Episode 139: The Path to Publishing Part 1

On March 27th, Rex was on vacation so Kasie invited her publisher, Alexa Bigwarfe into the studio to sub for him. We’re talking about it all but here’s a loose outline:

Theme for the day(s)

The Publishing Journey

Agenda

  • You have a book in YOU! – deciding to write
  • You have to take it seriously – focusing on craft
  • You have publishing options – deciding to pursue representation or self publishing
  • You have work to do – marketing your book, building your audience, staying relevant
Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Pexels.com

Segment 1

So this week is the first of two episodes with special guest author and publisher Alexa Bigwarfe in which we are going to fully examine the publishing process for you newbies, novices, and nerds. 

Despite the title of these two episodes being “The Publishing Journey” notice just one of the agenda points is publishing. The other three, 75% of our conversation, will be about getting ready and doing the real work of being an author.

But first, housekeeping:

On the weekend of April 16-18, we’ll be hosting the Livestream component for the SCWA’s Annual Conference. What does that mean? Well, we’re testing it out today! Right now, on our YouTube channel. Yep, you can see me (Kasie) live and hear (maybe) Alexa.

Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Check us out, dudes! Just this week we posted three new interviews:

  • Dianna Rostad, author of You Belong Here Now and Byron nut
  • Raegan Teller, mystery author and friend of the show, we also talk about Arts on the Ridge coming up May 1
  • Jeffrey Blount, author of The Emancipation of Evan Walls and keynote speaker at the upcoming SCWA Annual Conference. He also knows Chuck Todd and promised to pass a message to him from me (haha).

These interviews were made possible by generous connections with literary arts organizations like SCWA and Arts on the Ridge. In the past, we’ve limited interviews to our Patrons and while we love them, we also believe the more exposure we can give authors of every genre, talent, and career ambition, the better.

Thanks to our patrons who continue to support the show and our efforts to bring writing craft lessons to the airwaves. If you’re ready to support the show, go to Patreon.com/WriteOnSC and join at the $5, $10, or $18 level to get access to behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive courses, and promotional work like Profile Pages and author interviews on the YouTube channel.

Segment 2

So you have a book in you. Alexa, I know you’ve told this story a million times, but I want to hear it again. How did you become an author? Where did the first book come from?

My own story is part of that core wound conversation I alluded to last week (that we’ll further explore in two weeks when Rex is back). My family moved across the country when I was 12. All I had was spiral notebooks, pencils, some inspiration in the form of 1) a crush on a boy named Brian, 2) a stack of VC Andrews novels, and 3) a skateboarding movie called Gleaming the Cube. I wrote my first novel at 13. And it was terrible, as you might imagine.

Fast forward to 2012 and we move to Columbia and I dust off the eighth or ninth version of this book — I wrote it again and again through high school and college, Brian has always been with me — I start taking these pages to writing workshop. I become best friends with Jodie Cain Smith and she helps me shape this manuscript into a real (OMG really?) novel.

Where does the need to write come from?

Is it true that everyone has a book in them?

How visceral is the writing experience?

Is all writing therapeutic? Creative?

Segment 3

But it’s not enough to want to write. Or to have a story to tell. You have to have the discipline to sit down and put that shit on paper. Digitally speaking of course.

Anyone can tell you about the great story idea they have, but when you put the fingers to the keyboard and write the thing, you leave behind the “everyone” and move into the “some people” category. And don’t mistake me, there are A LOT of people in this category, too.

It’s estimated that 4 million books are published every year in the U.S. alone (link) and of those, about 25% are self-published. So we’re talking about a LOT of people. Consider some of them might be second and third work by the same author and that beyond what gets published, probably three times that many are being written.

So, yeah, there are a LOT of people writing. 

Is that a good thing?

Should we want a lot of writers? A lot of books?

Should we even think about the sheer volume of work being produced?

What about all those businesses, like Write|Publish|Sell that are helping people create books?

How do we get to the place of taking the work seriously?

What I mean by seriously, is focusing on craft. There used to be a stigma that the self-published book was one that had been oft-rejected and therefore ought not to have been published at all. There was a kind of novice impatience with the gatekeepers in the publishing world. And yet, these days, as our interview with Raegan Teller elaborates on, self-publishing is often a financial commitment, an investment like starting a business.

There are dozens of blogs and videos and conference workshops on making the choice to self-publish and we can talk further about it next week when we weigh the options. I want to focus on the craft piece here.

Know what you’re about.

Understand what it takes to write a good book.

Work on making it the best book it can possibly be.

Get feedback.

Get revisions.

Get edited.

Be in the game in a way that demonstrates professionalism and an understanding of how the literary arts work. Because just because you can write a book, doesn’t mean you should.

Likewise, just because you can publish that book, doesn’t mean you should.

Segment 4

In our final segment of each show we always talk about the “how.” So, how exactly do you get that knowledge? Do you learn the craft? The trade?

You’ll hear in interviews with Dianna Rostad and Raegan Teller that they sought conferences, workshops, and tutors. They put themselves through the paces. Not everyone who writes needs an MFA, but knowing what story structure is, learning how to craft dialogue, getting a sense of the pacing and genre conventions, all of this knowledge starts with you as a reader and ends with you working on the craft.

One of our favorite artisans at Soda City Saturday Market is Kyle Smith. He’s a purveyor of pottery. Beautiful work. Some of it highly functional as well. More so these days as he’s been there for years and understands the market.

We can be artists, storytellers, but we must also be craftspeople. It’s how we respect the work, the people who do it, and ourselves as attempting this thing. We don’t walk in, write something, and try to sell it. We work on getting better at it. Always.

Next week Alexa and I will pick up with the “So now the work is done. What do you do?” and focus on the publishing side. See you then.

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