SQF: MuseItUp Publishing is a new venture. Why did you start it?
LS: Jim, opening up my own publishing house has always been one of my plans in my goal outline. It didn't materialize all of a sudden. It's been years in the back of my mind, but I started off slow, wetting my feet to get a platform out there. Along with Bret Wright in 2003 we opened up Apollo's Lyre, and in 2009 I took over when he had to step down. In 2005 I ventured to open up my own critique community after being involved in so many of them that only catered to one genre, whereas the MuseItUp Club caters to all genres and nonfiction. Around the same time we opened up Apollo's Lyre, I began editing for various publishing houses. Finally, five years ago, I began a FREE online writers conference - The Muse Online Writers Conference, hosted annually in October. Where am I going with this? I want to show your readers that I dedicated my career to helping writers any way that I can and the MuseItUp Publishing house is just another way I feel I can help and be there for writers.
SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (http://fonerbooks.com/booksale.htm), “[g]rowth stagnated for booksellers in 2008, and overall book sales barely moved according to the government.” In addition, I’ve read a number of articles concerning the difficulty authors are having in securing book deals. In your opinion, what is the current state of the print book market?
LS: I've read reports, some good, some bad. To be honest in the current times all sorts of businesses are feeling the pinch. However, that doesn't mean a business has to stop trying to move forward. The fact is that e-books are going to be the future in the long run, and that will happen once readers feel comfortable holding an e-reader in their hands instead of a print copy. Don't misunderstand, I am one of those readers who loves her print book, but I also love my Sony e-reader and can store and buy tons of books to keep on hand, and take with me in my purse. It's what you offer to a consumer that will make or break you and how you approach them. Bombarding them to buy, buy, buy isn't the only way to go. A publisher needs to offer more to them, and MuseItUp Publishing is going to strive to get reader participation as much as possible to keep in tune with what they're seeking. Relations with readers and authors is at the top of the list.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?
LS: Besides the obvious such as the grammatical, POV head-hopping, and backstory beginning issues many writers can't surpass, I'm looking for:
- a good writing voice that can bring a scene to life and make me feel as though I was just transported into the story
- characters that are believable, and most of all, memorable and not clone-copies of other books
- a twist to the plot to catch me off guard
SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?
LS: I can't really answer this question since we've just opened our doors, but I can tell you that a writer needs to sum up the entire novel in just a few sentences to give the essence of the book. I would assume one of the mistakes would be when a writer is unprepared to answer questions about his or her main character. If a writer can't answer 'on the spot' questions about the main character or villain, it shows that the character hasn't been thoroughly fleshed out.
SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?
LS: The best advice is to never hand in a first draft no matter how ready you believe the work is. Always get a critique partner, group, or editor to go over your work. You would be surprised as to how many plot holes, inconsistencies, and grammatical mistakes this other pair of eyes can find. I know. I'm a writer, and it always amazes me when my own critique partner dissects one of my books and comes back with quite a few red markings. As writers, having read our manuscript a few thousand times, we tend to overlook the obvious.
SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t, and how would you answer it?
LS: Should new writers be afraid to submit to a publisher is a question I had hoped you'd ask but since I did...:) New writers have to learn one thing, and that is to build a tough outer shell. There will be tons of rejections before an acceptance comes their way. The one thing I am going to strive toward is to offer to each of our authors who are rejected a publisher's note as to how to better their manuscript, where they are weak, what needs 'fixing', and then invite them to resubmit. I've been in their shoes and have received many rejections over the years, some good, some bad, and then those rejections that almost had me in tears -- not because of the rejection but of the rudeness from the publisher or whoever it was that sent that letter. Jim, I vowed a long time ago that I'd be there for writers and will never subject a writer to those types of disrespectful rejection letters as I received. Busy or not, I am one of those nuts who believes that without the writers this business would go down the tube, and for this reason I respect them.
Thank you, Lea. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 7/12--Six Questions for Jennifer Joseph, Publisher, Manic D Press