harder to sell as an indie publisher than my women’s fiction. Ideally, you want middle grade in paperback format in the book shops. I sought out distribution for the Crafters’ Club series, which meant they were prominent in Australian bookstores.

While doing those MG books you also wrote women’s fiction. Why did you add a second genre to your writing? 
I was writing women’s fiction before embarking on the Crafters’ Club series. I’d submitted one of my books and had experienced my first taste of rejection and made the decision to put my women’s fiction on hold and make an attempt to get my son reading. As I began writing the Crafters’ Club, I realised that the market potential was much bigger than just my son.

Which sells better -- your MG books or women's fiction?
Of the two genres, my women’s fiction has produced more sales.

You currently publish through Lake Union, which is an Amazon imprint. They no longer accept unagented submissions. How did you get involved with them?  
My involvement with Lake Union was very unexpected. In November 2018, I woke up to an email of which the subject line was “A fan of your books.” I assumed it was going to be a lovely email from a reader. I nearly fell off my chair when I opened it and read it to find that an editor from Lake Union had read all three of my self-published books and wanted to chat about possible publishing opportunities with Lake Union. 

A phone call very quickly confirmed that they were looking to offer a five-book deal, including re-publishing my three existing titles and two new ones. Lake Union had noticed my books because they’d sat high on the Amazon charts for many months. While I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been discovered by Lake Union, I also acknowledge that it was a combination of hard work and good fortune that created that opportunity.

One of your books, A Winning Betrayal, is a re-publish of a previous book. What type of changes did you make that are an improvement from the first book?
A Winning Betrayal, previously Fortunate Friends, has had an extensive overhaul, whereas the other two books Lake Union are re-publishing are unchanged. The original story saw unusual circumstances bring together three women who form a close friendship and support each other through several difficult situations. 

It was felt that removing one character would bring greater depth to the other two storylines. I enjoyed delving further into the stories of the two remaining characters. New secondary storylines were added, the way they met changed, and why their friendship continued also changed. 

Fifty percent of the book has been re-written. I think people who read Fortunate Friends will read it and enjoy it. It will feel familiar because they know Shauna and Frankie, but the story will seem quite different in many ways. I was given the choice of which character I wanted to remove so it wasn’t a case of one storyline not working, but rather a case of enriching the other two storylines.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have an agent, but it is an area I am currently researching as I would like to work with someone moving forward.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 
I find the most challenging part of the writing process description. I’ll often leave it out in scenes just put DESCRIBE in that section. It might be someone’s appearance, a location, a feeling even. I like to spend time on the descriptions and find it slows me down too much to write them as I go. I instinctively know when description is required, but it doesn’t flow in the same way dialogue and other parts of the narrative do.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
To scale back and trim unnecessary detail from scenes, which slows the pace of the novel. If it isn’t vital to atmosphere and scene-setting, as well as plot, then get rid of it!

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
There have been many different ways I feel I’ve been encouraged so far in my writing journey. The first was when I self-published the Crafter’s Club. I’d had a lot of people, particularly other authors, say things to me like “don’t you want a proper publisher” and suggest that the books were inferior because they were self-published. 

The reader reviews and messages I received from both parents and kids who loved the books were a validation that I had a good product that stood up against traditionally published books. Being approached by Scholastic in New York to include two of the Crafters’ Club books in their schools’ book club program was also incredibly encouraging, as was feeling like a rock star when doing school talks and having kids queue for ages to have the books signed. The Lake Union contract has also been a huge encouragement.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
My first rejection was the hardest. I’d pitched at a Romance Writers of Australia conference. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but two publishers asked for partial manuscripts. I was elated. I’d been warned it could be weeks or months before I heard back from either of them.

Unfortunately, I heard back from one of the publishers within a week with a very harsh critique, which instantly killed my bubble of excitement. She’d read the first two chapters and decided she hated the characters and wasn’t interested in reading anymore. I certainly hadn’t expected such a blunt response! 

I was quite down initially, but the second publisher contacted me a few weeks later, saying she loved it and wanted the rest of the manuscript. It got as far as an acquisitions meeting but was up against three other books, all fighting for one slot in the publishers’ schedule. 

The most significant learning from this is just how subjective publishing is. What one editor loathed another loved. This is the same with readers, of course, and that’s why knowing who your target market is and what genre expectations they have is essential. It is also important to ignore negative reviews if the majority of your reviews are positive. Of course, if all of your reviews are negative, then it is time to look at your product!

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? 
One of the biggest, and nicest, surprises in the writing community, is the willingness of authors to share information. If you are new to writing, do your best to surround yourself with other authors. You will learn so much and feel so inspired by their enthusiasm and achievements. If you are wondering where to find them, Facebook groups for the genre you are write in are a perfect starting place.

What frustrated you the most?
Frustrations? In the early days, I would have said the submission process and pitching to editors. The delay in responding, if responding at all, seems archaic. Other than that, I do occasionally get frustrated when I hear writers make excuses as to why they aren’t writing or have missed deadlines. “I’m just too busy,” doesn’t cut it with me! Being successful comes down to discipline.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
While I worked this out quite quickly, I wish I’d been aware from day one that a traditional publishing contract in a small market such as Australia is unlikely to achieve the same success as self-publishing will. This is not necessarily the same case in broader markets such as the US and UK. 

In Australia, print runs for debut authors are often only three thousand books, and minimal impact is made on the international eBook platforms. One print run where your book is available for three months is a small reward for the time, effort, and energy you’ve put into writing that book! You can achieve much better results self-publishing and targeting bigger markets such as the US and UK.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
The best advice I could give is based on what I’ve observed in successful writers. The main ingredient to being successful, I believe, is discipline. It is about scheduling time to write and doing it at that time, no matter what. If you wait to be in the mood, you’ll probably never write a word or take years writing one book. You need to make a plan that works for you as far as when you write and for how long and stick to it.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
I am lucky to have many writer friends, and I think it is important to acknowledge that many of us are on different journeys regarding our writing. Some run their writing as a business, and it is their fulltime income; some want literary reviews and recognition from bestseller lists; others want to see their book on the shelf in a bookstore; while others might just want to be able to print copies to give to family and friends. Whatever your reason for writing, be careful who you compare your output and success with, as it is quite likely you’ll have different goals and be on a completely different journey to them.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
A Life Worth Living is my next book to be released. It will be available on October  15. 

Here is the blurb...Are some white lies simply too big to forgive?
Eve and Leah are identical twins―but beyond that, they're polar opposites. Struggling journalist Leah envies Eve's seemingly perfect life―the loyal husband, the beautiful twin daughters, the stellar career―little knowing that what Eve longs for most is Leah's independence.

When a shocking event upends their world, one woman seizes a split-second chance to change everything and follow her sister down a different life path. It's a spontaneous choice, but there's no going back. How will she deal with the fallout when covering up one untruth means lying to everyone―about everything?

One thing is clear: both twins have secrets, and both just want to be happy. But what price will they pay to live the life they've always wanted?

That's all for today's interview. Hope that blurb piqued your interest. If you'd like to learn more about Louise's writing, here are some links to get you started.


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