Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Gayle Brandeis met close to 10 years ago on the dearly-departed forum Readerville.com, right around the time their first novels were coming out. Now, several books later, they each recently decided to release novels as ebooks. Lauren’s, THE BRO-MAGNET, tells the story of Johnny Smith, who has been "Always a Best Man, never a groom". It is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love. Romantic Times calls it “an absolutely charming, feel-good read.” Gayle’s, THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES, is the eagerly awaited sequel to her Bellwether Prize-winning novel, THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS, and is an electrifying novel about identity, love, and family secrets. NY Times bestselling author Peter Nichols calls it “A dark, funny novel of singular and heartfelt characters, in a story that moves as swiftly and true as the flight of a hawk.” Lauren and Gayle came together to discuss the process of bringing their ebooks out into the world.
GAYLE: You have had great success in the traditional print world, publishing numerous books for children, teens and adults. What made you decide to release THE BRO-MAGNET as an ebook?
LAUREN: By the end of the last decade, authors of Chick Lit - which is how many of my adult novels were published - had become persona non grata in publishing, even though readers still wanted books that would make them laugh, because it was believed that the market had become saturated. Add to that the fact that my career had become focused on teen and children's books, when I came up with the idea for THE BRO-MAGNET and just had to write it - because I needed to know how it turned out - I didn't really consider going the traditional route. Doing it as an ebook made sense to me and I'm glad I did. Your turn! What made you decide to do THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES as an ebook?
GAYLE: I wrote THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES back in 2002, during National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo helped me get back into my own writing flow after the discombobulation of being published and winning Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for my first novel, THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS. It was such an exciting time for me as a writer, but I found myself dealing with writers' block for the first time in my life--I was suddenly feeling the weight of external expectation, and internalized it to the point that I couldn't write at all. Writing THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES was very healing and cathartic for me, but I never thought I'd share the novel with readers--it was almost like my little secret, although I did mention its presence at some of my book events and it always raised a lot of interest. When I realized the 10th anniversary of the Bellwether Prize was coming up (the latest winner is my friend, Naomi Benaron--her novel Running the Rift is brilliant; a must-read!) I thought it could be a good time to give THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES some air. I released it as an ebook because I wanted to bring something fresh to the current Bellwether conversation, and ebooks are the best way to get something out quickly, plus I wanted to experiment with digital publishing, since it seems to be where we're headed as a culture (as much as I continue to adore physical books and hope there will always be a place for them in our world.) What have you done to promote THE BRO-MAGNET and how has the process been different from promoting your other books?
LAUREN: I've let everyone in my contact list that I think might be interested know about it, because unlike a book with New York publisher support, if I don't start the horn blowing, who else will do it? But other than that, it's very similar: guest blogs, interviews, etc. One thing that is different: When I score something and see a direct result in sales, it's very satisfying to know I created that bump through my own efforts. Your turn! How has the promotion process been different for you? (Hey, this is easy being me! You have to do the work of coming up with the questions and I just have to parrot them back at you! Will you forgive me for that if I mention here how much I've always admired THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS?)
GAYLE: Promotion does not come naturally to me, I'm afraid, but I know how important it is for authors to spread the word about our own work, especially when we are publishing it ourselves! I released the book in the fall, but feel as if I am really just now starting to kick my promotional butt into gear--doing more guest blogs, sending out emails, etc. I hired a wonderful publicist to help out, since I knew she could get more muscle behind the book than I could on my own; she usually publicizes traditionally published books and has found that the outlets she regularly approaches just aren't that receptive to self-published ebooks, even by an established, award-winning author--we are learning together how to get the word out in this new digital world.
Thank you so much, by the way, for your kind words about THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS. I hope you'll enjoy THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES! I should let readers know that you don't have to have read DEAD BIRDS to enjoy LIVE WIRES. Even though I'm calling it a sequel, it's a very different book, narrated by Darryl, who had been Ava Sing Lo's love interest in DEAD BIRDS. It's interesting to me that both of us took on the male perspective in our ebooks--I'd love to hear how it felt to you to write a guy's story. Any challenges getting under his skin?
LAUREN: You know what's really weird, Gayle? I'm beginning to think I may be better at writing male POV than female! My most successful YA novel to date was CRAZY BEAUTIFUL which is a he-said/she-said story told in alternating male/female POV. Readers by far preferred the male POV there. And so far, readers of THE BRO-MAGNET seem to be really just purely enjoying Johnny, whereas the female main characters of my previous books weren't always easy to like. Maybe I'm a guy at heart? Maybe it comes from having an older brother and growing up in a neighborhood with mostly guys? Maybe it's from my years shooting pool against mostly guys? I'll tell you one thing, I just have so much fun channeling a guy when I write...even the sex scenes! How about you - any challenges writing from a male POV?
GAYLE: I am definitely not a guy at heart, but I really enjoyed letting Darryl's voice carry me along. When I wrote THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS, I struggled with my right to tell Ava's story, since her ethnicity is so different from my own (but ultimately the experience reminded me that fiction is such a beautiful way to approach the experience of "the other"--and, in the process, realize there is more that connects us than divides us.) Men are definitely "the other" in many ways, but somehow when I was writing Darryl, he didn't feel "other" to me, and I don't think it's just because we share a similar Jewish Russian heritage. Getting under his skin felt very natural. Perhaps I had stretched myself so much with DEAD BIRDS, I felt limber enough to bend myself into a new point of view (I had written in guys' voices in short stories before, but never at such a sustained length.)
It's been such a pleasure to talk with you about our ebook adventures, Lauren. Is there anything we haven't touched upon that you would like to share with readers?
LAUREN: Just two things. 1) I didn't know you were of Jewish Russian heritage - me too! (And I'm not just making that up in order to suck up to you because you did all the heavy lifting here.) 2) I hope everyone buys THE BOOK OF LIVE WIRES! Aaaaaand...your turn! Any last words?
GAYLE: Maybe we’re distant cousins! I hope everyone will buy THE BRO-MAGNET, too. :)