The Subconscious Interview with S.M. Beiko

Just what, exactly, is The Subconscious Interview? Consider it an interviewee’s fantasy, the opportunity for the subject to both ask and answer questions never posed to him or her before. These can be on any topic whatsoever. Or, if you like, consider me lazy and/or unsmart enough to come up with questions on my own.

Today’s Subconscious Interviewee (the first!) is S.M. Beiko, editor for ChiZine Publications and author of the YA fantasy The Lake and the Library.

You may find part one of this interview (the “conscious” part) here.

Perhaps not coincidentally considering her background as an editor and novelist, Beiko has decided on a book-related approach to The Subconscious Interview.

What was the publishing process like?

Your typical Tuesday slushpile.

Long. My book was pulled out of the slush-pile—the notorious ‘unsolicited manuscript’ heap that is thousands of submissions tall, and where maybe only 1% of published books come out of. I finished the book in 2006, and didn’t get interest from a publisher (ECW) until 2009. The contract was drawn up and signed at the end of 2010, and the book came out in Spring 2013. So that’s . . . 7 years (4 if we’re only going from contract to publication)? Remember, though, this was my first book—it’s take a while to ‘break in’, as it were, especially when you’re competing with thousands of other authors and their submissions, or authors who are already established and are more of a ‘sure thing’ than the newbies. As well as fighting for the time of editors who are so inundated with subs that they forget about yours. Ah well! I’ve got my first book done, that’s my foot in the door. Here’s hoping the second doesn’t take as long. But you never know. Since I’ve also got the ‘publisher perspective’, I know what it looks like on the other end of production, and believe me, everyone’s doing their best!

How much promotion/what kind of promotion did you personally do for your book (outside of what the publisher provided)?

I did a fair bit of promotion because I knew that it would be up to me to go out into the world, show off my book, talk about how awesome it was, and ingratiate myself in the book world under my own steam. A lot of authors think you get a publishing contract and bam, it’s a golden ticket. Newsflash: you gotta pound the pavement if you want results, and be willing to do whatever it takes. Luckily, working in publishing in Toronto, as well as getting into the community in Winnipeg, provided a strong foundation for me, and all the connections I made came through when my narrow prom-window opened.

I did a lot of speaking events—mainly literary and speculative fiction conventions, launches, panels, workshops, and book clubs. Whatever I could. I did several speaking events in Winnipeg, Toronto, Kenora, and Calgary. I took part in book blogs and interviews (yay!) and any time I had an event, I made sure my website was updated. Some extremely amazing friends of mine made a gorgeous book trailer for me. I Facebooked and Tweeted and put posters up around Winnipeg—in coffee shops and shopping districts—featuring info on my book. I went to other people’s launches and hung out with the literary community. I contacted the local newspaper and they featured me three times, because they’re amazing. (I had random strangers coming up to me saying “Wow, I saw you in the paper!” which was pretty awesome.) I talked about myself (I know, it’s hard) and handed out my business cards. I was, and still am, always looking for opportunities. I also bought stock of my book to have on hand so I could sell it wherever I went. Moral of the story: always be willing to do anything, and always be prepared. That promo window is small. I’d say usually about 6 months long before you lose your relevance (until the next book, that is). Do your best to be effective while also resisting the urge to pepper-spray people with your book.

What advice do you have for first time authors?

Always have an open mind.

As I said above, always have an open mind, and be prepared to do a lot of work after the book is done. I consider the book writing the easy part. If you want people to know about you, you don’t just thrust the book into the world and expect it to have legs. YOU ARE THE LEGS. Pound the pavement with ‘em!

Also, don’t ever feel bad about mentioning your accomplishments, but try and stay humble and approachable; no one likes to have things shoved down their throats. AND HAVE A WEBSITE. Whether it’s a WordPress blog or just a simple “Bio, Books, Contact” thing online, the first thing people are going to do after they hear about you is Google you. You don’t have to spend a zillion dollars on this, but it’s a necessity now. The Internet is everything. That leads me to Facebook and Twitter: I don’t have a personal Facebook page for myself as an author, but as your readership grows, you might want to consider it. I’m most active on my Twitter when it comes to authorly things, and publishers always look at your Twitter or number of Facebook likes when they’re thinking about signing you on; do you come with a following, or will you have to build one? How good are you with interacting with readers/writers or fans? And be creative with promo. Make a geocache about your book in the city it takes place in. Do a giveaway at your launches or readings. If it piques people’s interests, they’ll remember you.

Thanks, Samantha. Looking forward to the next one!

Purchase The Lake and the Library here.