Red was plating some toffee granitas while Claret was making a special batch of peppermint hot chocolate. Both of them knew a little secret. Off on the patio, all the men in Tyvek suits were content with a pitcher hot dark-n-sweet, so they would be out of the way when Robin arrived. How did Red know? She had paid off the real estate agent to bring her to the M3 Coffee Shoppe.
M3: Robin, you and I go back a long way. Give the M3 Readers the book jacket version of Robin Tidwell.
RT: Robin lives in the St. Louis, Missouri area with her husband, Dennis, and their youngest son. She has a rather eclectic educational background, and finally finished her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. She has held a plethora of jobs, appointments, and volunteer positions, and tries very hard to make it through one week at a time without a crisis.
M3: I think the first line precludes the last line. Do you have someone you want to thank before I start grilling you?
RT: Oh yes – my first English teacher, Elizabeth Mehl, for drilling spelling and grammar into us so much so that it would stick forever. My high school creative writing and English teachers, who both encouraged me: Carole Clary and Lillian Ziwot. And of course, my husband Dennis who never gave up on me!
M3: We are going to discuss the whole husband beta reading project one day. Tell the M3 Readers where you started in the publishing industry.
RT: Wow, a tough question right off the bat – this takes me back in time! As soon as I learned to write, I started scribbling stories and making little “books”. In grade school, one of our art class projects was book binding, which I thought was interesting – but I was more concerned with what was between the covers. I did get a magazine rejection in high school, and more or less stopped writing for anyone but myself, but I’ve published a lot of non-fiction articles and dabbled in fiction a bit.
M3: Glad you’ve turned the corner. Rejections are like opinions. Let’s talk shop first. Got a bone to pick with the industry?
RT: I’ll say, and in one word, too: rudeness. Rudeness is pervasive in all areas of society, true, but in the publishing industry they’ll often tell you, “If you don’t hear back, I’m not interested.” That’s lame, IMHO, and a cop-out. It’s not that hard to tell someone, “It’s not very well-written,” or “It needs a lot of editing,” or even, “I just don’t like it very much.” Any of those are more acceptable, I think, than waiting wondering for weeks or months.
RT: Well, I was offered a contract from a small press. No advance, which is to be expected, but little in the way of distribution and marketing, and a lengthy release time as well – several months is rather quick in publishing, but self-publishing can be completed in a matter of weeks. Their timeline missed the holidays entirely, for example, and as a retailer I know the importance of having books on the shelves at that time of year. Plus, while 12% royalties aren’t bad, my self-sell percentage runs as high as 62%.
M3: You see what appeals to my inner accountant. Let’s talk self-publishing. Do the brick and mortars look down on it?
RT: Oh yes. It’s changing, but slowly. The main reason is that, while anyone can now produce a book, not everyone should do so. A book should be edited, and proofed, and re-read, and tested before it goes to a printer, any printer. A good cover, too, is essential. Many, even most, self-published books are lacking.
Authors are in a hurry to tell their stories. If it’s junk, it won’t sell; and a lot of booksellers can’t or won’t take the time to read through garbage, or even potential garbage. So they just won’t carry the books. Naturally, too, the publishing industry rebels against self-publishing – it could theoretically put them all out of work!
M3: I think they safe based on the last 15 books I downloaded. You seem to have worn your advice hat, I love that color by the way, so do you have any advice for the newbie authors in the audience?
RT: Yes, I’m all about the advice – I hand out quite a bit of that when I’m wearing my bookstore-owner hat! DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Don’t be a sucker, and do seek out smart, creative people to help you and to read your work. Don’t take that first offer without a lot of research into the company and the people, and learn to take criticism with grace – and learn to be objective about your own work.
M3: You realize you are saving me a publishing post, right? Since we are on the topic of hats, how do you find time with a home, family, bookstore, volunteerism, …Let’s stop there before I make more people tired this early in the morning.
RT: I’ve been asked this often over the years; seems like I’ve always had more free time than anyone I know. Guess I’m just super-organized [shrug].
M3: Perhaps, I will ask Dennis. With all this time on your hands, should the M3 Readers care about your day job?
RT: Well, I don’t know – do you? Day job may be a misnomer in my situation. My husband and I own a bookstore, which is celebrating its first-year anniversary this week. My day job consists of running the household, marketing and accounting and special events for the store – of which we have at least 7-8 per month, and display. I also run a book club at the store, and a writers’ group, and teach a marketing seminar once a month. None of these things combined take as much time as one might imagine, so I have at least 5-6 hours a day to write.
M3: Knowing the balls you have in the air, I have to ask if the economy has changed the way you perform?
RT: No, not the way I perform. The way I stress out, yes. But not much more than it has over the last decade.
M3: What about stress reduction? Do you go no hiatus?
RT: Hia-what? Oh. That. No, not really. Sometimes life gets in the way, or sometimes I’m just not, um, feelin’ it? That can last for a few days, even a week, but not usually longer. And I have plenty of other things to keep me occupied while I “percolate”.
M3: Everyone knows I fill my free time with bonbons and cognac. So, with time and no hiatus on the horizon, what is in the works?
RT: Right after I finished the first draft of REDUCED, I took a suggestion from my editor who said she wished one of the characters had turned out to be the “bad guy.” So I started the sequel, REUSED. Corny, yes, but a friend posted something online about that phrase right around the time I started, so there you go! And yes, one of the characters turns out to be the bad guy. Also, not dead. I’m planning to publish in December, I think. Depends on how it goes.
M3: That is a quick turnaround. (Throws something into the peanut gallery.) Tell me about your colleagues.
RT: I work with a lot of authors, mostly those who self-publish. I see potential in nearly all of them, of one kind or another, and I see potential in most of their work. I love to see authors trying hard to make the best book they can, and I love to sell those books too.
RT: Absolutely. Or the salsa did it. See, one night, right before bed, I was hungry. Chips and salsa sounded good to my brain, but stomach was already protesting. About 3:00 a.m., I woke up from one of the most action-packed, interesting dreams I’ve had in years. Abby (or someone, maybe me?) was kicking butt and taking names in a convenience store. There was some ominous reason for this scene, somewhere in the back of my mind. I almost got up to write it all down, then fell back to sleep – all in the space of about four minutes. Dystopian was not something I’d even considered writing before that.
M3: So, did you take the concept and run or did you outline and plot?
RT: Well, I had the dream after all. And by morning, it was still with me, clear as a bell. I started writing. I finished the first chapter and sent it off to a publisher friend of mine. Her response was, among other things, that it didn’t seem like I knew where the story was going – and I didn’t! I kept churning it out, then BAM!
I knew how it would end; I wrote the epilogue. Then The Last Chapter; The Second to Last Chapter; The Third to Last Chapter. Then I stopped that nonsense and got back on track. As I got near the end, I did do a rough, scribbled outline and check dates and ages, details like that. But mostly I just winged it.
M3: That sounds like one I have in my WIP folder now. How is this story close to your heart, other than heartburn?
RT: Well, I like to think I’m Abby – IF I were 20 years younger, IF I wasn’t such a chicken. I don’t think I’m as strong as she is, although I’ve had some of the same adventures in my younger days. Abby is me, but only as I’d like to be and not necessarily as I am.
M3: I am so glad I do not have to pick myself out of my character line ups. What makes REDUCED different from the other dystopian novels?
RT: I think the difference in comparison to anything I’ve read or heard of, at least recently, has to do with the ages of the characters. Abby is pushing 30 at the beginning of the novel, and most of the supporting characters are her age or a few years or so older. It’s not a YA book, in spite of the lack of sex and cursing. And it does touch on politics or, rather, government; some references are indeed indicative of current events.
M3: Probably because I do not think people that age read, must less write. *grins* Since you turned down the small publisher, how important is your own marketing effort for REDUCED?
RT: I’d have to say pretty darn important, since that’s the only marketing I’m using! Anything a publicist could do for me, I can do myself; there’s a lot of advertising and such that’s free and I try make the most of it. And, too, there are print companies locally and online who do fantastic work for a relatively low cost.
M3: I know a secret or two about you. What do you think I should not tell the M3 Readers?
RT: That we’re all a bunch of frauds. Seriously. Most people ooh and ah over authors when those people are really just regular folks. You see the public persona, and you’re in awe, but every author is afraid he’s going to irritate or anger his reading public, or do or say something dumb that everyone will talk about. And they’re always worried whether the book is “good enough”. And always checking sales, and always reading reviews…and are very, very tense people!
M3: *giggles* Okay, Mrs. Good Enough, tell the M3 Readers in 15 words or less why they should buy REDUCED.
RT: Because it’s a damn good book. And there’s more to come….
M3: I look forward to interviewing you when the next one comes out, too.
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