Thanks, Publishing Crawl for hosting our final post in the Behind the Page series! We loved reading these questions and hopefully provided satisfactory answers. You can always ask us more questions on Twitter @Paperlanternlit, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. What social media advice would you give to a non-published author who’s in the process of finishing her first novel?
First, I want to commend you for already thinking about your social media strategy before you’ve started the process of querying and publishing your book—it’s never too early to get a jump on the game!
My advice would be to think strategically about social media: what platforms and processes will allow you to a) reach the most readers without b) uprooting your entire life? Think about your schedule, obligations, and priorities: what is most important to you about social media. Don’t over extend yourself. What do you want to communicate? If it’s blogging about your writing process, create a schedule and stick to it. If it’s sharing photos and behind-the-scenes snapshots into your life as a writer, take an Instagram course about how best to position and filter your photos. If it’s connecting with other writers and forming friendships, Tumblr and Twitter might be the place for you to communicate directly with people in your community. But most importantly: do not try to perfect all of them at once! Pick one, get really good at it, and make sure you highlight your success on that platform when you query agents. Good luck!
2. Can you speak to how your writers have gotten excited about your ideas?
The most important element of our process is finding a writer that gets jazzed about the material; the world, the characters, the conflict, everything has to speak to them in an authentic way. That can happen in a number of different ways. Eleanor Herman, author of LEGACY OF KINGS, was already a historian when she started writing this YA series…but it was her first time actually creating characters from scratch, as most of the other people she’d written about before actually existed! We really saw her shine and have a lot of fun building the quirks and emotional lives of made-up people. Julie Leung, author of MICE OF THE ROUND TABLE, an upcoming middle-grade fantasy series, was a huge Redwall fan before signing on to this project, so any opportunity to write about forest creatures and mice made her really excited! Just because the ideas originate with us doesn’t mean that we don’t want our authors to connect to the story and have fun writing it—that’s what really gives the book life.
3. Do writers get to shop from your list of plots?
There’s no database of “plots” that we have on file. We brainstorm stories organically, as ideas come to us, and search for writers on a project-by-project basis. We also don’t usually generate projects “for” specific writers. That said, we are always open to working with writers who approach us and are interested in our business model—if we have a project in development that we think will fit with your style and interests!
4. Have you ever found that your chosen author already had characters or concepts weirdly and coincidentally overlay with your developed plots?
This phenomenon is pretty popular. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it in her book BIG MAGIC: that many people can actually come up with the same story, at different times, in different places. That’s because, when you think about it, there actually is a finite number of permutations that stories can take, at their “blueprint” level. For example: Girl meets Boy. Girl and Boy hate one another. Girl and Boy eventually get along. That would be just one example of a common story thread you see over and over again, interpreted by other writers. We’ve never actually found that our authors already had WIP’S exactly like the books they are writing for us, but interests certainly do overlap! M.E. Castle, author of the Clone Chronicles series (and the forthcoming FAKESPEARE) is super interested in sci-fi, space, and robots—which was why it made perfect sense to us that he be the one to bring Popular Clone to life!
5. How do you choose your writers?
Unfortunately, there’s no standard formula or equation I can give you, because the process is different for every project! However, in general, we audition multiple writers for each project, searching for things such as:
- Do they take risks, and do those risks pay off?
- Is the tone consistent with what we’ve asked for in the spark?
- What is their command of language like? Do they have proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure?
Once we review auditions, we look at the author as a whole: do they have a social media platform? Are they engaged in the publishing community? Do they have an agent? None of these things are automatic yes’s or no’s, but we like to get a sense of authors and their commitment to the craft—because once we sign a contract with them, we are committed to making them a success. Then, after reviewing the samples and discussing our needs for the project, we hopefully find a writer!
6. Do publishers still have ‘wish lists’ and their own content ideas for you to work with?
Plenty of publishers have their own IP (Intellectual Property) that they produce in-house, without the assistance of a packager. In general, we don’t work with publisher IP. However, there are times that an Editor will approach us looking for Concept X, and if we are excited about that concept and think we can bring it to life with trademark PLL flare, then we’ll pursue it!
7. Do you partner with overseas creators?
Absolutely. Thanks to technology today, it’s really easy to get in touch even if there’s a time difference. If you live in another country, don’t be discouraged! Plenty of authors active in the American YA community are actually from overseas.
TARA SONIN is the Marketing Manager for Paper Lantern Lit. She received her B.A. in Theater and English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Barnard College, Columbia University. Tara recaps The Vampire Diaries for Vulture Magazine and writes romance under the name Taryn Scarlett. When not dreaming up catchy marketing campaigns and reading all the books she can get her hands on, Tara is usually found in Zumba classes or singing an eclectic repertoire of show tunes.