Maureen Lipinski is the author of A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower. The story follows Clare, a mildly famous blogger and newlywed, who discovers she’s pregnant after a getaway in Vegas. Even though I have no desire to ever get pregnant (thank you very much), this book looks like it would be great for me or anyone looking for a fun read, as Clare deals with things we all deal with in daily life, like crazy friends, crazier in-laws, and a stressful job to top it all off.
I was especially interested to get Maureen’s feedback about the publishing industry since this is her debut novel and she’s new to the whole publishing process. Here’s the interview…
1. Writing a novel is a huge investment of time with no guarantee of any publication or payoff. What was it that made you decide to go for it and write that first book?
Writing a book has always been a life-long dream of mine. My goal was always to have my first book published while I was in my twenties. So, when I was 25, I decided it was time to get cracking! But, seriously, my motivation was the dream I had since I was a little girl of seeing my name in print.
2. You have a 2-book deal (congratulations!) and yet are still looking to work full time while you write upcoming novels. How lucrative or non-lucrative is the novel-writing business in your opinion?
To be frank, it can take a long, long time before writing brings in enough money to be a sole source of income. Consider that the average advance for a first-time writer is between $5,000 to $10,000 per book. Of course, there are a few debut writers who hit the publishing jackpot and get huge advances, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Not to mention, advances usually get paid piecemeal, so that amount is spread out over a couple of years. And don’t forget to throw in taxes and 15% to your agent. It’s definitely nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not the kind of money where quitting a day job is usually feasible. Of course, there are royalties, but those don’t come until well after a book is published. From what I’ve heard, it usually takes a few books in print for an author to write full-time.
3. Did you submit to publishing houses yourself or did you get an agent first and how did you go about it?
After my mansucript was primped, polished and ready to be released upon the world, I started looking for an agent. I knew that agents are the gatekeepers to the publishing world, and could open so many more doors than I could myself. I first crafted a query letter–a pitch letter of sorts–to send to agents. Then, I compiled a list of agents I wanted to contact. I found querytracker.com and absolutewrite.com to be invaluable in my search. I was lucky; I only queried for a couple of weeks before I found my fabulous agent, Holly Root of the Waxman Agency.
4. Can you briefly describe the process of getting your work into print once it was accepted? Did you do a lot of meetings or did you mostly handle things by phone or online? What were the steps involved?
After the obligatory champagne popping once we received an offer, my agent set to work finalizing the contracts for the books. A couple of months later, I received my first editorial letter from my editor. It outlined big picture items like theme and also line-edits, which question word choice and smaller, “detail-oriented” items. We did one more round before it went to copyedits. I have nothing but the utmost respect for copyeditors–they catch the most miniscue errors! After that, I received pass pages–the copy laid out so it looked like a real book. There was much excitement at seeing my words look like a, well, book.
For the most part, the process was handled electronically.
5. What about the business of publishing surprised you the most? Was there anything about the way it works that was totally unexpected?
Good grief, the waiting! The pace of publishing is glacial! It’s like one long chapter of Waiting for Godot.
6. Besides your editor, how many people do you work with on a regular basis in connection with publishing and publicizing your books and what are their roles?
Besides my editor, the person I work most closely with is my publicist at St. Martin’s, Katy Hershberger. She’s fantastic! She handles all of the interviews, sending review copies out, writes the press releases and makes media contacts. She’s been a dream to work with and I really consider myself very lucky to have her in my corner.
7. What advice would you give to new authors about getting their foot in the door of the publishing world?
I would let them know that they don’t have to have a huge platform to get their foot in the door, for fiction at least. I had zero contacts in the publishing world when I was querying agents. If you write a great book with a good hook and have a solid query, you will get published. It’s that simple.
8. I know you are heavily involved in online promotion. What advice would you give to authors in regards to promoting their work on the internet?
I always say to just do what you enjoy and find rewarding. Too many writers get bogged down worrying about trying to do everything–facebook, myspace, twitter, blogging, etc. It can be overwhelming at times–not to mention very distracting. Just focus on what you find to be of value.
9. What is the craziest, weirdest, or funniest thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing career?
It might not seem that crazy, weird or funny to other people, but I’ll never forget the day when the finished copies of my book arrived on my doorstep. It was so surreal to open the box and see my little book, all shiny and pretty, sitting there. It was even more surreal when my two-year-old walked over, picked up a copy of the book, looked at my picture and said, “That’s Mama!” It was awesome.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about your experiences?
I would just like to remind everyone to keep pursuing your goals–dreams really DO come true! One way to guarantee you won’t get published is to quit. So don’t.
To find out more about this author, you can visit Maureen Lipinski’s homepage or read Maureen Lipinski’s blog. Lipinski also writes for the collaborative blog, The Novel Girls, which is run by an all-female group of novelists.