Every month I religiously read Oprah’s magazine. She always closes with an editorial entitled What I Know for Sure. I’ve been writing since sixth grade and I’ve been a published writer for over twenty years. So for what it’s worth - this is what I know for sure
Anyone can be published.
Initially most writers want to write well enough to be published. They want to see their work appear anywhere. And today with so many publishing options, from self-publishing, to small independent presses, it is easier than ever to see your book in print, or as an e-book.
But without gatekeepers, editors and agents, it’s hard to distinguish good writers from bad writers. And that’s makes it hard for all of us.
Once you’re published, your greatest job is to gather readers.
I once asked my third graders what they thought was the hardest part about being a writer – I got the usual answers – creating a plot, thinking of a character. constructing a nice cover, and then a voice came from the back of the room – “The hardest part about being an author is no one knows that your book exists.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
With so many books hitting the market place, how do you distinguish your novel from so many others?
Writers are highly imaginative people, but they don’t necessarily excel at sales.
And yet, in order for your precious words to be read, in order to make any money at all, we are forced to form a fan base.
Coming up with a brand, connecting through Facebook, my space, a website and a blog (such as this one) is one of the ways to attract readers. Kristin Lamb has a great blog and she has written a few books that are really helpful in spreading the word digitally.
If you write for kids, it’s harder.
If you write for kids, in actuality you are selling to two people, the kids and the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers are the parents and the teachers, because chances are they’re the ones who will paying for your book. If you can find a way to get your book into the classroom, you’re very lucky because where else can you sell forty books at one pop?
I have a new middle grade novel coming out in the spring and I’m struggling, trying to figure out how to promote it.
One Stone Left Unturned is told from two points of view, two teenage girls, living in different times and different places leading parallel lives with parallel needs and desires.
At midnight on July 16th, 1918 Tsar Nicholas Romanov and his family was murdered, thus signifying the end of the Russian empire. Historians believe that a peasant by the name of Rasputin was instrumental in the downfall of the dynasty. Because Nicholas thought that Rasputin could cure their son, Alexis, who was suffering from hemophilia, Rasputin was able to influence the Imperial Family.
But what if Rasputin’s power did not come from God as he claimed but from a simple jewel, a tri-colored fifteen caret tourmaline? And what if that very stone landed in the hands of a lonely teenager a century later?
The novel follows the final days before the Romanov massacre from the eyes of their daughter, Tatiana. Banished from the palace, the Romanovs are first exiled to Siberia, were they remain for over a year, uncertain of their fate. Terrified of being penniless, they had smuggled the crown’s jewels by sewing them into their clothing. Tatiana soon discovers a fifteen caret tourmaline, which once belonged to Rasputin. She soon realizes that the stone possess healing powers and no harm will come to the one who is holding it. Tatiana uses the stone to save Alexis’ life on several occasions.
The second point of view is of Augusta Ashford, a teenager who now possesses the stone a hundred years later. Her grandmother finds the jewel in an old crumbling church, slated for demolition. Augusta’s grandmother suffers from dementia, and Augusta discovers the stone’s power and she uses it to keep her grandmother well. But someone else knows about the tourmaline and is determined to take it from Augusta. Even if that means murder.
I have always been fascinated by the Tsar Nicholas and his family. A crazy monk, a sickly heir, a country revolting, all resulting in murder makes for an amazing story. I spent a year researching the Russian royal family, trying to keep the details were as accurate as possible.
Now I have the hardest job of all – to answer a question one of my third graders asked – “How will anyone know that your book even exists?”
Marianna Heusler is an Edgar nominated author of seven novels and over one hundred published short stories. Her middle grade novel One Stone Left Unturned is coming out in the spring. She is currently teaching third grade at an all girls’ school on the upper east side of Manhattan.