New Author Success Story: Karen Gaudette Brewer

Karen_G_B_Headshots_Proofs-1 (2)We’ve been thrilled to hear of the recent success stories of our clients: several new book deals in the last few months, including children’s, memoir, and cookbooks! It’s exciting to see that our Business of Books gospel has been paying off for new writers across a variety of genres. We’ve asked these first-time authors to share their publishing stories with our community. 

This week, we spotlight Karen Gaudette Brewer, an award-winning food and lifestyle journalist who is endlessly fascinated by why and how we eat the things we do. Her new book is The Seafood Lover’s Pacific Northwest: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions (Globe Pequot Press). Karen describes her book this way: “Armed with thisSeafood Lovers Pacific Northwest (2) guidebook, the Pacific Northwest and its magnificent seafood culture become your oyster. You’ll find the best eats and can’t-miss festivals for your next road trip; cooking inspiration for the salmon, halibut, and mussels you picked up at the market; and get to know the people, places, and traditions that make living here so enjoyable.” This beautiful book will be feted at a book launch, which is open to the public, at Seattle’s University Book Store on November 7 at 7pm.

Tell us how this book came about.
Twitter is the surprising genesis of this book. An acquisitions editor reached out to me after noticing my work and platform and pitched me this project. I was delighted but torn: I had (and still have) a) a day job b) an active toddler and  c) a spouse who travels often for work, so I knew I’d have to balance more than I ever had before to make this project a reality. I decided to take the challenge.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
I grew up in a small Northwest town. I realized this book was an opportunity to help many excellent, small, out-of-the-way businesses get the attention they crave. We have such a unique fusion of native and immigrant seafood traditions here in the Northwest and I knew digging into that culture would yield some fascinating stories and experiences. Plus, I loved the challenge of finding new experiences in my lifelong home. We truly do live in one of the best places for adventure.

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
This is my first book and much of the process took me by surprise. I wasn’t fully clear on when copy editing would take place, so I hired a copy editor to edit the first manuscript drop, to get a sense of whether my voice and style were working structurally (they were). That gave me a confidence boost through the rest of the project. Guidebook projects, I’ve heard, place a lot of content demands upon the author: art, mapmaking, gathering permissions for recipes and other submissions, etc.. About a third of the way through, I hired a talented, punctual friend to serve as my permissions editor. I just didn’t have the space in my head to think about permissions AND write the book. Best decision ever. What wasn’t a surprise: handling the pitch. The Business of Books class I took a couple years prior with Jen and Kerry gave me confidence to find my way through the process.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
How many people are involved, and how so much of the marketing falls into the author’s lap in this day and age. I had read that, but it’s different to experience it. I’m thankful I kept a running list of publicity ideas, another helpful hint gleaned from the Business of Books coursework.

What’s been the best aspect about getting published?
Since the first grade I’ve wanted to become a published author. Now, I am. And my mom and family are around to see it. That’s the best aspect personally. Professionally, I’m glad to introduce (or re-introduce) readers to eateries and people off the beaten track that they might never have encountered. I am a features writer through-and-through, and so enjoyed the chance to interview so many interesting folks and share their stories. There are so many family dynasties in the fishing, oystering, and restaurant industries. It’s fascinating to learn more about what drives people to keep the lineage unbroken despite such grueling work.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Listen to time management advice from your friends who have already published books. Everyone told me to get a giant dry-erase board and to cover it in sticky notes as I built my book’s structure. Yeah, yeah, I thought. I’ve been a journalist and storyteller for years: I got this. Then, I realized just how challenging it is to see your book’s shape on the limited real estate of a laptop. The next time I write a nonfiction book, I’ll spend more time at the beginning on strategy, no matter how behind I feel, because in the end it will pay off. One example: had I thought ahead, I would have had video footage galore from all my research adventures. At the time, I kept thinking I’d have time to get back to all those places, but it was impossible when it came time to hit my writing deadline.

What’s next for you?
I’d like to find an agent and move forward with several nonfiction projects I’ve been noodling over the past few years–some in the food world, some not. I also need to make the time to work on some fiction (perhaps on my bus commute!). As a longtime journalist, writing fiction terrifies me. It’s been beaten into my skull not to make things up, to describe things as they are, not as I would like them to be. Fiction is like, make whatever you want to have happen, happen! It’s liberating and terrifying all at the same time.

Anything else you’d like to share?
My book launch party is at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 7, at University Book Store in Seattle’s University District. BeanFish, the nation’s first taiyaki food truck, will be serving piping hot Japanese-style sweet and savory waffles shaped like fish. It’s going to be a great time, and I hope to see you there.

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