Interview with author Em Kaplan

I’ve got another exciting interview for you all this week. The fabulous Em has graciously agreed to join me for today’s interview.

Hey Em! Thanks again for doing this. If you could start by telling my readers a little bit about yourself.

EMKaplan

Em:
I’m EM Kaplan. You can call me Em or Emily. My middle initial is M, but only a select few people know my middle name. I grew up in southern Arizona, went to college in the Boston area, and returned to Arizona—back with the cactus—for grad school where I got a Master’s in Creative Writing. I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid—fairy tales and Swiss Family Robinson knock-offs that evolved into treasure hunting adventures. You could almost hear the Indiana Jones theme song playing in the background. Then, among other things, I did a horrible satire of my high school chemistry class. Gross, low-brow comedy in college. Sci-fi stories. Poetry. There’s a long wake of literary destruction behind me.

The Writing Piazza:
Haha, a satire of your high school chemistry class, nice! I think we all have those skeletons in our closets. The ghosts of horrible writing past (or maybe present?). But now we get to talk about successful story writing. All our writing that’s fit for publishing! And you are the author of the recently released book entitled Dim Sum, Dead Some can you tell us a little about it?

Em:
Dim Sum, Dead Some is the second mystery to feature my cranky food critic, amateur detective Josie Tucker. In this book, we find her in San Francisco, poking into the disappearance of a software entrepreneur named Ivan Sorokin. Dim Sum, Dead Some draws on my Silicon Valley days where I worked as a tech writer for a computer company. Josie is up to her usual hijinks, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong, getting into crazy situations, and as always, trying to enjoy delicious food—if only her finicky stomach would let her.

Josie first appeared in The Bride Wore Dead, which is a slightly grittier mystery. It’s the same snarky Josie and philosophical food descriptions, but the circumstances have more social significance as she investigates the death of a bride on her honeymoon.

 The Writing Piazza:
Sounds delicious! I have a soft spot for novels that talk about food interspersed with the main storyline. The fact that you made your main character a food critic sounds like perfection to me! And of course I love a good mystery. 🙂

I like to give my readers a little bit of background on the publishing of the books my guest authors write. For your books did you go the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing route?

Em:
Self-publishing.

The Writing Piazza:
What made you decide to go that route?

Em:
I tried for about a decade to get an agent to respond to my query letters. During that time, I had my kids and a lot of other distractions, so maybe I could have done it differently. But things happen the way they do for a reason, or so I’ve been told repeatedly by people who have more life experience. In the last decade, though, self-publishing has evolved tremendously. I count myself lucky to be able to take part in it.

The Writing Piazza:
Publishing is a difficult road. But your perseverance is commendable. And self-publishing has definitely evolved and continues to evolve. It’s an interesting to discuss the differences between traditional and self-publishing. What do you like about the road to publishing that you’ve taken?

Em:
Without self-publishing, I think I would still be checking my mailbox every day for a response to a query instead of plotting my next book. I like the fact that my success depends directly on me. From writing to editing to marketing—it’s all my responsibility.

The Writing Piazza:
It is a nerve racking place to be, waiting to hear from someone else whether they want to take you on as a client. Waiting for a publisher to offer you a contract. So it does sound appealing to have that kind of control. How about the down side? Neither route is perfect and I try to give readers as realistic a view as possible about the pros and cons of whichever publishing path a writer chooses to go down.

Em:
I haven’t found many cons to self-publishing yet. Other writers are very supportive. The printed versions of my books look amazing. Here’s one thing—the learning curve for marketing is pretty steep, but I’m not sure how different it would be with a small publishing house. More and more, I’m hearing fellow writers say they are getting their books’ rights back from publishers so they can re-release by self-publishing. There’s a not-so-quiet literary revolution going on right now.

The Writing Piazza:
As an attorney that’s something I would warn writers to watch for when they sign contracts with publishers. You need to know how long your publisher will hold onto the rights to publish your work and to make sure you have a way to get those rights back at a definable threshold (whether that be after a certain amount of time or perhaps if sales dip below a certain point). If an author doesn’t have an agent who can help them look out for that sort of thing then I think it’s worthwhile to have a lawyer that specializes in this sort of contract to look over the documents before signing them.

And now that my lawyer schpeal is done, we can move on. 🙂 I was talking with a few authors recently who told me that they don’t use beta readers or critique partners so I thought I’d ask you your thoughts on the subject. Do you use beta readers and/or critique partners for your books?

Em:
Yes. I use 3-4 beta readers for each book. Then I use another 2-3 proofreaders after that. So, at least two rounds of reviews.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s amazing! I know I had difficulty finding people that had time to read my work. I’m so jealous you have so many people you can go to! I am so grateful for those who have been able to give me their thoughts on my writing. How about you, how have your initial readers worked out for you?

Em:
I have gotten some excellent feedback from all of them. Any mistakes in my books are purely my own. I have to say that if I want to be invited back to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner. She’s my primary editor (www.out-box.com).

The Writing Piazza:
Haha yes I don’t think we can ever thank them enough can we? I have lost track of the number of times I’ve emailed them to say I made some changes and asking them to look over what I’ve written. Just recently I had to stop myself from texting someone at three in the morning because I was so excited about the changes I had made. I had to settle for sending an email instead. 🙂

So my blog is all about giving people a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to write and publish a Young Adult series. I think one of the things that surprises most non-writers is how difficult it is to be a writer. It’s a job that you typically do on your own so it’s not often that people see you agonizing over wording choices or plot inconsistencies or any number of things. I want to shed a little more light on the fact that it isn’t all just fun and games. Can you tell us what the hardest part of the process has been for you?

Em:
Marketing is tough, mostly because I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’ve learned things! First of all, if you have a budget for it, hire a professional—one who comes recommended. If you have a zero budget, find other indie writers who market their books well and copy their techniques. This is especially true for social media. I found Twitter experts by observing other Tweeters. Facebook…well, that’s Facebook, but who knows when they will change their boost and view policies again.

The Writing Piazza:
You are not alone in that area! Many of the writers I talk to who want to have their books published traditionally will name marketing as one of their top reasons for looking for a traditional publisher. It’s an important aspect of publishing and it can feel extremely daunting if you don’t know much about marketing.

But enough about the hard stuff, let’s talk about something easy. Do you have any fun stories about being a writer that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?

Em:
One day out of boredom, I Googled my own name just to see what would come up. (I can’t be the only person who does that, right??) To my surprise, I found another E.M. Kaplan indie author in Chicago, not too far from me. I sent him a message on Twitter saying hi. He writes horror, so he’s in a different genre. At first, he offered to change his pen name because I had more books out than he did. But I said no. I’ve read his book, which was a really good, tense horror story—we reviewed each other’s books—and if he sells a few books because of me and vice versa, that’s really great. We still chat.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s so crazy that there’s another indie author with the same pen name! But that’s cool that you used it as a win-win situation. I love seeing authors helping each other out. It’s definitely something I believe is important.

On that note, what advice would you give to writers who are hoping to publish their work?

Em:
Get as many literate people you know to read it and give you feedback. Grad school for creative writing consisted mostly of writing workshops in which we passed our work back and forth for critiquing. The comments could sometimes be harsh—that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If your early readers are all people who love you or your writing, they may not see your errors. If you can take the harsher comments—from people you trust—do it.

The Writing Piazza:
Along with that I would like to add (since I’m an artist and I know how harsh critiques can make you question whether you should just give up or not) you should also mix in some people that do love you and will build you up. I think it’s important to have a bit of a balance, otherwise you might just end up wanting to quit and that would be just as big a mistake.

Before we conclude our interview, I like to ask my guests that if there was one thing you could go back and do differently, what would it be?

Em:
I should have started putting out my first two books a year sooner. They were ready to go, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. (That bok-bok noise you hear is a chicken sound.) I think the key to being a successful indie author is to write well and to publish often.

The Writing Piazza:
Speaking of publishing often, are you currently working on another book?

Em:
I’ve just started the follow up book to Unmasked, my fantasy. This book has the same main characters, but also some new ones. It’ll be action-packed and take readers to unseen parts of their world. Monsters. Forces of nature. Supernatural talents. And possibly gadgets. Maybe a hint of steampunk.

In the summer, I plan to write another Josie Tucker mystery. I haven’t decided where I’m going to take her next. But I can guarantee the book will be snarky and delicious.

The Writing Piazza:
Well you know how much I love delicious! Those both sound really great!

Thank you so much for your time and for being a guest on my blog it’s been a lot of fun! Can you tell my readers where they can purchase a copy of your books?

Em:
Amazon author page to find all of my books: EM Kaplan on Amazon

My website, where you can find links to me onDSDS_postcard_4x6_back
Facebook,Twitter, my blog, and more:
www.JustTheEmWords.com

Thank you so much!!

 

The Writing Piazza:
Thus ends another guest author interview. Thank you all for joining us. I hope it was fun (and delicious) reading for you. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go Google myself and see if I come up with any interesting stories too!

Until we meet again.

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