Alcestis Books Publishing

Interview with Lisa Brackmann

Lisa Brackmann, the author of the fabulous debut thriller Rock Paper Tiger, is a fellow Soho debut novelist. We’ve gotten to know each other a bit this year as our books have been released, and we decided to interview each other about the debut publication process.

How long did the process of getting published take, from starting to work on the novel
through its publication date?

LB: Hah. Hahah. HAHAHAHAH.

Ahem. Well, writing the novel took a while. I’m not particularly fast. I started working
with my agent, Nathan Bransford, in July 2007. The novel sold in May 2009. The
publication date was June 2010.

So writing and revising the novel took the longest. The actual production schedule with
Soho, from sale to release, was pretty fast in terms of Publishing Time.

KB: That is pretty fast! Soho bought Alcestis in October 2008 and it only came out four
months before Rock Paper Tiger did (February 2010), so your production schedule was
speedier than mine. I did one small revision with Katie Herman’s advice after Soho acquired the book, but the rest of that time mostly involved doing proofs, brainstorming copy, or waiting while Soho worked their magic.

I started writing Alcestis in June 2004 and finished it, including one round of revision, in April 2006. My agent (the lovely Diana Fox) took a little while to send it out because she was just launching her own agency, but I’d say it was truly on the market for at least a year before Soho made the offer in 2008.

What surprised you about the publication process?

LB: I think that everyone I worked with was so nice and accessible. There was a lot to
do, and it had to get done according to a schedule, and I always felt like the people on the
other side kept lines of communication open and did their best to help me do the work.

Also, it’s a lot of work. I sort of knew this, intellectually, but actually going through
the process brought home to me how much of a job being a published author is. I didn’t
have that much to do in the way of creative revisions, but the line edits, the galley proofs
and all the other stuff you don’t necessarily think about: setting up a website, getting a
professional photo shot, and all of the PR efforts—it really is a job.

Finally, how wonderfully supportive book people are in general—from agents to
publishers to bookstore owners to other authors. I’ve never met a group of people who
were so gracious and willing to welcome you to the “club.”

KB: PR is incredibly time-consuming (thankfully, a lot of it is also fun!). In the month or
two surrounding the book’s publication, I probably spent at least two or three hours a day responding to book-related email. I was really fortunate because I was on fellowship that term and I could spend that time when I needed to, but I have no idea how people with full-time day jobs manage book releases.

I was also surprised by how touched I was when friends and family were excited about
the book. Which makes me sound like a jerk, but what I mean is that I had kind of gotten used to the idea of the book coming out, simply because the publication process does take such a long time and involves so many small steps along the way (like proofs). So when I got up to read a bit at my launch party and found myself teary, I was a little surprised. I thought I was all cool and blasé! But in fact I was not, and that was a good thing.

What do you wish you had known in advance?

LB: How much of a rollercoaster the whole thing would be, though I think that’s another one of those, “you can know it intellectually but it doesn’t really prepare you for the
experience” kind of deals. I’ve been extremely fortunate in the kinds of reviews I’ve
gotten and the overall positive response to the book. What I didn’t exactly get is that, for
me anyway, even positive attention has its stressful aspects. The experience at times left
me feeling exposed and vulnerable. Hey, there’s a reason that we’re writers—most of us
are introverts!

KB: I must be needier, because I have no problem with positive attention! Then again,
as we were discussing recently, I will probably feel differently about that when I’m
stuck in the middle of the draft of my next project and feeling totally incompetent. And I
absolutely agree that waiting to hear what people think of your book is stressful, even if
the results are positive. I’ve also been really lucky in the majority of the reviews Alcestis
has received, but I was extremely nervous about what PW and Booklist and etc. would
think.

I wish I had known how much time the PR stuff would take, as I mentioned above.
Beyond that, I actually think I was pretty well-prepared, but only because I was working
with people who knew what they were doing.

What’s your favorite thing about working with Soho Press?

LB: Did I mention “nice, accessible and supportive”? And fun to hang out with?
And how much I’m looking forward to the Soho party at this year’s Bouchercon?

Also, I really like the whole Soho philosophy: they’re big enough to put some muscle
behind their products and small enough to care about everything they publish. I think
the Soho slogan might be “No Book Left Behind!” I honestly think that in the rapidly
shifting publishing landscape, the future belongs to nimble independents who really
support their writers and know how to “brand” their press as a whole.

KB: I’m really jealous that you’ve been able to hang out with the Soho staff—I haven’t
met any of them yet. But my experience has also been that everyone at Soho is nice,
accessible, and supportive. Justin Hargett has been especially patient with my newbie
questions about promotion.

And I agree that their supportiveness doesn’t just mean having a friendly phone and email manner. It also means developing a publication plan that suits the individual book and author. I think I would feel far more anxious about the process of debut publication if I were one of hundreds of debut authors at a huge publishing conglomerate. The Soho staff know what kind of book I wrote and were willing to take a chance on it; they weren’t
expecting it to be something it isn’t. My favorite thing about working with Soho is that
they’re practical and considerate at the same time.

At least one reason why debut novelists should have feline companions:

LB: Cats are instant stress relief. They purr, they sit on your lap, they play, they crack
me up with all the little things they do. They make the isolation of writing less lonely
without distracting me with conversation or temptations.

KB:
They also sit on your manuscripts (or at least mine do). I think pets in general
are a good reminder not to take things too seriously. How serious can those page
proofs be, after all, if my cat’s just creased them all up with a drive-by snuggling?

(Thanks to Lisa for doing this interview with me!)

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for having me! I’ve been off the interwebz all day (The. Horror.) or I would have commented sooner. Let’s hear it for our feline Mewses. What would we do without them?

  2. Both of you mentioned how your agents were helpful. You know a lot of aspiring novelists mention how challenging the query process is, and sometimes lament the query process and agents. One counterpoint, though, is that agents’ priorities are their clients. I think this interview brings out that side of the story.

  3. DarkLayers, that is really true. I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with Nathan in other posts so I didn’t really get into it here, but with the publishing landscape these days, your agent really is your advocate, a career manager, and oftentimes an editor. I’m amazed and gratified at the amount of work agents like Nathan put in for authors like me.

  4. Great point, and I agree, too. Obviously this is true for big things like negotiating contracts, but I also can’t count the number of tiny little questions I’ve emailed my agent about in the six months or so since my book came out, either. Client maintenance is an ongoing job!

Leave a Reply to Katharine Beutner Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *