Publishing Advice from Literary Agent Extraordinaire April Eberhardt

April Eberhardt pictureToday, I’m thrilled to welcome my wonderful literary agent, April Eberhardt to my blog!

MR: Welcome April! It’s an honor to have you here today.

AE: Thanks, Mary!

MR: So April, you’re known in the literary world as a “literary change agent.” What does that mean?

AE: When I moved into agenting a relatively few years ago, it was clear that things were changing, and fast. I could foresee a time when authors would need, and want, to take control of how their work was published. Legacy publishers haven’t been able to keep up with the changes, nor have they really tried very hard since it means relinquishing profits and power. In my view a change agent is someone who looks to the future with the goal of enabling people to do more, or to achieve outcomes that were previously unattainable. I’m excited about the new publishing models emerging because as an author advocate, I want to see authors have the greatest control over their work, make the most money they can, and achieve a level of satisfaction that often isn’t available to traditionally published authors.

MR: Now that self-publishing has taken root and become a respectable way for writers to get their books out into the world, what cautions do you think new writers need to take before they make that leap?

AE: I always say that good self-publishing is usually anything but “self.” Before embarking on a self-publishing path, authors need to understand the business, know what’s involved in producing a high-quality book, and be honest about what they can’t or won’t do themselves. Most successful “self” published authors have invested in a team of experienced others to help them get there. I’d advise any author interested in self-publishing to spend some time researching the industry, analyzing successful self-published authors’ work and approach, and talking with others who have been down that path and can share what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what missteps they inadvertently made.

MR: In addition to traditional and self-publishing, there are so many other options available now. For example, there are many publishing companies that will edit, proofread, design, and publish a book for a writer for a fee. The books produced by these presses often look very professional, and many writers are drawn to them. But from what I’ve heard, they’re not all great. Are there any pay-to-publish presses that you’d recommend? Any that you’d advise writers to avoid? And what sorts of things should a writer look for in a pay-to-publish press?

AE: Above all you want experience, transparency and references in a partner publisher. You also want curation and distribution. Companies like She Writes Press, White Cloud Press and Turning Stone Press are led and managed by people with long experience in traditional publishing. All are open about their approach, costs and clients. They are selective about which authors they publish, and have clear contracts granting all rights to the author, along with offering distribution, usually through Ingram. The legitimate ones will happily refer you to other authors who have published with them so you can learn more about their experiences. I’d suggest steering clear of subsidy presses like Author Solutions that accept any and all manuscripts, tend to produce inferior-quality books priced at non-competitive prices, don’t offer distribution, and sometimes pressure authors to buy more services than they need.

MR: You advised me to consider partner publisher Booktrope for my novel, Leaving the Beach, and I’ve been very happy with them. One thing I like about Booktrope is that they’re selective about what they publish, and there’s no upfront cost. Instead, everyone involved in the publication process—including the writer, the editor, the proofreader, the designer, and the marketing manager—gets a percentage of book sales income. Do you see this model becoming more prevalent in the industry?

AE: I do see partnership models, both paid-by-the-author and cost-shared, becoming more prevalent and popular with authors. Some authors see the value in purchasing the services of industry experts upfront, then retaining the profits themselves; others prefer to crowdsource the team and then share the spoils with them. Either way, the author gets the expertise and support s/he needs to publish well independently.

MR: Are there any other new publishing models out there that look promising to you?

AE: One I’m particularly excited about is Inkshares, a crowd-funding model that selects high-potential manuscripts among those submitted, sets up a crowdfunding site for the author based on an algorithmically-determined financial goal, project-manages the process, and produces and distributes the book. It’s a brilliant model, and I have high hopes that it, and other innovative indie models, will proliferate and succeed.

MR: So what about traditional publishing? Certainly it hasn’t died, as so many doomsayers keep predicting it will. Do you believe traditional publishing will continue to thrive?

AE: Traditional publishing will undoubtedly survive, albeit in vastly altered form. Legacy publishers are heavily weighted in favor of their own interests. To entice authors who have other, and in many ways better, choices, Big Pub will need to make their value proposition more attractive, by increasing the share of profits authors receive, by putting more into marketing and promoting authors’ books, and in general by making the experience a more satisfying one for authors. Otherwise the advantages of indie will quickly eclipse the perceived value of legacy publishing’s stamp of approval. They no longer get to choose whose work gets published, read and praised. With the web’s transparency, readers will decide.

MR: What genres of writers do you like to work with, or are you open to all genres? Do you represent both writers of fiction and non-fiction?

AE: I’m particularly fond of fiction, especially debut, and have a passion for work by, for and about women.

MR: Aside from a computer—or a typewriter, or some paper and a pen—what’s the most important thing a contemporary writer should possess?

AE: Probably self-awareness. Know what you’re good at, and ask others to help you with the rest. It’s the only way to get a great book, and one that’s published well. Curiosity, openness, perseverance, resilience and confidence are good to have too.

MR: Thank you, April! I really appreciate your time, and know many writers–both new and experienced–will benefit from your wisdom and advice.

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Book Signing/Reading from Leaving the Beach, July 19 in Winthrop, MA

winthrop book depotHi Friends,

Next Saturday, July 19th, I’ll be doing a book signing and reading from Leaving the Beach at the Winthrop Book Depot and Cafe. I’m really excited about this, as much of Leaving the Beach is set in Winthrop. It would be great to see a bunch of you there.

Many thanks to bookstore owner Suzanne Martucci for hosting this event! The Cafe features a great selection of coffee and teas, as well as bagels, muffins, cookies and other snacks.

The event goes from 10 a.m. til 1 p.m, but feel free to drop in for just a few minutes, or stay the entire time. If it’s a nice day, I highly recommend heading out to Winthrop Beach before or afterwards to take a walk, go for a dip, or just enjoy some sunshine. Here’s a photo I took of the seawall last time I was out there. You can’t see it in the picture, but there’s a nice sandy beach down below. winthrop_seawall

Here are the details on the reading:

Book Signing/Reading from Leaving the Beach with Mary Rowen
Winthrop Book Depot and Cafe
11 Somerset Ave., Winthrop, MA 02152
10 a.m. -1 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

–Mary

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The Indie Spirit is Alive and Well in Montreal

Fet art women's clothing, jewelryIt might seem a bit ironic to be writing about the independent spirit in Montreal as July 4th weekend winds down here in the States. But my family spent four days in Montreal last week, and wow! I won’t bother telling you about the major tourist attractions, because you can find tons of info online about Le Parc du Mont-Royal, the Botanical Gardens, beautiful and historic Old Montreal, Notre-Dame Basilica, the Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Biodome, and other notable landmarks. We did our best to see as many of those things as possible, and they were all incredible.

But what really blew my mind was the astounding number of indie businesses in the city. We rented an apartment in the neighborhood known as “le Plateau,” and I think I enjoyed walking around there even more than visiting the typical tourist sites. It was such a thrill to stroll down a busy, thriving, commercial street and see almost zero chain stores.

Most exciting was the plethora of independent book stores. They were EVERYWHERE! Below are pictures of just a few indie book stores that were less than a mile from our apartment. All of these stores buy and sell new and used books; some even sell records, CDs and DVDs. I brought along two copies of Leaving the Beach, and although all the stores I visited would only purchase books written in French, I was happy to donate my two copies to a couple of lovely store owners who promised to put it on their shelves. So who knows? Maybe someone who never would have discovered my book is reading it right now. I sure hope so.

book exchange   bookstore brownbookstore yellow

And if you know me at all, you know I have a passion for music, particularly the variety that comes packaged in some sort of box, rather than downloaded from a computer. The decline of record stores in the U.S. makes me truly sad, so what a wonderful surprise to find that record stores are living and breathing quite well in Montreal. Some even specialize in certain types of music. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw one store that sold only rock, metal, and progressive. And Beastie fans, how can you not love a record shop called Paul’s Boutique?

record store prog rock metal                                                 mel disc record store                                                                 paul's boutique

Not convincing enough to get you up there? How about this? You can also shop for reasonably priced clothing and be hard-pressed to find a chain store. Yes, I did come across Forever 21, Aldo, and American Apparel, but those places were grossly outnumbered by shops like the ones pictured below. My favorite was the one called Fet Art (pictured at the top of this post). I saw a really funky bracelet in there on my last day in Montreal, but when I went back to buy it, the store was closed for the evening! Alors, I guess that means I’ll have to get back up there sometime soon.

Folles Alliees women's clothing   trop belle women's clothing      aime com moi clothing store

Looking for Petco? I didn’t see it. But here’s a pet store that was situated near our apartment.

animalerie Paul

How’s that for indie shopping? And if you get sick of that sort of thing and need a more rigorous adventure, we did some whitewater rafting and power boating on the St. Lawrence River too. There’s a small company called Rafting Montreal that provided us with hours of fun. Who knew that a river could have actual waves like the ocean?

And the food? Completely amazing, everywhere we went. All in all, a perfect vacation for our whole family. We even got to take care of Rouky, the cat who kindly let us crash in his apartment. And we made it home in time to see the fireworks on the Boston Esplanade Thursday evening, before the rain set in.Rouky

Montreal, nous reviendrons!!

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Want the Denim Skirt Erin Wears in LEAVING THE BEACH? Here’s How to Make it

washed completed skirtDon’t worry, this blog is not going to turn all DIY and crafty. I only know how to make a few things, so there wouldn’t be very many posts!

However, if you’ve read Leaving the Beach, you might recall that the main character, Erin Reardon, wears a homemade denim skirt in three key scenes. In the book, the skirt is given to her by a college roommate, but when I was in college, I was taught how to make denim skirts by a woman on my dorm floor. I can’t recall the woman’s name now, but I’ll always been grateful to her.

Because these skirts are so useful! They can transform a worn out pair of old jeans into the first thing you pack for a beach getaway. Or, if you own a pair of nicer, designer jeans that don’t fit right or aren’t your style any more, you can convert them into a slightly dressy skirt. Anyone who knows me well knows I wear these things just about everywhere. Back in the early 2000′s, I even had a little home-based business making them for local women and selling them at craft fairs. Therefore, I have quite a collection: longer skirts for winter (they’re fun paired with colorful socks or tights); short and medium-length ones that work well for running errands and eating in casual restaurants; still shorter, more faded ones to wear to barbecues, concerts, and bonfires.

So if you’d like to make one (or several) denim skirts for yourself, just follow these steps and you can be wearing one tomorrow.

**Please note these directions are for making a skirt that’s knee-length or shorter. Making a long one is a bit more complicated because you’ll need extra fabric, so feel free to message me if you’d like to learn how to make a long one.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

* A pair of jeans that you like the top part of, but are willing to sacrifice in the event that something goes terribly wrong. (Yes, it can happen, but let’s not think about that possibility.) The most important thing about these jeans is that they should fit fairly comfortably through the waist and hips. It’s OK if they’re a little too tight, because turning them into a skirt usually loosens things up, but make sure you can zip and button them. And, of course, it they’re way too big, the skirt will fall right off! If you don’t own an appropriate pair of jeans, I recommend shopping in your local thrift shop or on ebay. One trick I’ve learned is that you can get very high quality used jeans on ebay, for a fraction of the original selling price. Take a look!

* A seam ripper (Most sewing stores sell seam rippers for about a dollar, and it’s really hard to rip out all your seams with scissors.)

* Sharp scissors and pinking shears, if possible

* Thread (Any color. You may want to match the color of your jeans, or go with something totally different.)

* Needle and thread, or sewing machine. (These directions are for use with a sewing machine, but if you don’t have one, you can do your stitching by hand. All the skirts I made in college were done by hand, and I think that makes them look particularly funky and unique. These days, though, I use a sewing machine because it’s much faster.)

*pins, preferably plain ones without colorful plastic tops. (I find the ones with the plastic tops can interfere with the sewing machine.)

OK, let’s go!

1. Try on the jeans, look in the mirror, and use some sort of pen with washable ink to mark the place where you want the bottom of the skirt to be. Mark both legs, by the way. Then take off the jeans and cut them into shorts, making sure to cut at least an inch below your marks. Later on, you can cut the skirt to the perfect length. And save those bottoms you cut off. You will need them later. Your pants will now look something like this: jeans as shorts

2. Rip out the entire inseam (or inseams). The inseam is the seam that starts at one inner leg opening, goes up the leg, across the crotch, and down the other leg to the bottom.  Some jeans have more than one inseam, so ripping all that thread can be quite frustrating. My advice: take your time with the ripping. Remember when I mentioned how things can go wrong? This is the place where that’s most likely to happen, especially if you’re rushing. But if you should make a hole, don’t worry, because you can always add a patch later.beginning to rip

3. When you get to the place where the inseam meets the crotch seam, things can get a bit tricky, especially if the thread is the same color as the jeans. Don’t worry if you rip some of the crotch seam, because you’re going to be ripping that out anyway in the next step. But if you hit what really seems like an impasse, just stop and go to the bottom of the other leg and work your way up until you get to a situation like this:

crotch seam unripped

Then, just be very patient, make sure you’re in good lighting, and use your seam ripper to carefully cut every stitch you can. Pulling on the fabric can help you see where the stitches are. Take your time, breathe, and eventually, you’ll have the entire inseam ripped. Then go along the seams you’ve ripped and pull away as much loose thread as you can. Some thread will come off in long strands, some will be in little pieces. And whatever you can’t get, just leave. The thread may eventually come off in the wash, or stick around and add more personality to your skirt. Here’s how your item should look now:

shorts without inseam

4. Now for the crotch seams. The front part is easiest. Start at the bottom and rip out everything until you hit the bottom of the zipper casing:

front crotch ripped

5. The back crotch seam is a bit trickier, as each pair of pants is made differently. If you hold the pants up by the waist and look at the back, you’ll see how the crotch seam now hangs awkwardly. You’re going to be opening this seam up partway, and then crossing the left part of the fabric over the right, and the goal is to not have too many lumps and bumps. You’ll want to rip  out at least three inches of the back crotch seam, then experiment with pulling the left side over the right and seeing if it lies flat. If it’s not nice and flat, rip a bit more. On this particular skirt, I ripped out seven inches of the back crotch seam, then pulled the left over the right and pinned it down. I always use as many pins as possible, as that tends to help eliminate the lumps and bumps: back crotch pinned

6. Now pin the front down. In the front, you’ll be crossing the right side over the left and pinning it down. In this picture, it looks like there’s some light blue fabric in the open triangle area, but that’s just because I have the skirt lying on my knee! front crotch pinned

7. At this point, I recommend trying on your semi-skirt–very carefully because of those pins– and see if you like the fit. You’re going to be sewing next, so if anything about the fit doesn’t suit you, this is the time to take out the pins, rip out more of the back crotch seam if necessary, and re-pin.

8. Sew along your pinned seams, then remove pins. I usually sew each seam at least twice, for reinforcement; sewing along seams

 

9. Turn inside out and cut out excess (underneath) fabric, both in the front and back. You don’t have to do this, but if you leave the extra fabric there, your skirt will feel heavy and won’t fall as nicely.

cutting excess fabric

10. Keep skirt inside out and retrieve those pants bottoms you chopped off. Lie the skirt flat on the floor and take a look at the triangular open areas in the front and back. Then, using fabric from the bottoms, cut rectangular sections of cloth large enough to cover both triangles and pin them to the inside of the skirt. Leave about an inch of overhang at the bottom, just to be safe. Here’s how the front and back (respectively) should look now. I’m sorry that these pictures are a bit blurry:

front of skirt pinnedback of skirt pinned

11. Turn skirt right side out, try on again to make sure it fits well–without too many bumps–then sew along the triangular seams, front and back.

sewing along seams

12. Almost done! Trim off the excess fabric along the new seams you’ve just created. The inside front of your skirt should now look something like this:sewn front of skirt

 

And the back should look like this:

sewn back of skirt

13. OK! Now trim the excess fabric along the bottom, try the skirt on again, mark the length you want, and take it off. Lay it flat, allowing the front waistband to hang a bit lower than the back–as if you’re wearing it–then trim away. If you own a pair of pinking shears, trimming with them will allow the skirt to fray, but not too much. If you use regular scissors, that’s fine too, but you’ll probably have to trim fairly regularly after washing, unless you prefer the look of a really frayed skirt. I’ve found when I make these skirts that sometimes the back is longer than the front when I put it on, but you can easily adjust that with more trimming. completed unwashed skirt

14. Finally, you will probably have to reinforce the seams at the bottom of your front and back triangles, since you cut the bottom off. So do a few more stitches where necessary, and now you’re done! I like to toss the newly made skirt in the wash and then let it dry–preferably in the dryer–before wearing because that lets the bottom fray a bit and also gets rid of some of the extra threads that might be sticking to it. it should look something like the skirt at the top of this post.

15. Put it on and go on out and enjoy some sunshine. If you love your skirt as much as I love them, you may be making another one soon. And don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have made quite a few of these in my time, so I can probably help if you run into problems.

16. Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a good book to read this summer, please consider checking out Leaving the Beach. But whether you do or not, I hope you enjoy your new skirt!

124_0.036824001390495169_beach_cover-bpfbt

 

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DIY: Durable, Low-Cost, Homemade Bookmarks in 24 Hours or Less

completed bookmarkAs a newish writer, I’ve discovered how nice is is to have promotional bookmarks to give away at signings and other events. But I’m also not always the best planner.

Last spring, therefore, the day before a book fair, I realized I should’ve ordered some bookmarks for my booth. Unfortunately, because the fair was the following day, even websites offering 24-hour turnaround times couldn’t help. Now, I’m also not a particularly crafty person, but I decided to try making my own, and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. So this year, when I published Leaving the Beach, (Booktrope Editions, 2014) I decided to make bookmarks again, rather than order from a print shop or the internet. I like their homemade quality, and also think these DIY items are significantly more durable than comparably priced ones available commercially. Here’s my method.

1. Use your book cover image and any text you’d like to include on the bookmark and do your design in Word or some other word processing program. Then, figure out the ideal size of your bookmark and lay out a Word page with as many of them as you can fit. You can see three in the screenshot below, but I was actually able to include six on a standard 8”x 10″ sheet of printer paper. (Three in the top row and three below.)

Screen Shot LTB

 

 

 

 

2. Next, use a ruler to draw lines and cut out each bookmark individually. This is important for the next step.

3. Go to a local print shop and ask the person at the print desk to laminate the bookmarks. I asked them to lay out the individual bookmarks on plastic lamination sheets. The person recommended 7 mil. lamination (as opposed to 5 mil. or 10 mil., which would be too light or two heavy, respectively). You can also try self-lamination, although I was very happy with the service at Staples. They charged me $1.99 to laminate each sheet, and they got six bookmarks per sheet. I dropped them off in the evening and picked them up the next day. Here’s what the laminated sheets looked like when finished.

laminated bookmarks

 

 

 

 

4. Cut out each bookmark with a paper cutter or scissors, leaving a little bit of plastic around the edges of the paper. This is where the “homemade” part comes in, as I wasn’t able to get the lines completely straight. However, they certainly serve the purpose of marking pages and providing information about your book.

5. After each bookmark was cut out, I punched a hole in the top and tied a 13” strip of inexpensive satin ribbon through the hole and tied it in a knot. (See completed bookmark at the top left of this post.) I found packages of ribbon like the one below on sale at Joanne’s Fabric for less than a dollar a roll. As you can see, each roll contains 10 yards of 1/8 inch wide ribbon.   ribbon for bookmarks

6. Ta-da!! Not only do you now have nice, informative, durable bookmarks to give away, but they didn’t cost a fortune, and you got them FAST!!

Best of luck! Please let me know if you try making these, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions!!

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99 Cent Sale Today, 6/16. Leaving the Beach E-Book on Promo

beach_cover_resized_4000The headline says it all. My novel, Leaving the Beach is on $.99 promo today. I hope you’ll check it out.

What’s the book about? In a nutshell, it’s the story of a bulimic woman named Erin who truly believes it’s her destiny to become the soul mate of a rock icon. Which rock icon? Well, that changes throughout the book, as Erin grows older and her tastes and circumstances change.

But one evening–in Cambridge, Massachusetts–Erin has a random, one-on-one encounter with a bona fide rock star. The two exchange only a few words, but the course of Erin’s life is forever altered.

The story is filled with twists and turns, and the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have been quite good. And here’s what Kirkus Reviews has to say about Leaving the Beach:

“The book gracefully grapples with several important issues, including alcohol and drug addiction, loss, grief and sexuality. It also offers a unique look at an eating disorder from the sufferer’s perspective, describing bulimia frankly and graphically. However, there are also many entertaining pop-culture references to offset the weighty themes. Music lovers, in particular, will appreciate the very specific rock trivia that the author cleverly provides throughout the story….An intriguing novel that looks at the ways that people cope with the pain in their lives.” –Kirkus Reviews

So check it out if that seems like your sort of thing. But if you want to get it for 99 cents, you’ll need to order by midnight on 6/16/2014, PST. After that, the price goes back up to either $3.99 or $4.99.

 

 

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My Very First Print Interview for Leaving the Beach

Today, I’m so honored to be featured in the Winthrop Transcript. Reporter Cary Shuman was kind enough to interview me for his newspaper and write this great story.

Here’s the headline and first two paragraphs:

Former Resident Mary Rowen Authors Book Set in Winthrop

June 12, 2014

By 

Local novelist Mary Rowen enjoyed living in Winthrop so much that she decided to make her main character in “Leaving the Beach” a resident of the town.

Rowen’s book, released by independent publisher Booktrope, is set primarily in Winthrop and is about a bulimic woman who  believes she’s destined to become the soul mate of a rock icon.

And here’s a link to the entire article:

Thank you, Cary Shuman!!

 

 

 

 

 

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