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Leonicka Valcius

Leonicka Valcius: June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ARCs are no fun

Whenever I mention how badly I want to read Throne of Glass, someone immediately points me to NetGalley to request an advance copy. But I don’t want an ARC. I’m more than happy to wait for the book to come out. 

Receiving ARCs feels like being part of a secret club. You get early access to exclusive content and you have to be “chosen” to receive them. Of course I was enamored with the idea when I first learned about it—who doesn’t like being special?  But after being in the club for a while, I found that ARCs aren’t as fun as I expected.

As a blogger:
ARCs are incredibly expensive to make and are part of the marketing and publicity plan of the book. When a publisher sends them out they are expecting something in return, an ROI so to speak. Maybe it’s because I’m in the industry. Maybe it’s because I have seen a profit and loss chart and a marketing budget. For whatever reason, I am really self-conscious about being a loss to the publisher. I’m not the book editor at a major magazine. Even by blogging standards my stats are negligible.  So whenever I get an ARC I try to go above and beyond to promote it. It’s exhausting and it’s a lot of (self-inflicted?) pressure. I tweet as much as I can, I share info about the author/publisher on Facebook, and write fun, unique reviews*.  Luckily, I have not read an ARC that I disliked. What a nightmare it would be if I did! I am fueled by passion so I usually only review books I love or hate. My review of a mediocre book would be awful: “I got this book for free. It was okay, I guess.  I give it 3 stars. Read it if you want.” 

My blog is supposed to be a hobby not a chore, a respite not a responsibility.  Sometimes the ARCs are more hassle than they’re worth, for both parties. Has anyone ever bought a book because of my blog posts? I’m not sure. I probably would be more useful to the publisher if I just bought the book.

*Some bloggers have an “I’m not obligated to review every book I receive” policy, but I don’t. I find it a bit disingenuous since (unless you’re a really big deal) free books don’t just show up on your doorstep without your approval. Not writing a review is akin to not holding up your end of the deal.

As a reader:
Reading ARCs is lonely. The problem with exclusive content is that it’s exclusive. What’s the fun in reading a great book if you no one else can gush over it with you? I can’t be the only one who likes to discuss the books I read. (If I were there would not be book clubs.) You can’t really do that with an ARC. All you can say is “You’re gonna love this!” Well, that’s not true. You can post small quotes out of contexts but publishers may not like that and it just confuses everyone who hasn’t read the book. You can also try to gush with the author (via Twitter or Facebook. Yay technology!) but they have a totally different relationship with the book so the fellowship is not the same. So in the end you’re left all alone, twiddling your thumbs, trying not to post spoilers, all while wanting scream, “I wanna share mah feels! Why haven’t you read this book yet?!” Oh yeah. It doesn’t come out for another six months. Womp womp womp.

When Throne of Glass is finally on sale, I will go to a bookstore and buy it. If I love it as much as I think I will, I’ll write a blog post about it. Not because I feel indebted to the publisher, but because I want to share my passion with others. Then I will go on Tumblr and Facebook and everywhere else that fans congregate and we’ll use caps and exclamation points to discuss the merits of the book. And it will be awesome. No ARCs involved.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with Tanis Rideout

Climbing to New Heights: Tanis Rideout discusses her debut novel Above All Things

(This article first appeared in On the Danforth magazine, Summer 2012)

Better known for her poetry, Danforth writer Tanis Rideout is making her prose debut with her novel Above All Things. The protagonist is what Rideout calls, “the last great British gentleman explorer.” In 1924, George Mallory and his team departed on an expedition to climb Mount Everest. By some accounts Mallory reached the summit, but he never came home.
Above All Things has two narratives: the rousing adventure of Mallory's climb and the patient domesticity of his wife. “[It became a] sort of a love triangle between him, the mountain, and his wife,” Rideout explains. The wife's narrative provides the best insight into Mallory's character. Her role helps to show a more personal and intimate side of Mallory and to cut through the hero mythology that surrounds him.

Rideout grappled with the fine line between fact and fiction when she wrote “Arguments with the Lake”, an unpublished collection of poetry about Marilyn Bell's swim across Lake Ontario. “I got an email from her daughter shortly after the poems were on the CBC. That sort of drove that home to me... There's a person out there and I've taken their name and something that they've done and proceeded to use it for my own ends... there is an anxiety and discomfort around that.”

When writing Above All Things, the distance of time makes fictionalizing Mallory easier but she still strives to be true to the character. “What I'm doing is fiction... I don't know these people and I won't know these people so they kind of have to take on their own life and sometimes in order to do that you have to turn toward fiction.”

Rideout's inspiration for Above All Things came when she worked at an outdoor equipment store after she graduated university. One of her co-workers was an Everest fanatic and showed her a video about Mallory's expedition. Rideout was instantly captivated by the physical and obsessive nature of the journey.

“What is it that makes a person do something that extreme and that dangerous and that physically impossible? ...You don't just decide to do it; you have to keep deciding to do it.”

“There's a similar drive around writing,” she added. “You have to be obsessed to bother.” It was that drive that kept Rideout going during the long process of getting Above All Things to the bookstores. After collecting documents and researching Mallory's life, Rideout wrote the first draft over the course of a summer six years ago. Three drafts and several revisions later, McClelland and Stewart picked up the manuscript for publication. With the book set to be in stores in June, Rideout can finally relax. “It's becoming a very real thing now... it's starting to feel like there will be a book as opposed to this stack paper that's been following me around.”

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Writer Asks: How do I get an agent?

I would like to know how one goes about finding an agent to help them to publish a novel as my oldest daughter is currently working on a few novels.

(Please note I am not an agent. This advice comes from my observations while working with and talking to agents.)

The first step is to develop an understanding of the publishing industry and the role agents play.  Learn what agents do and what they don’t do. Know what the standard business practices are and what the new trends are. You certainly don’t have to become an expert but you need to know enough to ask the right questions and make informed business decisions.

Don’t start querying until you are ready. Though many agents will edit for clients, do not expect to get an offer of representation on your rough draft. Make sure your manuscript is complete and thoroughly edited. Get critique partners to review it for you or take it to a writer’s workshop. You only get one first impression so only submit your best work.

Though you should query as many agents as you can, it is unwise to simply blanket the industry. Once again, research is key. Look up the agent’s current list and sales history to get a sense of the work they do. Then prepare your query. There is no perfect query letter but you can find plenty of templates online. The most effective ones I have seen include the word count, genre and/or intended audience, a synopsis, and a bio. Pay careful attention to the agent’s submission guidelines and follow them.

This is a long process. Be patient. Be persistent. Keep writing.

Before accepting representation think carefully. Are you comfortable with the terms of the contract? Are you comfortable having a close business relationship with this person? If you are unsure about something, ask. Make sure you get the best agent for you.

Hope that helps!

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA: Beyond the Blog

I’m not a writer in the strict sense. I’m a communicator; the written word just happens to be the way I choose to maximize my reach. I used to write for school publications, and in the future I may contribute an article to certain media outlets, but as a rule I only write for myself. I have so much to say and I don’t really want to spend time delivering someone else’s message.
So I have no intention to get “beyond the blog” so to speak. My blog is part of my brand; it helps me establish myself in the industry and stay relevant as a publishing professional. Hopefully this blog will become a resource for readers, writers, and other bookish people. 

What kind of info would you like to see an “industry insider” blog about? What else would you want to know about me? Let me know in the comments!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Armchair BEA: Networking—Leonicka does Festival of Trees

Bonus post! Networking is fun for me (under the right circumstances), so I’m happy to share another fabulous industry experience I had last month. Because she is an amazing human being, children’s literary agent Ali McDonald took me to the Forest of Reading Festival of Trees in May.

Oh. Em. Gee. Thousands of kids running around along the harbour screaming out of excitement for books. It was a beautiful sight. 

It was a little rainy in the morning so Ali and I had to huddle under umbrellas and awnings to stay dry as kids introduced the authors of their favorite books and explained why they wanted that book to win. I could always tell which book would win by how ear-splitting the cheers were. “Is that book good?” I asked the little girl behind me. “Yeah! You should read it. Even if you’re a grown up.” A glowing endorsement if I ever heard one. 

Between award presentations, Ali and I had lunch. Strengthening old relationships is as critical as forming new ones, y’all. I don’t even remember what we talked about but after several of these one-on-one chats, I totally feel comfortable asking her for professional advice. It’s great to have a mentor. It’s better to have several.  

Other highlights of the day included a lovely talk with Kari-Lynn Winters, a prolific children’s book author; a visit with Angela Wood, one of the founding members of Kids Can Press; and the best party ever at Groundwood Books.

Overall  it not only a fantastic day for making contacts but an eye-opening one in terms of my career path. I had always considered children’s publishing  a completely different realm that I could never understand. I was wrong. It is a different world but I could see myself thriving in it! I am now 100% sure that my career will include children’s books one way or another. Not bad for one day of networking, am I right?

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