How does an author get published? Brandeis tried to answer this question on Wednesday, Oct. 18 in Pearlman Lounge. Michelle Hoover, Brandeis’ Fannie Hurst writer-in-residence, introduced a panel of writers who were eager to share their experiences in getting their works published.
Among the panelists were Bob Fernandes, writer of “A Big Box of YEAH!,” Kelly Ford, writer of “Cottonmouths,” Andrea Mayer, writer of “Room for Love,” Louise Miller, writer of “A City Baker’s Guide to Country Living,” Emily Ross, writer of “Half in Love with Death” and Jennie Wood, writer of “A Boy Like Me.” All the writers have gone through the Grubstreet Novel Incubator Program, which Hoover co-founded.
Fernandes was the only author present who is still in the process of getting published, yet he already has a book deal and an agent. He said that at the beginning it was difficult to get an agent, but once he had one, it was easier for an editorial to accept his work. Currently he is concluding the final revisions of his novel, “A Big Box of YEAH!”
Another author who talked about her experience was Andrea Meyer. Several of her pieces regarding film have been featured in numerous publications, including Time Out, New York, Variety, Interview, The Village Voice, The New York Post and Glamour. She said that her experience was very different, as she was fortunate to have the agent scout her, not the other way around. Meyer wrote a story for The New York Post, wherein she pretended to look for a roommate as a ploy to meet men. The agent advised her to adapt the story into a novel and it became “Room For Love.”
Meyer has claimed that penning her second book, which is a continuation of “Room For Love,” has been much more challenging than the first time around. That is why she decided to attend the Incubator—to get assistance with the book. She also noted that her relation to her current agent has slowly deteriorated, saying she felt “neglected.” She encouraged all future writers to build better connections with their future agents; she is even considering changing her agent.
It is also difficult to know what editors will tell you and whether their information is correct or not, as that is exactly what happened to Emily Ross. She was writing a book that takes place in the 1960s, yet she was told it was not marketable enough because it is a young adult (YA) historical fiction book.
First, she was told to make the book less 60s and to remove as many references to the 60s as possible. According to her editor, the target audience—teenagers and young adults—are not that interested in books that take place in the 60s; they would consider them “archaic.” After she revised the whole manuscript and made it less historical, another editor told her to make it more 60s again. In addition, they told her to make the book shorter, since YA novels tend to be quick reads. This happened over and over again with several different editors, and the editing process was cumbersome. Nevertheless, she said that it is all part of the collaborative process and that it is necessary to create a product that has quality and is marketable, since publishing is also a business with making money as its goal.
Indeed, Louise Miller, author of the novel “The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living,” explained that marketing your book is an important phase in the publishing process. She said that while the author may like the cover, the editor may not and they must agree on something else. If you want to sell your book in Barnes & Noble, they must like the cover too; otherwise, they will refuse to sell it.
A student asked about the importance of publishing diverse books. Kelly Ford, as an LGBT writer who creates LGBT characters, said that agents are more open nowadays, especially young agents. Ford added that the rates of diverse books increase annually, and she gave a tip to the student about penning diverse characters as “flawed” so that they feel more “real.”
The main thing every writer on the panel emphasized was to get yourself, as a writer, out there into the publishing world. They advised that you can also try self-publishing first; in fact, books such as “Still Alice” and “The Martian” were first self-published before going on to become commercially successful films. It is important to start putting yourself out there and let people know who you are and what your profession is: writing.