Getting published: An interview with Justin Lee Anderson

Justin Lee Anderson was born in Edinburgh and spend a chunk of his childhood in the US as his family followed his father’s career in pro football. He’s spent time in France, Dundee and finally settled back in the Scottish capital where he works as a Content Editor.

Carpet Diem: Or…How to Save the World by Accident is published by Wild Wolf Publishing and is the story of a man who discovers his ornate living room carpet is the deciding element in the bet between God and Satan.

What would your three top tips for someone approaching getting their first book published?

1. Write the best book you can. That probably seems obvious, but I suppose what I’m saying is don’t rush it. Write your first draft, then put it away for at least a month before you do your first edit. Once you’re happy with it, get some beta-readers; people you trust to give you honest feedback – not just tell you you’re brilliant. False praise is good for your ego but useless for getting your book into the best possible shape. So grow a thick skin and ask people to be completely frank. Only when you are absolutely, totally happy with it should you consider sending it to an agent or publisher. At that point, forget about it and start writing something else, while you wait.

2. Write your book. Write the kind of book you want to read and write it in your own voice. If you try to ape someone else’s style or fit within some rules you read somewhere, it’s going to be very difficult to write and probably feel unnatural in the end. Write for you – there are sure to be other people who will share your tastes.

3. Don’t give up. Try sending it to agents and publishers. You will be rejected. Probably a lot. No, really, you will be rejected. Probably a lot. But here’s the thing: even if you get rejected by everyone, we live in an age where you can take matters into your own hands and self-publish if all else fails. Never despair. Believe in yourself.

What would you do differently given the benefit of hindsight with Carpet Diem?

I would really have liked to have it ready for publication a lot quicker. It took me over ten years from start to finish. However, I’m a better writer now than I was ten years ago, so in at least one way, it’s a good thing that I’m publishing it now and not sooner. But I’ll be a lot more focused with my next book – and if I could just get a clone to do all the other family and work things I need to do, that would help!

What role do agents play in today’s era of self-publishing and Kindle?

Good question. I think their role has historically been as advocates for writers and I think they’ll continue to perform that role, but with publishers being so risk-averse in the current business climate, I think we’ll see fewer agents taking on unknown writers and more of them approaching writers who have made a name for themselves either through self-publishing or publishing with a small indie press. At that stage, they’ve got a proven product to sell and then their role is to get the best possible deal for their client.

How hands on do you expect to be when it comes to marketing and promoting Carpet Diem?

Very. It’s just inevitable now, with social media and word of mouth being the main method of promoting books, unless you’re lucky enough to have the marketing budget of someone like Harper Collins behind you. I’m happy to do it. I’m very social media-friendly and I like talking to people, but I suppose in an ideal world I’d be working on my next book instead, so the idea of having someone just handle it all and let me write is also appealing. But for new writers, we have to be involved, it’s essential if we’re going to have any chance of successfully finding our audience.

Where do you think the publishing industry is heading?

I think we’re seeing a whole new model with publishing splitting into tiers, where it’s going to be uncommon for new writers to come in at the very top. Instead, they’re going to be found through self-publishing and indie publishing before the big publishing houses will take a gamble on them. I’ve been very lucky to find an independent publisher like Wild Wolf to work with and I know I’ll benefit hugely from their experience and support.

I don’t believe print is dead – there are too many people who love the feel and smell of a book, and the experience of reading is enhanced by them. But will that love for the physical product remain through the new digital native generations? I don’t know. Who keeps a physical address book these days?

Ultimately, I can see print books becoming obsolete as all books are delivered electronically. It’s cheaper and easier. However, at the moment, print is still seen as a marker of quality. The ability to self-publish e-books at no expense is a boon to authors, but it also means there’s a huge range of quality being published. A lot of established media won’t even consider reviewing e-books until they’ve been printed. I suppose that’s a vetting issue – they assume that if a publisher has invested in the cost of print, they must have faith in the book, so it will have at least some merit.

Having said all of that, it’s still a great time to be a writer – simply because you can get your book out there under your own steam and if it’s good enough, with a little luck, you can find your audience without having to convince someone else to take a risk on you.

Which brings us back to the beginning. The most important thing is to write the best book you can. Everything else follows.


This interview appeared first on Zebra Eclipse and then, in 2023, was moved here. 

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