Let’s welcome Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette. If you missed my review on her debut middle grade, NOWHERE GIRL, you can read it here. She’s here to answer the three biggest questions on writers’ minds today: craft, social media, and branding.
1. In your experience, what are the best ways for writers to improve their writing as they travel the road to publication? What worked for you?
My top suggestions are:
Read widely. I firmly believe that reading excellent published books builds up your internal database—whether or not you’re focusing consciously on structure and tone and language and voice while you’re writing, all that wealth of accumulated input is flowing through your mind, and is bound to contribute to your growth as a writer, resulting in strong output.
Write often. As an author, I’m a big-time revision fiend, and I hate to give up on a project that I’ve invested a lot of time into. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But on the flipside, there’s something about opening a fresh document and launching into a completely new project that flexes muscles you didn’t know you had developed. All the ways you’ve learned and grown in your writing flows unconsciously into this new project. There’s nothing like it. So I’m not saying to stop revising those old trunk novels, but at the same time, do keep an eye to the new, because sometimes what you’ll find there might just surprise you.
Network. We are blessed with such a wide and warm and varied writing community—whether in person or online, be sure to avail yourself of the great wealth of writers who are walking on the same path.
2. I see that you have an author website, but you don’t blog or tweet (that I know of). What are your thoughts on social media and today’s traditionally published author? Do you like your clients to be active in social media?
It seems clear that social media is becoming more and more of a staple for author promotion nowadays. While it’s hard to measure actual results from these publicity methods, it’s undeniable that any time you are getting out there and raising your profile, it can only be a positive thing. (Well, perhaps with a few celebrity exceptions… J) Most importantly, though, I believe every author needs to find what works best for them. Yes, promotion is important—maybe even vital to today’s published author. But how you accomplish this, the methods you choose to use, has to feel authentic and workable for your personality, your schedule, and your abilities. Trying to do something because you’ve been told to, or because it’s “the thing to do” can never produce the desired results because your actions aren’t coming from that place that defines you as a person.
So yes, I encourage my authors to be active in social media and promotion—to the extent of their interest and comfort level. And sure, there are times when you want to stretch and challenge yourself outside of that magic zone; but still, within that stretching, there is the ring of truth in your own heart that says, “This is something I feel strongly about doing—it’s not easy, but I want to be here doing it.”
To me it’s above all about authenticity and being who you are as a person and as an author.
But beyond all of that, I sincerely believe that the most important thing authors can do with their time is to keep writing. This is what got you onto the bookshelf to begin with: your ability to write heartfelt, moving, beautiful words. And promotion can be a mega time-eating monster with no beginning and no end. So I would encourage authors to cherish your alone time so you can keep producing those works of art which are, in the end, the one thing that will last and the only thing that really matters.
3. Congratulations on all your book deals. You write picture books, middle grade, and young adult. Lately, writers seem to be under a lot of pressure to brand, brand, brand. What are your thoughts on the importance of writers branding themselves and their writing? How important do you feel it is for aspiring writers to think about this?
Branding can be a terrific thing for a certain type of author whose writing style lends itself to cultivating one strong literary form with a specific core readership. And… then there’s the rest of us. J I do believe that publishing as a whole is moving away from the Name Brand Author being the norm, and are beginning to embrace the fact that many authors like to write in a wide range of genres and for a wide variety of age groups. Once again, there’s no “one size fits all” model for authors nowadays, and I’m a big believer in authors following their heart and their passion as the means to producing their best and strongest work.
Check out Joan’s previous work.
THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES.
With the THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO FINDING MERMAIDS out in spring 2012.
And in the summer of 2013 look for PARADOX – Four teenagers. A spaceship. A desolate planet. And one dark force that will stop at nothing to possess them.
Thanks Joan for being honest with us today! Good luck with all your coming releases!
Fabulous questions, fantastic answers. Especially social networking. Love them all. Thanks so much Laura and Ammi Joan.
Interesting to hear one agent’s perspective on Social Media…. I was thinking everyone was all gung ho for FB, blogging and tweeting.
Mahalo and regards,
I do think agents vary on this. Some are more gung ho, all out; and others are for do what works for you but the book really is most important. Personally, I land somewhere in between. I agree that without a terrific book and the next terrific book, social media is just social media!
This was such a great interview. Joan’s advice about starting a new project is so timely for me because I’ve been falling into the just revising mode for too long. Thanks for all the tips.
Thanks for this great interview! Joan’s take on social media is interesting. I love what she said about the most important thing authors can do is to write. What a great motivator!
What a wonderful interview. Joan’s advice about revising and starting a new project struck a chord with me. Thanks Joan and Laura.
Love hearing this perspective. Lately, it seems all you hear is how hard writers must push themselves to be EVERYTHING, and when you’re trying to fit the writing, itself, into an impossible schedule, all that “everything” looks daunting.
Enjoyed your interview! I think you’re right that all social media avenues aren’t for every author. I know a lot of very successful ones who do not blog or tweet either.
I agree. There’s always that manuscript that we spend too much time on, when we should be writing something new too! Esp. that first manuscript where writers tend to spend like 3 years on it! I am completely guilty of this! But no more!
It’s really hard to find a balance between Social Networking (re: procrastination) and writing. At least for me =). It’s very easy to let the call of the SN wild distract from the concentration needed to write.
Ammi-Joan, love your answer on branding. Sometimes I wonder if fixating on branding robs a writer of stretching those other unique voices rolling around in their creative minds. Thanks to you both for the interview.
Joan’s book looks adorable. I’ll have to look for it. Her point about networking really rings true to me–whether it’s online or in person–networking needs to be authentic.
Great interview, Laura!
Love this interview. Love what the author had to say about networking and reading widely.
And PARADOX definitely is a book I would love to read…
Ammi sounds like such a powerhouse, what with writing and publishing and agenting. Thanks for the interview!
What a terrific post! I agree about trying new ideas and letting go of some of our old manuscripts. I always have a new idea to work on, but if I feel like returning to an old ms, I do. 🙂
Great interview, Laura! I enjoyed hearing Ammi Joan Paquette’s thoughts on writing and improving.
Great interview! Love the positive view. I agree-I think authors need to focus on writing–and writing what moves them–less than marketing and branding. That fairy book looks adorable!
Left you a ‘Lovely Award’ at my site. Go check it out, if you like.
Great interview!! Love the advice. It’s nice to know that an author can do what makes them comfortable and not have to shimmy into a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Awesome words from an awesome agent! I especially love the social media advice to be ourselves – trying to do too much can eat deeply into writing time. And I love the encouragement to focus on what will last! Thank you Joan and Laura!
To me it’s above all about authenticity and being who you are as a person and as an author.
Love this. And I love that Ami writes in so many “genres” if that’s the right word for the MG/YA/PB diversity so many of my writer friends are choosing.
Being authentic can’t go wrong! And I love the advice to read often & widely – I think that’s so important too. 🙂
It was great to read these answers! Fabulous post.
Great interview and insight. You’ve accomplished so much! Authentic is exactly what we should all strive for. If we try doing things in a way that doesn’t flow with who we are, it’ll show in time.
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
Great interview! I like her advice about the author doing the kind of promotion that feels right for them…forcing it doesn’t work.
these are such great tips! Thanks, Ammi and Laura! And yep, the writing’s the thing. :o) Best~