Last time on the interview series I talked to debut thriller author, Jessica Payne. She shared all about writing thrillers, finding an agent, and how to navigate picking the right people to work with!
Today, we're talking about independent publishing, finding the right fit for your work, and making your manuscript shine!
A native of the Missouri Ozarks, Annie's traveled to exciting places that she bring into my writing. She primarily writes for teens and young adults, but she also enjoys expanding into other areas too. In most of her work, you’ll find a generous dash of romance.
Tweet me @DavidRGwyn
Annie Lisenby: You're not alone. And I think if you're willing to put yourself out there, you're going to find that community and you're going to find those readers. So I think. Be brave to put yourself out there yourself as you're who you are as a person to find that community, but also be brave to put yourself out there in, in your art, in, in the words that you write on the page.
And even though we, we joke a little bit about the rejection you'll get there. There's some beauty in the fact that someone read my words, whether they like them or not.
So, how do you know if your manuscript is ready to go? And what will you do with it when you're done? Are you going to query agents? What if a publisher shows interest, should you go straight to publication and bypass the agent? And if you do, what should, you know, before you sign on the dotted line?
I'm David , a writer with a messy first draft, wondering how to make it shine. So it's ready for submission. During season two of the podcast
I'm asking agents, editors and authors, how they suggest writers go from the end on a first [00:01:00] draft, all the way to signing that publishing deal. This week, we're talking to Annie, Lisenby, Annie decided to go with an independent publisher for her new novel.
We talk about her writing process. Why she went with an independent publisher. And most importantly, what her experience with them was like,
it feels like there are so many avenues to publication right now. So how will you know which one is right for you? Here's one often overlooked route to a really great writing career. If you find the right publisher. Let's hear about Annie's experience.
David Gwyn: Annie, welcome to the writerly lifestyle interview series. I want to begin by saying, congratulations on the launch of your debut novel, a three-letter name you're less than a week in at this point.
So how does it feel.
Annie Lisenby: So, yeah, it feels exciting. And my phone was blowing up with so many different things. As my publisher was sending out publicity things through social media. And I had a few moments where I just had to step it down and just walk away, leave it in another room for a little bit, but it's very exciting.
David Gwyn: That's super cool. That's that's so fun. So tell us a little bit [00:02:00] about your book, about what it's about and and we'll go from there, copyright
Annie Lisenby: here once a year. So yeah, a three letter name. It is a young adult novel. It is a romance that has elements of fantasy and horror as well. Adventure, many things in it.
It all takes place on an island. That is a remote. There's no technology. It's kind of a dystopian world. And in this world, the animals and the humans have had to learn to live together. But the beast that live in the forest at night will come out and pray on whatever they can find. So one of the main characters she's, what's called a listener.
She goes up to the top of the trees is in the stands at night and listens for the beasts. And if they come, she sounds the alarm. Well, the problem is she gets sick and she becomes hard of hearing. And she literally has to choose between marriage or death.
And agrees to marry a stranger from across the island sight unseen and then discovers. He also has his own disability. He has a mangled foot. [00:03:00] And then when the beasts start attacking during the day, she kind of figures, I have nothing left to lose. They've attacked my friends and they forge a party to go.
And finally, just rid the island of all these.
David Gwyn: , it sounds amazing. I, I haven't gotten my copy yet. I just came out, but I read, I mean, we kind of, we talked about it and I I've I've looked up, it looks like such a fun read. How did you come up with the idea for this story? That's
Annie Lisenby: a good question.
I was, I was hit with the idea when I was literally getting on an airplane to leave an island. I had gone with a church group, but we went to Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria and had devastated the island. It was a couple of years later, but they were still doing a lot of rebuilding efforts. So our church said, Hey, we're going to send some folks who know how to do these things.
I didn't know how to do the rebuilding, but I knew how to organize the trip. So I got to go. And as we were getting on the plane and we are leaving. Friends who is hard of hearing in one of her ears. Some people were kind of loud, so she would do this thing. She showed me where she would just [00:04:00] turn off that hearing aid and then she'd just muffled the other ear.
And so that she could have the quiet. And as I was putting my suitcase up into the overhead bin, I thought, well, what would it be like if someone had some ability, something about them that defined them and that they depended on for who they are and their contribution to society and what if they lost.
And so that's where the idea of the listener who's now hard of hearing or the deaf listener.
David Gwyn: So correct me if I'm wrong, but your book takes on some big ideas, like environmental ism, disability studies, social justice. How did you weave those things in and why was that important that, that they were in your book?
Annie Lisenby: Well, the things that are important to me, for sure I find that I tend to unintentionally have environmentalism. Somehow woven into pretty much everything I write in the story they live on an island. The idea is it's a dystopia where the oceans have risen and everybody had to escape to whatever land they could find in.
Everybody meant animals too. So that's how this whole world was created. As [00:05:00] far as some of this. Just issues as far as women. And some of that was inspired by experiences. I had living overseas, I lived in China for three years where I was an English teacher at a university and hearing about how women were treated there.
Inspired a naming system that we have at that I created for this book where they said that when a girl in ancient China was born, she wasn't given a name. She was called so-and-so's daughter. So. You have a daughter, your daughter would only be David's daughter. And then when she would grow older and get married, then she'd be so, and so's a wife.
So I would be just known as Brian's wife. And then when she had her first son, then she would only be known as whomever's mother for me. I have a son named Simon, so I would have gone from Larry's daughter to Brian's wife, to Simon's mom and never given my own name. And that just kind of always rubbed me a little bit wrong.
So I thought, well, how can I incorporate that? And so there's a naming system where they add letters to the girls' names [00:06:00] based on their fathers, who they marry in it and the children.
David Gwyn: Oh, wow. That's so interesting and this is why a so w why did you choose to write this in Y a and not an adult?
Like, did you always want to write for young adults ,
Annie Lisenby: I tend to write why my first novel and another one I've written since then has been YA. And I just enjoy that genre. It's what I read a lot of because I do have the romantic element as well. And it's yeah. First loves first romances first, experiencing those emotions and not understanding them often.
And also just. The world seems simpler as through the eyes of a teenager.
David Gwyn: Yeah. And I can attest, I mean, I think we've talked before, I'm a teacher and I teach in middle school and YA seems like such an important genre if like the time that those kids are, where they are kind of developmentally and socially, and that kind of massive changes that they're going through.
And so I always. I'm intrigued by people who write YA. Cause I feel like it's, it's really important [00:07:00] work that you're doing. So thank you for doing it. So we don't have the rest of us. Don't have to.
Annie Lisenby: Well, I also write books that my daughter who's 10 now. I'm like, I want to write books for her to read too.
So that was another inspiration.
David Gwyn: Yeah. That's, that's exciting. I imagine that's really fun too. When your kids get to that age, they can read the stuff that you're, that you're putting out there. That's really cool.
Annie Lisenby: So she has no filter and she'll tell me the truth of what
David Gwyn: there's your best beta reader.
Right. So I want to go back and let's talk a little bit about how you got started writing. I know you had. Kind of unusual path, I guess I'll say into writing, although I don't know if there's anybody who has a usual path, but can you talk a little bit about how you got started writing? Did you always want to write, what was your
Annie Lisenby: background like?
Well, I've always been an active reader, always loved reading love books. And my training is actually in theater. I have a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts in theater performance and acting and directing. And I. Studied. My second major in undergrad was television production. So I had taken film writing.
I had taken [00:08:00] playwriting and I had played around with those a little bit. But I really feel like my voice for my writing was much more literary. And I spent some time working at a high school myself. I know you're in middle school. I was on the other end of the spectrum and I had taught at a university.
We moved, I got a job at a high school and I was reading more books and getting to know. Teens. And I just thought, you know what? I have, I have stories I want to write too. I mean, I've had stories, ideas that I have, one of them I would love to get to at one point it's a very strong environmental message, but it's been bouncing around since I was in college, which has been a while.
David Gwyn: That's cool. And can you talk a little about how that background, that kind of background in theater has influenced your writing and the way you write.
Annie Lisenby: Oh, gosh, in so many ways, you know, thinking about character development, my whole training is developing characters for the world of theater. And so when I'm writing characters, I often been thinking back to some of those lessons I learned from even.
Stanislavski. And he often talked about the magic. If, [00:09:00] what if, and that's a great way to start any kind of writing of course, but developing the characters, having them have a strong, rich background, having them have their own motivations, having have them have their own challenges. They have to overcome that seem insurmountable and that very much inspired it.
I also. Stage combat and stunt work. And so in, in my book, I actually had one of the reviews that popped up said, you know, they could tell that I had done that because there are some fight scenes. And I enjoyed this so much because I had choreographed fight scenes for plays and for some small films, whenever I lived in Los Angeles.
David Gwyn: Yeah, that's, that's so cool. And I feel like too, it for a lot of people that those movement pieces I imagine come through so naturally in your writing and as a reader, it kind of fits too with what we're expecting characters to be doing, which is so important. I
Annie Lisenby: hope so. But the downfall I have is I tend to write too much dialogue and not enough narration because plays are old
David Gwyn: [00:10:00] island.
Oh, that's, that's so funny. I would have thought like, I guess, yeah, no, that makes sense. I guess I was thinking too, like just the way that you kind of visually see a space. I imagine as a, as somebody with a theater background, but that's true that the dialogue piece, you probably fly through the dialogue.
Annie Lisenby: No problem of dialogue. I see my editors on, on a three letter name at one point, they're like, you need to cut this section. It's like three pages of just dialogue between three characters. I'm like what? That's natural and.
David Gwyn: Yeah, that's so funny. That's so funny. So you have a busy schedule, your mom and, and you have a lot of stuff going on. So how did you go from an idea for this draft to a finished draft? Like when did you write, how did you find this. Oh, gosh. Yeah.
Annie Lisenby: I think that's a challenge. Any parent faces is finding time and not just for writing for like anything.
Some days I'd have trouble finding time for a shower. So I've learned you kind of have to make the time. And there were times when I would write. Put on Disney plus and have it on a movie. And I [00:11:00] would be sitting in the same room and put in my earbuds with some kind of music I found on YouTube and I would just pound away a few pages at a time.
And so it, yeah, it is a challenge. I'm very grateful for the public school system because when my kids can go to school, I work very part-time right now I can do some of that from home between cooking and cleaning and all those.
David Gwyn: So okay. So I want to kind of take you back here to now you've got this, this first draft. Okay. Cause the, this season of the podcast, we're talking a lot about what to do from the time you hit the end on the first draft to getting ready to query and like that kind of like, it feels like a muddy space.
Like it feels like people talk about beta readers, talk about critique partners. They talk about editing. They talk about developmental editors, manuscript, editors, like it feels like very muddied. And so I just kind of want to pull apart what your process was. So. Take take us back to you. Hit the end on that first draft.
What was kind of the first thing you did after
Annie Lisenby: that? Oh, I jumped, well, I had some beta readers, but I did jump into querying very, very soon. [00:12:00] And that's a lesson I've learned with this book and some of it has to do with when I wrote the first draft of the book Publication it's a dual POV, the original one.
It was only told in main character... And I still call her the female character. It's a male and female who dual POV. The character's name is ELs. It was only in her point of view because for, for me, part of me thought, I don't feel like I need to show someone else's point of view because she's deaf or hard of hearing.
And I was really holding on to that idea, but then I started kind of exploring, showing Samuel's . Perspective. And when I started adding that, it was like, whoa. So I only had about 60,000 words written for this book and I thought it was done and I was already to go and I had a few beta readers that said, yeah, it's looking great.
And so I started querying and I started sending it around. And of course I didn't get any bites because it wasn't ready. And so as I went through a few rounds, I would kind of do a round of query, maybe. 2025 agents and then see I'm striking, I'm striking out, I'm striking out and then I'd [00:13:00] go back and do another editing pass, try to clean things up and then go through.
And I'd actually almost given up on the book and I was connected with my publisher through a Twitter pitch. It was a little bit high hail Mary, I don't know like this book, but I threw it out there and they, they picked it up and I was very shocked. But it went from 60,000 words. The first round of query to when I got to that Twitter contest, it was 77,000 words.
And after running through some editing passes with the publisher, it ended up with about 85,000.
David Gwyn: Oh, wow. And so was that something that they were asking you to build out particular places? Or is that something that you could see coming in? Like how did, how did that even back and forth go?
Annie Lisenby: Oh, they were great.
The, the editors I worked with with parliament house press, they were, they were so fantastic. Some of it was just, Hey, we need a little world building here. We need to just fill this out a little bit more. Let's connect with some of the census, because that was a challenge. Of course, writing a [00:14:00] character who is hard of hearing.
How does she perceive the world? For the male character, he had a mango foot walked with a crutch. I could connect with that because I did break my leg about nine years ago and I was on crutches for a solid four months. I have a metal plate in my leg now. And so I could connect with him, but imagining those.
So it was filling in some more of those sensory aspects. It was also, I think we added a little more of motivation here and there. And what's fun is we even went back and my publisher just released an unpublished chapter that is kind of a precursor. That is what happened with ELLs. First became sick.
Like when was that night where she was on the stand and it started storming and there was ice and she couldn't get down safely and then she gets sick and wakes up and she can't. Or can't hear, look, she's hard of hearing. She can't hear some things. So they're releasing a little bit of that now, which is something I wrote as an exercise because I thought, well, do I have the right point of attack for my book?
Cause you know how it is [00:15:00] with every author, where do we actually start the story? So yeah, I decided that wasn't it. And now we get to release it separately.
David Gwyn: That's really exciting. So I've, I've talked to a few writers who have gone, like straight to the publishers route and the, and they've it's varied.
It feels very varied on. Happy people are with the process, but in talking to you, which is one of the reasons I, I am so excited to get to talk to you is because you've had such a positive experience with parliament. And so what, what were you looking for in a publisher? And what, in what ways did parliament kind of cross those things off the list?
Annie Lisenby: Well, to put it simply, I was just looking for a publisher because I am still new. I just started writing. I started writing my first book around 2018. Then I took about a year to write that book. I started this one in 2019 pandemic held up a lot of things. So I was just happy to find someone who was interested in the book and I really was struggling, trying to see, Hey, is this the right publisher?
Is this the way I want to go? So I connected with folks on social media said, Hey, does anybody know this? The [00:16:00] publishers at parliament? They said, Hey, here's some people who worked with us. If you want to connect with them and ask about their experiences. And all I got back with positive feedback and the most important thing they said was.
We're not here to change your book. We're here to work with you to make your book the best it can be. But we want you to have input. We want to have you to have insight at every step of the way, whether editing or even the cover design and some of the social media blitz with publicity. I started making some of my own images with quotes from the books and they just let me.
David Gwyn: Nice. That's nice. I, and I will say, I know I emailed this to your cover is really cool.
Annie Lisenby: They did a beautiful job and we went back and forth on a couple of things on it. But in the end I was just like, Just ideas back and forth and kinda like, oh, this or, oh, that, and then I was like, no, when they sent this, it was like, that's it that's they hit it out of the park.
David Gwyn: That's cool. And I like the idea, and I'm thinking to people who are listening now and are maybe interested in [00:17:00] going straight to a publisher. And that idea of references, I think, is something I haven't heard of before, which I think is so powerful. So that I understand parliament put you in touch with authors that they had worked with.
Annie Lisenby: I kind of talked to them a little bit about some of the people that, you know, they're like, oh, well we have some of these people and some of them were on social media, but I'm, I'm kind of active, mostly on Twitter. And so I reached out to friends there and one of them said, one of the names parliament had mentioned.
So I went kind of in a little bit of a roundabout way, but I think that shows the importance of having a writing committee. And having people you can reach out to. I have some local groups I'm a part of, but as a mom, there is a great group of mom writers on Twitter that I've gotten. I've just made some really great friends through that.
It, you know, I'm like, I wish I could meet these people in person one day, because we've learned about each other's kids. We share so many things about just those struggles you have as a parent and a writer.
Okay. Let's pause there for a second. This is such an interesting [00:18:00] perspective. I wanted to do an interview with Annie because this independent publisher route feels like such an overlooked road to publication. It feels like at least to me, that there's a wealth of information out there about how to query agents and.
There's a lot of people sharing online about how to self publish, but this independent publisher route can sometimes feel like the wild, wild west.
I've heard from a previous guest David Metzker and I'll link his interview in the description below. But he had a less than amazing relationship with his publisher. So I love the idea that Annie shared about finding references to ensure you're working with the right people.
And honestly, you should probably be doing this for your agents too. if you're going to be querying.
And the description you'll find a free resource for what to think about when looking for an agent or publisher. To be sure to get that free download. I think you'll find it useful. And the next part of the interview, we talk about finding a writing community online, how Annie writes her books,
her top resources and advice for aspiring writers. Plus she shares some really great advice for handling rejection that I personally loved. [00:19:00] Let's get back to the interview.
David Gwyn: On this podcast, I talk all the time about how important community is.
And I really found that out in the last few years. And so I love when people share about how important community is, because I feel like it's one of those things that helps you just get over the hump on a lot of the writing struggles that we have. It's just a place to go because a lot of us, and I don't know what your background is.
Like, I don't have anyone in my. Life who writes and, so when I started meeting people in the community really just helped me feel like I wasn't alone. And so what, what was it for you? Is there, is it like one thing that you feel like the community either helped you with helps you understand?
Is there anything that stands out when you think about the kind of various communities that you're in.
Annie Lisenby: Well, I mean, I think it's just having people going through the trenches with you, you know, and I think that's a double-edged sword because there are the challenges of seeing some people, all of a sudden shoot up in success, get that agent, get that big deal.
And there's always that challenge of we are human and it's like the, but I [00:20:00] would like that too. So, I think that's been the important thing is finding a community where that is still celebrated. But also when you're having a hard time, there are people who are there, even silly things, like I had one time, one of my cats love to just sit on my keyboard and I came back and I had four pages of the letter K on a work in progress and, you know, sharing just the silly things like that.
And just the ridiculousness of life with children. Also, I think that's a challenge that we face and there's other parents where sometimes we've had that same question. How do you balance it? How do you find time to write? And so many times it's. You make the time or you steal the time and also about finding the support from our families because yeah, my husband is not a writer and we don't really have writers in my family.
I have a master's of fine arts in theater, so they already thought so I kind of own that, but having other people who understand what it's like. [00:21:00] To also write a scene where I don't know if you've, I imagine you've had this where you write a scene and afterwards you just feel that euphoria of the emotion is there, all the parts, all the pieces there, are there a couple parts in my book that I still read and I get goosebumps and a reviewer on good reads actually quoted one of those sections.
And I almost cried because it was just this beautiful moment where I was like, yes, That's the moment. So having people to kind of understand that and share that with, to celebrate with, to cry with, you know, just to live through writing life with is so important.
David Gwyn: Yeah, that's great. So what are you working on now?
Are you working on another book or are you focused just on this promotion?
Annie Lisenby: As of today, I'm mostly working on just getting, celebrating the cell, this whole coming out of that. Some book signings coming up. A couple of months, I've got a release party. I do have a couple of the books that I have completed my very first novel.
I tried querying it. And I'm [00:22:00] looking at going back to that one, it's also a dystopia YA and I might. Frame some things on that. It needs a little structure help, and it definitely needs some help. It was my first book and we all know how that, and then I just finished something that I've been querying and haven't gotten any traction on.
It's another YA it's a little bit wacky. It's a romcom with vampires. That takes place during the 20, 20, 20, 21 school year where the vampire is like, oh good. We can wear masks. So no one can see our teeth. It's if you've ever seen what we do in the shadows, it's got a little bit of that kind of dark humor, but it's a romcom as well.
. I do have a couple of the projects that are in the works. One that I am just now starting to outline, and I have kind of a first chapter written, but it's a YA contemporary fantasy on and it has. I'm not going to say too much.
Cause I really like my idea and I hate for someone else to take it, keep it to yourself. It is a contemporary fantasy and it's, it's a lot of fun. It takes place. I live in Missouri and a lot of the [00:23:00] stuff I write takes place in this area, unless it's a dystopian world.
David Gwyn: So now that you've kind of gone through that publishing process, do you plan your books the same way?
Like have, do you find that this, these processes you're going through or. Thinking to yourself, you need to outline more or is it kind of, you just go through the same process?
Annie Lisenby: Everybody always talks about Stephen King. Are you a pastor or a plotter? And I've always said, because when I was teaching theater at the college level, we talked a lot about play structure in some of our sections and we'd actually break it down using something called Fritag's, pyramid.
And I, because of that, I've always used some sort of structure. So I always said, well, I would. Plot my main points and my pants, my way between them. And so that's kind of always been the method that's worked well with me, but one thing I've started doing that I find really useful is everybody hates to write a synopsis.
Like it's the hardest thing to take your whole book and squeeze it into like one page. I've started writing the synopsis as part of my outlining. And I find that really useful [00:24:00] because it really helps me focus on those, those main points. I've used it before. And another book I've used for outlining is saved.
The cat writes a novel. A lot of people are familiar with that one. And it gives you very specific plot points and I've used some of those, but then I don't know, it does it, it works to a point, but then you need character development. And so we talked, we were talking about talking about books.
Story genius is another great one for character development and background and all of that. So I kind of marry those two things. Cool.
David Gwyn: Yeah. I feel like it saved. The cat comes up a lot and store genius comes up a lot. And it's funny too, because I feel like a lot of them and not necessarily those, those two resources, but I think to your point.
A lot of them overlap and a lot of them contradict and it's, you really have to like, know what's out there and know about them and have a background, but then make your decisions for your story. And I think that that's a important distinction to make. So is there anything that you learned going through this process, you know, with [00:25:00] editors and a couple of rounds of edits on your book that you could pass along to aspiring authors listening now, anything that you're like, Hey, like don't do this or do do that.
Annie Lisenby: I think the thing is the first thing I would say is, do be bold. Put your work out there. And if you believe in it, put it out there, but also do be prepared for the rejection. I was well-versed in that being an actress. I was rejected. Oh. So many times before I ever got into writing for many acting roles.
And so I, I had a little bit of a tough skin. And I always tell people that when you have those rejections. Allow yourself to have that emotion, allow yourself to be disappointed, but don't allow it to overtake you, you know, have that moment where you eat a bowl of ice cream and you're sad for a bit, but then like angry right after that and get angry and get back to your laptop.
So with this process, I would say, first of all, just putting it out there. I mean, this a three letter name was probably rejected at least 62. I'm guessing I would have to double check at [00:26:00] least at 50 to 60 times it was rejected before it was picked up from a publisher. So a lot of it is just put yourself out there again and again and again, and until, you know, Maybe it's not the right time.
My first book, I pulled it after 25 queries and wasn't getting any, I had some full requests, but nothing got picked up. I thought not need to work on this. So I think also being able to admit when there are problems with your manuscript and that goes into working with an editor that's my advice. I always say, you know, Tough enough when you work at the editor, be willing to recognize the places where you're like, this is the thing that I will die on a hill for.
I will not change these things as a mom, I write romance without a. In the bedroom type of intimacy, because as I said, I want to write stuff. I want my kids to write, and there's already a lot of books out there like that. I want something a little bit lighter for other people. So that was what was the thing that I'm like, I would die on a hill for how intimate the characters got.
But also, I think one of the things that's beautiful about working with an editor is I can look back [00:27:00] now and see, yeah, sometimes they said stuff like this needs to change. This needs to be updated. But it was for a really good reason. And as we progressed, you know, there was my very favorite editing note because I had a great editor who was very encouraging too.
She compared Samuel in a three letter name, the male main character to Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series. I smiled for a week after getting that. So you have to see it as a partnership that ultimately both of you want your book to succeed. You want it to be the best it can be.
And sometimes you're going to get your feelings hurt a little bit, but if it's what's best. Just push past and you know, stay true. And if it really is a terrible experience and maybe you're with the wrong person, it's like dating. If it's not working out, it's not working out. And it's okay to just, yeah.
David Gwyn: no, I love that. I, I was like an athlete growing up, played sports and all that. And I always think of it like a coach, like a coach may yell at you, but it's because you both [00:28:00] want to win the game. You want to be a better player. Coach wants you to be better. You want the team to win.
The coach, wants the team to win. And I feel like have trying to keep that mindset but if you're like, you're saying, if you're with the right person and a person that you trust and a person that, you know, has your best interest and wants the book to be as great as you want it to be.
Then maybe it takes the sting away just a little bit, even just a little bit. It would be.
Annie Lisenby: Yeah. I mean, if you're going to put your writing out there, you have to be ready for someone to say, Nope. I mean, my book was on NetGalley so there were some folks who did reviews on good reads and I enjoyed reading those and, you know, seeing where people were like, oh, I didn't like this thing because of this reason.
One person said a section, an idea from it made them very uncomfortable and I was like, well, yeah, Yeah, that made you rate it lower. But for me, I'm like good. I did my job. And so one has to do with perspective as well. You know, you're not going to please anyone. I mean, you've taught and especially in middle school, you know, you're going to do something and someone's not gonna like it.
And you can't make everybody happy. And your book's not gonna [00:29:00] be everybody's cup of tea, but that's okay.
David Gwyn: So I'm going to ask you to be a little reflective here as a, as a debut author, kind of in the throws of your release. Your book is out now as of like 24 hours ago, basically. And you're in that kind of coveted, debut year. Is there anything either leading up to the release or in these kind of first couple of days or weeks that you have planned that you're either glad you did along the way, or you know, if, if you go back in time that you might do differently, that's
Annie Lisenby: a good question.
I don't know that there's a lot, I would significantly do differently. My book was actually delayed because of the pandemic. It was supposed to come out in August of 2021 and got bumped to may. So I have a little bit of a longer, yeah, I had just signed my contract. My very first meeting I had with the publishers was over zoom.
Because of actually it wasn't zoom some other V I always, before everybody did zoom, but it was right when the lockdowns had happened. I think it was actually in March of [00:30:00] 2020. So I I've had a while to think about these things. I think some of it that I would say that I'm proud of doing is how much marketing you have to do, even though it's like, I have a publisher, you know, there are expectations on me to put it out there.
I'm having a release party here in my hometown of only 10,000 people. So the last few days I've been going around getting donations for. You know, and things like that to help bring people. And you know, I know someone, oh, this person works over there. Oh, there's that insurance agent. Maybe it'll give me some free pens, you know, drop anything in there, gift cards from some local restaurants.
So I think it's just when the, some authors are a little more reserved than maybe I am, because I'm used to getting up in front of people for teaching and for theater. So I think you have to protect. Whatever part of you has trouble with maybe putting yourself out there, protect it, that also push your boundaries.
And so I have definitely pushed my boundaries by going [00:31:00] out a little bit more than I normally would, but as far as like the lead up. I think I would maybe ask more questions along the way. Sometimes I felt like, oh, I don't want to bother them. I don't want to ask a question and that's not because of the way parliament treated me at all.
They always answered everything right away. They were super helpful. But that was my thing I had to get over was, oh, I don't want to bother anybody. I just had my little book over here, but what about, oh, this thing? And the fun thing was is the more you ask questions. And when we got deeper into some other elements, the publisher just created a map of the.
Where it takes place. They created a name game for, if you're a woman, you want to figure out what your name would be if you lived on the island you know, and do some things like that. Because as we had these conversations and I ask questions like, oh, well we could do this and oh, we can do that.
David Gwyn: That's cool. And that's so funny. I, so I talked to Paula Munier , who's a, an author and a literary agent and she just a few days ago, and she kind of said the same thing. And so I love that we're kind of dispelling this myth here, that like the author just writes the [00:32:00] book and hands it over and walks away. And I think hearing from you and everything that you, you had to do, and it's, it's typical now of, of authors.
And I think that she put her best. You know, now with all of the options available to us through like, I mean, we're talking, oh, we don't live anywhere near each other. And I'm able to interview you and talk to you and get this out and share this
and then she put it as like writers have to become authors and that there's that transition. And it seems like you're kind of like taking that on. You're like, Nope, we do marketing for the book because that's what we have to do. So I think that's so cool that it's kind of like echoing now. For me, certainly in, in for anyone who's listening.
This idea of that, you're an author, but you're also, you also have to
Annie Lisenby: market your book. Well, you did. And I think it's interesting that you can use your own skillset and your own background to help push those things forward. For example, I'm working on a discussion guide because I had taught at a high school.
I taught in colleges. So I've got one that's going to be for a team that could be used in a classroom. So David, if you want to order some copies for reading for your class, I'm working on the discussion guide for that, but [00:33:00] also wonderful book. 'cause you know, a group of 40 something women, like in my book club are going to talk about different ideas than some teenagers might.
And so, because I've taught part of me thinks I'm going to make a lesson plan for this. So, you know, it's, it's thinking about what are your strengths? I know some people really great with developing online visuals and graphic art, and I'm like use that, you know, use all of your skills because we know that as authors and writers, we're more than.
That we all have all these other passions and interests and, and friends use your friends too. I've been so fortunate and blessed by the support I've had from friends through. I had a launch team going and the first day I came out, they had reviews up. They were just knocking it out of the ballpark and I'm just, you know, super grateful.
And in the writing community, the nice thing is you can. Scratch each other's backs a little bit, you know, like, oh, you've got a new book. Great. I would love to read that and write a review for you and then we'll share.
David Gwyn: Yeah, [00:34:00] no, that's great. I love that idea of thinking about what your strengths are like, what are your strengths and how can you use that to, to convey a message to readers or to potential readers?
That's, that's really fun. So as we kind of wrap up here, just have a couple more questions, my first one is. Books movies or resources you suggest for aspiring writers? I know we talked about story genius. We talked about save the cat. Is there anything else that comes to mind that helped you along the way?
Annie Lisenby: Those, I think story genius, and save the cat are the ones I use mostly for structure. I'm currently reading Anne Lamont bird by bird, which is just reflection on writing. And one thing that she and Stephen King in on writing both say, you know, encourage, you know, make it a. Set you hours
I think those are really useful. And as far as any specific things, I think, you know, find something that inspires you. A lot of people pick one genre that they write in. And part of the reason I write why a is, because that's what I, that's what I read. That's the audio book I'm going to listen to.
And so, you know, immerse yourself [00:35:00] in the other things that are going on. In the writing world as well, because that's what was one of the challenges is keeping up with the trends. I was just saying, be a sponge, just snuck up the world around you so that then you can squeeze it back out.
David Gwyn: no, that's great. So what is, there's one thing you would hope that people would take away from this conversation? Aspiring writers, people who want to be where you are someday. If there was one thing you'd want them to take away from this conversation, what do you think that that would be.
Annie Lisenby: Well, I would think to know that sometimes writers, we feel lost on our own little islands.
Like the one I wrote about in my book, but you're not alone. And I think if you're willing to put yourself out there, you're going to find that community and you're going to find those readers. So I think. Be brave to put yourself out there yourself as you're who you are as a person to find that community, but also be brave to put yourself out there in, in your art, in, in the words that you write on the page.
And even [00:36:00] though we, we joke a little bit about the rejection you'll get there. There's some beauty in the fact that someone read my words, whether they like them or not.
David Gwyn: I think too, that, that idea of rejection and that's another theme community and rejections, you need to be the big things we talk about here, which I, I don't know if that's, I don't know what that says about me, but no, I think that's the thing that keeps coming up and I think there is, and, and everyone who's gone through it and kind of come out on the other end, says the same thing, which is like, they they're in a lot of ways.
It's good that there's rejection because it, it means that the thing that you get on the other end is worth it. If that makes sense. And so that's great. I think that'll really resonate with people. That message. I'm just going to say the one
Annie Lisenby: thing I always say about rejection.
Do you have to decide, are you going to let rejection destroy you? Are you gonna let it just smash your flat or are you going to let it make you stronger? So, you know, you have to really constantly be changing your mind around what rejection actually
David Gwyn: is. Yeah, such a great message. So my last question is where can people find you?
Where can people look you
Annie Lisenby: up? Oh, great. Yeah, [00:37:00] you can find me on my websites. Annie, listen, b.com. Spelled L I S E N B Y. It's not a common name, but that's okay. I've got Annie on Twitter. I am on Instagram. I am on a Tik Tok now.
I, I still am figuring out Tik Tok. I'm showing the age a little bit. My ten-year-old keeps telling me what I should do up tick talk. I've got to take her advice other than doing lots of videos of our cat. So yeah, if you go to my website, you'll find a lot of links. And I also have a newsletter that I'm sending out about once or twice a month.
Not to just blow up people's mailboxes, but just to keep in touch. And so you can sign up for that on my website.
David Gwyn: Great. And I'll link if you're listening and you want to get in touch with Annie I'll link to all that stuff. So you have easy access. Annie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
I had a blast. This was so much fun. And congratulations about on your, your debut novel. Thank you, David.
Annie Lisenby: Yeah, this has been really fun. I was like, we should go out for coffee someday. We're on very
David Gwyn: far away
Annie Lisenby: from you, [00:38:00] but yeah. Thank you so much. This has been a real treat to go through this experience, having the book release and like I've said it many times, I'm really grateful.
For taking a gamble on this book that has characters who are disabled and beasts that are trying to eat them.
David Gwyn: That's what a great tagline.
Annie Lisenby: Oh, and there's romance to that too.
So there you have it. Independent publishing can be a great route for those of you who want more control than traditional publishing. But still having a partner in team to help you find success. And the description you'll find a list of questions and things to think about when talking to an agent or publisher, you also find a manuscript checklist.
Like Annie shared. We don't always know when we're ready to start. Querying agents are looking for publishers. This free resource and the description. We'll hopefully help you out. If you're still here and you found value in this interview with Annie, can I ask you a small favor? Can you take just a minute or two of your time and do a review of the podcast? It helps so much in finding an audience and honestly makes me [00:39:00] feel like I'm not just sending these interviews out into the void.
We'll talk next week, but in the meantime, check out some clips from this season. Of the writerly lifestyle interview series
Paula Munier: I am looking for writers who are in this for the long haul, because it's a long haul business
Jessica Payne: Well, I actually asked her what's one thing I could do better as an author after we finished, make me disappear. And she's like, you could consider plotting a little bit because I am like such a pantser. And I can see her point.
Paulette Perhach: There are a thousand ways that someone might not accept your piece that has literally nothing to do with the quality. And just knowing, like, there are a ton of good writers. It's not, you it's that, we're all in here doing it together. And sometimes it's someone else's turn and sometimes it's your turn and that can be really hard.
Zulie Rane: I've always wanted to be a writer. I always thought I would be a fiction writer a novelist. I still remember, I don't know how old I was, maybe like seven or eight opening the book, looking at the back cover and [00:40:00] realizing books.
Don't just to, they don't spring into being fully formed. Somebody writes them. It's somebody's job to create those. And I was like, oh, amazing. That could be me.
Ericka Baldwin: Because we grow your book can grow. And because we learn almost every day. And if we, if we task ourselves to learn something new, right, then we can always apply and continue to apply to the same manuscript.