If you’ve been reading this blog, it won’t surprise you that I first met Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Backspace. Lauren chimes in on Backspace with advice and information that is helpful, straightforward and diplomatic. She understands this career and business in a way many people do not — because she has been on all sides of the publishing fence (didn’t know there were more than two sides, did you?). Lauren has been writing both YA and Middle Grade awesomesauce for years now — but I asked her to join us here on Women’s Fiction Writers today because of what she decided to do with her first book, The Thin Pink Line, originally published in the dark ages of the early twenty-first century. Lauren’s journey doesn’t go from traditionally published to Kindle-published author — it’s just one part of her whole experience. And with the proliferation of authors embracing a combo-platter of traditional and e-publishing, I thought it would be great to hear from someone doing just that with a work of women’s fiction.
Lauren is always generous with her knowledge and time and humor — and today is no different!
Please welcome Lauren to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Interview with Multi-Published Author, Lauren Baratz-Logsted
LBL: Top secret? I’m more like an open book! I’m sure this will sound simplistic but I do it all because I believe I can do it all. I have this wacky belief that if a writer is willing to put the long hours in – writing book after book, honing the craft of writing and learning the often confusing business of publishing – she should be able to make a living at what she loves. And I have a further wacky belief that while creating a brand is a fine thing for the brandable authors out there, if a writer has diverse reading tastes then why shouldn’t she pursue diverse writing?
ASN: After the rights to The Thin Pink Line reverted back to you — you decided to publish it for Kindle users. Can you share the timeline (and your thoughts) regarding The Thin Pink Line — from writing to traditional publication to Kindle?
LBL: I originally conceived the idea for The Thin Pink Line in 1999 when I was pregnant with my daughter and experiencing complications. The thought occurred to me: What if some sociopath was faking a pregnancy for personal gain and making up complications along the way? I sat down to write a dark comedy. It was the sixth book I’d written at that point in my quest for publication and probably the most fun. With its over-the-top premise, I felt free to have my crazy main character do all kinds of insane things.
Flash forward to late fall 2001. I’m working on revising my seventh book to the specifications of a particular agent when I see reviews popping up in PW and the New York Times for books from a new publisher, Red Dress Ink. I become convinced this would be a good house for TTPL so I ask the agent I’m working with at the time to read it. He does and says he thinks it’s hysterical but he doesn’t want to submit it because “there are too many things out there like that.” I was a bit surprised at this because I have not seen, before or since, any other novels that are dark comedies about a sociopath who fakes an entire pregnancy. So I ask him if he’d at least submit it to just this one new publisher, RDI, that seems to be actively looking for books like mine. Again, he says no, that he’s “positive they don’t want to see anything with a London setting,” which mine has. So, finally, I ask if he’d mind if I send it to them on my own. He basically says he thinks I’m wasting my time but to go ahead. In the end, I sold it to them myself as part of a two-book deal. The publishing experience of that particular book could not have been more positive. RDI got behind the book in a big way, publishing it as their first hardcover – they’d only ever done trade paperbacks before; it got rave reviews from PW and elsewhere, with Kirkus giving it a coveted star; as it says in my bio, it was published in 10 countries and optioned for a movie; and to date, it’s still by far my best-selling book, having earned back its advance seven times over. Not bad for a book that that agent thought wasn’t worth submitting!
About two years ago, the editorial director of a company asked about the rights to TTPL and its sequel, Crossing the Line. Her company was launching a contemporary women’s fiction imprint and she thought she might like to publish those and continue the series. So I asked for and graciously received the rights back from RDI. When the editorial director failed to pursue it, and the self-published ebook business really began to take off, I decided to make TTPL available on Kindle myself with the help of a tech-savvy friend. So far, I can’t say if my experiment with self-publishing will be successful but I can say that it’s been a lot of fun. I’m a huge control freak – if I weren’t so short, I’d keep one foot on the ground while in the dentist’s chair – so it’s been fabulous for me to have final say over the cover, the cover copy, the internal formatting and everything else.
ASN: Do you have words of wisdom for writers who want to be traditionally published when publishing is in such as state of flux — and it seems harder and harder to go that route?
LBL: I’ve been in the book business in one capacity or another for over 28 years now. In that time period, regularly – often yearly! – I’ve heard doom-and-gloom Chicken Littles crying how the end is near. I’m not saying there aren’t big problems particular to the time we are living in, but it’s never been easy to get published. It took me seven books and eight years writing before I finally sold my sixth book. If I had given up at any point along the way, I would not be sitting here now with 23 books sold. Writers need to figure out where their strengths lie, what makes them special: Are you the queen of high concept? Are you a terrific plotter? Are you strong on beautiful sentences but not so hot on plot? Once you know who you are as a writer, it becomes easier to expand on that and grow yourself in the areas where you have weaknesses. The biggest trick of all is believing in yourself and not to the point of blindness – e.g, if you know yourself to be grammar-challenged or majorly challenged in some other way, hire yourself a freelance editor! But definitely, to have a chance at being traditionally published, you need to believe in yourself and that belief will serve you well once you are.
ASN: What’s your definition of women’s fiction?
LBL: You know, I’m not a huge fan of the term “women’s fiction,” because it’s become part of the Pink Ghetto that also umbrellas chick lit and anything else that is perceived as being just girls’ stuff and therefore somehow less than. But if you’re going to pin me to the table with a straight pin like a beetle on its back, I’ll say that women’s fiction is fiction that is written primarily by, about and targeted for women that is serious in tone, which places it in contrast with chick lit, which is fiction that is written primarily by, about and targeted for women but is comedic in tone.
ASN: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
LBL: The same advice I give writers in all areas: 1) readreadread everything you can get your hands on because you can’t be a good writer without being a good reader first; and 2) always remember, the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.
ASN: What’s next on your literary horizon (actually, I know what’s next and cannot WAIT to read this!)?
LBL: I’m very excited about the publication of LITTLE WOMEN AND ME this coming November 8. It is being published as YA but should – hopefully! – have great appeal to older females as well because it’s about a contemporary teen who time travels into the beginning of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel Little Women, where she discovers that she needs to do one of two things: keep Beth from dying or prevent the boy next door from romantically winding up with the wrong March sister.
Thanks for having me, Amy!
Lauren Baratz-Logsted is a former independent bookseller, PW reviewer, freelance editor and sort-of librarian. Her debut novel, The Thin Pink Line, was published in 10 countries and was optioned for a movie. Including that book, she has sold 23 books since 2003 for adults, teens, tweens and young children. You can read more about her life and work at www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com.
The Thin Pink Line is available here.