Dare to Read

March 1, 2012

My Road to Publication : Jennifer R. Hubbard

 

 

Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

Today, Jennifer R. Hubbard shares with us how a serious commitment to her craft paved her road to publication.

Jennifer, an insightful critique partner, is the author of two moving realistic YA novels: The Secret Year (Viking 2010) and Try Not To Breathe (Viking, January 2012).

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.

February 2, 2012

My Road to Publication: Sabrina Benulis

Interviewed by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today, the talented Sabrina Benulis, author of Archon (Harper Voyager, December 2011) has joined us at Dare to Read to talk about her book and her road to publication.

Please make Sabrina feel welcome by leaving your comments below.

Hi Sabrina, welcome to Dare to Read. First of all could you tell us where the story started. In other words:

Q. Why did you write Archon?

A. Initially, I wrote ARCHON and what would be the framework for its sequels for the sheer enjoyment of it.  The novel had been simmering in the back of my mind, slowly building itself up on its own for quite a while during my latter college years.  At that time, there were hardly any novels that had angels in them to be found–especially in fantasy–and I had a rich reading background in mythology and world religions.  That, combined with my desire to create a very original story, something that hadn’t been done before, spurred me to write and revise, and revise and write, until the trilogy was (at that time anyway) finished.

Q. What genre is it?

A. THE BOOKS OF RAZIEL trilogy is gothic fantasy.  However, the plot is written in the style of a thriller as there are many mysteries important to the story.

Q. Who is the expected audience?

A. Older teens and adults would be the appropriate readers, especially people who like paranormal thrillers and unique fiction.  I’ve been told Anne Rice’s work is similar to mine in tone and atmosphere.  Perhaps I could also compare it to dark fantasy like Holly Black’s.  I’ve also heard mention of Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels series.  The marketing has thus far tried to wedge me in with other paranormal romance authors with novels about fallen angels, but that is ultimately a skewed comparison.  There is romance in my story, but it develops slowly and does not put the novel solidly in that category.  In essence, I’m what you want to read if you’re tired of the same old thing.

Q. Who designed your cover which, BTW, is outstanding?

A. A graphic artist who goes by the name of Nekro was contracted for the cover.  He does great gothic-style illustrations and is apparently becoming quite popular lately.

Q. How does the cover reflect your story?

A. The two characters on the cover are the protagonist of ARCHON, a red-haired girl named Angela Mathers, and a great angel named Israfel who would be her love interest if not for the fact that he comes off as a villain.  Whether or not this is true is revealed in later books.  Overall, the colors of the cover are perfect for the book, as coincidentally black, white, and red are quite prominent in the story for different reasons.  Also, the gothic sensibility with the cathedral and Angela’s tattered dress fit the atmosphere of the novel almost perfectly.  As she stands in front of the church doors, you get the sense that both she and the reader are being invited to experience something special.

Q. In which formats is your book available?

A. ARCHON is available as a hardcover and most e-book formats.  The paperback should be coming out around fall of 2012.  From what I understand, the international version is also a paperback.

Q. Could you share with us how did you get your agent and publisher interested on Archon.

A. I got my agent the old-fashioned way, by query.  After she read my query, she immediately wanted to read the entire novel (as it was back then), and after a preliminary revision, I was taken on as a client.  I then had to go through another revision before the book could be sent out to publishers, and when Harper Collins took me on as an author, I had to do an entire rewrite of the book! (And in a month and a half!)  They  initially took a keen interest in my novel series mostly because of the unique way I protrayed angels and demons, which fascinated them.  It was they who also emphasized that they wanted me to make the book more gothic, bringing out a very supernatural atmosphere.
ARCHON was not the easiest book to get published, mostly because it is so very different.  It crosses a lot of genres, takes a lot of chances, and does things with the plot that just haven’t been attempted before, especially in its sub-genre.  But at the same time, that uniqueness was what got it published in the end, and if anything, it should be a lesson for authors to write what they love.

Q. Any final advice you want to share with our readers who are considering self-publishing?

A. For any reader who wishes to be an author, remember that as long as you believe in your story, others will too.  In this industry, it’s all about perseverance.

Thank you so much Sabrina for being with us today and answer our questions so honestly.

Let’s hope your audience embrace Archon for its uniqueness and loves it as much as I did.
For my review of Archon please go to http://www.myshelf.com/teen/fiction/12/archon.htm

Sabrina Benulis lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and a short-tempered cockatiel.  When she isn’t hard at work revising and writing that next novel, she can be found watching anime, reading, or anxiously awaiting her next beach vacation.  Sabrina has a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and ARCHON is her first novel.  When asked how real her angels might be, she often shrugs and smiles mysteriously.