ADAM: First off, I’m sure you’ve answered this 10,000 times since the company’s inception, but could you detail what exactly a literary development company is and how it differs from a literary agency and publisher?
LEXA: Sure! PLL is a small creative group of “story architects”—editors trained in the mechanics of concept, character, voice, and plot—who work closely with writers to develop ideas. Our primary business model starts out with PLL developing a big exciting concept, then collaborating with a writer to turn it into a book. However, our approach varies depending on whether we’re working with debut or established authors, and whether we’re aiming to sell the project to a traditional publishing house or publish it ourselves as an e-book first on our new imprint, The Studio.
ADAM: How does PLL go about selecting writers?
LEXA: We have a very straightforward and simple auditioning process for our concepts, but many of our collaborations also arise organically, based on connecting with writers whose voices we admire. While we started out primarily as a destination for new writers, we’re now collaborating more and more often with experienced authors as well.
ADAM: Back in March PLL launched The Studio, an innovative e-first imprint. By publishing e-first has this allowed you to take chances that might be too risky for traditional pub? And what kind of support can writers expect from PLL if selected as a writer?
LEXA: The Studio is definitely a place where PLL can experiment, play, bend genre and explore new niches. That said, we’re always looking to reach a broad audience with our projects, sometimes it’s just a matter of deciding what pool of readers might be the first to take notice and celebrate the book. For Studio titles, PLL produces the book, from cover and interior designs to editing and proofreading, to pricing and publishing strategy, to pre- and post-pub promotion. We’ve done some really fun campaigns and are very excited for the publication of this season’s headliner, ETERNAL NIGHT by Carina Adly MacKenzie, which comes out later this month. Carina is a writer on the hit TV show The Originals; she’s a phenomenally talented first-time novelist and the book is epic, romantic, and pulse-pounding. Part of the reason we’re excited to publish her first on the Studio is that we believe that both adults and young adults will be drawn to this title; she, like us, is interested in reaching readers in the most dynamic ways.
ADAM: How did you juggle writing your YA debut, PROOF OF FOREVER, while running PLL? And what inspired the book?
LEXA: I’ve always worn multiple hats; prior to selling PROOF OF FOREVER, I wrote a book of poems, ACQUAINTED WITH THE COLD, which came out in 2012, and I’m now writing a second collection in addition to a second novel. My business partner Lauren Oliver and I both like to stay creatively challenged and invigorated; we believe this makes for stronger and more rewarding work across the board. I knew for a long time that I wanted to write a novel for teens, but I kept putting it off. When I finally felt ready, PROOF OF FOREVER came together really quickly—I wrote the proposal (about 80 pages) in ten days. The book has a number of inspirations. At Paper Lantern Lit, we’d been discussing developing a project about four friends receiving a second chance at the summer of a lifetime, but we’d been stuck on the how, where, when, and most importantly, the who. My mom got a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire that used to be a girls’ camp; I went up there to write, and the characters really began to speak to me—so much so that I knew this couldn’t be a project for another writer—it had to be my own.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Lexa! I’m looking forward to PROOF OF FOREVER, ETERNAL NIGHT, and future PLL projects.
PubCrawl readers, Paper Lantern Lit is generously giving away a e-copy of ETERNAL NIGHT to one lucky winner. Leave a comment below and one winner will be randomly selected on Friday!
LEXA HILLYER is the co-founder of literary incubator Paper Lantern Lit and the author of Proof of Forever, forthcoming from HarperCollins in June 2015. Before PLL, she edited numerous bestselling YA authors, first at HarperCollins and then at Penguin. Lexa is also an award-winning poet: her first collection, Acquainted with the Cold won the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize as well as the 2012 Book of the Year Award. Her poetry has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2012, and has recently appeared in several journals. She’s currently working on her second collection of poetry, and her second YA novel. She lives in Carroll Gardens with her extremely loveable husband and a very skinny orange tree. Twitter: @Lexa_Hillyer