Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester welcomes fantasy author Elaine Isaak to our store on July 21 for her workshop “Secrets of Selling Your Novel” from 2PM until 5PM. Elaine is the author of three novels (but not a trilogy, thank you!) and over a dozen short stories. She’s placed for several awards, including Writers of the Future, Phobos, and the Ray Bradbury Short Fiction Award.
Thank you very much, Elaine, for letting us get to know you before your workshop! Your tag line is “You do NOT want to be my hero.” Why don’t we want to be your hero?
People often say, “Oh, do you kill your heroes?” to which I reply, “No–that would be too easy on them!” For instance, in my first novel, The Singer’s Crown, the usurping uncle can’t bring himself to kill his favorite nephew, so instead he has him castrated and raised as a court singer.
You’ll be helping future writers out at your workshop based on your experiences as a professional author. Briefly, what has been your path? And what are some hints at things students will learn in the workshop?
This workshop grows from a talk I do called “Ten Mistakes I’ve Made in my Writing Career so that You Don’t Have To!” The idea was to transform a series of frustrating and sometimes devastating experiences I had with my first foray into traditional publishing into an educational experience that I and others could learn from. We’ll talk about the traditional angle–how to submit to editors, how to find an agent, what to look for in a contract–but many of the skills I’ve worked on also apply to indie authors; it’s just that you’re pitching the books directly to readers rather than editors or agents.
Is there any piece of advice you received in becoming a professional author that you found was not true? If so, what is it?
Many in the science fiction and fantasy fields started out by publishing short fiction, mastering that, then moving up to novels. I seem not to be a natural short story writer. I still love doing it, but if I waited to write or pitch my novels until I mastered short fiction, I’d still be an unknown today. If you can write stories, go for it! If that’s not where your talents lie, then go straight for the novels.
What was one of the biggest surprises to you in your writing journey?
That total strangers would read and love my work. I know, I know, that’s kinda the point–but it’s still delightful and startling to have someone turn out to have actually read my books and enjoyed them. I especially love it when I hear this from an editor.
You’ve given smaller versions of this workshop at various conventions and conferences. What draws you to teaching and sharing your experiences?
A large part of it is feeling that we hoard our business experiences–especially the negative ones. It’s like we don’t want to jinx the future by discussing the past. I think established authors and newbies alike can benefit from knowing and sharing more about the inside of publishing. The big reward is to have a student get fired up about a new direction for their work or their career. We have much more to gain from sharing our tools and discoveries than from keeping quiet.
How do you see the publishing world changing, and how do you feel about it?
The advent of the ebook is finally having the transformational impact we’ve been expecting (and failing to prepare for!) for years. It places a lot more control in the hands of the author, and makes the publishers work harder for what they have. I’m debuting a couple of indie ebooks this year, and looking forward to my first trad-published hardcover next year. The hardcover is still more likely to be successful in the short term–more likely to be reviewed, nominated for awards, be talked about–but the ebooks should bring in a nice revenue stream at the same time. These changes make the career of being a writer that much more viable. It’s a little intimidating, but the potential is huge.
Helping students develop an effective logline to introduce their books. This is tricky, but vital. Once you have it, you can use it in queries, blurbs, business cards, elevator pitches–even literal elevators when somebody asks what you write.
For potential students who want to look you up or stalk you before the workshop, what are the best ways to do that? And what are some of your publications they can read?
I’ve got a website at www.elaineisaak.com and I can be found on facebook/elaineisaak, and on Twitter @ElaineIsaak The website includes some links and a list of published works.
We look forward to hosting your workshop at Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester! Thanks for coming out, and thank you for the interview!
You can sign up for Elaine’s “Secrets of Selling Your Novel” now! Cost of the workshop is $40, but save $10 if you are a member of Broad Universe, New England Horror Writers, Worcester Writers Collaborative, or a student with valid ID. Register in the store at 65 James Street, over the phone at 508-796-5613, or via email with PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline for registration is July 19.
We look forward to seeing you on July 21!