I recently read her book, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, loved it, and thought I'd ask her to share her journey to publication with us.
She graciously agreed!
Becca: Can you please tell us about your road to publication? How did you meet your agent?
Lisa: I met my agent while I was working at another literary agency; she and I sat on a panel together at a conference in Toronto. At the time, I hadn't really had any ideas about writing books in the near future. Then, later on while I was in school getting my MFA and was working on my first book Simple Wishes, I got to thinking of her again and thought she would like it.
She didn't accept the book right away--she asked for some pretty significant revisions. Her critique was dead on, and I find myself thankful for her excellent editorial advice again and again. Once we sent Simple Wishes out, we got the first offer in less then two weeks and a second offer just a few days after that. I always thought I'd be the type who would take the news with cool aplomb, but instead I screamed like a little kid on the Fourth of July!
Becca: I would definitely have screamed, too :)! Did you ever think about giving up along the way? If so, what kept you going?
Lisa: Oh yes. A hundred times. A thousand. Sometimes I still flirt with the idea (a writer's life is never easy), but the fact is I know I never ever will quit. Writing is a fundamental instinct. I'm ALWAYS writing. So what keeps me going is mostly the fact that there are no other options that will work for me. When there's no plan B, plan A can't be allowed to fail.
Becca: I love that philosophy!
I'm a fan of your blog, and follow you on Twitter as well. Can you tell us about what you did to promote the launch of your book? How much social networking do you do? Any advice for newbie authors on building a readership?
Lisa: Promoting my second book, It Happened One Night, has proven to be a bit easier than promoting the first book, Simple Wishes. I'd say I do middle of the road social networking. Some do more than me, others do much less.
My favorite social networking tool is easily Twitter because it's so easy to meet new people who are into the same things. Twitter-folk are there because they want to talk to and meet new people (strangers), while Facebookers tend to be a bit more private. There are lots of people who tell me "I don't get Twitter," and all I can say is that I didn't either, at first. But there is something special about it as a networking tool, and the advice I would give to people who don't get it is "Start getting it." Read up. Learn. Push yourself. There's a reason everyone is saying how awesome Twitter is.
Becca: That’s so true. I didn’t get Twitter at first, either, but now I’m officially addicted :). Can you tell us what it's like to work with an editor and go through the revisions process? Is there anything that surprised you when you first sold Simple Wishes that you'd wish you'd known as a newbie?
Lisa: Revisions take a lot of patience and humility--when you work with an editor it's no longer about writing to please yourself. It's about writing to meet another person's requests. That's kind of a hurdle to get around. As to the second part of your question--what surprised me--I wasn't prepared for how nervous I would be to learn that the book would come out. I was excited, sure. But I was also scared out of my mind. With the second book the jitters calmed down a bit and I had a lot more fun.
Becca: I’d never thought about being nervous when your book is actually coming out! I’m loving the insight here ;).
That's fascinating that you worked in a literary agency before getting published. Did anything in that experience give you a leg up when you first reached out to your agent? Any query advice for us?
Lisa: Well, I don't want to overstate my role at the agency--I was an intern then a junior agent. Actually, I wasn't really able to write well while I was working at the agency because I was so overwhelmed by technique, rules, marketing, etc. It wasn't until I left that I could "hear" the sound of my own writing voice again.
As for query advice, the best advice I can give is to just be quietly confident in your query letters. If you know your stuff, it will show without your needing to flaunt your knowledge. The biggest mistake I've seen in the eight or ten thousand query letters I've read is "trying too hard."
Becca: Did you find writing It Happened One Night easier or more difficult than your first book? What's it like working under a deadline for a publisher?
Lisa: I have a feeling that every book is going to prove difficult in its own unique way--and that's how I like it. If I started getting too good at what I was doing--if the stories came too easily--I'd probably suspect myself of relying too much on formula and losing my passion for what I'm doing. As for working under deadline, it hasn't proved to be a problem--knock on wood!
Becca: Good point! Sometimes the effort is what makes it fun, as well.
Lastly, if you could go back in time and give Past Lisa any advice, what would it be? Are there any pearls of wisdom you've gained through experience that you'd want to share with yourself?
Lisa: I love that you said "Past Lisa." I say "Past Lisa" and "Future Lisa" to myself all the time. :-) If I could go back and tell myself something, it would be to stay positive and also to go more slowly. To listen harder to the quietest part of my own voice and to hold on to that whisper even when everything else in life gets loud. It's easy to get distracted and sidetracked--but then again, I don't know. Maybe that's part of it, too--all the detours on the way to finding the right path.
So much for my sage wisdom. Obviously, I'm still learning as I go!
A big THANK YOU to Lisa Dale for sharing her insight with us :).