Hi, all. I’m starting a new series on the blog called “Things I Wish I Knew.” I’ll be featuring some of my clients talking about their book deals, their writing careers and their platforms. I’ll also be talking to some industry professionals too. “Things I Wish I Knew” is going to be about everything from things people actually wish they knew when they began their career (as a writer or publishing professional) or a way to reflect back on how far they’ve come. Let me know what you think of the new series in the comments.
Debut author Andrea Dunlop has a background in publicity and marketing in the publishing industry. She’s currently the Executive Director of Social Media and Marketing for Girl Friday Productions in Seattle. Helpful when you become a debut author, right?! Not only does she know what the industry expects from writers, she has also assisted other debuts launch their own books. However, knowing the industry side of things is a Catch-22 when you’re an author.
One of my favorite parts of this interview is Andrea talking about publisher’s internal and external responsibilities: “I think it helps to understand that no one at the publisher actually works for you. They have responsibilities to you, sure, but they don’t ultimately answer to you. They work for the publisher, who has many other priorities and concerns that have nothing to do with your book.”
What do you wish you knew about expectations during the publishing process?
I was pretty well-prepared in terms of expectations from all the years I’ve worked in publishing. I definitely knew enough to keep them in check, namely. From the time you and I sold the book (about a year and a half ago), I’ve really tried to come from a place of making plans, rather than having expectations. Mostly because the former is more active, more about what I could do than what was going to happen to me (or not). To be frank, whatever expectations I allowed myself to have about what getting published would mean for me, after a decade of working in the industry, were pretty minimal. On the one hand, simply getting published fulfills a lifelong dream, on the other I know enough to understand that it’s neither a panacea for all of my other problems, nor is it a guarantee of future success. That said, my experience thus far with you, with Atria, with Booksparks, and with all the other fellow authors and friends who make up my support system for this book has been wonderful. I know exactly how rare it is for things to go as well as they have with my book: working with my editor Sarah was a blast and went smoothly, the first cover I saw, I loved and everyone in-house—the social media, marketing, and publicity folks, the sales team, the publisher—has been a dream to work with. I never imagined that the book would go into a second printing before going on-sale. I won’t lie and tell you I don’t have any nerves or fears about the book coming out, but really I’m mostly excited and grateful to everyone who’s worked so hard on the book thus far.
You came from the publishing side to the author side, how did that help your understanding of how to be a good collaborator?
I think it helps to understand that no one at the publisher actually works for you. They have responsibilities to you, sure, but they don’t ultimately answer to you. They work for the publisher, who has many other priorities and concerns that have nothing to do with your book.
This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised (well you wouldn’t be surprised, but other folks might) how many authors seem to be confused on this matter. You can expect support, you can expect good communication, and to be treated with respect by your team—but ultimately, it’s your book. You need to show up for it. And by that I do not mean that you need to micromanage your book: let the pros do what they’re good at and figure out where you can be most helpful. I’m in a great spot with my background, because I knew what to ask for and what to just plan to take on myself or use my advance to pay someone else to do. I went into it thinking “Here’s what I’m going to do, anything my publisher does is gravy.” And they’ve done a lot! So, it’s been great.
What is the best part about being a debut?
Connecting with other authors. I’ve been on one side of the fence for all my life: as a reader, then in my day job as a publicist, now social media and marketing director. I’ve known lots of authors, obviously, but getting to be one is just its own singular joy. Getting support, getting blurbs from people whose work I so admire—Laurie Frankel, Katie Crouch, Courtney Maum, Miranda Beverly Whittemore, Taylor Jenkins Reid—I mean, what could be cooler than that? So many people have reached out and have been so genuine and supportive. It took me a long time to get here, it feels good to have arrived at last, especially since the natives are so welcoming.
What advice would you give to other debut authors beginning the journey?
Anyone who works with authors knows that the lead-up to a book’s publication—particularly a debut—can be joyful or miserable, sometimes both in the same day. You don’t have control over a lot of things: what happens at the publisher, whether your publicist is going through your divorce or your editor moves to another house six months before pub. But there is a great deal, in this day and age however, that you do have control over. Learn about social media, learn about the industry, invest in your own career by hiring whatever help you need. I recognize that not everyone has a decade of experience going into their debut the way I do. But there are so many good resources out there which authors can learn from—including this very blog: Jane Friedman’s is another essential, there are a dozen more I could name. Do what you can, enjoy the moment, and live to fight another day. Being an author is a lifelong occupation. This is not an industry for the faint of heart, so decide you’re not going to be that.
What are you reading right now?
My TBR pile is an ever expanding monster that I co-exist with happily. Right now, I’m reading Flood Girls by Richard Fifield, another February debutante. It’s about a woman who returns to her tiny, completely bonkers Montana hometown to try to make amends for a couple of years of damaging shenanigans. It’s super funny and weird, I’m loving it.