When I was first dreaming of publishing a memoir, I searched for interviews with other published authors.
I wanted to know how they drafted their books, how they got an agent, what the publishing process was like, basically all those good things that I was only just beginning to visualise as possible.
You’ll learn a lot from this author interview about book marketing, book proposals, and the difference between digital book marketing and the traditional publishing model.
So without further ado – here’s the wonderful Katrina Lawrence, ex-beauty editor and author of The Paris Dreamer: What the City of Light taught me about life, love and lipstick.
Like most first-time authors, when Katrina’s book was published many elements of the path to book publication were unexpected! Read on for her lessons. And for francophiles? You MUST pick up a copy of her beautiful memoir.
Instagram for francophiles
Katrina’s beautiful instagram – Paris For Dreamers – was one of the first francophile accounts I followed when I returned from France in 2017, not just because of her beautiful photos (all taken by her! Which is sadly not that common on Instagram) but because she’d share historical facts and tidbits about France every single day.
I’m a strong proponent of connecting online with those who share similar interests and passions, so I started following Katrina and commenting on her posts. I also discovered her memoir through her instagram posts, so I was excited to nab a copy of Paris Dreaming, which is a memoir blend with social history hybrid.
Paris Dreaming weaves facts and statistics and historical stories with her own relationship to Paris as a girl, teenager, woman and then a mother. Written from an Australian perspective, it’s almost a love letter to the city itself, and a discussion of the French relationship with the feminine.
Katrina was a generous and supportive connection when my own memoir came out, and we caught up in Sydney when I flew up for publicity after a dust storm meant I couldn’t return to Melbourne for three days! One of the most lovely parts of publishing A Letter From Paris, for me, was connecting with like-minded Francophiles and writers like Katrina. Our catch-up went for hours when we realised we shared lots of the same passions and dilemmas about self-promotion, marketing and publicity, publishing, and creating e-books and online products (which is, essentially, online publishing!)
LD: Tell us a little about the journey to turn your idea for Paris Dreaming into a finished book…
KL: I was working as a beauty editor for a couple of women’s publications, but finding myself increasingly uninspired by the industry, which was rapidly moving online in the form of ever-shorter blogs and visually-based social media. I was craving the old days of long-form writing when, for different reasons, my contracts came to an unexpected end. I had some savings up my sleeve, and it was the start of winter, so I figured, why not take a hibernation and see if I could finally get a book (which I’d always had vaguely written on the mental to-do list) up and running? I’d recently been on a press trip to Paris, where the idea for the book-to-be struck. So I now had both the time and the title, and no excuses. After a few months, I felt confident enough to send my first chapters to an agent, who took me on and helped me shape the first half of the manuscript; she sold this to HarperCollins six months later.
LD: Did you do a book proposal for Paris Dreaming?
KL: My agent showed HarperCollins a synopsis and the first half of the manuscript and, after a meeting with my publisher, it all flowed from there. We’d had a couple of rejections early in the process, but I consider myself fortunate to have found the home I did; my publisher knew instinctively where the manuscript should go, and the best team (structural editor, etc) for me to work with.
LD: What might readers not know about what goes into a book proposal / pitch?
KL: That there’s no single ideal way to go about it. Every book has a different back-story. Some lucky authors get deals on the basis of a letter or a meeting; others have to pretty much write the whole thing while keeping their fingers crossed. Some have to manage a series of rejections before finding the right publishing house; others luck into a fabulous deal the first time. I think the main thing is to just start writing and then, when you’re ready, make as many calls and write as many emails and ask for as much advice as you possibly can; you‘ll find your own way from here.
LD: What do you know now, that you didn’t then, about how traditional publishing works?
KL: It’s a little slower than I had expected, but from what I experienced that’s very much due to quality control. I was so impressed with HarperCollins’ commitment to making sure every fact was correct, and comma in its right place, and that both the jacket and the case were gorgeous, and that the launch would be timed and executed for maximum effect. I was also lucky that my publisher involved me in the cover, and was happy to commission my favourite illustrator; I’ve since found out it’s quite rare for an author to have much of a say in how his or her book looks. LD: Yes! This surprised me, too. I adored Scribe’s cover for A Letter From Paris, but I didn’t meet with the designer or have any actual say in that process, and neither did my agent!
LD: What’s your favourite part of the traditional publishing process?
KL: Holding your fresh-off-the-press book in your hands for the first time; there’s nothing like it. LD: I know. I burst into tears when I received the first copy of A Letter From Paris. I couldn’t let it out of my sight!
LD: And what about the least favourite parts of being traditionally published?
KL: The first negative reader review. It’s crushing. But, as my agent said from the start, if you can’t handle criticism, this isn’t the gig for you.
LD: Now you’ve self-published a beautiful kindle book: Paris for Dreamers: Whimsical Walks Through the City of Light, what has that process been like compared to the hard cover traditionally-published book?
KL: It’s hard for me to compare, because I wrote Paris for Dreamers not just because it felt like a book that wanted to be written, but also as a branding strategy, to launch my new website. That’s why I kept it digital. If I’d also launched a hard copy, I think I might have found myself feeling quite lost in the production side of things, and wishing I had help from people who do this for a living. Although I do know authors who have self-published in hard-copy form and to a high standard; you just need to have a good eye, and be prepared to invest in what is needed to create a beautiful physical book.
LD: So now that you’ve self-published AND traditionally published, what would you say is your favourite aspect of self-publishing?
KL: Being in control of all aspects of the book, from the structure to the grammar to the aesthetics to the launch strategy. It’s daunting, but thrilling all the same.
LD: And what’s your least favourite aspect of self-publishing?
KL: Some weeks the money you spend on marketing can seem to negate your earnings!
LD: What might authors not know about choosing between self-publishing and traditional (perhaps something about marketing, which you are absolutely excellent at!)
KL: As I mentioned, you need to spend a lot of time, and money, on marketing a self-published book. This can be in the form of producing flat-lay images (and sourcing and buying all the props that go with them), and then boosting the posts on Facebook. Having said that, you’ll be out of pocket for PR-ing even a traditionally published book — a publishing house is wonderful around the time of launch, but beyond that it’s usually up to the author to keep momentum going, which might include travel expenses associated with events, or various PR campaigns.
LD: Can you share something you wish you’d known before being published, that you know now…
KL: Australian bookshops are allowed to return any unsold books after six months, for which they’re fully reimbursed — in this case, the returns will be reflected negatively in the next royalty statement, which can be a bit of shock if you’re not expecting this. Also, if your book is only for sale in the Australian/New Zealand market, it is extremely difficult for international readers to get their hands on it (many sites here don’t ship overseas; readings.com has the best international service, with a flat rate). This makes things tricky if your social media extends beyond the local region, and you’re fielding queries internationally.
Visit Katrina’s beautiful website here.
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