Author, Editor, Publisher and Change Agent: Interview with Author Brooke Warner
Brooke Warner is on a mission to help authors become savvy at all stages of book development—from idea generation to publication. Brooke is a founder of Warner Coaching Inc., and the newly minted She Writes Press. She is a former Executive Editor of Seal Press (a groundbreaking press that publishes the diverse voices and interests of women).
I met Brooke through She Writes, an online community for aspiring and distinguished women writers. Brooke is a frequent contributor on She Writes and I quickly learned what most writers do about her. She’s thoughtful, honest, deliberative, positive and supportive (even when delivering challenging updates about the publishing world). And as an insider in the world of publishing, she brings a wealth of expertise to She Writes discussions.
When I discovered she was writing a book geared toward aspiring authors, I knew that I wanted to invite her to share her wisdom with this audience. I am grateful for all Brooke does to make the publishing world seem a little less mysterious and daunting to aspiring writers.
1) Tell us about your new book, What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author. What sparked your interest in writing this type of nonfiction book?
I have been working in the book publishing industry for the past thirteen years. I just left my position as Executive Editor of Seal Press in late April. I realized that I not only needed, but wanted, to experience firsthand what my authors were going through. I also felt I had some progressive, supportive, and optimistic things to say about publishing in this new era of publishing. My coaching is a blend of heavy-duty support, discipline, and honest critique, and I decided it was time to try to put down in writing some of the ideas and strategies I’ve been teaching aspiring writers since I started coaching in 2007. Also, publishing is changing so much all the time, and it’s changed drastically since I started in 2000. I think a lot of people are confused by the options, or don’t really understand how publishing works, so my book offers insight and good advice about approaching publishing in what I call this new publishing frontier.
2) You made a public commitment to write your book by a certain date and asked your reading public to hold you accountable. How did making that commitment support you in the completion of the book?
It was huge! The reason I did this at first was because I was going to be launching a class with my colleague, Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, called “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” We conceived of it late last year and I decided I wanted to give it a go, to see how hard it would be to write my own book in six months. As a coach, I know that at least half the value of what I offer is giving my writers accountability, so I knew I needed that too. Plus I wanted to give my clients and people I’m connected to through social media a chance to be engaged in my process. It was fantastic, and fantastically challenging! I’m really excited about our first memoir class, too, now that I’ve been through the six-month challenge and have a sense of what it takes to really do it.
3) You’ve been an acquisitions editor and been in publishing for a long time. You’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes sweeping across the industry. What’s one thing every aspiring author needs to know about the new publishing terrain?
The biggest and hardest thing to come to terms with is the importance of platform to industry professionals. This, in my opinion, has been the single biggest change (other than technology) that has happened during my time in book publishing. When I first started platform didn’t look like it does today, and in part technology is the reason. Writers are expected to have well-trafficked blogs and lots of followers on social media. In order to get a book deal, the marketing and publicity the author brings to the table, sometimes before the book is even complete, plays a big role. So I’m always reminding the writers I work with, as they’re toiling away on their projects, that they need to be tending to their platform. As an editor at Seal I rejected plenty of good projects from authors who didn’t have a platform, so it’s a really important component now of traditional publishing. On the other hand, I will say that self-publishing has never been more exciting or more accepted, so the upshot here is that while traditional publishing’s barriers are getting higher and more impenetrable all the time, self-publishing is looking more attractive and interesting with each passing month.
4) Let’s imagine that you were hosting a magnificent dinner party and got to invite three well-known writers. Who would you choose and why?
First is Toni Morrison, hands down. I’ve read every book she’s written. She’s the single most influential writer in my life because she touched me at a really critical time in my intellectual development. I have to credit her for my love of good writing. I would choose Stephen King because I think he has a brilliant mind. I liked his books when I was younger, but I like that he’s a writer who thinks about writing and imparts his experience and wisdom to aspiring writers. Finally, I would invite Caroline Knapp (assuming we can suspend disbelief here and invite someone who’s no longer with us). I would invite her because I would want a memoirist in the group and for me she’s a memoirist who embodied the skills I’m trying to teach my memoirists. She was transparent, honest, vulnerable, and relatable. Her books are about her, but they are without fail about everywoman.
5) Besides promoting your current book, what’s next for you?
The biggest thing on my plate right now is growing She Writes Press, my new self-publishing venture with SheWrites.com founder Kamy Wicoff. We launched the press at the end of June, on the third anniversary of She Writes. To date we’ve received 52 submissions and we have thirteen books in the production process for our pilot program. This has been a really exciting endeavor, and my own book is the first book to be published by She Writes Press. I will never stop supporting traditional publishing, but I have strong reasons for having wanted to self-publish, which I discuss in my book. So I’m thrilled to be partnering with Kamy in this way and to continue to support women writers, which was something that brought me a lot of fulfillment in my role at Seal Press as well.
6) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?
Tough question. There are a lot of tips depending on what a writer’s particular struggle is, but I think the number one tip is to be self-protective with your writing life. Sometimes this means guarding yourself against others and their feedback and opinions, whether you’re at the early stages or shopping your book. But sometimes this means guarding yourself against your own inner critics, the ones who tell you to give up, who makes excuses for why you should write later, who insist that it’s going to be embarrassing to have your work out in the world. Even doing a how-to book I found the inner critic to be a formidable foe! I had to find ways to work through that, and to allow the process to be fun and sacred and to not always feel like something scary or a burden. Writing opens you up in unimaginable ways, and when our hearts are open, they’re sometimes a little raw. So protect and persevere!
Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.
Find Brooke online:
To purchase Brooke’s book: http://warnercoaching.com/order-wyb/
(Photo credit Jen Molander Photography)