The WRITING EQUATION

February 28, 2007

INTERVIEW with CHRISTINA BRASHEAR–Samhain Publishing, 2/28/2006

Filed under: INTERVIEWS with AGENTS, EDITORS & AUTHORS — plussignpro @ 9:39 am

Christina Brashear is the owner of Samhain Publishing: a fresh new voice in the publishing industry, bringing an ever-increasing number of compulsive readers together with some of today’s brightest and most creative authors. Genres include – but are not limited to – erotica, fantasy/sci-fi, horror, inspirational, mystery/suspense, paranormal, young adult, non-fiction, and all flavors of romance.

They are currently seeking submissions for release in 2008 and specific works for three projects. For more details please visit www.samhainpublishing.com/submission.

Q: YOU PUBLISH BOOKS IN BOTH TRADITIONAL BRICK & MORTAR BOOKSTORES AS WELL AS E-BOOKS OVER THE INTERNET. TELL ME ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES IN THE READERS OF E-BOOKS (DEMOGRAPHICS, GENRES, APPEAL OF CERTAIN STORY ELEMENTS, ETC.).

BRASHEAR: eBook readers are traditional print readers looking for quicker fixes and more in the off-beat genres New York isn’t publishing enough. I’ve found the age demographics to be just as broad in “e” as in print. Some have speculated that the ebook readers might be more of the younger set, open to new things and more comfortable with computers. Not so. The ages range from teens to people in their eighties. More and more traditional print readers are trying ebooks. As they become more familiar with the internet and read reviews on the popular sites, they become intrigued enough to try it. I’ve had a number of emails from customers asking how they read it now that they’ve bought it. I’m only too happy to explain!

I used to think erotic titles were more popular in ebook, but if that were true, the brick & mortar stores wouldn’t give them precious shelve space. There is a certain anonymity to reading racier books in digital format. I have found that romance is the more popular of the genres at this time, which surprised me. I would think the sci-fi fantasy readers would embrace the digital technologies more quickly, but it seems that the romance readers are quicker to assimilate new methods of getting their HEA (Happily-Ever-After) fixes.

Q: WHAT IS THE CURRENT PERCENTAGE OF BOOKS SOLD THAT ARE E-BOOKS? WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THIS PERCENTAGE TO BE 5 YEARS FROM NOW?

BRASHEAR: I honestly have no idea. I haven’t had time to join IDPF, International Digital Publishing Forum, and check on the statistics. I believe in the ebook industry and think that it is how we will be reading in the future as we phase out the printed book for the more environmentally sound methods of reading. You probably think I’m crazy to jump into an industry with both feet without having thoroughly researched the potential, but sometimes, you have to follow your instincts. If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk.

If you’re asking about Samhain specifically, 100% of our titles are sold as digital books and will continue to be so as long as I’m breathing. eBooks are the future of reading. They are more environmentally sound than print. I began reading them as a way to pass the time during slow periods at work, since holding an actual book seemed too blatant and tended to irritate those who didn’t have the same downtime. Later, as my carpel tunnel worsened, I found it difficult to hold a print title for any length of time. As a compulsive reader, meaning I have to finish it in one sitting, having to put the book down because of pain or numbness in my hands was really getting on my nerves. As a reader, I can only hope that all the publishers will embrace the technology and offer the titles in digital at a reasonable price. I’ve noticed many offer them at the same price as the print title—and when the book comes out in hardback, that’s just an insane amount for digital! With the lower overhead, I’m hoping New York will begin to incorporate some of the business models of the e-publishing world.

Q: SELLING BOOKS IS A CHALLENGING BUSINESS, NOT TO MENTION WRITING THEM. WHAT DROVE YOU TO START A PUBLISHING COMPANY?

BRASHEAR: The shear pleasure this work brings. I love working with authors and bringing fresh new stories to the market. The thought of going back to the IT world or to a traditional corporate company gives me hives. When you find something you love and are good at, pursue it.

Q: WHAT ARE THE MAIN REASONS WHY YOUR COMPANY HAS DONE SO WELL?

BRASHEAR: From what I’m told and have read regarding Samhain, it’s the quality of the titles for the readers. For the authors, it’s the integrity of the company.

Our goal is to bring to the public a variety of stories and genres. We don’t expect everyone to love every title, but we do hope to provide a story for every taste. We are open to feedback from the customers and encourage it. We can’t grow or change unless we keep up on the wants and needs of the readers.

We try to be very open and honest with the authors and they appreciate knowing what’s what and why. Communication is key in this world. We don’t physically work together so you can’t read body language or see what’s going on. By nature of the medium we are very isolated unless we make the effort to communicate. Samhain is doing its best to make sure no one is out of the loop and that everyone is treated with equality and fairness.

Q: WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS FOR A WRITER TO FIND, AND THEN APPROACH, THE RIGHT PUBLISHER AND EDITOR?

BRASHEAR: I’ll assume you are asking about e-publishers for this question. Research. What is the genre of your book? Search for the houses that publish that genre. Study their website, is it professional looking and attractive? Easy to use? Do they have information about how they prefer to receive submissions? How does their cover art look? Does it catch the eye and make you want to at least read the blurb? Do the blurbs make you want to read an excerpt if not the whole book? All of these things are marketing and if what they have doesn’t capture your attention, how will it lure a reader into buying your book?

Go to review sites and read reviews on the books published by the houses you find attractive and professional-looking. Do they garner good reviews or do you see a consistent reference to poor editing? You want to work with a house that will edit your work and not just slap a cover on it and throw it out. Everyone needs an editor because we’re all human and make mistakes and will tend to overlook the same mistake over and over. It takes a fresh eye to catch that which we miss. Me, I’ll have my Executive Editor review this interview before I send it out. <g>

Check out a few author blogs, these are great places to read how an author likes their publisher. Join the various groups and read how the interaction is going between the authors. This is a gray area and should be taken with a grain of salt because it can be very subjective or emotional based on very recent experiences. So don’t go by one positive or negative opinion, read many.

How receptive is the house to answering questions prior to submitting your work? Though, please read their submission guidelines very thoroughly and don’t ask questions that are easily answered by reading the guidelines or reviewing the site. Writing to an e-publisher and asking if they also print the titles when there is a listing of the latest print releases on the home page isn’t going to impress the submissions editor, it’s going to make you look like you can’t research and will compromise your book’s review. If you’re suspected as not one to research and yet you’ve written a novel about a historical event…well, I’d say the reviewing editor is going to be expecting errors.

When you’re ready to submit, review the submission instructions again and follow it to the letter or you’ll just get an email asking you to send what was missing. Most houses will tell you how they want to receive your submission, what to send and how long to expect an answer. I know a synopsis can be a pain in the rear to write, but they really do help the reviewing editor in making his/her decision.

Q: WHAT IS THE TYPICAL TIMEFRAME BETWEEN WHEN A MANUSCRIPT IS ACCEPTED AND WHEN THE FINAL PRODUCT IS AVAILABLE TO BUY IN BOOKSTORES?

BRASHEAR: For Samhain, we’re working on almost a year now, for digital release. 2007 is nearly full and we’ve stated on the submissions page that works submitted now are going to be targeted for 2008. Print titles are published six or so months after the digital release, depending in what program the book will be placed.

Q: WHAT TYPES OF NOVELS IS THE INDUSTRY ACTIVELY SEEKING?

BRASHEAR: I can’t say what the “industry” is seeking, I don’t have a clue. I rarely think about what others are doing and go with my instincts regarding Samhain. Our focus first and foremost is the story. Our mission statement or motto is “it’s all about the story”. Regardless of the genre, if the story doesn’t work or have that spark, what’s the point? There’s a saying in IT/programming: garbage in/garbage out. That’s how we look at it. The hottest (pun intended) genre right now is erotic romances featuring ménage a trois. But what happens when readers lose interest and another theme captures their imagination? You don’t want to have only a supply of ménages and no one buying them anymore. When focusing on producing excellent stories, you’ll always have something to offer the buying public.

Q: WHEN YOU DECIDE TO PUBLISH A MANUSCRIPT, WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS YOU LOOK FOR?

BRASHEAR: Plot, story flow, good characterization, the ability to texturize a story with those little things that make it real, and that indefinable “it” a good storyteller has. Acquiring a book can’t be based on personal taste, but on if there is a reader for the book. I don’t like every book I’ve ever read, but that didn’t make them bad books, just not suited to me. Our editors review books like this and, if the book isn’t to their taste, for a fair reading they will trade submissions with one another. So their personal preferences don’t taint the reviewing. Many times the new editor will buy the book.

Q: MARKETING HELP FROM PUBLISHERS IS ALMOST MANDATORY FOR A BOOK TO BECOME A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. AS A PUBLISHER, HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHICH BOOKS GET THE MOST MARKETING HELP?

BRASHEAR: As we are very small right now, our marketing is focused on making the buying public aware of the company. We do some specialized ads, like for special projects. We have a group of titles coming this summer under the Midsummer Night’s Steam theme and we’re advertising in RT (Romantic Times) for them. Last fall we advertised the Beginnings anthology. We’re looking forward to expanding our advertising on the web and in the print media as we grow.

All books appear on the home page for a week when they are released. Samhain has a newsletter group on Yahoo! where we publish a weekly newsletter announcing the new releases. I’m looking into some other methods of delivery outside of Yahoo! as it can be so hard to work with. We also have RSS feed from the website and we post a simple announcement listing the releases. Those who like this technology can have, for example, the information appear on their personalized Google page. That’s what I use as a home page and I get the scoop on Samhain’s new release, the latest posting to the Smart Bitches blog as well as Reuters and NPR news feeds. I also keep up with People magazine for fun. Those who use Mobipocket and are familiar with the news feeds feature can add Samhain’s announcements. That’s about all I know of news feeds, though I do understand it’s much more expansive than what I’ve said. It might be capable of being more fun and graphic, I haven’t learned all I can about it yet. Samhain has offered to place announcements on the news page for the authors, but no one has sent anything yet. I was thinking any book signings or events would be excellent items. http://www.samhainpublishing.com/news

Each author gets a bio page where they can post information with just about anything they want–the exception is listing their titles with other publishers or a list of other houses with whom they publish. <g> They can list their websites, blogs, Yahoo! groups and whatnot, making it easy for the readers to find their other works. We really encourage this, but ultimately it’s up to the author to provide the information. I believe to make this industry grow and thrive, the publishers need to be supportive of their authors and, ultimately, other publishers. The more epublishers that are successful, the more firmly established the industry becomes. I know this philosophy is kind of opposite of the policy to list other titles or houses, but being supportive doesn’t equate to free advertising.

Samhain has a blog where authors can participate. It’s about topics and not about advertising. Who wants to “see” a commercial all the time? The authors sign up for a specific day to post and they can post about anything that strikes their fancy. Readers don’t comment much, but they are reading the blog and that’s exposure. They seem to enjoy the interaction between the authors. It is increasing in popularity and Samhain gets a lot of traffic back into the website from the blog, so it must be working fairly well in a marketing way. We do encourage the authors who have a new release to post an excerpt or something on their release day. Tuesday, release day, and Sunday are the only days we allow blatant promotion. Sundays are a free-for-all, and the authors are welcome to post about their print releases, or anything else.

Samhain has a weekly drawing for a free ebook of the reader’s choice and a monthly drawing of a free print book being released that month. All the reader has to do is send an email, maybe sometimes answer a goofy question, and they’re entered into the drawing. Well, they do have to list the title they want, and the format for the ebook prize. But that’s it. It’s working out nicely.

Q: DO EDITORS PREFER DEPENDABLE MID-LIST AUTHORS, OR ONE-TRICK PONIES WHOSE ONE-TIME SALES ASSURE PRESS INTERVIEWS?

BRASHEAR: Our editors prefer good stories.

Q: HOW DO YOU DETERMINE ADVANCE PAYMENTS AND ROYALTY PERCENTAGES?

BRASHEAR: Advances and royalty amounts are standard. Low, mid-list or breakout authors all get the same at this time. I imagine as we grow this will change, at least the advance amounts. Those who prove to make a consistent amount might be offered more in advance, but honestly most of the authors are opting out of advances. They would rather get the whole first month’s earnings at once rather than see a deduction in red. Red = bad and no one likes to see it, even if it is recouping the advance.

Q: HOW MUCH INPUT DO YOU GIVE AUTHORS REGARDING BRAINSTORMING SALABLE STORY IDEAS, CAREER ADVICE, ETC.?

BRASHEAR: Not much. Though I have been known to make a wish or two in what I’d like to read, personally. For the most part my personal advice to the authors has always been don’t fight the muse. If you write in one style but your favorite author, whom you want to emulate, writes another, try it but don’t force it. It’ll show in the writing and won’t have the spark the stories that come naturally to you do. Readers always know.

My career advice is to just keep writing and follow your instincts.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR POLICY ON “DIFFICULT” AUTHORS (ONES WHO CALL YOU SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK, REFUSE TO MAKE RECOMMENDED EDITS, ETC.)? IF THE WRITER-EDITOR PERSONALITIES DO NOT CLICK, THEN WHAT?

BRASHEAR: Fortunately we haven’t had to deal with this, much. While we do not interfere with the author’s voice, the edits we request are to make the book tighter and flow; they improve, not change the work. We don’t expect every edit to be made, but the majority. If an author outright refuses to work with us, then we can come to an agreement to sever the relationship. If someone doesn’t want to be here then we won’t hold them. It’s non-productive and disruptive.

If an author and editor team just doesn’t click, then it is no problem to assign the author a new editor. It happens and it isn’t personal. It doesn’t mean the author or editor isn’t liked, just that they aren’t on the same page in working together, so we fix it.

Q: WHAT PERCENTAGE OF AUTHORS ARE SIGNED TO BOOK DEALS AS A RESULT OF THOSE 5-MINUTE WRITERS CONFERENCE PITCH SESSIONS?

BRASHEAR: I know of one for sure, but that was because the author followed through and submitted the work. It’s been a while since I checked but I know the pitches I’ve heard have rarely ended up with a submission of the manuscript. We don’t sign pitches. Anyone can pitch a book. I can pitch a book. I just can’t actually write it!!! We have to have a manuscript–partial or whole, to actually consider it for contract.

Q: ANY FUTURE PLANS, OR UPCOMING EVENTS?

BRASHEAR: Angie James-Executive Editor and I will be attending EPICON this March. Angie, Jessica Bimberg-Senior Editor, Marty Mathews-Author Liaison, Jennifer Martin-Events Director and I will be attending the Romantic Times Book Club convention in Houston. And I will be attending BEA in New York. We were invited to the NJRWA conference in October and Angie will be attending.

RT is the biggest event, we’ll be hosting a farewell brunch on Sunday as well as handing out a few goodies to the attendees. Saturday is the RT Book sale/signing and a number of Samhain authors will be there.

 * Christina M. Brashear is the owner of Samhain Publishing, Ltd. And can be reached at publisher@samhainpublishing.com, or at http://www.samhainpublishing.com

For submissions read www.samhainpublishing.com/submissions and send your work to editor@samhainpublishing.com.

If you’re interested in selling Samhain’s titles at your store, please contact books@samhainpublishing.com.


© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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December 18, 2006

INTERVIEW with JENNIFER DECHIARA–Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, 12/18/2006

Filed under: INTERVIEWS with AGENTS, EDITORS & AUTHORS — plussignpro @ 4:37 pm

Before starting the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in 2001, DeChiara was a literary agent with Perkins, Rubie & Associates and the Peter Rubie Literary Agency, a freelance book editor at Simon & Schuster and Random House, and a writing consultant for several major New York City corporations. Her agency represents both children’s and adult literature in a wide range of ages and categories, has a foreign sales director and foreign agents in every country in the world, and has film agents in Hollywood and New York to handle its film, television, and stage properties. Stephen Fraser, former senior editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, joined the agency in 2005 and represents both children’s and adult literature. The agency is committed to discovering new talent and furthering the careers of established authors.

Q: YOU HAVE BEEN AN EDITOR, WRITER, ACTOR, EVEN A BALLERINA. THE BENEFITS OF YOUR EDITORIAL EXPERIENCE IS OBVIOUS, BUT HOW MUCH OF AN EDGE HAS YOUR WRITING AND ACTING BACKGROUNDS GIVEN YOU OVER OTHER AGENTS IN MAKING SALES FOR YOUR CLIENTS?

DECHIARA: I think my writing background definitely helps me to be a better agent because I can help a client fine-tune their project and be the best writer they can be. In addition, I know firsthand the frustrations and the difficulties my clients face and feel that I can help them weather those storms. Does my acting background help me to make sales for my clients? Probably not specifically, but I feel that everything I’ve ever done in my life has made me the person I am and has given me the experiences I draw on to deal with every facet of my life.

Q: WHAT DROVE YOU TO BECOME AN AGENT?

DECHIARA: Agenting for me was an accidental career (it’s a long story that I’ve promised Writer’s Digest someday), but it is my passion and the reason I feel I was put on this earth, as corny as that may sound.  I love discovering talent and feeling that I’ve had a hand in putting great books into the world, but the best part of it for me is making someone’s dreams come true.

Q: WHAT IS THE TYPICAL TIMEFRAME OR NUMBER OF PUBLISHERS CONTACTED BEFORE A BOOK IS SOLD?

DECHIARA: There is no typical timeframe and number of publishers before a book is sold. It varies from project to project.

Q: THE ULTIMATE DREAM OF MANY WRITERS IS TO HAVE THEIR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES. HOW MUCH ARE LITERARY AGENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR BOOKS BECOMING MOVIES COMPARED TO PUBLISHERS?

DECHIARA: The agency always retains dramatic rights so that we can sell those rights for our clients.  Most agencies operate the same way and are solely responsible for books becoming movies.

Q: WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS FOR A WRITER TO FIND, AND THEN APPROACH, LITERARY AGENTS?

DECHIARA: Writers can find literary agents many different ways. They should check writers’ guides in libraries and bookstores for agents who represent the kinds of books they write. They can also check book acknowledgments because writers usually thank their agents by name there. Finally, they should go to writers’ conferences to try to meet the agent(s) of their choice one on one. 

After finding appropriate agents, writers should find out how these particular agents want to be contacted, if at all, and follow their instructions. Writers’ guides usually list contact preferences–either email, phone, regular mail, etc.

Q: WITH THE ADVENT OF REALITY ENTERTAINMENT AND MEMIORS AND CREATIVE NONFICTION, HAS IT BECOME HARDER TO PLACE FICTION NOVELS?

DECHIARA: I don’t think the popularity of reality entertainment, memoirs, and creative non-fiction will ever replace a great novel, in my opinion.  Yes, it’s harder to place fiction, but that’s always been the case.

Q: WHEN YOU DECIDE ON REPRESENTING A MANUSCRIPT, WHAT ARE THE MAIN THINGS YOU LOOK FOR?

DECHIARA: What I look for first and foremost is a writer’s voice. You can flesh out a character or restructure a book, but you can’t give a writer that special spark, that indefinable something that makes his book stand out among the rest. It’s hard to put into words, but once I find it, it’s unmistakable.

Q: WHAT ARE THE KEY SECRETS TO SUCCESS IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

DECHIARA: The secret to success in publishing is realizing that there are no secrets. Writers must be willing to work hard on their art and just as hard in learning about the business of publishing. They must be able to take constructive criticism and be willing to learn about and be responsible for their own book promotion. But, most important, they must hang on to their dreams and never give up.

Q: ANY FUTURE PLANS, OR UPCOMING EVENTS?

DECHIARA: I have a few conferences scheduled for 2007, but no exact dates yet. They will be posted on the agency’s website soon. My future plans include expanding the agency, taking on more agents and writers, and exploring new creative ventures–one of them is co-producing a Broadway musical!

* Jennifer DeChiara may be reached through her website at http://www.jdlit.com, via email at JennDec@aol.com, or through mail and phone at:

Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
31 East 32nd Street, Suite 300
New York, NY 10016
(212) 481-8484

November 13, 2006

INTERVIEW with BONNIE NEUBAUER–Author, 11/13/2006

Filed under: INTERVIEWS with AGENTS, EDITORS & AUTHORS — plussignpro @ 8:49 am

Bonnie Neubauer is the author of Write-Brain Workbook, 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing (Writer’s Digest Books, November 2005), and Story Spinner, a handheld writing exercise wheel she invented. She is also the inventor of many games.

For much of her life, however, Bonnie had a strong dislike for writing. The worst grade she ever received was in Freshman English Composition in college. Then, one day when she was in her mid-thirties, while on a business call with a client who ran a business-to-business greeting card company, something clicked. She knew it wasn’t her call waiting; it was her calling.

She began writing for the greeting card company. From then on, Bonnie never missed a chance to write: articles, handouts, speeches, ads, brochures. Her favorite was copy for an erotic chocolate catalog.
Everything she creates comes from the formula 1+1=3 and with her life mission in mind: To make her internal smile external in others.

Q: YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN MARKETING CONSULTING. ANY UNIQUE MARKETING METHODS YOU USED TO HELP SELL YOUR BOOK?

BONNIE: Something that many writers forget is that marketing begins before a book is even written. When my proposal for Write-Brain Workbook went to Writer’s Digest, I knew all the competing books, had a list of my target audiences, had presented workshops where I tested my material, landed a famous author to write the intro, and was armed with a marketing/promotion plan. As I wrote the book I kept all these things in mind so that I knew I was writing the best book possible for my audience and that what I was writing was different from other books on the shelf.

Because I have done lots of marketing, I have developed a thicker skin and am able not to take each rejection personally. That’s a big help.

I have a saying I wrote many years ago: “I may look like I’m not working, but I’m really networking.” Marketing is all about networking. It’s about telling everyone and anyone about you and your book. It’s about setting goals and not being afraid to ask for help and to go after what you want. I always pictured going on a book tour up and down the Northeast corridor. And I used my contacts to network my way through the Barnes & Noble system to make it happen. Marketing is a lot of work. And good marketing pays off in terms of book sales.

Q: YOUR BOOK IS ON WRITING EXERCISES AND GETTING CREATIVE IDEAS GOING. SHARE AN EXAMPLE WITH US.

BONNIE: Each page of Write-Brain Workbook has two exercises. The main one is a ten-minute creative writing exercise where your goal is to put words on the page and not worry about spelling, grammar or even if it’s any good. The other exercise asks a question to help you learn about your writing practice and process, and set and meet goals.

The ‘big’ 10-minute exercise for you to try is called Fictionary-3: Write a dictionary-style definition for the word INDABA. (in-DAH-ba) Use indaba with your fictitious definition in a story. Start with “The scream was loud…”

And here’s your ‘little’ (in terms of time, not impact) exercise: If you were to arrange a conference of mentors, whom would you invite? What’s one question you would ask them all? Answer it yourself.

(FYI: The definition of indaba is a conference of indigenous peoples of
Southern Africa.)

Q: HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO SELL “THE WRITE-BRAIN WORKBOOK” TO F & W PUBLICATIONS/WRITER’S DIGEST BOOKS–THE PREMIER PUBLISHER OF HOW-TO WRITING BOOKS?

BONNIE: F&W was the first place my agent sent Write-Brain Workbook. However, there’s a long story that precedes this quick success. Through it all, F&W was always my first choice of publisher.

Many years ago I had submitted the book without an agent and it was rejected. Later that same year I entered a contest run by Writer’s Digest for the best Writing Prompt. I submitted an exercise from my book and it won first place. I then added that information as well as the winning exercise to my query. That helped me land an agent. That agent may or may not have submitted the proposal to Writer’s Digest. I am not certain what she did or didn’t do. It’s not a good agent story so I won’t belabor the point. After our contract was up, I let the entire project sit untouched for a year and a half while I got over being frustrated with the publishing industry.

Then, while at a Writer’s Conference where I presented a writing workshop, I met an agent. We hit it off and I sent her my query. Also at that same conference were two editors from Writer’s Digest. I talked to one who was very outgoing, but not the other. She was more introverted and somehow I didn’t think of a way to approach her. By the time the agent accepted me and we got my proposal up to snuff, the acquisitions editor at Writer’s Digest was none other than the woman to whom I spoke not a word. If ever there was an example of a missed networking opportunity, this was it!  Anyway, she remembered me and I think that helped get the book accepted.

I also think that my experience running workshops in bookstores and that I included a bookstore book tour in my proposal were helpful. One other factor was critical and that had to do with my Story Spinner (a handheld writing exercise idea generator) that I invented. I had sold thousands to Writer’s Digest Book Club a few years earlier and its great sales record proved that my products were marketable.

Sorry that was such a long-winded answer!

Q: WHAT WERE THE KEY SECRETS TO SUCCESS YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?

BONNIE: I learned to network with everyone I meet. I also learned that asking for help is a gift to yourself as well as the person who is doing the helping. Other people, now successful, have been where you are currently stuck. Figure out how to meet them and when you do, ask them how they got ahead.

One very important “not so secret” secret is that publishing is a business. Follow the rules for writing queries and proposals. This is not a place to be clever or break the rules. It is through these items that you are being judged. It’s not just your writing or your ideas that are being evaluated. Your professionalism is, too. Following the rules shows that you understand the system and that you’ll be easy to work with.

Q: BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT ARE THE MAIN INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD MARKETABLE BOOK?

BONNIE: The author of a good marketable book knows her audience, spends time with them, knows what makes them tick, is in tune with what they are in need of, and how to deliver it in a new and vibrant manner. In my case, the book I wrote had been tested every time I ran another workshop. I knew which exercises generated the best responses.

Q: HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK, AND HOW DID YOU KNOW WHEN IT WAS FINISHED?

BONNIE: The book evolved over a number of years as I ran writing workshops. As far as when it was finished, well…. I thought the book was done when my agent and I had gone over my proposal and crossed every T and dotted every I. Then, at the very end of that conversation, she asked me if it was the best possible book I could have written. That question stuck with me for a few days. I realized there was something I could add that would make it the best book. That’s when I added the follow-up exercises to each page, making it really a book of 366 x2 exercises to liberate your writing.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR MOST EFFECTIVE WRITING HABITS?

BONNIE: In my case, I divide my time between writing books and inventing games. So I will answer the question in terms of my most effective creativity habits if that’s okay.

I do something every single day to move ahead at least one project. Some days that means I might spend an hour being interviewed which will help other writers make their writing dreams come true as well as promote my book. Other days I might spend 3 hours writing the rules to a game and play-testing it. On the days when my day-job is hectic, I might simply spend 5-minutes jotting down some notes for the next time I have a longer chunk of creative time. My creative projects are living things, like plants or pets, and they get ongoing nurturing from me. Because the work times vary tremendously, it’s probably a very good thing they are not pets!

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MOTIVATORS AND SOURCES OF INSPIRATION TO WRITE?

BONNIE: Every time I walk into a bookstore or toy store I get motivated. So I make it a priority to visit a bookstore or toy store at least once a week.

Inspiration sources are a bit trickier. I do my best to expose myself to new things so that my brain is always making new associations. Most of my projects stem from the equation 1+1=3. What that means in action is that I take two things and mix them together to come up with a third. For example: when I added my love of word plays and bad puns to the thrill I always get at Halloween, I came up with a book I am now working on called Punny Costumes. One of my current interests is fossil hunting. Who knows what I will combine that with to come up with a book, game or other project idea.     

Q: ANY FUTURE PLANS, UPCOMING BOOKS?

BONNIE: Punny Costumes, as I mentioned above, plus a follow-up book to Write-Brain Workbook. I am also in the final stages of developing a word game that is about to be play-tested.

* Bonnie Neubauer may be reached through her website at http://www.BonnieNeubauer.com or via email at Bonnie@BonnieNeubauer.com.

© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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