As some of you know, for the past year I’ve been running a series of interviews with debut novelists — usually one a week, published on Mondays, always the same five questions. Today marks the 50th interview — a short and sweet one with Barrie Summy on her book, I So Don’t Do Mysteries. It’s also the last.
To bring the seires to a close, I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts on running the blog — and of course, I had to do it as a series of five questions. Here you go:
1. Why are you stopping the interviews? Don’t you realize millions of people eagerly await each one of these installments? What, has New York suddenly stopped publishing debut novelists?
Nope. There are thousands of debut novelists published each year by the major publishers alone, and despite all the gloomy economic predictions, very little sign of this changing any time soon. However, as much as I tried to make The First Book Blog as simple as possible to run — only one interview a week, the same five questions — it still takes time, especially hunting for those first-time novelists. From the beginning, I wanted to run interviews with novelists publishing with major NY presses, with a few quality small presses thrown in for good measure, and I think I succeeded in doing that. But this was never meant as a permanent project — just something fun to do to pay it forward a little and meet some new writers. And the blog will remain in existence, of course, even if I’m not posting fresh interviews any more.
2. All right, I suppose we can live with that. Tell us, what did you learn from all these interviews? Are writers nutcases?
Well, that’s a given, of course — I mean, you’ve got to be at least a bit screwy to spend all that time alone banging on a keyboard when you could be watching, I don’t know, reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. But what was really interesting to me were how different the paths were that writers took to publication. Some wrote for years and years, and after hundreds of rejections and lots of heartache, eventually sold their twelfth of thirteenth novel. A few sold their first books. Some writers endlessly revise; others clean up the typos, run a spell check, and call it good. A few writers won contests, and many, many others went the traditional route of writing a good query, getting an agent to ask for the book, landing representation, and eventually selling their manuscripts to a publisher.
What do they have in common? Well, one, they didn’t stop, whether they wrote one book or twenty. And two, they dared to put it out in front of people who could pay them money for it. Other than that, not much. Writers are as different as everybody else. Some write in the morning, others at night. Some have families, others are single. If you are an aspiring writer looking for the one true path to publishing gold, you’re not going to find it here. Other than what I already mentioned: you write stuff, keep sending it to people who might pay you money for it, and you keep doing it — whether for weeks or years — until it works. However, the writers who found early success, without years of practice, were certainly the exception.
3. What kind of traffic did these interviews get?
Well, that’s hard to say, exactly, because the older ones are obviously more read than the newer ones. But in general, I’d say 500-1000 unique readers the week they run, with a bit more trickling in over time. Not exactly the Drudge Report, but hey, every little bit helps up-and-coming writers. There are two, however, that got a lot more traffic as all the rest — Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Claudia Gray’s Evernight. They were bestsellers, of course, so you might expect that, but they weren’t the only bestsellers on there. I think it’s a combination of them being both popular books and that they were geared to a very “wired” audience. Jay’s book was almost double Claudia’s, so there’s obviously something extra special there — it’s really resonating with people who are compelled to seek out more information about him.
4. So what about your own interview? Don’t you have a book coming out in the near future?
Well, sure, but you’re going to have to wait. The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys is indeed my first book, but it’s publication date is still more than a year off, and one of the few rules I had with the blog was that the book had to be either out or coming out within a week or two. But in the meantime, I’ve got plenty of other work to do. You know, write fiction and stuff. I don’t spend all my time doing interviews with myself.
5. Okay, smart alec, one final question. So after all those interviews, did you find out if there is truly a correlation between cat ownership and writing success?
Sadly, for all your cat lovers out there, no. I’m not even sure cat ownership crossed the fifty percent threshold, and I’m not quite enough of a nerd (almost, but not quite) to go find out. However, almost everybody had a pet of some kind. Me, I’ve got two cats and a dog, so I keep my bases covered.
Great questions by the way. Now I need to go watch a Charlie Kaufman film to clear my head.
Thanks again to all the writers out there, and good luck with all of your books!