Diva Interview: Author C.L. Parker
I asked my dear friend, author C. L. Parker, to talk to us today about the her journey from small market publishing to The Bix Six. If you’re not aware of The Big Six they are generally referred to: Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, MacMillion Publishers, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, and Random House. Only now it seems The Big Six should be renamed with the merger of Penguin and Random House. Not to get off topic, each of these highly esteemed publishing houses have smaller presses or imprints which operate under the larger companies name. This is where C.L. landed a contract for her former fan fiction, Million Dollar Baby, with Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House. C.L., the author of The Supernova Series and the hugely popular Million Dollar Duet Series has some sage advice to share for any fledgling author wanting to break into the traditional route of the publishing business.
- What were the steps you took to get noticed by one of The Big Six? What was your initial reaction when you found out you were being signed by Bantam, a division of Random House Publishing?
Networking is VERY important to this business for the simple fact that we, as writers, don’t go to a place where we’re surrounded by other writers on a daily basis like most employees. Networking and making friends in the literary community not only helps keep us sane, but it also lends a helping hand. In my case, a NYT bestselling author (Darynda Jones – Charley Davidson series) just happened to pick up one of my books, loved my writing style, befriended me, and essentially became my mentor for the big league. When I’d told her of my plans to self-publish the Million Dollar Duet, she asked me to at least let her see if her agent wanted to take a look at it. I agreed.
That night, I saw a tweet by Alexandra Machinist (my agent) of Janklow & Nesbit (a cream of the crop literary agency based out of NYC) about the manuscript she was reading, which I knew at the time was mine. The next morning, I got THE E-MAIL… that one all aspiring authors dream of getting. In less than two weeks, I got THE PHONE CALL… there simply is no other way of putting that one. Random House wanted me. RANDOM HOUSE WANTED ME!! I was in shock for I don’t know how long.
Honestly, I’d planned to act like I had it together so I wouldn’t look like an idiot (should I get the call), but it turned out I’d managed to do that through the sheer shock of it all. I was too dumbfounded to squeal and jump around, but I do recall having a serious case of the shakes… and needing to sit down… and then needing to lie down… on the floor because it was cooler there and it only moved if I closed my eyes.
- Have you found you like the editing process better with a bigger publishing house than the smaller house that edited your Supernova Series? (Don’t worry about being honest since I was your editor. LOL)
I do, actually. There is no confusion as to who does what. Everyone’s responsibility is very clear. My editor, Shauna Summers, is my partner. I’m dealing with her, and only her, if I have questions or want to discuss plot. Regarding the manuscript, there is the paper copy for any light grammatical changes and story revisions, and then there is the digital copy that has been marked by the copy editor, and then another paper copy for the proofs. In the smaller house, everything was done on one document, which I found to be somewhat confusing.
- What difference in marketing and promotion did you find stood out from a small market publisher to a big name publisher?
Whether you’re publishing through a mainstream or small market publisher, you still need to plan on doing a lot of the marketing yourself. No one is going to sell you like you are going to sell you. The difference between mainstream and small presses is that the bigger houses have the ability to get ARCs into the hands of major publications with a wider reach, therefore, putting the book in front of a ton more readers with what you hope will be a positive review. Additionally, larger retail stores are more apt to pick up the book and put on their shelves, and they will do a bit of their own marketing. Either way, the biggest reach is word of mouth. If readers aren’t reviewing and talking about your book, you need to find a way to get them to.
- In your experience does having an literary agent help your chances more or less with getting published. Do you recommend budding young authors to query agents?
Definitely more! Agents have reputations. If an agent is known to shop big sellers, editors are more apt to read what they put in front of them. It’s important to remember that making the sell is how agents and their agency make their money. That whole “we don’t get paid unless you do” is definitely true for agents. So they’ve honed those skills. They’re constantly researching the market to see who’s buying what, they keep up with the current trends while predicting ones on the horizon, and they make an art of knowing which manuscripts are better suited for which houses. Beyond a shadow of doubt, I recommend you do everything you can to land a reputable agent. Also, I’d like to add that even if an agent doesn’t take on your work, most of them will at least give you constructive feedback. Take the notes these experts in their field provide to you and apply them. Don’t think you’ve got it all figured out and they’re all wrong.
- If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different.
No. Publishing with a small house gave me experience. I always knew I’d go small before big because I wanted to be able to learn the business end of things at a pace with which I was comfortable. Would I love for the Supernova Saga to garner the same attention as the Million Dollar Duet? Of course. But I never say never 😉
- What advice can you give new authors trying to break it into publishing?
I’m not sure how to say this without sounding mean. First of all, you need to be certain you have a talent for writing. We’ve all seen the talent shows where there are people who truly think they can sing, but they actually sound like a wounded animal… and no one ever told them the truth. Have avid readers take a look at what you’ve written. Not friends and family, avid readers. They know a good story when they read it. If you pass that test, get an editor! Whether it’s a professional editor or someone you know has an excellent grip on grammar, but with the ability to give way to creative license. Research, research, and research some more to find out what the agents are looking for! You don’t want to query an agent who’s looking for children’s books with your erotic fiction. Lastly, don’t give up. No matter how many soft rejections you receive, if you believe in what you’ve written, keep submitting. Eventually, you’ll find the right fit for you and your story.
- Who or what influences you when writing?
The characters and the scene. When I sit down to write, I’m still, and I close my eyes until I’ve immersed myself into the scene. Slowly, I take a look around me to see what the character sees, smell what they smell, hear what they hear, feel what they feel… and then I write it.
- How much do you love your first editor ever? (I had to stick this question in.)
I big, puffy heart luffs you! You might even say I FLYAS <3 LOL! You always had my back and trusted me with the story and the characters. The biz is stressful enough, so to not have to worry about the integrity of the story was a blessing.
C. L. Parker is a romance author who writes stories that sizzle. She’s a small-town girl with big-city dreams and enough tenacity to see them come to fruition. Having been the outgoing sort for all her life—which translates to “she just wouldn’t shut the hell up”—it’s no wonder Parker eventually turned to writing as a way to let her voice, and those of the people living inside her head, be heard. She loves hard, laughs until it hurts, and lives like there’s no tomorrow. In her world, everything truly does happen for a reason.
C.L. Parker’s titles can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.