Kerry’s book Bitchcraft: Simple Spells for Everyday Annoyances & Sweet Revenge has been getting some great publicity leading up to Halloween. Take a peek at this clip from KOMO-TV’s Seattle Refined, who came to Kerry’s house to cast some hexes.
The week also involved some early-morning radio interviews and a surprise appearance in The New York Times (!), a mention that was as brief as it was thrilling. (Having a book in the same photo as Augusten Burroughs’ and Lindy West’s books? We’ll take it. And if you really zoom in, you can almost read Kerry’s name on the spine! ) Rounding out the fun was a fantastic launch party at local favorite Queen Anne Books, who provided spooky snacks and a hex-writing station for guests.
As we’ve always shared with our clients, authors today have to be prepared to actively partcipate in–and even instigate–any publicity and marketing plans to help get their book in front of readers. Often this means not just a typical author reading or tour, but something more creative and interactive to help generate buzz. Have you been
to a great author event recently, or hosted one of your own? We’d love to hear about your experience.
If you haven’t already heard, Hollow Kingdom is Kind of a Big Deal. Former Business of Books client Kira Jane Buxton recently published her debut novel, and it’s a doozy: a humorous literary dystopian tale narrated by a domesticated crow who is on a mission to save humanity. Tht’s right, a crow. The book, which is garnering amazing buzz, was published by Grand Central Publishing/Hachette in August. We caught up with the author to hear about her path to publication .
Tell us how this book came about. What inspired you to write it? On the heels of a heavy writing rejection, my husband suggested I “go and write the thing about the crows.” I’ve loved crows for as long as I can remember. When I first moved to Seattle, I was walking my dog and found an injured crow. In the trees all around, the poor crow’s family was screaming. I approached thinking I’d get mobbed by them all, and instead, as I got close to this injured crow, I had the distinct feeling that he/she knew I was there to help. Such intelligence in those eyes. The crows in the trees all went silent. I raced the crow to a wildlife rehabilitation center, and while sadly the crow didn’t make it, my relationship with the local crows changed. They started following me on walks. I eventually ended up befriended two wild crows (a mated pair) who are like family to me. I knew I wanted to write about crows, but wasn’t sure how. One day, while driving, it hit me. “What if a crow is telling the story of us humans? And what if he’s telling the story of our extinction?” Hollow Kingdom is also very much my love letter to the natural world and my hope that we can be moved to care about the species we share this planet with.
Can you share some insights on the chain of events that lead to your book deal? I was trying to find an agent for a novel I’d written. I came very close with a fantastic literary agent who was interested in my writing and suggested some changes to the manuscript. There was some back and forth, and I ended up hiring a couple of great freelance editors (one of whom came recommended by the agent). I edited and edited and edited and edited, and one day, I opened up my manuscript and couldn’t see a word of it. Nothing. It was just this nebulous blur of tepid word soup. I’d over-edited it, which is a real thing that can actually happen to you. I was heartbroken. I decided to write a sequel to the novel I couldn’t see, and then came back to the original novel and still couldn’t see it. It was a tough time. It was my husband that suggested I “go write the thing about the crows.” I wrote the novel I wanted to write thinking no one would touch it. I let go and let loose. I read a little to a friend after I’d finished who suggested I send it to Waverly Fitzgerald so that she might edit it. Waverly told me she thought one of two things would happen, that either no agent would touch the novel because it was too weird, or it would be a big deal. She said I should send it out to agents and figure it out sooner rather than later given what I’d been through. I sent it out and immediately had full manuscript asks from top literary agents. Ultimately, several agents offered me representation and at the advice of Karen Joy Fowler (I messaged her in a panic because I didn’t know how to make such a big decision after a single phone call with each agent), I flew out to New York to meet with the agents. I signed with Bill Clegg of The Clegg Agency who is one of the best literary agents in the world.
How did you handle any challenges you faced? Did you seek out professional services or other help along the way?
I drank a lot of pinot grigio and binge-watched Black Mirror and Queer Eye episodes! It wasn’t glamorous, but it was real. Long bouts of rejection are very hard on the soul. I think one thing I did in the face of lots of rejection (almost twenty years worth of it if you’re counting my failed acting career) was building a good network of fellow writers and friends I could rely on. Community is essential for a writer, we spend so much time alone and in our heads, it’s important to have a network who understand you and writing (writing is such a weird job!). I also spend time outside with my crows, hummingbirds, jays, juncos and squirrels. Time in nature recharges me, it fills up my well. I think it’s important to find the things you love, to make sure they are in your pocket for when times are hard. Looking back, I’ve also learned that the things that seemed so hard were actually beneficial in some way. So if you can learn to be flexible, lean on good friends, spend time doing the things you love to replenish you, you’ll be alright. Also, as a humor writer, I’ve been able to use the harder experiences I’ve had. I’ve heard David Sedaris talk about these tougher times as “gold coins” for a humor writer. Most importantly of all, I never gave up.
What surprised you (good or bad) during the publishing process?
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the editing process, which I think is a testament to my editor and assistant editor. I had a tremendous amount of fun working with their thoughtful suggestions and the collaborative nature of working with a publisher. Latterly, I’ve been surprised by how much of an emotional rollercoaster the publishing process is, and how exhausting it can be. I’ve especially loved getting to know independent booksellers around the country (marvelous, magical beings) and connecting with readers. I think I’ve been delighted to find that the part of the publishing process I enjoy the most is the writing itself. That’s reassuring to me.
What was it like working with your editor on this book?
We had a lot of fun, and they gave me excellent guidance and such thoughtful and respectful edits. We had such a good time double-checking animal facts (Do crows have knees? Why is the giraffe tongue black?) The Grand Central Publishing team are incredible, and everyone I worked with was enthusiastic, kind, and so very helpful. We did make many changes to the manuscript, like sharpening fight scenes or adding additional chapters, which was fun. My editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, has fantastic instincts and knew where to suggest changes and do it in a way that was sensitive to my writing style.
We often tell our clients that they should plan to be an active partner in selling their book. How are you working in collaboration with the publisher to promote Hollow Kingdom? Very much so. I’ve been active on social media, connecting with and responding to readers (a very lovely part of the business of books!) and pitching articles that have relevance to the novel and its themes. I’ve had a fantastic time on book tour and am gearing up to head to the East Coast this fall for more events. A highlight of this process has been getting to meet the independent booksellers who were the first to rally and reach out and support a first time author. I think that it’s worth remembering that it is an extraordinary privilege to get to write and to have a book published, to work with your team in its promotion is an extension of that.
What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Just have fun with it. Hollow Kingdom was the book I wrote thinking it would never get published. I received offers for the novel from several amazing editors at the big publishing houses, all of whom said they could tell I enjoyed myself as I wrote this novel. There is an energy that’s transferred to the reader from the writer. I’m glad mine was joy.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to keep writing and taking bold risks with the written word! I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Except maybe rescue pangolins.
Anything else you’d like to share? Be kind to animals and plants. Avoid single-use plastics like the plague. And try to enjoy every step of the journey, yours will be like no one else’s.
Who annoys you on the daily? Is it the bad barista, the mansplainer, the meeting-happy boss? Or perhaps it’s the carpool lane cheater, the dating app deceiver, or the stylist who cuts your bangs too short? No matter who is driving you crazy, we guarantee you’ll feel better when you fire up your own innate female power and practice a little Bitchcraft.
If you’re in Seattle, please join us at the delightful Queen Anne Books for a Bitchcraft launch party on October 17 at 7pm! All are welcome. We’ll have snacks, drinks, and some saucy spell-casting so you can get back at those who deserve your wrath. Grab your girlfriends, too–the bigger the coven the sronger the Bitchcraft!
Hope to see you there. And until then, tell us…who most deserves a hex today?
We’re pleased as punch that Kira Jane Buxton, a former Business of Books client, is having tremendous success with her debut novel, Hollow Kingdom–an inventive and unique tale told from the point of view of a foul-mouthed and courageous crow. We’ll be sharing more of Kira’s success story next week, but in the meantime, head over to Elliott Bay Books at 7pm tonight (9/19) to see her in person!
As some of you may know, we have had some big life changes here at B.O.B. headquarters. First, Kerry up and moved to London—after a year in Mexico no less. Now, Jen has happily accepted her first full-time job in more than a decade: She is the new Editorial Director of Sasquatch Books in Seattle.
What does this mean for The Business of Books? Well, we’ll be a little less accessible for the next little bit. But we have faith in you and your DIY skills! To help support you on your path to publication, we’re offering a special on our Publishing Toolkit PDF. Normally $99, we’re offering a special sale price of $59 to make sure you have what you need to keep your book project moving forward. The Toolkit is more than 100 pages of publishing know-how at your fingertips, including a step-by-step plan to writing your proposal, an overview of publishing contracts and royalties, sample queries and proposals, and much more. We highly recommend this invaluable resource for anyone hoping to publish.
In addition, Kerry will continue to take on a limited number of long-distance clients on a case-by-case basis. Contact her at email@example.com if you are looking for one-on-one help with your proposal, query letter, or submission list.
We will certainly miss doing our in-person talks and writers’ conference sessions, but we continue to be inspired by the hundreds of writers we’ve worked with, a good number of whom have become published authors. If you’re ever feeling stuck, check out some of our inspiring client success stories and know that you could be next. Get out there and submit your work. We’re rooting for you all the way!
There is no one-size-fits-all publishing path for our clients. Steve Murphy is proof of that. When he took our course, we thought his book—never-before-published memoirs of George W. Quimby, a Civil War scout—had tremendous potential. Even more so after we discovered Steve’s connection to the material (he discovered the diary in 1989 in the attic of his father-in-law, a hoarder).
Would you share some insights you gathered during your journey to publication?
I conducted a web search to identify potential agents or publishers. I received over 50 rejections, and worked with one agent, who pitched it for 1.5 years to no avail. During the process, I took a Business of Books seminar on how to create a winning proposal, and then hired Jen and Kerry to conduct a 2-on-1 proposal review. They suggested retitling the project to The Perfect Scout. Working with Jen and Kerry was instrumental to my efforts.
Did you seek out professional services or other help along the way?
I engaged some legal services for assistance with copyright issues, contracts and MOU, in addition to taking a Business of Books class.
What surprised you during the publishing process?
The slow pace of the publishing industry! It was seven years from my first serious attempt—and four years after acceptance of the book by University of Alabama Press—to publication.
What’s been the best aspect about getting a book deal?
Actually getting this story to publication.
Did you find any creative avenues for marketing and publicity?
I joined the Puget Sound Civil War Roundtable four years ago. It’s a great place for spreading the word about the book.
What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Persevere, be patient, never give up.
As some of you may know if you follow us on social networks, Kerry and her family have relocated to London for the immediate future. But not to fear! We are still very much in business – Kerry has basically opened our European office – and ready to help you realize your publishing goals.
We currently offer our Publishing Toolkit PDF if you are ready to create a book proposal, our popular two-on-one proposal review if you have a proposal ready to go, and expanded consults customized to your needs that will walk you through the proposal process. We can also help you compile a submission list and write a cover or query letter.
For more info, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve taught hundreds of writers and seen a good number of them become published authors. Check out some of our inspiring client success stories. We want to help you make your publishing dreams take flight!
We’ve been extra-jazzed here at Business of Books headquarters the past few weeks, thanks to the successes of previous clients in Seattle.
This just in yesterday from Victor Rodriguez, who took our proposal-writing class at UW: “I just wanted you both to know; since I took your class, my short fiction has been accepted by three different publishers! I owe that success to you and the art of the well-crafted proposal. Thank you! What you taught us works like a charm.” We all know it’s tough to place short fiction, and we are thrilled for Victor’s success.
Anne McTiernan was in that same class, working on her memoir, Starved. Her book was published recently by Central Recovery Press to terrific reviews; beloved writing instructor and author Claire Dederer says: “Starved is an absorbing, and sometimes shattering, primer on abuse and resilience. Anne McTiernan mines her past to bring up the painful, real details that make this memoir sing—even as it breaks our hearts.” Wow. Congratulations to Anne!
Finally, our friend Geraldine DeRuiter, otherwise known as The Everywhereist, will see her memoir, All Over the Place, published in May. She kicks things off with an appearance at prestigious Town Hall in Seattle on May 4 (Seattle writers, you should totally come! Here’s the link for tickets.) You can read more about Geraldine’s path to publication here on our blog.
Remember writers, the process of finding the right match for your work can feel daunting if not impossible at times. But it DOES happen. Keep submitting and write on!
As part of Small Business Saturday, we are offering our popular Publishing Toolkit at a 50% discount until Saturday at midnight. For $49, get 100+ pages of publishing intel and a step-by-step plan for creating a kick-ass proposal that will make publishers and agents sit up and take notice.
The Business of Books is the epitome of a small business: two friends and former colleagues sharing their experience and knowledge to help burgeoning authors realize their publishing dreams. From the beginning, we’ve relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to generate clients and fill our classes. We’d like to give back to our community on Small Business Saturday by offering our ever-popular Publishing Toolkit at 50% off: $49, instead of $99. This happens just once a year, and it’s Saturday, November 26, 2016.
In case you’re new to our services, the Publishing Toolkit is your best DIY resource on your path to publication. It’s an organized, comprehensive PDF of 100-plus pages of our insider intel to help you get published. This essential resource includes step-by-step instructions on how to craft a book proposal that will make agents and editors sit up and take notice, as well as an overview of important contract points, advances and royalties, how to create an author platform, and more. You’ll find worksheets and exercises to get the creativity flowing. It even includes two sample proposals to use as templates! Our clients rave about it.
Buy it as a meaningful gift for yourself or for any writer in your life. Just remember to buy it on Saturday! We’ll post the PayPal link here, on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday morning!
Authors and industry experts Kerry Colburn and Jen Worick share insider information to help you get published. Through talks, workshops, private consultations, and online offerings, this dynamic duo helps burgeoning authors craft a winning proposal, build their platform, choose the right publishing route, and realize their literary dreams. Contact us at email@example.com.
Do you need some personal attention to make your book idea or proposal really shine? We are available for a thorough electronic review of your proposal. Contact us for more information on schedule and rates. You may leave a comment here or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org