Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Today, Jennifer R. Hubbard shares with us how a serious commitment to her craft paved her road to publication.
You can read my review of Try Not to Breathe here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/282282727
This is, in her own words, her story:
My road to publication was both short and long. I began sending out short stories while I was still in high school, and one of the first stories I sent out got published.
But it was a long time until I sold another.
I took a day job in another field, but I kept writing. For years, I sent out stories, and some of them appeared in magazines. It wasn’t until 2003 that I looked at all the young adult (YA) novels on my shelves and thought, “Why don’t I try to write the kind of book I’ve always loved to read?”
I’d made a few attempts at novels over the years, and most of them would qualify as YA—except they wouldn’t really qualify as novels. I usually only managed one or two short drafts. In 2003, I took a course in writing children’s literature, taught by Vivian Grey. I started going to SCBWI conferences and joined that organization. I sought out critique partners. And I began revising my novels more deeply than I ever had before. When my level of commitment changed, my results changed—slowly, but surely. Late in 2007, I queried an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. with my latest effort: a novel about a secret relationship, a sudden death, and a notebook left behind. The agent signed me and sold the book to Viking. It appeared early in 2010 under the title The Secret Year. Earlier this year, my second YA book with Viking, Try Not to Breathe, appeared. It is the story of a boy recovering from a suicide attempt, and his friendship with a girl who is trying to reach her late father through psychics.
When I began my publishing journey, self-publishing was not nearly as viable as it is now. Even so, for an unknown writer doing contemporary realistic fiction, the traditional route still has advantages: access to reviewers, eligibility for awards, access to the school and library market as well as the chain bookstores. My first book appeared on an Indie Next list, an ALA list (Quick Picks), and a Texas Library Association list (Tayshas). Also, I had the benefit of an editorial team, professional book designers, and a marketing team.
It’s very true that publishers don’t send most of their authors on book tours, nor do they buy co-op (prime bookstore placement, such as special displays) for most of their authors. A lot of the social networking, approaching local bookstores about signings, and ordering swag (e.g., bookmarks, pens, postcards) falls to the author. I’ve definitely found that it helps to band together with other local authors for live events, rather than trying to go it alone. I’m currently working with both the Kidlit Authors Club and the New Jersey Authors Network.
However, publishers still do a lot of the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting: contacting national media, handling author appearances at the major conferences like ALA and BEA and NCTE, distributing review copies, and interacting with the bookstore buyers. And my literary agency handles foreign rights and other subsidiary rights (film, audio, etc.) that I would have a hard time shopping on my own.
With traditional publishing, you have less control over the process, but more team members pitching in at every stage of the process. So I think authors can be happy on either road, but just have to choose the route that will work for them.
Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of The Secret Year and Try Not to Breathe, both young-adult novels. Besides books, she loves hiking and chocolate, and can be found on Twitter @JennRHubbard.