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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Monday, January 24, 2011

Interview with well-known sci-fi/fantasy author, Louise Marley

1. Although you are a well-known author, please tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a writer?
~~I started writing about twenty years ago (that's hard to believe--it doesn't seem so long.) I began as a hobby, thinking it would be good to do something other than the music which had obsessed me for such a long time! It was a wonderful surprise to find that I had some talent.

2. Was it difficult getting your initial manuscripts 'picked up' by an agent?
~~Absolutely! That's probably the hardest step. I still remember the numbers--twenty-one queries, with a wide variety of responses. I heard everything from "We could never place this material" to "I'll take it just as it is." I signed with an agent who liked my style but thought the book needed rewriting--and he was right!

3. have you wished to write in another genre and hesitated due to possible publishing problems?
~~Interesting question, because it turns out now I AM writing in a new genre (historical). I've written fantasy, science fiction, and now--evidently--historical. I have one mainstream novel still in process, which is a change for me, a;so. Business-wise, writing in too many genres may not be a great idea, but I've always felt that the story is the story, and defining the genre is the publisher's task.

4. Do you feel that age factors into whether a new writer gets picked up by an agent?
~~No. Mostly they have no idea how young or old a writer is.

5. How do you view the changes in publishing since you published your first book?
~~The main difference, of course, is the advent of e-publishing, but another big change happened about ten years ago. The distribution system completely fell apart and was replaced with big corporate distribution companies, and that made it tough on a lot of midlist writers. Electronic books are erasing the issues of distribution. I've blogged about this several times, and you may want to read those essays, but the essence is that e-books are SUPPORTING not harming, paper books.

6. With all the changes in technology do you think young people are reading?
~~The young people I meet are invariably huge readers. They're also consumers of a wide variety of other sorts of entertainment--film, tv, video games, manga...and so their time is limited. But there will always be people who love the printed word, in my opinion--even if it's printed with e-ink!

7. Good editing aside, what advice would you give writers struggling to get their work into the marketplace?
~~Write the best book you can! It's the only thing you can do. Editors and publishers want books, as evidenced by the sheer volume of new books published every year. A new writer has to do it all--study, practice, research, and sell. And remember, too, that many, many writers have unpublished novels tucked under their beds at home. Often that first book, or even the second, is a learning experience.  

The hardest thing, I think, is being objective about your own work. That's where an editor can be helpful, but these days, editors' main job is to acquire manuscripts, not to edit. That means a writer has to turn in as clean a manuscript as possible, and as polished a book as she can produce. And perseverance pays off, although it can be exhausting!

I find I talk about this a great deal to aspiring writers, and I do remember how it felt to be trying to break in. I hope your readers might visit my website and read my essay "Five Music Lessons for Writers". I wrote it nearly fifteen years ago, but it has been passed round a lot by teachers. It still expresses my belief in how to be a working artist.

Thank you so much, Louise. www.louisemarley.com

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