Friday, November 9, 2007

Interview with Publisher and Writer Deanna Lee

Guest Maven Deanna LeeToday, it's the Mavens' pleasure to introduce Deanna Lee, multi-published author of numerous books, including The Penetration Diaries (is that a killer title or what?), Undressing Mercy, and Barenaked Jane, and co-founder/owner with fellow author Sable Grey of Cobblestone Press.

We invited Deanna to guest with us today because Cobblestone has become since its inception as much a community of writers as a publishing house. As writers themselves, Deanna and Sable bring a unique perspective to their role as publishers and the community their efforts have inspired is certainly an outgrowth of that perspective.


Before we turn to the subject of the writers' community that's grown up around Cobblestone Press, could you tell us why you decided to start an epublishing house in the first place and give us a bit of Cobblestone's history for those of our readers who aren't familiar with you?

Sable and I came to the idea of Cobblestone one night during a very long conversation about ePublishing. We had very firm thoughts on what an author-friendly publisher should be and we knew that could create that kind of environment. We started researching the market, publishing, and went to work immediately on a five year business plan. We founded in January of 2006 and opened with our first six books in June of 2006. We’ll be exploring print in the next year or so on a small scale, as we believe firmly in planning well and executing ideas with precision. Anything else would be a disservicee to the authors we are honored to publish.

Cobblestone's online forum and weekly release chats have fostered a strong community of writers at various stages in their careers. Was that intentional or a happy accident?

It was certainly what we wanted! I love other writers and it’s nice to have a place to go online where you can share writing news and find others to challenge you to improve. The weekly chat is our way of connecting with both authors and readers regularly. At Cobblestone we have a very transparent communication process because we believe it to be important. We utilize forums, Yahoo groups, and blogs in an effort to keep everyone on the same page and in the game. I think it works very well.

One of the things many writers struggle with is balancing their writing time between garnering advice and support (often through online communities) and actually writing. How do you manage this and what do you think is an appropriate balance to strike?

I don’t sleep. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you live on espresso shots and ambition. Okay, so seriously I think the friend of any writer is a schedule that you can follow. It does absolutely no good to set up a schedule you know you won’t follow or make a word count goal you know you can’t meet. Challenging yourself is good, but setting realistic goals will prevent you from becoming discouraged quickly.

What kinds of experiences did you have with RWA chapters and writing communities before Cobblestone?

I am a member of the RWA, but I joined after I was published. I’ve belonged to writing communities in the past (good and bad) and on the whole I recommend them to writers at every level. Writing is a very solitary craft and it’s easy to isolate yourself. Isolation isn’t healthy for the creative soul, no matter how much you might think so. We need intellectual stimulation and other writers can provide that in spades!

What advice do you have for writers seeking online or live communities to participate in? Are there certain things writers should or shouldn't do in a forum environment?

I do caution against overly social writing groups. You want a proactive WORKING group—not a place where people exchange recipes and complain about their spouses/jobs all the time. Granted, those places can be a great deal of fun but they aren’t productive and often they can draw you into drama that leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted. A writing community should be a place where you recharge your batteries, not be a source of constant drainage.

While it hardly needs to be said, I also caution everyone against bad behavior in forums. The news of bad acts travel four times faster than the news of good deeds. Our writing world is rather small. If something negative gets posted about me on a forum that I don’t belong to, you can bet I’ll get 10 copies of the post in my email from various people within the hour of the posting. No forum or news group is truly private. So, please don’t put anything in writing you don’t want the world to know.

How do you feel about the practice of writers posting their works-in-progress to an online forum? Good idea/bad idea?

Critique groups can be an invaluable resource as long as the members trust each other and participate equally. I don’t recommend posting your work on a public forum because it can be viewed as a form of self-publication. If you are going to critique on a forum or group, make sure that it’s only available to members and don’t leave your work up there indefinitely. One of the best online sites for this is: http://www.critiquecircle.com/ , but I recommend you go there with body armor on. Those writers can and will be hard core when it comes to critique.

Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Cobblestone Press?

Beyond how absolutely fabulous we are? Well, on November 10th, Karen Wiesner will be joining us for a day long Q&A session about her book “First Draft in 30 Days” –you only have to be a member of Main Street to participate. http://www.cobblestone-mainstreet.com/.

In January we will be holding our second FREE online writing conference. More information on the Words in Motion event can be found here: http://www.cobblestone-mainstreet.com/WIM/index.htm.

YOUR TURN: Deanna will be available today to answer any questions you might have, so please, feel free to comment and ask! Deanna will be giving away a signed copy of Barenaked Jane to one lucky commentator, so post away!

And thanks, again, Deanna, for being with us today!

12 comments:

Sable Grey said...

We really appreciate the chance to let you guys know about Cobblestone Press.

Jackie Barbosa said...

Hi Sable! Glad you stopped by.

I have to say that I cannot gush enough about how supportive and friendly everyone at Cobblestone has been. When I first decided to take the plunge into the world of epublishing, I was very apprehensive about what it would mean to my career overall. I have to say that I have learned so much from you and Deanna and Emma and others at Cobblestone, and certainly feel I made the right decision by contracting Carnally Ever After with you folks.

Thanks for everything and keep up the good work!

Jacqueline (posting in her other incarnation)

Sable Grey said...

I wanted to add that we will be hosting our first online conference, Words in Motion, for romance readers and writers in January of 2008 in our community forums - one of our newest ways of uniting the industry. Authors and publishers will be able to come together and meet readers and promote their books. We believe that this industry is big enough for everyone and think this conference will be a way for us to show our support for the industry.

The conference will be absolutely free for everyone to attend and participate. For registration and more information, you can visit http://www.cobblestone-mainstreet.com/WIM/

-Sable

Sable Grey said...

Thanks Jackie! I'm so pleased that you are happy with Cobblestone! Deanna and I have both been on the bad end of poor business deals with epublishers and on the good end with others as well. We know how much work it is to write a story and then to make the decision to send it out into the big bad world with hopes of having it loved. Our goal was to provide a publisher that offered a positive place/home for authors at a publisher that really does care about the authors' successes.

Ericka Scott said...

Cobblestone Rocks!

I'm new to e-publishing, Cobblestone Press was my first acceptance and I've since signed with two other publishers -- one of whom folded.

I feel a bit "unfaithful" sending my work out to another publisher yet I don't want my entire backlist at one house.

This brings me to my question -- how do publishers "really" feel about authors being published with a multitude of publishing houses?

Deanna Lee said...

I can't speak for other publishers but it doesn't bother me in the least to see authors publish elsewhere. Being multi-published is the smart thing to do and it works towards building your career. I'm published at several e-houses and will likely publish at different ones in the future (outside of Cobblestone). There is nothing wrong with it.

In fact, I would shy away from a publisher who actively discouraged you from submitting to other publishers.

Katie [readinginglasgow@gmail.com] said...

I really liked The Penetration Diaries and I was wondering if you are planning more installments to follow? The story kind of felt unfinished and I would love to read more about the heroine :-)

Deanna Lee said...

ahh... penetration. I actually have several books in that series plotted but as always I'm strapped for time and have more ideas than I have time for. I'm considering doing free installments for the penetration series in my newsletter.

Jennah said...

Deanna, I have to say you have the best book titles! Great interview! The Cobblestone writing community has been the best motivation to continue writing.

robynl said...

Deanna, what you said "Challenging yourself is good, but setting realistic goals will prevent you from becoming discouraged quickly" is well said in many aspects of life. It is good to hear it again and make one sit back and ponder on it. Thanks.

Ali said...

Great information on today's post :) I love Cobblestone books and their authors already :)

Erica Ridley said...

It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you live on espresso shots and ambition.

Heh. I resemble this remark. =)

Thanks for a great interview!

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