Interview with Author Nancy Christie


Nancy Christie is the author of the fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, and two short story e-books, Annabelle and Alice in Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press). Her short stories can also be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and others. The founder of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers. Charles Weinblatt interviews for Author Publishing and Book Marketing:

CW: Tell us about yourself. NC: I wish I had an unusual childhood or had spent my adult years in some exotic locale but the fact is I am living in the same area where I was born, have lived in the same house for about 35 years now and although I have a passport, I have only pulled it out for domestic travel. I am a writer—plain and simple. I’ve been writing for 50 years now—that’s because I started in second grade!—and can’t imagine not writing. I’m a professional writer by trade (marketing and corporate work primarily with some magazine articles thrown in) and a fiction writer by preference, which means that there isn’t a snippet of conversation overheard or a physical contact witnessed that doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my fiction writer’s brain to be pulled out and used in one way or another.  

CW: Give us an overview of your writing/books. NC: My first book, The Gifts of Change, is an inspirational book about making the most of the changes that come into your life—even if you didn’t want them. That book was inspired by my mother’s cancer diagnosis and a number of other changes and challenges that came into my life—some desired, others, not so much. My second and current book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, is a short fiction collection about characters who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results. So, in a way, both books deal with change—just from different perspectives.

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration? NC: I don’t know that I could point to any one person or event. I was always a bit of a loner and loved to read, and fortunately my parents indulged me in that. I had wonderful teachers who emphasized writing skills—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—as well as content. And then there are authors whose work is so compelling and creative that I can’t help wanting to write as well as they do, and give to others what they have given to me: journeys to places—some real, some imagined—full of fascinating characters.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge? NC: Time, for one thing. In addition to my professional work, I am caregiving for my father, and that takes up a fair bit of time, although I am glad to be able to do it and even happier that, at 92, he is still so vibrant and in good spirits. And of course, the self-doubt, the inevitable comparisons with other writers, the fear that I won’t be able to live up to the good reviews with my next project—or worse, that the good reviews I have already received are all the good reviews that I am going to get!

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)? NC: A sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life.  It’s so easy to sit in judgment or say that we would never make the choices that others have made that led them down that path of destruction but we don’t really know that for certain, do we?So rather than be afflicted with that most dangerous of all viruses—superiority—we should instead be compassionate. It’s that whole “there but for the grace of God” thing…

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie? NC: That is my plan for 2015. I have heard about certain actors who are buying movie rights to books and so intend to pursue that possibility.

CW: What’s next for you as an author? NC: I’m working on a second collection as well as a novel that I want to pitch. But my first goal is to find an agent. (Don’t all writers say that?) My first two books were un-agented, but I think it’s time to get an expert on board and take over that part of my career.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent? NC: I didn’t want to self-publish—I have neither the time nor funds to purse that path and know full well that there is more to self-publishing than just getting the book printed. For my first book, I was encouraged by the comments I received from agents—they loved the book but since I was an unknown, passed on representing me—so I researched publishers who handled first-time un-agented authors, and found my publisher relatively quickly. With Traveling Left of Center, I had already connected with Pixel Hall Press who published two of the short stories in e-book format, and so it was a natural step to work with them to publish the entire collection.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process and publishing? NC: It’s a business. Treat it like one. Yes, you need to be a good writer but if you plan on being published, you also have to be a good business owner. Your book is your product. Know how to market it. Do your advance work. Expect to spend time and money doing what you need to do to get it out there. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books? NC: I have done some in-person events—not as many as with my first book simply because I can’t travel as much with my other obligations. I blog, I do the whole social media thing, did some virtual tours and plan to do more, participate in interviews, request reviews and then, when I get them, make sure I get the word out. I send out press releases, update my book’s web page every time there is something interesting to share—basically, I do everything I can think of, and then read articles and blog posts to find even more suggestions that I need to incorporate in my marketing.

CW: Where can someone buy your books? NC: Everywhere and anywhere—from bricks-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s and other indie booksellers to online retailers like Amazon.

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say? NC: Fiction writer.

CW: I’m pretty sure that’s already been accomplished exceedingly well.

You can read my reviews of Nancy Christie books at The New York Journal of Books, here:

Advertisements

THE ROAD TO BEING PUBLISHED


Virtually all of you reading this want to have a best-selling book with a major global publisher on your resume. I’m also guessing that most, if not all of you, consider your writing talent appropriate for this level of success. Of course, accomplishing this is another story altogether. So this article is about how to go from hell to HarperCollins as a novice author.

As a young or novice author, when should we self-publish? When should we use a trade publisher? And when should we use a subsidy publisher?

Having been self-published and having been trade published several times, I’ve been immersed in the issue of which way to publish for the past eighteen years. Having a literary agent makes an enormous difference. Yet, it can be even more difficult to find an agent as it is for a publisher.

Before I continue, know this… if a person, company or alleged-publisher asks you for money, beware. Be very, very careful. Sometimes this can be a terrific opportunity; or, you’ll become another scam victim. Real publishers never ask an author for money, or attempt to extort money from you, “if you will only be willing to pay to have your writing ability measured,” or any number of other scams that make victims out of novice authors.

I recommend that ALMOST NO ONE subsidy-publish (also called, “vanity” publishing), unless you really don’t care if anyone buys your book. That’s because almost no one will know it exists, much less purchase and read it. Subsidy/Vanity publishers earn a profit from the author, from you. The moment they have your money, they are done helping you. They might post your book on their own web site, along with other books by novice authors left unread and unsold. Why should they lift a finger for you, once they have your money? They earn nothing from sales. Remember, they already have your money. Oh they might post an interview with you, if you ply them with additional cash. Sadly, almost no one will read that interview either, because subsidy publishers don’t care if anyone reads their web site. And while some vanity publishers deliver exactly what they promise, others are scam artists and they propagate fraud upon well-meaning authors who failed to conduct due diligence. These so-called publishers jump from state to state, just ahead of the attorney general. I recommend a subsidy publisher ONLY when the author does not care if anyone will read it.

Recognize a scam (subsidy) publisher by their greed and pitfalls. They charge you for each and every production cost, while they retain all major attributes, including the ISBN and all major sales opportunities and legal rights. They require you to sell a certain number of books or to pay for all unsold copies. They offer no royalty or a very insignificant royalty, and/or demand that you pay for an “evaluation of your writing ability,” or that you hire the company’s staff for a variety of existing or imagined services, including graphic design and printing. Before you sign a contract and pay one of these so-called subsidy publishers, research them carefully. Look for current and past lawsuits litigated by disenfranchised authors. Contact authors who have gone this route and ask them about satisfaction and sales. Order a few of these books and judge the quality. You’ll find that in most cases, you would rather have your finger and toenails pulled out before associating your literary reputation with scammers and authors devoid of talent.

Self-publishing is often a viable option for an unknown author. I’m including POD in this category. You’ll still need to pay for most production and promotional costs. You’ll need to find a way to post your book with the web sites of dozens of major book distributors and retailers. You’ll need to attract newspaper, journal and magazine articles about you and your book. You must obtain Internet interviews with the biggest and most widely-read blogs and web sites. You will need to arrange for book tours, bookstore signings, public speaking events and submissions for major book awards. It will be up to you to pay for a winning book trailer and then to market it with hundreds of the best blogs frequented by readers in your book’s genre. There are dozens of other ways that you must promote and market your self-published book. I’ve elicited many of them here in this blog, including this post: https://cweinblatt.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/book-marketing-101-2/.

The differences between self-publishing and subsidy publishing are very real and very dangerous. With self-publishing, you own the ISBN. You retain the copyright. You own all major privileges. And you are in control over every aspect of pre and post-production events. With self-publishing, the author should retain all major opportunities for screenplay and movie rights, translation rights, cover and interior design, typesetting, printing, marketing, distribution, etc. If a “publisher” retains these rights in a contract, flee.

If you write non-fiction and you are a subject matter expert, self-publishing is a very attractive opportunity. Many years ago, while recovering from spine surgery, I wrote a non-fiction “how to” book about job seeking skills. A major textbook publisher offered a contract with an attractive advance. In the early 1980s no one was discussing self-publishing. But if I had it to do over again, I would have turned down the contract and self-published. Why? Because I could sell almost as many copies as I desired through my consulting practice, with regional companies who were closing or laying off workers; and because I saw to it that my book became required reading for graduate students at my university. Why share the profit if you don’t have to? This is a perfect example of why a novice author should self-publish.

Many of us write fiction, as I do almost exclusively now. In that case, your professional expertise means little and your success is accomplished via reputation and significant book sales. As is the case with most aspects of success, authors earn it one book at a time. With each successful book, we demonstrate incremental improvements in talent, distribution, promotion, sales and marketing. Before you can successfully sign a contract with a well-connected literary agent, you’ll need to demonstrate a string of increasingly successful books and reputational enhancement. This takes a lot of time, research, practice and effort. If you expect to become a best-selling author on your first or second try, dream on. It won’t happen and you’ll just become more frustrated. Be patient, produce one book after another, read voraciously (especially in your preferred genre) and learn from the best authors.

Many small publishers today ask the author to pay some or all of the publishing production costs. At first blush, this seems outrageous. The publisher acquires almost no risks and the author must dig into her or his bank account, often to the tune of several thousand dollars or even more. Plus the author must accept responsibility for marketing and promotion (and associated costs) – but with one major exception.

Almost all publishers attend a variety of global book fairs, conferences and conventions each year. There, they listen, learn and, they promote their books and authors to the entire world. This is one major reason to use a trade-publisher, even if you must front the cost of production. Attendees include large publishers, well-known and admired screenplay artists, movie producers and a variety of additional marketing opportunities. Although you might despise paying several thousand dollars to put your book into print (and an e-book), you would probably spend even more on travel costs to reach all of these global book fairs, conventions and conferences. Consider this investment a loss lead. If you really believe in your book’s quality and marketability, go for it with a small publisher who regularly attends the world’s biggest and best conferences and conventions. It’s a question worth asking before you sign a contract. In fact, you have every reason to add it to the contract before signing it.

When you can acquire a well-connected literary agent, then you have a real chance to become a noted author and attract millions of readers. Of course, agents only take a chance on obvious talent. With that in mind, you may need to produce several moderately-successful books before an agent will have the confidence to acquire you on contract. That seems unfair and very time-consuming. However, put yourself in the agent’s shoes. What would it take to put your reputation on the line with major publishers? Remember, the only way for an agent to be successful is to develop a trusting and mutually rewarding relationship with acquisition editors at the biggest and best publishers in the world. If the agent lets the big publishing house down by promoting a poorly-written book, then you and the agent are in trouble.

I do not consider myself to be a very talented author. At the same time, I believe that I can write interesting books. By the time I had completed my first full-length novel, I had produced two other books in different genres and I was well on my way to completing two more. My agent liked my writing and I trusted the agency to promote my books globally, where it would be cost-prohibitive for me to do it. After I had a few successfully-published books under my belt, that literary agent began to take me seriously. That’s time and effort… before a contract for success. There are very few free rides in acquiring a talented and well-connected agent.

The difference in having an agent was like night and day. Where I had struggled for years to convince small, insignificant publishers to examine my offerings, my agent suddenly had acquisitions editors reading my manuscripts at HarperCollins, Penguin, Prometheus, and many other famous publishing houses. This almost NEVER occurs when authors contact a major publisher on our own.

Here lies our conundrum. Almost all best-selling authors have a wonderful and pervasive author platform and publish through the biggest and best publishing houses. But, before we can attract major publishing houses, we must devote years to creating books that demonstrate our aptitude and insure that the marketability of our efforts is obvious. Only after that can we hope to attract the most well-connected and talented literary agents in our genres. Sometimes, we must pay to have our books published (subsidy or vanity publishing) in order to start this process. More often, we decide to self-publish, in a way that allows us to control all major aspects of the publishing process. Either way, the road to becoming a best-selling author is filled with potholes.

The more we learn about being published, the more reachable will be our success. This is why I blog and how I hope to provide some insight in this blog. For more information about fraud in publishing, as well as the differences between real publishers and scam artists, see Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/) and Predators & Editors ( ). My writing and publishing web site is here: https://cweinblatt.wordpress.com