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Newsletter Dated: 8/30/2006 9:50:44 PM
Subject: Andrea Campbell Soup*s On
Andrea Campbell’s Newsletter
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, professional friend of Andrea*s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine.
Have questions, comments, or ideas for future publication? I look forward to your input and hope you will stay around to see new features in every
In this issue:
• From the Author*s Desk
• Author Susan McBride Interview
• Gotta Write Services
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
Greetings. I hope you have been beating the heat! Arkansas was, well, hot as usual.
This is a fun issue of the newsletter, I think. But first the news.
To begin: I will have two more, Publish That Book: How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal That Sells e-classes for Mediabistro this year. The first session starts September 19, 2006. If you’re determined to get that nonfiction book proposal finished, join us. You’d be amazed how much we can accomplish in eight weeks online. Link:
I have a new agent, Bob Diforio, for my latest project. It’s a book entitled: The CSI Effect: How TV Crime Dramas Are Messing With Reality. The *CSI Effect* is an interesting but problematic phenomenon. It means that many TV viewers feel they have been educated in forensic science by watching popular shows like CSI—Las Vegas, Miami and New York, Bones, Crossing Jordan and others. Now these folks are winding up in the jury pool for our criminal courts and have unrealistic expectations about science and the law. My book details the disparity between TV crime dramas and reality, and how this is affecting real-life criminal justice. I already have a Web site dedicated to the book and topic, please check it out at: http://www.the-csi-effect.com Visit, take the quiz, and let me know what you think. I’ll keep you posted on the book proposal’s journey and more.
This issue we have a Q & A with my friend, Susan McBride, and what it took her to become successful.
Also, at times I like to let you know about some of the author services available on the Internet. A friend of mine runs a public relations service called Gotta Write and some of her programs are listed. Sometimes you can’t do it all on your own and these people are trustworthy.
*** Author Susan McBride ***
Q,: Susan, I've known you since your first book, And Then She Was Gone. You started with a very small publisher, Mayhaven Publishing in Illinois. Do you think this was a good choice, going with small press, and can you tell us anything about this experience?
A.: Honestly, it wasn't so much a choice as my only path at that point. I'd had agents represent my manuscripts, and tried approaching editors directly, too. I got some encouraging rejection letters in the ten years post-college that I was trying to establish myself; but I couldn't seem to get my foot in the door. Finally, with my tenth manuscript, I tried a different tactic: entering contests. AND THEN SHE WAS GONE was a finalist in the St. Martin's Best First Traditional Mystery Contest and won the National Writers Association's Best Novel Contest. I then scoped the LMP and Writer's Market for contests and found the one that Mayhaven Publishing was just starting. I entered AND THEN SHE WAS GONE, and it won. It was published two years later and sold out its first printing. My goal was to be published traditionally, and I'd done it. That's what was important to me, and I'm so glad I went that route. I learned SO much being published by a small press—about distribution (or, rather, how lack of it can kill a book), marketing, getting reviewed, networking—all things that would serve me well once I took that next step up. So I don't regret anything I did, or how I started.
Q.: Then my next question is: how did you transition from Mayhaven to your current publisher Avon?
A.: It was easy because I understood the publishing process. Everything Avon did for me (which was a lot compared to Mayhaven) seemed like a gift. I had an editor, a copy editor, a publicist, an art department working on my covers, a sales and marketing department plotting the best way to sell my book to stores. It was pure heaven! I already knew how to market myself and my books that I started working with my editor and publicist to more effectively promote…and they were thrilled by all the contacts I'd made and the information I'd gleaned about promotion from my small press days.
Q.: Let's talk some about craft. You are writing the: Debutante Dropout series, what exactly does that mean? and is this considered a chick-lit title? What is different or unique about these mysteries?
A.: My current mystery series is about a debutante dropout from Dallas and her socialite mother. I wrote the first book, BLUE BLOOD, at least 10 years ago, before there was anything called "chick lit." The bad thing about being ahead of a trend is that no one knows what to do with your book. So it sat on the shelf, gathering dust, for years before I found an agent to represent it. At that point, BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and THE NANNY DIARIES had come out and hit it big. When you can pitch to a particular market, it makes books easier to sell. So I signed with an agent (who is no longer my agent), and she sold BLUE BLOOD as "THE NANNY DIARIES meets Janet Evanovich." BLUE BLOOD went into four printings the first year, won the Lefty Award for Most Humorous Mystery of 2004, and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best PBO. Which is why I like to tell aspiring authors, "never throw anything away!" As for chick lit mysteries, they're basically amateur sleuth novels with a very modern, smart and (for want of a better word) sassy protagonist who often views the world around her with a slightly cynical eye. In my books, that protagonist is Andy Kendricks, a deb ball refugee from posh Highland Park in Dallas whose society maven mom, Cissy, won't ever let her forget her shortcomings. Cissy and Andy are like the Laurel and Hardy of chick lit mysteries. I think of my books as mystery potluck. They have a little bit of everything: murder, romance, pop culture references, sarcasm, and lots of humor.
Q.: I know you are on your third book in this series, how have you developed characterization? And how do you keep your characters fresh with each book?
A.: The third book, THE LONE STAR LONELY HEARTS CLUB, came out early this year, and the fourth is out in January of 2007. So I'm actually working on Book Five of the series, tentatively titled, TOO PRETTY TO DIE. I've heard grumblings from authors who write series and profess that it gets old by the fifth book, but I'm not finding that at all. There's so much about Andy's life (and Cissy's) still to explore; I enjoy seeing how they've grown, how their relationships are developing and what they're up to, as they constantly surprise me. Andy has grown more confident with each story, has fallen in love, and is realizing there's a lot more of her mother in her than she ever wanted to believe (egads!). Cissy is softening, or at least showing her softer side. Andy thinks of her as having a "rebar spine," but Cissy has a huge reservoir of emotion that she's very guarded with. More of that is revealed in each book, and I love seeing both women opening up. I think of my characters as friends that I get to know bit by bit. Their secrets are never unveiled to me all at once, but in layers.
Q.: You write with humor. Does this voice come naturally to you? and, is it difficult to juggle the parameters of mystery as a serious subject while still being light and entertaining?
A.: I am such a smart ass that it's a joy to write a series where I can channel that tone through the voice of my protagonist. Much of how Andy views the world comes from my vision of things, and that's very freeing as a writer. The trick with comedy is that everyone has a different sense of humor. What I find funny may not be funny to some people. I can't let that control my writing, though, so I just tell the story I need to tell—in the way I need to tell it—and cross my fingers when I'm done! I do take death seriously, and I never wanted to write an amateur sleuth novel where the murder was glossed over. (In fact, I really don't like those kind of books.) I want the emotional aspects of my stories to feel real; I want the serious moments to have as much impact than the humorous ones. Sometimes that's a tricky balance. I don't want to ever write "one-note books"—I want everything I do to mean something, if only to me.
Q.: Can you speak to your work area and habits. Do you have a ritual before beginning, or must certain things be in place before you start a new novel?
A.: Since I just moved into a new house, I'm still getting used to my new work area. I made one of the spare bedrooms into my writing room, and it's painted a deep terra cotta. I've got a few framed posters from book signings above my desk, and bookshelves full of books (my own and lots of others). It's a great space to write, and I'm just now getting back into the groove after spending two months buying a house, selling a condo, and moving. Oy. I like to let an idea for a book simmer for a few months before sitting down to write. Other than that, it's pretty much sticking butt in chair and keeping it there long enough to get some pages written everyday. Deadlines are awesome motivators, let me tell you!
Q.: There have been some amazing happenings in your personal life in the past year. You are in a relationship with someone, you have moved to new digs, and your writing is taking off! What has this meant to you in terms of time, stress and goals?
A.: I know, this last year has been nuts (but in a good way!). I met Ed early last November, we fell in love, knew we wanted to be together forever, and started looking for a place in June, after I'd finished the bulk of my travels to promote LONELY HEARTS. This summer has been filled with buying/selling, inspections, packing, unpacking, and workmen coming and going…oh, and a new deal with Random House/Delacorte to write a YA series about debutantes in Houston. It's a nonmystery series, in the vein of the GOSSIP GIRL books. It was one of those serendipitous events. In terms of time and stress, it's been through the roof. I've had days this summer where I just burst into tears, because I felt so much pressure (even though it was good pressure!). Apparently, our bodies can't tell good stress from bad, so it wears us down the same way. As for my goals, I feel like the most fortunate girl on the planet. It was a long, long road to publication. A lot of blood, sweat and tears and times when I wasn't sure anything would work out—though I was never going to give up. So I can hardly believe where I am now: writing a mystery series I adore, about to explore new turf with the YA books, and being able to support myself doing what I love.
Q.: What are your current projects?
A.: I've got the fifth Debutante Dropout book to do by January 1, and I'm only seven pages in as of this moment (eeek!). After that, it's negotiation time again with Avon. I've got an outline due on the first YA book by Thanksgiving. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB, the fourth Deb mystery, is out in late January of 2007, so the promotional wheel starts rolling all over again. And the first YA book is due in April. My calendar is pretty well full.
Q.: You are the Queen of Promotion. I remember your start with the Deadly Divas and their tours and promotions. Where are you now with that, and how has this helped your career?
A.: I retired from the Deadly Divas after six years of being in charge of the group. Though it was a tough decision, I don't regret moving on. I enjoyed being a Diva and it was immensely helpful in selling my books, particularly when I was a small press author. Plus, doing group gigs is much more fun than solo ones! You get to hang with your friends AND talk about writing. I'm doing some group promotion with the Mystery Chicks now (http://www.themysterychicks.com), and I was involved in a group blog called The Lipstick Chronicles for over a year. But I don't have time to blog weekly, so I'm leaving Lipstick. I have to start saying "no" and paring down everything I do beyond the writing, though I adore promotion and work as hard at it as I ever did (for which my publicist, editor and agent are eternally grateful).
Q.: Let's talk about business. Have you noticed monetary success with each subsequent novel? Has this affected your work, the pressure of writing—(or anything else)?
A.: Again, I'm fortunate to be able to support myself writing full-time. It's amazing to see the progression in the area of contracts and what's been happening the last few years. It has taken tons of pressure off of me. I don't have to work part-time jobs or borrow from the Bank of Mom anymore to pay my bills! It's given me the freedom to focus on my books and to be less distracted. I'm living my dream. There are no other words for it.
Q.: What can you tell Soup's On readers about your agent and your publisher?
A.: I'm with Andrea Cirillo (and Kelly Harms) at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, and I adore them. The whole agency is like a big family. Everyone there is aware of who you are and what you write, and they all take care of you. It's what a writer dreams of in an agency, but doesn't believe exists. I can't say enough good things. As for Avon, I get to work with an incredible editor, Sarah Durand. We get along beautifully, and she has such an eye for details (as in, what each book is missing when I turn it in!). Danielle Bartlett, my publicist at Avon, is remarkable and works so hard for my books. Is that enough gushing? Are y'all getting nauseous?
Q.: If you could lay out some advice for hopeful writers who also want to break into mystery, what would you tell them about craft and publication, what's important?
A.: Write the story that is unique to you. Don't try to imitate. What agents and editors look for is a fresh voice, something different that stands out in the crowded marketplace. Although "hooks" are important with mysteries, don't anchor your series on a niche, if you can help it. Make your protagonist, the settings, and the situation broad enough so that more books can easily follow. If you draw too tight a box for yourself—even if the idea is cute—you'll realize you have nowhere to go. I've seen too many authors have series cancelled after three books for this reason. Don't take shortcuts. Don't expect things to happen quickly. It really is worth trying for traditional publication. We live in such a fast food society, but patience and effort are vital when you're talking about a career in publishing. Listen to your critics. Don't view each word as too precious to make a change. You have to be flexible and understand how to work with other people in order to make your book the best it can be. Don't quit. If what you want more than anything is to be a published author, keep at it. Write, write, and write some more. Find your voice and fine-tune your manuscripts. I believe things happen for a reason and at the right time. Do everything you can to prepare for your moment. Most importantly, love what you do. Keep the passion! It'll carry you through.
*** Gotta Write Services ***
PRESS RELEASES: GWN will prepare a news release on our letterhead and mail them to the newspapers the author chooses. Author supplies mailing list and stamps. The press releases can also be sent to readers on the author’s mailing list or used for a new media kit.
WEBSITE CONTENT – We can create a GWN author webpage for $50 a year. Or we can create appropriate copy with MSWord for your webhost to post. Copy could be a new bio statement, news release about your latest book, FAQ’s, booklist, appearance schedule, review blurbs, etc.
MASTER FLYER – Creation of a sales flyer for any or all of your books. Created with a publishing program to include book cover, summary, mail coupon and ordering info. You receive a master copy and then either go to Office Depot or Max to have them photocopied. Not going to a printer cuts down on costs.
CONTACT LIBRARIES & BOOKSTORES – You provide a list of libraries and bookstores you would like to make guest appearances. I’ll contact all of them through email and establish an appearance schedule. This is always a challenge for the promoter, but the positive thing is that you’re not representing yourself.
CHAT ROOM APPEARANCES – You present a list of chats you’d like to be a guest at. I’ll add to it, contact them and see about getting you booked.
UP FRONT AND PERSONAL INTERVIEWS FOR PRESS KITS – A well researched interview for your press kits. Questions will be generated through your website and emailed to you. The interview can then be sent to your local newspapers or book groups.
Cost determined by category request for entire package. Whether one time service or yearly.
515 E. Thacker
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Netera@aol.com, Email or IM
Available for 1-1 IM meetings
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will answer reader’s questions, share a new story or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is any area of my life or work you would like to discuss, from autopsy to monkeys, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2006 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.