R. J. Keller, author of Waiting for Spring and the forthcoming The Wendy House, my partner in the PaperRats writers’ relief YouTube series Inside the Writers’ Studio, Backword Books member, and obsessive Star Wars fan, has recently had her independently released novel, Waiting for Spring, picked up by Amazon’s Encore imprint. Here, she answers some questions about going to the dark side.
Congratulations on Waiting for Spring‘s move to Amazon’s Encore imprint! What kind of day were you having when you heard from them, and what was the rest of your day like after that?
Thank you! The truth is I was having a rather shitty day (pardon my Bulgarian). The rural convenience store where I work, in the very rural town where I live, had recently burned down and I was transferred to a location in the city of Bangor (“city” is a relative term in Maine). My first shift was fairly hideous. The store is busy beyond belief and patronized by a rather rough crowd. Customers without proper IDs were refused alcohol and tobacco. Obnoxious kids spilled sticky Slush Puppy beverages on the counter, then burst into hysterical laughter. Insults and objects were hurled (not at the kids, although they deserved it). After ten hours of chaos, I was physically and emotionally drained, but by the time I got home – at shortly after midnight – I was too wound up to sleep. I checked my email and found a letter from AmazonEncore acquisitions editor, Terry Goodman, in which he offered to take on Waiting For Spring.
My first reaction was shock. It was one of those moments you hear about when you literally can’t believe what you’re reading. Then, of course, I “squeeeed!” a little. Or maybe it was a lot. Then I got nervous. I was afraid it might be a scam and I didn’t want to be taken in like an idiot. I’d heard of AmazonEncore, of course, but as I sat there in my Slush-Puppy-stained convenience store uniform, it seemed a little unreal that this email could actually be from them to me. Finally, I sent a copy of it to Craig Lancaster, whose novel The Summer Son had recently been acquired by Encore, with a note that asked, in part, “Is this the real AmazonEncore?” His response was, “This is the real deal! Congratulations!” After that, the Slush Puppy and obnoxious customers faded from memory.
As a rejected writer who has found success outside of that system, though, I will admit to moments of irritation about this practice. I personally think that if publishing houses looked at readers, instead of bookstores, as their customers, they’d be able to more accurately judge what The Market is really looking for and they wouldn’t be struggling to stay afloat. More importantly, maybe we wouldn’t be anticipating Snooki’s upcoming memoir.
I can only speak to how AmazonEncore works, but I think what I find the most surprising is how quickly things are going. I signed my contract in September. Here it is, a little more than a month later, and my book has already had a thorough copy-editing, promotional material is being readied, and the new book cover is ready. My head is spinning with how much has been accomplished so quickly.
First of all, I cannot sufficiently express how much I love the new cover. It so perfectly conveys the tone of the book. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got it.
But my biggest moment of WHOOPIE came when I received the promo material to look over. I had to call my friend and editor, Amy Rogers, right away and scream girlishly for awhile, because that’s when it hit me: There are people who are being paid to read my book and to think of ways to encourage other people to buy it. It was The Moment for me.
I feel very fortunate to have been involved in every step so far. I very much appreciate how open everyone at Encore has been to my input and how much they’ve included me in the process.
I won’t deny that, in the deepest corner of my wildest dreams, I sometimes imagine movie deals and appearances on The Daily Show. But my original goal in putting my book out into the world still stands. I want to get as many people to read it as I possibly can. Encore has the resources to put it into more hands than I could ever dream of doing on my own.
The official re-release day is May 11, 2011. There will be much eating of pie and drinking of celebratory beverages. And I’m trying to figure out a way to share the day with my very loyal and very vocal readers. They’re the ones who have helped WFS get this far.
If, once it’s finished, they’re interested in publishing it, I’m definitely up to letting them do so.
(I interview R.J. Keller about The Wendy House, when it was just a work in progress, here.)