Risen; by Britney Jensen

Today I'm going to share with you a little chat I had with the amazing Britney Jensen. She is a beautiful young wife, and as of recently, a published author. Her debut novel, Risen is the first in a series of Young Adult Fiction books. But it didn't happen the way you might think. I was so surprised when she explained her journey to me, and even happier when she agreed to let me share it with you. Be sure to check out her website. Without further ado, here is the interview (with a few minor edits to make it flow and avoid redundancy). It's a bit long, but full of awesomeness. Guaranteed.

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DC- My book is about halfway done, but I have a number of friends who have completed works, or have ambitions to be published, so I've been wondering a lot about the agent/publishing/editing/printing process. Could you tell me about it?

BJ- Now I have to break the bad news. I wish I could do an awesome interview with you and answer all your questions, but seriously, I am in your same boat. After finishing my novel, sending it out to the universe and getting several requests for the manuscript that resulted in nada, I was ready to pull the plug. It's frustrating to say the least. The phrase "slush pile" became a swear in my house. But my husband refused to let me tuck it in a drawer and forget about it. (The idea to burn it in the fire pit, which I thought would be refreshingly cathartic, was also shot down.)

So we decided to go the indie route and publish it ourselves. So at least I would have SOMETHING to show for those months of mental anguish. It's kind of a backwards way of getting the attention of publishers. I know of a few authors who have published books themselves and they did well enough to be picked up by  legitimate publishers. It's not the ideal way, for sure. But if you lack patience (which I do) and don't have the fortitude to deal with all the "no's" (which I don't), then it's another option to get your book out there.



DC- Wow, that's amazing. And so courageous of you to just get it done yourself. Would you mind telling me your story? Because seriously I'd love to hear how you did it, and how you felt. I mean, I have NO idea where I'd even start with self publishing. And some of my good friends have amazing novels written, that I know would get a lot of attention if people were able to pick them up off the shelf, but as it is, agents just haven't gone for them.

BJ- I totally feel for your friends. That is EXACTLY how I felt about my book! It's so hard to know what works for agents and what doesn't. And maybe you just caught them on a bad day, or maybe they read an out-of-this-world query letter right before yours to making yours seem dull in comparison. It would be awesome to be able to talk to agents face to face, go have lunch and chat so they could see how cool you really are and then they'd be stumbling all over themselves to represent you. Yeah, these thoughts crossed my mind.

Sometimes I wanted to write agents back and say "You represented this book, but you won't take mine? Something is wrong with this picture." But instead I bit my lip, heaved a sigh and moved on... many times. With all the agents out there, you know one of them is going to like your work. The process of finding that one weeds out the impatient. And me being incurably impatient, I got weeded.

DC- While you were writing, did you concern yourself with little details like titles, length, word count, and the like?

Source
BJ- I started writing Risen over an image: A young woman in a cemetery looking perplexedly at a headstone. It stuck with me, and for some reason I couldn't get it out of my head. I kept thinking, "She looks like she's confused, looking for something. Strange... what if she were looking for her own headstone... what if she died and didn't know it..." It was a macabre chain of thought, but the questions continued almost endlessly. I developed the beginnings of a story in my mind, and decided to sit down and get it  on paper. So, in the beginning I wasn't concerned with length or title; I just wanted to write something fun. Once I knew where I was taking the story, prospective titles started popping into my head. I had a whole page full of them, but nothing really stood out. Then one day, about halfway through the writing, Risen dropped out of the sky and into my lap, and I knew it was meant to be.

In the end, the book was almost 110,000 words.When I finally did some research, everything I looked at said that was much too long for a YA novel. (Even though Twilight is 150,000... go figure.) So I edited and edited and got rid of 10,000 words. I probably could have/should have cut more, but when you know how long it takes to actually write 10,000 words, I couldn't fathom wasting even more work and time. So now it's just under 100,000 words, and that's just fine with me, and I think it does justice to the story.

I'll tell you why: when I was talking with my sister about ideas for the book, she came up with the brilliant idea of making it a dual dialogue. Each chapter has a section told from the main character, Sunny's, point of view; and also a section told from the agent tracking her down, Agent Williams' point of view. You see how their stories get closer and closer throughout the novel, and you're getting both sides. If I cut more just for word count sake, it wouldn't be fair to either character. So, I ended up with a longer than average YA book, but it works.

DC- How did you deal with rejection letters?

Source
BJ- Candy, Coke, and running. Counterproductive, much? Honestly, the first few were a little crushing/embarrassing/depressing/etc. The hardest were the ones that actually requested partials or fulls and then came back and said "not for us." But, I understand that now. my book isn't for everyone. I've come to terms with that, no book is. Rejection letters are tough, but they don't mean much. It's one person's taste against yours. And once I put that into perspective it became okay to get those letters. Not ideal, but not completely deflating like they were at first.

DC- What made you decide to self-publish, and where did you start once the decision was made?

BJ- I was just done with the whole query letter situation. I was quietly stepping back from pursuing anything to do with my book when my ever-observant husband caught on. He has an MBA, his own marketing company, and is a Director of Marketing, so he was anxious to try his hand at marketing my book. Since nothing was happening with it anyway, I handed over the reigns and was more than grateful to do so.

We decided to launch the e-book first. It's free to publish on Kindle, and relatively easy, so he got down to business designing a cover with some of his savvy graphic buddies and a few days later we were in business.  We're currently working with createspace.com, which is a print-on-demand company, where people can order a print version of your book (they also sell them on amazon.com). You don't pay anything to upload your book, because they only print a book when one is ordered. So you don't have to order 5,000 copies and invest thousands of dollars getting your book in paperback. They obviously take a portion of your sales price to pay for printing the book, but it's really not a bad deal. It's pretty amazing what tools are available to those wanting to go the indie publishing route.

DC- How do you feel now that your book is printed with a pretty cover and all? :-) And would you recommend this route for writers who really believe in their work?

BJ- I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that it's out of my hands. It's amazing the anxiousness and anxiety that having a book in limbo can cause. Like I told you before, I deeply hope it does well, but if it doesn't, I won't crawl into a hole. I wanted to do it, to see if I could, to check it off my list, to prove it to myself, and to get it out of my head. I accomplished those things. The rest of this is just frosting.

As for recommending this route or not, that's hard to say. You just have to weigh your options, see what you're willing to put into it, how long you're willing to wait, and what you're willing to put up with. It's definitely a hard decision. I have heard of the occasional author who self-publishes and their book does so well that they are then picked up by a legitimate publisher. Sometimes it pays to be unconventional and backwards, but not always. It's a gamble, like anything else.

DC- Wow, thank you so much. I feel like I just picked the brain of Jo Rowling. You've given me so much to think about, and my book isn't even finished yet! I had heard of self-publishing, but the ways and means were a mystery to me. It's nice to know there are options for us writers other than the "conventional" route.

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Many thanks to Britney for sharing so much of her experience with us!

Risen is currently available on Kindle through Amazon, and IS NOW available to order in print (also on Amazon). I'll keep you posted, travelers. In the mean time, does anyone have any other questions for Britney? If we do, perhaps we can do a follow-up interview and post those as well. Put your thoughts and questions either here in the comments, or you can email them to me at DarciCole{@}gmail{.}com.

-DC

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