I admit, it took some work to get this fox out of her den. But today, we’ve managed to land an interview with Adele Wearing, hetwoman* of Fox Spirit Books. Fresh off the release of their new anthology Piracy, Adele is here today to discuss some tips and details from the angle of a publisher.
He2etic: I usually start with a qualifier. Can you tell us how many years experience you’ve had, what you’ve published and what publishing companies/free lance work you’ve done?
Adele: Ah, the CV.
Okay, let’s be honest. The reason the people who like me, like me is because I can easily be persuaded to jump feet first into something I have no knowledge about just for fun. So I started Fox Spirit last May with the following credentials… I am a professional project manager, I ran a review website successfully for about four years, and I really, really, really like books and stuff.
When you work in project management, you learn that the secret of doing something well is often finding the right people to do stuff that you can’t do and then we all, you know, do stuff. All the books are listed on the website, but we’ve published novels, novellas, anthologies and one non-fiction in our first year.
“How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?”
He2etic: What are story ideas that are just too common? Stuff that, even if well written, is pending rejecting just because it’s overdone?
Adele: None. Seriously, what’s original anymore? It’s all about a new twist or a new voice. Zombies have been done to rotting corpsified death? Not so much. In Oasis, Joan De La Haye finds a new perspective and freshens it up.
He2etic: What’s your opinion on the value of literary clichés versus something that’s too original (ie, kind of out there)? Any advice on striking a balance?
Adele: Fox Spirit is all about what’s a little unusual. I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘too out there’ but at the end of the day, you will always be dealing with someone else’s taste and preferences. I am not going to publish a story I don’t enjoy. How can I stand in front of a buyer and say ‘I am proud of this book, I believe in this story’ if at the back of my mind I know it didn’t entertain me?
A commissioning editor at the big five will have to stand up for a book in front of the marketing department and sell the book to them before they will even consider trying to sell it to the public. All I can tell you is any editor, even one who has the freedom to publish whatever they want, should be asking themselves ‘Could I argue for this book/story/author if I had to?’
“Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.”
My advice to everyone is keep writing what you want to write, keep honing your work and keep pitching. If you are good AND lucky (no doubt timing and luck have their part to play), you will get picked up.
If not, you might still get valuable feedback. If you decide to self publish, use an editor who doesn’t care if they hurt your feelings and make sure you get the story as good as you can.
He2etic: What’s the single biggest mistake most budding authors make in your opinion?
Adele: Hmm, my advice. Certainly not the first to say it and I won’t be the last. Don’t be an ass. Be respectful, follow the submission guidelines. If a publisher says they don’t publish X or they only want Y, you are not the exception to that. It’s really that simple.
Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business. If you turned up anywhere else and asked for a job that wasn’t being advertised and wasn’t needed, you’d get no where. Which actually leads on to another point. Your query letter is a job application, treat it seriously.
The very lovely Jon Weir once made this point about reviewers, when you are asking a publisher to send you free stuff on the off-chance you like it and get around to telling people you have to give them a bit of background.
As a reviewer, I sent proper formal printed letters to publishers to ask to be on their lists. I treated it like a covering letter and CV. As a writer you should take your approach no less seriously. In fact somewhere in UBVE#1, Lee Harris covers query letters and how not to do it.
“Your manuscript may be ten years of your work, the bearing of your soul, the greatest thing ever written, but while writing is a creative act, publishing is a business.”
He2etic: Some of our readers are actually working on their first novel. Do you have any advice to offer them?
Adele: Hmm, I’m sure my writers would have better advice than I do, but from what I understand the best process is along the lines of: Write it, finish it, put it aside. Read it again. Edit it again. Send it to someone who is willing to be rude to your face, edit it again.
Then put it aside and start another one. Chances are when you’ve been through that process with the second one, you go back to the first you’ll be glad you didn’t send it out. Of course all this is based on what I hear from the author side of things.
He2etic: What are your favourite stories from Fox Spirit?
Adele: Oh, it’s a total cop out I know, but I love them all. I feel emotionally invested in everything I publish so I really can’t pick. Sorry. I love the variety we’ve done and the fun we’ve all had. 🙂
He2etic: Finally, any general tips or suggestions for getting ahead?
Adele: Ah if I had those, I would be rich. Sorry, it’s hard work, ability and a dose of good luck. 😉
So there you have it folks! And be sure to keep an eye out for the rest of Fox Spirit’s new flash fiction series, Fox Pockets! Coming over the next few months, and available on Lulu.