Thursday, 11 February 2010

Interview with Beth Solheim, author of At Witt's End

Beth and I 'met' a few years back. I was agenting at the time and her manuscript was one of many I had received as a new agent and agency. I took her on immediately after having read the story. I thought it had great potential and deserved to be published because it would entertain so many other people. I was unable to land a contract for Beth - publishing houses weren't interested. I gave up the agency not too long after losing faith in the whole publishing system and set Beth on her journey to publishing once more. I am thrilled that Beth found a publisher that has recognized her storytelling abilities and the pleasure that is At Witt's End. Congrats, Beth!

Explain the path you took to getting published.

I dove in thinking I could write a mystery. WRONG! After several very humiliating rejections, including one from a publisher who indicated I should never be allowed to hold a pen in my hand again, I retreated to square one and studied the craft of writing. On-line writer’s classes, genre selection, critique groups, plotting, characterization, and outlining became an obsession. So did reading mysteries. Sadly, I had to admit that the caustic review had been accurate, but it gave me the desire to ‘learn’ how to write. Oh yes, and to prove him WRONG! Sweet revenge.

I work full time, so evenings and weekends were set aside for writing. I set a word-count goal for each week and adhered to it faithfully. When the first manuscript draft was complete, it was time to tackle the edits. Then, two more rounds of edits. I don’t believe a manuscript is ever final until it goes to press. There’s always that desire to ‘make it better’.

Did an agent place your book or did you do it on your own?

After my writing improved, I secured an agent. Having someone believe in my work was the biggest rush I’ve ever experienced. She actually believed in me. Her name was Alethea Spiridon. At that time, Alethea had a literary agency and was building her stable of writers. I was one of the fortunate authors she chose to represent. After a series of events, Alethea elected to close her literary agency and pursue another avenue.

When that happened, I decided to approach smaller publishing houses who accepted unagented submissions. To my amazement, I quickly received two offers and signed with Echelon Press.

What advantages/disadvantages do you see to having an agent and not having

Large publishing houses rarely accept unagented submissions. That’s a major reason to secure an agent. Even more important are the edit recommendations an agent makes prior to submitting to publishers. Agents know the business and know what each publishing house is looking for. I feel the edits Alethea recommended helped make my manuscript shine. I’m forever grateful for her input.

Once with your publisher, how did you find the editorial process? Did you
find it reasonable or overbearing?

Extremely reasonable. My editor pointed out a few areas that needed improvement, recommended tweaking a couple grammar issues, and then let me make decisions. After the first edit session, she did two more readings before it went to a line editor. I’ve heard nightmare stories about working with editors, but my experience was delightful.

Do you have a marketing plan in place or is the publishing house handling
this aspect?

I have an extensive marketing plan. It includes Facebook, Twitter, a website, two blogs I host, and guest blogging on a variety of other blog sites. I also have a book tour, library visits, book fairs and teaching writing classes mapped out for the balance of 2010. I’m mailing a brochure and bookmark to over 1400 libraries and 900 bookstores across the country and have several newspaper, radio and television interviews scheduled. It’s up to every author to promote. Readers won’t find us if we aren’t visible. Yes, publishers promote, but they can’t put the unique, personal spin on marketing that the author can.

Did you ever consider self-publishing?

I didn’t consider self-publishing. I wanted the validation of acceptance by a legitimate publisher. I admire those who dare take a chance on self-publishing. They are brave souls.

Any tips to writers looking to get published?

Be open to constructive criticism.
Write what you believe.

It’s easy to offer advice, but not easy to follow. Rejection is difficult for even the most seasoned writer. It hurts. If you’re lucky to receive a rejection with comments, learn from those comments. You may or may not agree, but if it’s grammar, pacing, POV issues, work on them. Improve your craft. Remember there will be that special someone who loves your work and will offer a contract.

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