Friday, May 6, 2016

Book Publishing Secrets with j.d. daniels

Namejd daniels
Genre: Mystery
Publisher:  Savvy Press
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?
I’m one of those writers who is compelled to write by her muse.  For years, I lived the life of Super Mom and wife.  When my kids were in junior high, I went back to complete my college degree.  I completed my undergraduate degree, then my masters.  When I was offered a fellowship to pay for doctoral work, I grabbed it.  I began teaching writing.  While doing this, I free wrote with my students at the beginning of each class to loosen up their imaginations.  That practice changed my life.  My muse or demon, whichever you want to call her, broke free and I mean FREE!  It was a physical, emotional and mentally painful experience.  I’ve been writing ever since.  I guess she was in some kind of coma all those early adult years—now she won’t be denied. 
Quite honestly, the first time I saw my words and name in print, I was hooked.  When you spend hours writing a novel or a mystery, it is natural to want to have it read by someone besides yourself and your writing group. I know plenty of writers who write, but never want to be published.  That’s fine—for them.  Me? I want readers. I guess you could say I like validation for my work.
I stepped up to the challenge of learning the craft of writing mysteries after I sent a manuscript for a mystery to a New York editor way too prematurely in my career. Lou Aronica sent back my critique and ended with these words, “I’m not sure you have the DNA to write a mystery.” Ouch!  After I got over that ego hit, I realized that just because I liked to read and watch mysteries on TV did not mean I knew how to write one.  I took his challenge and went to work learning my craft.  I’d been teaching the need to study the genre of what they were writing for years.  Why hadn’t I followed my own advice? How embarrassing.  I straightened my shoulders and vowed to listen to and practice what I preached.
A mystery has certain conventions that need to be followed.  I learned them.  I also began to study the mysteries I read from a writer’s perspective. Doing this made all the difference.

Is this your first book?

No, I’ve published four other books:  a book of poetry, a biography, a novella, and the first mystery in this series.

With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?

I am published by the independent press, Savvy Press long with their imprints Gowanus Books and SAGA SF. I spent years attempting to land a traditional publisher for my books without success.  I was lucky enough to finally meet Ellen Larson, an editor for a young adult traditional publisher.  She read my work and liked it and suggested I publish with the independent publishing company she and another writer established in 2002. 
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
I have published poems and short fiction in several literary journals, both in print and online since the late eighties. I published my first poem in a literary venue while a graduate student.  Great feeling.  I received my doctorate from Drake University with a book-length manuscript of my own poetry. I never attempted to put them in book form as I was too busy using a journal to find out who I was.
I’ve had two agents who were not able to find publishers for my books. Bummer. I received grants from the Iowa Arts Council and my college to research and write The Old Wolf Lady, a Biography.  I spent copious hours and much money attempting to land a traditional book publisher on my own.  No luck. Didn’t stop me writing and publishing small pieces or working at learning my craft.  
One day on the tennis court (Yes, exercise is a part of my writer’s life.  I am a good boss, after all) I met a woman who with another writer had started an independent press in 2002.  She read my work, liked it and invited me into the Savvy Press corral. Along with Savvy Press’s imprints Gowanus Books and SAGA SF I’ve published with them ever since.   Great to be there.
Happy how publishing has changed my life?  Absolutely.
If a traditional publisher knocked on my door and wanted to publish my work, would I say yes?  Of course, if the traditional publisher had a great reputation and track record and the contract was good enough.  Traditional publishers have more resources and more money to devote to promoting their authors.  They also give advances.  Independent presses are for the off-the-grid writer who is resourceful and can figure out ways to promote their work without the help of those advances. 
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Lesson One:  It’s tough to break into the traditional publishing industry, especially when you don’t follow the rules from day one.
Lesson Two:  If you can’t land a traditional publisher don’t give up on publishing. 
Lesson Three: Be persistence. Be willing to work to honor who you are and what you do.
Lesson Four: Look outside the box.  The publishing industry has, and will continue to change.  This change is a positive for writers who have previously been ignored by traditional publishers.  Catch the ring and climb on the horse. 
Lesson Five:  Develop a thick skin.  There are still those who look down on independent presses. Shame on them. Just like the respected independent film industry, there’s a respected independent press industry.  I’m proud to be part of it.  
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Absolutely.  There are many independent publishers.  Do your research.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Write, Michelangelos, write.
Living the writer’s life, following your heart, serving your passion—these things are far more important than getting published.
But to move from a writer to an author?  Best Advice: Make it happen.  Don’t skip steps in the process. Today, it is more than possible to be an author, but you want your book to honor your hard work.  And once it does—Enjoy your journey.

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