Saturday, August 21, 2010

The New Writers' Garden: "The Naked Gardener" and Thoughts on Publishing With L B Gschwandtner

L B Gschwandtner is an artist, writer, magazine editor, businessperson, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I first met Laura at the Algonkian Writers Conference in Virginia, and am still impressed with her organic, outside-the-box approach to writing — and publishing. Her website, Thenovelette.com, is still a totally new concept in women’s fiction for the Web.

Here, she talks about her new novel, The Naked Gardner, available on Amazon and on Thenovelette.com, and the new world of publishing.

AMA: So, L B, is this your first published book?

LBG: The Naked Gardner is my first published fiction. I’ve published nonfiction before through the traditional book publishing route. But this is a new adventure for me.

AMA: Where did your inspiration for the book come from?

LBG: At a certain point in my life, I knew three women who gardened naked. They had different takes on why they did it, but all of them felt it was really important to them. So I began to think about a woman — I called her Katelyn Cross — who goes to her garden naked, and what that might mean and in what ways it would be liberating for her and important in her life. I think it’s Katelyn’s first tentative step toward finding out who she really is and how to get what she wants from the world around her. Really, an attempt toward finding her own spirit. The garden symbolizes her world. And the rocks in it keep getting in her way. So she has to deal with that.

In the beginning of the book when Katelyn says, “I never told anyone. Just kept going to my garden naked. Like some spirit hovering over the land,” she’s referring to that spirit within that needs a voice. The book is a metaphor for stripping away the encumbrances that get in the way of the spirit each of us has inside.

AMA: What was the writing process like?

LBG: It started with a short story about two women whose motivations for gardening naked were completely different — on the surface. Yet, underlying their differences, they shared a theme. That story morphed into The Naked Gardener, a composite portrait of those women. The theme — and there were a few — turned out to be a woman's need to self-define, whether outside or inside a marriage, and to deal with her fear of getting lost within marriage. The other themes were women forming bonds that made each of them stronger through their relationships with the others. And the final theme is about building on the past to create a stronger future.

AMA: How did you decide on Amazon, or how did Amazon decide on the book?

LBG: Well, that is a very complex question with a long list of answers. I'll just say here that I did a lot of research into what is happening in the publishing world — both books and magazines. I'm the co-owner of what was started as a magazine publishing company. Our company has changed significantly since 2007. We now consider it an integrated media company. That means a magazine, a group of websites, online newsletters, e-content, blogs, videos, an online TV show and conferences. The magazine part of our business has, like all print media, shrunk while other segments have grown. Then there's book publishing. We used to sell books also. But those sales have withered to a trickle.

And because of my interest in fiction, I've researched what's happening in book publishing with the big houses. Now in fiction publishing a lot of changes are happening that are rocking the print world also. It takes time to a) find an agent who will take you on, b) wait for that agent to sell your book to an editor at one of the five houses still left (I'm not including small presses here and granted all the big houses have multiple imprints), c) wait for the publisher to bring out your book, and d) wait for information on how it is selling. How much time? Anywhere from three years (at minimum and typically much longer) to decades, and sometimes never. Meanwhile, you love to write, love to communicate with readers and want to get your books out into their hands.

So, I decided to publish on Kindle and Amazon. It is almost cost-free. The writer controls the process. And I made a list of advantages versus disadvantages, and guess which list is longer by a factor of about 20?

Now one of the major areas where most writers would think having a publishing house in your corner would work to your advantage is in the promotion of your book. While that might be a nice fantasy, the reality does not bear it out. All the writers I know who have agents and publishing contracts are frustrated with how their books were promoted. And the ones who want their books to sell end up doing the promotion themselves. If a book is a big seller (and precious few are), then the house will promote it. But many of the books that become very big sellers have done so because the authors promoted them heavily and creatively in the beginning. And when I say the beginning, I mean months and years. Take "The Help." It was released in 2007 and didn't get on the best-seller lists until 2009. Two years later.

I think there are a lot of myths around book publishing. Those myths have been around for a long while, and they get perpetuated for a lot of reasons. I think writers want to believe them, and it's hard to break free of the need to feel you're going to be discovered and loved and revered for this wonderful book you've poured your heart into. We all wish that were so. But writing and publishing are a business. I think writers who see it that way will learn how to get their books into the hands of readers. That's what I want to do.

Right now The Naked Gardener is available on Kindle and the iPad, and in paperback on Amazon. Why paperback? I want readers to be able to afford it. I want them to hold it, read it, enjoy it and, hopefully, look forward to the next book(s). Readers are what bring a book to life. A book is like an egg that needs to be cracked open to come to life. The Naked Gardener is my little chick.

For more on L B Gschwandtner's new novel, The Naked Gardner, visit Amazon or Thenovelette.com.

4 comments:

Kim said...

It's so great to see people discussing alternatives to traditional publishing. That model just doesn't work for every writer or every reader. I've read this book and it's great!

Adele Annesi said...

It really is great to hear about other options - especially for work that deserves publication.

Maddy said...

The story sounds fabulous and I was very interested to read your take on how the publishing industry is changing.

Karen Cantwell said...

I enjoyed this interview immensely - thank you for sharing LB.