Sunday, July 24, 2011

Author Interview- Alejandra Aponte

Today, I have on my blog: Alejandra Aponte, a publisher and upcoming author! She is giving us some great tips on publishing and writing in the interview, so here it is!

Tell me a little about yourself. 

My name is Alejandra Aponte, I'm 18 years old, and I'm a writer and publisher. In my spare time I enjoy reading, shopping for books, spending time with my family and friends, and teaching myself new languages. 

What got you started in writing books? 

I've been writing for as long as I can remember; I have stacks of journals from when I was a kid filled with detailed observations of everything going on around me. Also, my family is definitely a "Humanities" family: a lot of us are involved in the arts, so I've always been encouraged to develop my talent.

Did you have any favorite authors as a child that influenced you to begin writing? Do you have any favorite authors now? 

Authors that influenced me as a child include Kay Thompson, author of Eloise; E.L Konisburg, author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew books. Current favorites include Sarah Dessen, John Green, Truman Capote, and Dashiell Hammett. My favorite books include Breakfast at Tiffany'sThe Thin Man, and Will Grayson Will Grayson

When did you know you wanted to become an author/publisher?

I've always loved writing, but I didn't think I could pursue it as a career until I was about fourteen years old. The publisher bit is really recent; I decided on that about four months ago. I've always wanted to be able to help other writers but I never knew how, and now I have the perfect opportunity to help others get their work out there.

What do you recommend to young writers on starting their career in writing? 

My recommendations for young writers:

a. READ A TON. Read anything you can get your hands on. A $2.99 paperback romance novel; historical fiction; science fiction; tedious nonfiction; memoirs; novels for adults; novels for kids; foreign books; genres you love; genres you hate; mysteries; poetry; the classics; books on get the idea. Always be open to reading new genres and styles, because you never know where you might find your niche. Which leads me to my next point:
b. EXPERIMENT OFTEN. Try writing all kinds of stuff. Poems, plays, short stories, haikus, novels...let yourself try it out on paper, even if it feels silly. It's important to experiment because you never know what might be your niche. I never saw myself reading a mystery novel, but I tried it out on paper and ended up loving it. 
c. IT'S A BUSINESS. The publishing industry has some pretty gnarly secrets (case in point: authors at most big publishing houses only get, on average, 10% of their book's profits), and some aspects that are radically unfair (like the part where big houses won't help you with publicity after your first three months there). You have to always keep in mind that writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and if you decide to query a big house like HarperCollins or Simon and Schuster, it's a lot like applying to an Ivy League school: they don't need you, you need them. Sometimes, having a great idea and a brilliant query letter and an intriguing backstory isn't enough. Which leads me to:
d. YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE. Big publishers are usually only looking for one thing: dollars. Will your book sell? Will your book bring in profits? That's why the best way to get a publisher's attention is to prove that your book has marketability and selling potential--and who can do that better than you? You know your book better than anyone else. Sell it like you mean it, take charge of your publicity (get on Twitter, start a Facebook page, talk to book bloggers, etc.), and always speak up. Believe in your book, and believe you have a story worth telling. If you don't believe in your work, why should anyone else?
e. FIND A BALANCE. You have to remember that at the end of the day, you're a writer because you have stories to tell, and words to put on paper, and you're doing this for yourself. Not because you want to make buckets of money or be famous the world over. Yes, there's a business side to it, but writing is an art form, and it's all about telling stories and engaging your creativity. The minute it gets to be tedious or annoying or "all about the Benjamins," if you will, is the minute you have to stop and think about why you're in it in the first place.

What inspired you to begin writing your upcoming novel, Murder and Other Madness? 

The inspiration for Murder and Other Madness came from my relationships with my closest friends. I got the idea about a year ago: I wanted to write a book about four interesting, complicated female characters, but as I played around with the idea, I got bored. I wanted something exciting to happen, so I thought, "Oooh, what if they solved a murder?" And that was that.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers on becoming inspired to write their own novel?

I could go on for days but the most important thing is: let the world in. Let everything you experience inspire you. Once, I wrote a short story based on my experiences in the car with my older sister while she was learning to drive; that piece ended up winning a national contest. Let everything you see and hear and remember inspire you: funny things people say, stories you hear about your family, movies you see, places you go, people you's all relevant, and could end up inspiring your best work. 
Also, read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, both beautifully written and full of great advice. 

Is it better to self-publish or use a publishing company? 

The self publishing vs. using a publishing company debate isn't, in my opinion, a discussion that boils down to which one is better than the other. When it comes to choosing a career path, what matters is that you choose what's best for YOU and your situation and your goals. The great thing about self-publishing is that you have complete control over your vision of your book at all times, and no one telling you "no." On the other hand, you have no way of getting into major bookstores (if you're a print book), and you have no expert advice from a professional; you're on your own, and therefore very likely to make mistakes. Also, the stigma surrounding self-publishing makes most people shy away from it. The great thing about a publishing house is that you have professionals taking care of you: your agent (because if you go with a big house you will most likely have an agent representing you), editors and copyeditors and graphic designers and the whole enchilada guiding you if they think your book has selling potential. On the other hand, all those people will tell you what your book should be and possibly compromise the integrity of your you might only get 10% of all it's really up to you. You have to decide what's best for you. Maybe your best bet is to submit your work to a smaller house (like mine, First Fig Press), where you have more control over your work, but also receive one on one attention and guidance throughout the entire process of getting your novel from manuscript to published book. It all depends on how much control you want over your work, and how much guidance you think you need.

Can you give some help to hopeful writers on constructing a good query letter to send to publishers? 

A. Keep it under a page. 
B. Start with a sentence about your book that hooks the reader instantly. 
C. Go to the publishing house/agent's (if your querying a literary agency) website and check out their submission guidelines; then follow them perfectly. 
D. Show that your book is marketable by highlighting what's special about your work, whether it's the clever premise, the complex characters, the plot...
E. Google sample queries and see what's out there. Find out what works and what doesn't. (Heather Brewer's query letter is online. And it's awesome. Check it out! Also, Kristin Nelson literary agency has a blog where they dissect query lettes; be sure to check that out, too).

F. Leave the reader wanting more. Always. 

What is the best way to deal with rejection from publishers? 

The best way to deal with rejection is to remember not to take it personally. DO NOT send an angry e-mail telling whoever rejected you that they're missing out, and that they can stick it where the sun don't shine. Just because an agent or a publisher didn't accept your manuscript doesn't mean you are a terrible writer with no future; it just means that you're not a good fit for them (much like a rejection from a college does not mean you're a terrible person with no future). Agents and publishers get HUNDREDS of submissions a day; they're ruthless because they have to be. So don't take it personally; always remember that it's a business, and there's someone out there who will love your manuscript and consider it a perfect fit for their agency/publishing house. Also: give yourself 24 hours to be sad, angry, and whiny, and to eat anything sugary you can get your hands on. Then the next day, get back to work!

Where do you see yourself in the future as a writer and publisher? 

In the future, I see myself writing more novels; definitely mysteries. I already have two more books in the works right now. As a publisher, I see myself publishing many aspiring authors (so if you've got a manuscript, query me!). There are so many talented writers out there who just need a little attention and a big break; I'm excited to give them that chance.

Thank you for participating in an interview with me Alejandra! It was great to have you on my blog!