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Monday, March 4, 2013

Cora Carmack and Her (Smokin' Hot) Path to Publication

Last fall, Cora Carmack hit the big time with her debut novel LOSING IT. Hers is one of those stories—the sort that give hope to authors everywhere. It proves that good girls (and good guys) win, and they do so by paying attention, taking risks and working hard. Thank you, Cora, for stopping by Query Tracker today to talk about LOSING IT!

Was LOSING IT the first novel you ever wrote?

It wasn’t. I completed one novel before LOSING IT, and started 3 or 4 others. Some of those books (including the unfinished ones), I poured months and years into only to have them go nowhere. Ironically, LOSING IT took three weeks to write, and caused my life to change dramatically almost overnight.

When did you self publish LOSING IT, and how long did it take before you knew you had something big on your hands?

I published the book in Mid-October 2012. And… Um. A day? It hit #1 on B&N a little over 24 hours after it went live. I dared to hope before I published because I got great feedback from the bloggers on the blog tour, but after I published things went incredibly quickly.

I found out it hit the New York Times bestsellers list and the USA Today list about 10 days after I published (the same day I signed with my agent, actually).

Whoa! Okay, let’s back up a minute. I've read that book bloggers were essential to getting your story out into the world, including a cover reveal which involved 30 or so bloggers. How did you get so many bloggers to care about a cover for a book that didn't exist yet? [Note: the answer may well be that it is simply a smokin' hot cover, end of story.]

Bloggers were. Absolutely. But I actually didn’t even show the bloggers the cover before they signed up for the reveal. The YA Sisterhood blog was vital in organizing it. They contacted bloggers that they knew and had worked with in the past with only the story’s blurb, and bloggers signed up based on that.

I've read that you self published this book because you thought New Adult wasn't selling to editors well. That strikes me as a very confident, informed, bold position to take. (And makes such a great story.) My question is, how did you know?

Well, here’s the thing… Cora Carmack is actually my pseudonym. In my real life, I actually work in publishing. When I started writing LOSING IT, I was an intern (at both a publisher and a literary agency), so I was very familiar with the market and the industry. When I decided to self-publish, I actually already had an agent, and we were preparing to go on submission, but at the last minute, I changed my mind.

I just had a gut feeling that self-publishing was the way to go if I ever wanted my book to make it into actual bookstores (which sounds crazy, I know. But I was hoping, desperately that a strong book with the right marketing at the right time could be very successful through self-publishing, and that hope paid off). I split with my agent shortly after that.

But I really didn’t have any inside info. I was just well informed. I read insatiably, was active in the blogging community, and had a publisher’s marketplace subscription. So, I would have to have been blind to not see the connection between bloggers and popular e-books and self-published books being picked up by traditional publishers. I highly encourage writers to treat their writing like a business, not a hobby. That means doing research and being as knowledgeable as possible.

Did you land your agent as a result of your successful sales?

I did, yes. BUT… in addition to my New Adult contemporary writing, I also write Dark YA fantasy, so it was very important to me that whatever agent I signed with was interested in that side of my career as well.

I talked to a lot of agents once the book started doing well. Most contacted me, but I reached out to two or three myself because I wanted to make sure I was making the best possible choice. I ended up signing with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. There were multiple agents that I liked and connected well with, but Suzie actually asked to take a look at one of my YA Fantasy WIPs before she offered. Then when she offered me representation, I knew it was because she believed in both sides of my career. That made the decision pretty easy, and I haven’t regretted it a day since.

Did you have to choose an agent and a publisher almost at the same time? (That would have made for a very stressful week or two.)

Oh, it was definitely a stressful time. There was a one week period where I woke up and went to sleep feeling nauseated for no reason other than stress. When I signed with Suzie, I had interest from a few publishers, but I handed that over to her. She went out on submission very quickly after that. There was a slight delay in the process by Hurricane Sandy, but once New York was back to work, things moved very quickly. We went to auction, and I signed with William Morrow/Harper Collins shortly thereafter.

You can find Cora Carmack at her blog, and her book in bookstores.

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist at Blurb is a Verb. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.


Dahlia Adler said...

Great interview! And I love the way you chose your agent by really taking your entire career into account. I think it's so easy to get sucked in to someone who believes really strongly in one project, but in publishing, you definitely have to fight for every side of yourself sometimes to make things happen the way you really want them to!

Unknown said...

Thank you Dahlia! Choosing an agent is so important. In fact, I think I stressed more over that decision than any other-- including whether or not to self-publish.

Stina said...

I'm so glad to hear you didn't sign with an agent just because she was trolling for best sellers on Amazon. You did all the work. The agent needs to earn your respect.