“Never imitate. Draw from your own unique experiences to write from unusual angles and perspectives.”
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Jodi Warshaw
Jodi Warshaw is an Executive Editor with Lake Union Publishing, the book club fiction imprint of Amazon Publishing. Her recent bestsellers at Lake Union include Elizabeth LaBan’s The Restaurant Critic’s Wife and Ann Howard Creel’s While You Were Mine, and her forthcoming titles this year include Catherine McKenzie’s Fractured, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s Say Goodbye for Now, Maddie Dawson’s The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness, Nancy Star’s Sisters One, Two, Three, and Loretta Nyhan’s All the Good Parts.
Jodi acquires book-club fiction across the gamut from historical to contemporary women’s fiction. Currently, she is focused on acquiring issue-oriented fiction in the vein of Barbara Claypole White’s The Perfect Son and Lisa Genova’s Inside The O’Briens.
Jodi Warshaw: I tend to be very hands-on throughout the editorial and publishing process. There are so many steps a book goes through before it is released to the world. It can be an overwhelming process, and I try to be sure my authors are supported throughout.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
JW: Earlier this year, Lake Union published Elizabeth LaBan’s debut adult novel The Restaurant Critic’s Wife. I knew immediately that Elizabeth’s manuscript was something special. It was truly unique: a fresh take on self-reinvention. I loved what Elizabeth had done with the concept of lost identity—in the novel, a career woman marries a restaurant critic who literally asks her to hide her identity to help in keeping his a secret! It was a thrill to see the media and readers come to the book with such enthusiasm (so well-deserved by Elizabeth), and I’m pleased to say we have a new novel coming from her in January 2017 (Pretty Little World)! I’m always seeking truly original stories paired with strong voices. At the moment, I am particularly interested in acquiring book club fiction, with an eye toward domestic suspense, family dramas, and cultural heritage.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
JW: When an author has the time and drive to build and maintain a social media presence, it can be an extremely effective tool. But not every author is comfortable on social media, or has the time, so in my experience, it’s more important for authors to find their own way of building and connecting with their fan base, whatever form that takes.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
JW: Never imitate. Draw from your own unique experiences to write from unusual angles and perspectives.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it.
JW: Last summer, I received a Civil War era submission, and even though I wasn’t looking for a historical novel at that time, I decided to take a look. The next thing I knew I was hooked! I couldn’t put the manuscript down. A gorgeously penned novel—with a premise I’d never come across before—about an escaped slave and an indentured Irish girl who forge a deep bond as they run from slave catchers and the Confederate army. It’s a love story, but not a romance. A war story, but not a battlefield drama.
I made a passionate pitch to our publisher, and successfully added it to Lake Union’s spring 2016 list. The novel is Edenland by Wallace King (on-sale May 18, 2016), and I can’t wait to see how readers respond to it.
Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.