Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Publishing Secrets with Marie Bacigalupo, Author of 'Ninth-Month Midnight'

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Marie: Fiction has always been my favorite genre, perhaps because of its immersive qualities. I escaped a lonely childhood by entering a multitude of fictional worlds.
My love of the written word stayed with me through the years. I graduated college with a B. A. in English and earned an M. A. in literature in grad school. (The M.F.A. came into prominence only after I graduated.)
I still, and will always, revel in great literature. But besides getting pleasure from hanging out with old friends like Elizabeth Bennett, Holden Caulfield, George Smiley, Lily Bart—the list goes on—I learn a great deal from my reading. As it turns out, great authors make the best writing teachers if one is attentive to their craft, to how they handle POV, characterization, structure, etc. 
Is this your first book?
Marie: Yes, Ninth-Month Midnight is my first attempt at long-form fiction, but I’ve had a number of short stories published in online and print magazines.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
I published through Amazon and its paperback arm, CreateSpace. I had heard and read so much about the difficulty of getting past the gatekeepers in traditional publishing that I decided to try the direct approach.
Self-publishing puts the writer at the helm and is relatively quick to pull off. I accepted the fact that my book would probably never grace the shelves of a retail store without the mojo of a traditional publisher.
I also understood that critical objectivity was essential to my credibility as an author. I showed my work to two trusted readers (not family members and friends—they’d worry about hurting my feelings) before sending it out to a professional editor.
I’m satisfied with the result of self-publication but haven’t excluded the possibility of submitting to traditional publishers in the future. 
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
I was always reasonably proficient in writing. As a copywriter and school administrator, I produced promotional brochures, departmental reports, and curriculum materials.
But my dream was to write fiction, and I lacked training in craft. To address my shortcomings, I enrolled in The Writers Studio, took a number of workshops at NYU and The New School, studied at The Center for Fiction, and participated in Narrative Magazine and One Story programs. In addition, I attended numerous writing festivals, conferences, and readings.
The initial idea for Ninth-Month Midnight arose out of the questions, What if the souls of the dead linger among us for a while? Would we be able to communicate with them on some level? When Hamlet says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” I say, You betcha! I combined this idea with the story of a troubled woman who develops a desperate attachment to a male psychic.
I recognized early that I didn’t have the technical skills to go it alone on this project, so I searched the Internet for people who could assist me and who charged reasonable rates. Ultimately, I hired Polgarus to do the layout and Ellie Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios to create the cover.
When it became apparent that traditional publishers considered only agented manuscripts and were providing less and less support in promotion and marketing, I decided to self-publish. 
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
The hardest lesson I learned was that the most saleable book in the world—think Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code—won’t sell a single copy if your readers don’t know it exists. And wouldn’t you know it, I happen to be an introvert. Promotion and marketing were huge challenges for me. But I bit the bullet: I established a website and blog, and joined Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.
Then I started to worry that maintaining a media presence would become so all-consuming I would have little time to write. And what would I have to promote if I stopped writing?
Now I focus on writing fiction and do the best I can to promote my novella.  Maybe for my next book I’ll hire a social media publicist. 
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Marie: I say go for it if you’re organized and multi-talented, or willing to hire people to do what you can’t do yourself. Self-published authors exercise control over content and pricing, receiving royalties up to a whopping 70% (as opposed to about 25% minus the agent’s fee for traditionally published authors).
Once you’ve settled on a final draft, Amazon instructions take you through the process step by step. The turn-around between manuscript download and epublication is about 24 hours. If I remember correctly, it’s takes three or four days for the paperback to come out. That’s a lot sooner than the yearlong wait between contract signing and traditional publication.
There’s also a middle road, called hybrid publication, which might suit some writers. Hybrid publishers offer varied levels of editorial and distribution support for a price while taking a share of the profits from book sales. 
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

Marie: Love what you do. Don’t write for fortune or fame; you’ll likely be disappointed. Write as often as you can. Get your hands on Francine Prose’s book, Reading Like a Writer, and follow her advice: Be alert to the strategies authors employ. And most important, be persistent. Rejection is a given of our trade. Push past it. 

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