Author Interview – Darlene Craviotto : Part 2

Darlene the Tour GuideWithin the Indie Author Hub, you can learn about other authors, their thoughts and opinions, what makes them tick and how their writing process works for them.

All this week I will be releasing segments of an interview I conducted with Hollywood Scriptwriter and author, Darlene Craviotto. Have a look at her profile and books here.

Part 2 : Darlene’s thoughts on promotion and publishing

How do you promote yourself online? I’m selective about self-promotion because it takes time away from my writing, and that’s what I feel I owe my readers: the best stories told in the best way possible. I will do the occasional interview, if it’s on a site that I like, or if I feel the interviewer is someone I’d love to talk with. I have a blog but I use that to try out stories that I’m working on, or to engage in a conversation with readers. I don’t think you become a good writer by becoming a good marketer. Or PR person. Or self-promoter. And yet, the internet is filled with people who will tell you the opposite, who will try to convince you that you have to do both, and oh-by-the-way they have a class, a book, a technique that you can purchase for a price. The number of people who are making money off of the dreams of writers who want to become professional really angers me. They are reminiscent of the old man behind the screen in Wizard of Oz who called himself the Wizard. Avoid them at all costs. The only way to eventually become a professional writer is to spend your time writing. Don’t be sidetracked by self-promotion. Write a bunch of something – stories,stories, and more stories. Some may be longer and those can end up as books, plays, or screenplays. But don’t worry about the end result…not YET. Get those stories out of you. And then you can decide what you want to do with them. The last thing a writer wants to do when they’re first getting started is to worry what their book cover design will be. Or whether they should go traditional or self-publish, or what blog tours they can do. That’s not the way to become a professional. Focus on the writing first!

How much time do you spend promoting yourself in social media? I have my own blog (darlenecraviotto.com), I do Twitter, Facebook, the occasional blog interview, and sometimes I peek into a couple of writers’ groups online. I do it sparingly, however, and I don’t do it at all if I’m in the passionate throes of writing a story.

How did you get yourself published? The book was represented by an agent within a few months after it was written. Because Michael Jackson has a big role in the story the manuscript went out to the big publishing houses right away, and there are only a handful of the really big houses. The responses were uniformly positive and laudatory. This one sums up the reactions:

“I have to admit first thing that I couldn’t put this down! Darlene’s voice is so winning on
the page, and the world she becomes privy to is fascinating. But as I tried to think how this
could be re-imagined to better suit the (Big Publishing House) list, I just couldn’t come up
with a structure or concept that made sense. The juxtaposition of Darlene’s agoraphobia
and M.J.’s eccentric behavior is irresistible, …Every which way I thought about
augmenting or repositioning it just ended up feeling somehow unnecessary. So I’m afraid
I’m going to pass, which is probably a mark of a failure of imagination on my part more
than anything…..”

When I read that response, I was thrilled. I hadn’t set out to write a book that wasn’t fresh and original. I knew the story was quirky, and not easily compared to any already published memoirs. But here was someone in traditional publishing saying, “Hey, I couldn’t stop reading this! I was hooked – it’s fascinating!” And this man was in traditional publishing; he’d read a lot of manuscripts, so he knew good writing and good stories. His one problem was how to market it so he passed. But his comments said to me that my story was entertaining enough and told in such a way that the book worked. And I was thrilled to know that. When the agent asked if I wanted the manuscript to be submitted to smaller publishers, I said no. I didn’t want to take the time to keep looking, and I also didn’t want a traditional publisher to tell me to throw out what I’d already written and start all over again, TELLING THE STORY THE WAY THE PUBLISHING HOUSE WANTED ME TO TELL IT. That’s what happens with a non fiction manuscript. You don’t submit your manuscript to the publishing houses, you submit a book proposal pitching your book, saying what you’d LIKE to write. The first several big publishing houses never even got a chance to read my manuscript – they only read my book proposal. Every company that passed said they wanted more information about Michael Jackson, and I kept telling the agent, “This book isn’t a tell-all about Michael. It’s about an agoraphobic screenwriter working with Michael!” But that didn’t matter to the publishers or the agent. Basically, the premise of the book was being pitched, and the decision to buy or not buy was based on a ten page proposal. Finally, I told the agent that the next publishing house that showed an interest should read the manuscript and not the proposal. I dug my heels in and said if they didn’t read the manuscript, I wasn’t interested in pursuing them. And bingo, the manuscript was read over a weekend and that response above is what was sent to the agent. Not wanting to take the time to pursue smaller houses, I decided to independently publish the book.

What made you decide to publish independently? It was a chance to learn something new, and I like to be challenged if it means doing something I’ve never done before. My adventure into the world of traditional publishing was brief, but it was enough time to show me that it functions similarly to Hollywood. The kinds of books thought to be the most marketable (much like the kinds of films thought to be the most marketable) are crafted by those publishing houses and their emissaries the same way that big films are crafted by the studio system. I have spent too many years shaping stories for other people, making changes in my storytelling for their tastes and their marketing needs. But this was my story, my memoir and I wanted to decide how my story would be told; I didn’t want to be directed to tell it some other way only to make it appeal to a specific demographic group.

What do you think the future of publishing will be? I think it will be harder for smaller books to get publishing deals. You’ll have to be a celebrity in some way in order to “sell” a manuscript. People that have name recognition will be able to get deals and advances, but the average writer will have a more difficult time. In many ways, I can see independent publishing as the minor leagues, and traditional publishing as the Majors. A writer will be able to get lots of writing experience in the minors with the possibility of being brought up to the Majors. Obviously, that’s where the big money will be – in the Majors. But just as every minor league ball player might never play for a professional team, the same might apply to the independently published writer. It doesn’t mean they’re not good, not at all. I think there’s room in the writing world for both. But it just means that life will be more difficult for the writer who can’t find his/her way into the “Big Leagues.”

Is it necessary for Authors to have an agent these days? If a writer wants to be a professional, you have to have an agent. Just don’t try to get one until you’re got more than one story to show them. That’s the problem: People are in a hurry to become famous, and they don’t want to do the work to become really good. Do the work, and worry about the rest later.

How do you deal with rejection? This is the most difficult part of writing, but it’s a part of the process and you can’t avoid it. Sooner or later you have to share your stories, and when they’re out of your hands they are fair game to being criticized. The best advice I can give a writer is to wait awhile before you share your story with another human being. After you finish writing it, give it as much love as you like: kiss it, hold it, celebrate it with a glass of champagne. And then, put it in a drawer, walk away, and forget about it. Separate from it. Let it live in that drawer until you feel slightly removed from it. Maybe start another story, or go on vacation, have a love affair, take up archery, or get involved in rock climbing. Once you’ve connected to something else, found something you can put your time and attention into, then…and only then, do you take that story out of its drawer and give it to someone to read. Just make sure that person isn’t cruel, isn’t snarky, and is a kind, gentle being. And even if you follow all these tips and someone says they don’t like something in your story it will still feel like someone pulled your heart out through your teeth. Without anesthetic. But you know what? Get used to it because that’s part of being a writer. Find yourself some coping mechanisms, gird your loins, and just keep writing.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Just write – worry about the rest later.

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