Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tips on Traditional Book Publishing with Author Carlene Dater

Most writers dream of being accepted and traditionally published by a big-name publishing house. While some are able to achieve this dream, for most of us, striving to become numb to the heart-wrenching Dear John rejection letter is more the normal reality of our book-writing career. So what would it feel like if we were to finally receive that letter of acceptance?

Carlene Dater has received ten acceptance letters and is here in this exclusive interview to share with us not only how it feels, but how we too can work towards achieving this goal.

Carol Denbow: Welcome Carlene, and thank you for agreeing to share your experience and knowledge of the writing and publishing world.

First I would like to ask you to tell the viewers a bit about your personal self, where you’re from, family, and career?

Carlene Dater: I was born in Minneapolis but have lived all over the country. I worked for two International airlines for eight years until I met my husband, Dennis in L.A. We’ve been married for 40 years and are childless by choice. We currently have to huge yellow Labrador Retrievers, Tara and Duke.

Carol Denbow: Sounds like a nice family just as it is!

Can you please tell us what type of books you write?

Carlene Dater: I took my first creative writing course while living in Central Massachusetts from a wonderful man, Gary Provost. Gary taught me that if you can write, you can write anything – and I have. I prefer writing humorous mysteries, but have published romances, horror, and confessions stories, straight mystery and a non-fiction book. I try not to limit myself and am always stretching and trying new things.

Carol Denbow: Sounds like an adventure in itself! So where do you get these story ideas from?

Carlene Dater: Story ideas are everywhere. It’s turning those ideas into complete novels that’s tough. I get ideas from watching TV, reading, talking with people, walking my dogs, and listening to music. I always carry a notebook with me, so I can grab ideas when they pop up. If I don’t, they’re gone forever.

Carol Denbow: I too keep a notepad, but it's more for simply knowing what I need to get done in a day! Age...what do you do???

So with such a mix of stories and book ideas, are all your books all published by the same publishing house or different ones? If so, why would that be?

Carlene Dater: I currently have five different publishers! Silly, I know. I have several books with two publishers and one each at the other three. I sent out multiple queries and just happened to get accepted at different publishers.

Two of my books, Call Sign: Love and An Extra Pair of Eyes are reprints that my first publisher took on. Call Sign will be out in paperback in the next month or so. The publisher was familiar with my work and reissued them for me. Call Sign was the number one bestseller on Fictionwise for August, 2009.

Carol Denbow: Now I'm really curious. How many query letters have you sent in total over your writing career?

Carlene Dater: Oh, too numerous to count. Just for my most recent published book, Roman Circus, a humorous sweet romance, I spend over a year and sent out about 90 queries. Several agents were interested but…I write humor and humor is hard to sell!

Carol Denbow: Many of our first-time want-to-be authors ask how long they should wait to hear back from a publisher after submitting their manuscript. What is the longest you have waited and what has been the normal for you?

Carlene Dater: If a new writer is intent on being published traditionally, in paper, she will need to have an agent. Most of the big publishers only work through agents. With POD or e-pubs, it depends on the publisher. Mind Echoes took six months to be acquired. Roman Circus – one day!!! With a traditional publisher it can take, literally, years.

Carol Denbow: When querying a publisher, what do you think is the key to garner their attention to a particular manuscript?

Carlene Dater: A great query letter. You have to grab the agent/publisher immediately. You have to have all the pertinent information about the book, plus any published credits you have or expertise in writing the book and …all on one page. There are several craft books on the art of writing query letters so it’s advisable to read several and if you can find a published author to read the query first, do that.

Carol Denbow: Do you think first-time writers who are accepted should expect an advance from their publisher? If so, what is considered a fair amount?

Carlene Dater: It depends entirely on the publisher. Once again, with the big boys, Random House, Harper Collins, etc. the typical advance is $5,000 to $10,000. Harlequin/Silhouette I believe it’s closer to $1,000/$5,000. However, if the publisher senses a bestseller in your work it can get into six figures. POD and e-publishers generally do not give advances. However, that’s changing too. I received a small advance for Roman Circus.

Carol Denbow: Do you receive a considerable amount of publicity from your publishers, or are you still required to do most of the marketing yourself (as self-publishers do)?

Carlene Dater: Once again, it depends on the publisher. All of the publishers I’m with have sent our review copies to several sites, but I still have to do a lot myself. I’m not good at publicity. I’d rather be writing new books, but…it is important to get your name out there. I belong to a lot of different networking sites and try to post frequently. I’ve done book signings with some of my paperbacks and it was fun to meet people at the bookstore, but I never sold that many books.

Carol Denbow: Do you have an agent? If so, have you always had one, the same one, and have they always succeeded in getting your books published?

Carlene Dater: No, I’ve never had an agent. I’ve tried several times over the years and just never clicked with anyone. With the advent of e-publishing, I think eventually there will be far fewer agents actively selling manuscripts. With the recession, all traditional publishing is down, along with literary agencies. It’s getting to be just too expensive to print books. If they don’t sell, they have to be destroyed. E-books are forever.

Carol Denbow: Noting that, do you recommend writers obtain the services of a literary agent?

Carlene Dater: If you want a big New York publisher and a print book, yes. They only work with agents. The exceptions are Harlequin/Silhouette, the big romance publishers. You do not need an agent to get published with them, BUT they have very precise guidelines for each category romance they publish, so you have to be very familiar with each line.

Carol Denbow: Okay, now for the good stuff! Carlene, please tell us the titles of your books and where they can be ordered.

Carlene Dater: Here’s a list of where to find my published books:
Roman Circus – a humorous sweet romance

Mind Echoes – a paranormal romantic suspense novel
Stormy Love – romantic suspense
The Worst Evil – a dark mystery

Call Sign: Love – contemporary romance
The Colors of Death – a humorous mystery
An Extra Pair of Eyes – non-fiction book about my volunteer effort at the Sheriff’s Department

Finder- a humorous mystery

Mysterious Gift – an erotic paranormal romantic suspense novella

You can also find some of my books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Fictionwise.

Carol Denbow: Readers, make sure you search those sites specifically for "Carlene Dater."

Carlene, new writers are always interested in successful published authors like yourself. Where might our viewers learn more about you and your books?

Carlene Dater: I currently have two Websites: and I try to update both frequently.

Carol Denbow: Thank you for a wonderful and informative interview. Is there anything you would like add or any tidbit of advice you would like to share with our visitors?

Carlene Dater: I’ve been writing for a long time and still love it. I enjoy mentoring new writers and have been judging contests for years. If you have questions about any aspect of writing and/or publishing, email me. I’ll be happy to answer questions or do anything I can to help you advance your writing career. My email is: Just mention you read about me on Carol’s blog and I’ll be happy to help.

I’ll leave you with my favorite writing quote: “The difference between an amateur and a professional is persistence.” Keep writing and never give up!

Carol Denbow: Thank you so much Carlene for sharing this useful information with us and thank you to everyone who stopped by the Blog to read this amazing interview! If anyone would like to leave a comment for Carlene, please do so below.


Susan Heim said...

Great interview! I'm glad to hear that Carlene's been successful in many genres. All of my published books so far have been nonfiction, and I'm eager to try my hand at fiction but have lacked some confidence in my ability to switch gears. Carlene's success has given me the courage to give it a shot!

Glynis Peters said...

Interesting interview, thanks for sharing it with us.

I wonder how you cope with the various publishers Carlene?

Great success story, all the best for the future.

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

It's always fun to hear how other authors moved from manuscripts to published books.

POD has helped a lot of people get their books published because there's less risk in it to the publisher. POD is used by many small, traditional presses who often get the books out there in e-book formats as well.


jean hart stewart said...

GReat interview....You juggle a lot, I just know....Jean

Unknown said...

This article has opened my eyes to something I've mistakenly believed - that any publishers other than the big houses will take almost anyone and without an agent. I didn't know you had to send queries and be accepted. I have been using POD for so long and passed up small presses that I haven't kept up with these kinds of changes in the industry. With my 5th and 6th books now being written, I will be checking a few presses to see what they can do for me that POD doesn't. It's worth the research.


This is priceless information for me as a beginning writer. What a blessing to learn from the experience of those who have made it. My hat is off to you. God bless and thanks for sharing.

Nicole said...

Always inspiring to read interviews like this :)