Saturday, 19 August 2017

Publishing Interview with Eliza Stopps

Recently, I've been in contact with Eliza Stopps (author of the Leslie Kim Serial) and she was kind enough to answer a few of my publishing orientated questions. As an aspiring author, I'm always looking for more information about the industry and, while Eliza is self-published, she gave me some insightful facts about the publishing process.
Now, I'm nothing if not generous, so thought I'd post the interview on my blog in case there are any other budding authors intrigued about how they might publish a book one day!
I must say a huge thank you to Eliza for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope you guys enjoy!

How many literary agents would suggest sending your synopsis and manuscript to, per time?

I think this depends on the agent. Check on the literary agent's website for the answer to this, because some agents would prefer you don't submit to more than one agent at a time. If that is the case, just send it to one agent and wait for their response before moving on. Otherwise, you can do it in batches.

For me personally, I write in a variety of genres. I might be submitting a children's book, poetry, and science fiction short stories all at the same time. I usually submit to 1-3 agents per manuscript at a time, just so I am personally familiar with each agent. If you submit to like 100 agents all at the same time, you will get your name out there but that in itself can be a negative. If you submit to 3 agents and they all return with feedback saying that your book isn't right, it might be a good idea to read over your synopsis and query and see if there is any way you can improve before sending it to the next batch. If you send it out to many agents at the same time, you will have less time to improve between queries.

Ultimately, it's a personal choice for each author. My advice would be to do enough queries that you get over the anxiety of writing them but not so many that you feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the process.

What are the pros and cons of traditional publishing?

The biggest pros to traditional publishing all revolve around money. Every book needs editors, covers, formatting, and marketing, and all of those things take a lot of time and money. If you want to focus on the craft of writing, instead of finding people to do each job and paying them or doing it yourself, it can be worth it to go the traditional route. If you get picked up by an agent and sent to a big publisher, you can guarantee that your book is going to look nice, be well edited, and you're going to see it on your local bookstore shelves. That's an amazing thing. The biggest positive about traditional publishing is that it won't cost you anything. In fact, they are going to send you money in advance. 

The cons of traditional publishing are lack of control over your product, the amount of time it takes, and you will still end up doing marketing anyway. With traditional publishing, you write the manuscript and hand it off to people who know a lot more about the industry. They decide which chapters are cut out, what sort of cover you have, what demographic it's being marketed to, and how much promoting power they are going to put behind it.
If you're a new author, they aren't going to give you huge promotions and it's not likely you're going to get a movie deal right out of the gates. You will probably be more likely to get published if you already have a big social media platform, because this tells them that there is a percentage of people on that platform that will buy your book, but if you don't have a big platform that won't work in your advantage.
While you are going to get an advance, it will probably be fairly modest. You won't be getting paid like Stephen King did for Carrie. I've heard numbers from as little as $3,000-$10,000. They will sometimes split this up into portions, such as paying a certain percentage quarterly. If you ask me, I'd gladly take the money and run with it. What do I care if I only get a few thousand? That's more than I had yesterday and I get to take a picture with my book in the Target bookstore aisle. Granted, it will probably be 1-3 years after my book has been submitted, since submitting takes ages and the whole process with a big publisher can take a very long time.

What are the pros and cons of hiring a literary agent?

I'll start with the cons for this, because there are very few. Some literary agents might require you to make many, many changes before they submit your book to publishers. This process might go on for years. That's rare, but I have heard of it happening. (Most of the time if they suggest you make changes, it is in the books best interest.) The only other negative I can think of is if they don't share the same vision for your book or something. That's not really a bad thing because you could just stop working with them if you felt they weren't advocating for your book.

The pros of a literary agent are there for traditional and self-published authors. For traditionally published authors, a literary agent is going to be your guide to the publishing world. They are the ones who will ship it around to big publishers and try to sell it. They are your negotiator and your ticket to getting a big book deal.

For self-published authors, there are some literary agents who are willing to try and sell the rights to your book in other countries. Not all literary agents want to do just that type of work, but they are out there. Literary agents will usually do this with traditional works as well. It's basically a way to make sure you keep getting a regular paycheck by meeting your readers where they are at. Literary agents are going to be more likely to work with self-published authors who really sell their books.

When and how do you pay literary agents?

You don't. That is to say, you aren't going to be writing them a check each month while they try to sell your book. Any “agent” asking for money up front, is a scammer and not an agent.

Literary agents make their money when you make money. This means, when they sell your book to a publisher they will take a percentage from that profit. Basically, if your book is being sold at $10.99 and the publisher takes 80%, they make $8.792. You're left with the remaining 20% (about $2.20) and your literary agent is going to make a chunk of that (%15-30). These numbers are off the top of my head, but you get the idea.

Brandon Sanderson does some great talks about writing and the writing business. Here is a YouTube link to one specifically about literary agents: v=5h1zNHKQwzg there is also another one in the same series titled The Business of Writing, which is fantastic. If you want to learn more about being an author, please go watch that series. Twice. (It's free).

How much control do you get over a cover design?

If you are traditionally published, you probably won't have a say on the cover. They have a team of designers who are going to make it. Some publishers will let you pick a cover from a handful of samples and others won't give you a choice.

If you are self-published, then it's totally up to you. Make it yourself, buy a premade cover that you like, or hire an artist to make it directly. You decide every step of the way.

How do you market a book?

Oh boy, is that a loaded question! In a way, answering the questions to this interview is a type of marketing. There are hundreds of way to go about it and it can be time consuming to look through all the information. To start, I would suggest reading “How To Market A Book” by Joanna Penn (https://www.thecreativepenn. com/howtomarketabook/), listening to her podcast, and listening to The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast ( . These both have super helpful podcast interviews with people a lot more experienced with marketing than me.

Almost everywhere you look, they will tell you that the most effective marketing technique is simply to write the next book. The more books you have out there, the more likely people will buy your books. I know I am more likely to read a book for the first time by an author that has more than 4 books. I'm also very likely to read a book by an author that I have read before, if I enjoyed it. I'd say most people are that way. So, write good books and write a lot of them.

Any tips for creating and building a social media presence?

I'm honestly not great at this. I'm on Twitter and Wattpad, and I have a few followers but not 100k or anything. What I have seen with social media is that people are more likely to follow authors who act like people. I love following Linda Sue Park on Twitter because she posts about her day, what she is writing, about her family, and it is nice to see that side of an author I really admire. I don't like to follow authors who just repeatedly spam links to their new stuff without ever posting anything genuine. They seem less like authors and more like robots and it wastes my time.

Full disclosure, I'm a little guilty of this. I will post my new Wattpad chapters and links to my books. But I try to strike a balance of promo tweets and genuine thoughts. I tend to start losing followers when I post about my books too much and gain them when I post about the spider that invaded my living room the day before.

Do editors automatically change things that need correcting or do they highlight and consult you about the changes needed? 

It's possible that there are editors who will change things without your consent, but I haven't worked with one. I don't think most editors would just correct things for you, because it's more work than simply pointing out what needs to be rewritten or fixed. A good editor will be really clear about what they are going to be doing to your manuscript, so you can afford to be confident they won't just run off and do strange and mysterious things to it. Like change your story line or your main character. This might happen with some traditional publishers, but I haven't heard of it.

The editors I recently used from The Forge Books (https://theforgebooks. lauralynn-elliott/), both worked with me a lot with the changes. With my first book, I decided to go through content editing as well as proofreading.

Content editing means they will help you shape your story. If something feels out of place, a character is acting out of character, there's confusing blocks of text, or there just needs to be a change, they let you know. Susan put edits inline (like this) and also puts notes at the end of the chapters about what she thinks should change about the chapter and what she likes about it. This was really fun for me to read, as the author, because I got to experience my book through a reader's eye and I would certainly recommend her to anyone.
Proofreading is mostly about grammar and punctuation. Though, Lauralynn would leave me a comment every now and again if she noticed an inconsistency. Such as, in one paragraph I state the character is holding a cup but in the next I say it's a bowl. She made edits using Microsoft Word's track changes function. This is a very common way for editors to work, so if you haven't used this before you should try to familiarize yourself with the function. Basically, she can highlight what needs to be changed and then you can click through and either accept or reject the changes. This speeds up the process quite a bit and it's really easy to use once you get the hang of it.

I should maybe say that I'm not affiliated at all with The Forge Books, I just had a really positive experience with them. They were priced much lower than most other editors I had seen and both were willing to answer any questions I had. If I wasn't sure about a grammar rule, I knew I could just email Lauralynn for help and she would reply promptly. It's important to find editors that you know you can work with and trust to get it right.

What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The pros of self-publishing are creative freedom, financial control, controlling your release schedules, and you can choose to market in a way you feel comfortable with.
Creative freedom means you get to write what you're passionate about and make sure that it's exactly the story you want to tell. This doesn't mean you shouldn't take input from beta readers, editors, and friends. It just means that you don't have to write based on market, since you're book is going to be on the market for the next 70 years if you want it to be.

Financial control means you choose how much you want to sell your book for and you get most of the money. You get 70% of all book sales from most online retailers and 30% of print. You might sell less books, but you make a lot more of it too. I gave the example earlier of a traditionally published book selling for $10.99 and you making around $2 for the sale. On Amazon, you can sell your book for $2.99 and still make close to $2 per sale. This is more fair for your customer and you get to choose what it costs to read your work. You can be flexible and change it as you need to.

You may want to release books very close together. Say you write a 4 book series, you can release them once a month for 4 months and shoot to the top of the charts with each release. Or at least that's the hope. That will be much harder to achieve if you are releasing one book a year for four years.

You get to control the way you market. A lot of writers have anxiety about public speaking. As a self-published author, you never have to do that if you don't want to. You only share as much about yourself as you feel comfortable and that's good for your own peace of mind.

Cons of self-publishing include breaking in, start up costs, stability, and less respect.
It can be really hard to get started with self-publishing.

It can be scary to put yourself out there, fret about a flood of negative reviews, and then not have the courage to do it again. There's a lot of authors who will tell you that you won't be close to making six figures until you've published 20 books. That's a lot and it can be daunting when you just begin. I've written 6 complete books, working on 8 more, and it is still overwhelming for me sometimes.

I've only published 1 of the 6 completed manuscripts so far and that's because of cost. It costs money to pay an artist to create a custom cover and to pay an editor to clean up your book. If you haven't made much money from sales yet, it can be difficult to jump back in to publish again, trying to reach that 20 number, when you're already in the hole for the first book.

Stability is another issue with self-publishing. One might argue it isn't a bigger deal with self-publishing than with traditional, because ups and downs with sales happen either way. However, with traditional publishing they are going to get your book out there and hopefully you will receive an advance that can hold you over until your first royalty paycheck. With self-publishing there are no advances to keep food on the table. You might be paid well one month and not be able to afford a coffee the next month. You have to be careful about your budget and not plan on a big payout each month to keep afloat. The reason many authors keep a day job is for that stability.

You might endure all that, get a great book out there, and start to make some money. But to some people, you won't ever be “a real author” because you did it on your own. I think this is a silly concept. Plenty of singers and musicians have been doing it on their own for a long time without being considered false. I honestly don't think the lack of respect for your job is a big deal. I have been traditionally published with poetry, but someone could point out that I haven't made real money from it so I can't call myself a poet. There will always be someone who can disregard your hard work, but they can't take away your accomplishments. I haven't made money from poetry but I really enjoy seeing my poems in collections and magazine. I self-published Mythical Investigations, but I didn't do it to win awards. I just wanted to reach readers who like the same kind of alien murder mystery that I do.

Eliza is a writer of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Author of the Leslie Kim Serials, now Available on Amazon, and lover of poetry. She has been writing poems since before she could turn scribbles into letters and usually eats sunflower seeds while she does it. You can find her on Twitter or Wattpad @ElizaStopps or at her website


  1. Wow. Some really helpful tips here!!

    1. I know, right? What a confusing and tough world us writers expose ourselves to...