What better person to feature for Creative Groove’s first blog post than writer Nora Zelevansky? After all, this Angeleno-turned-Brooklyn dweller has long been in her creative groove, writing for publications like Travel + Leisure, Salon, Self, The Daily Beast, and many more. (She also writes truly awesome Bachelor recaps on her blog.) And now with the release of her new book, Semi-Charmed Life, Nora’s officially living the dream. We snagged this busy scribe for some Groovy Q’s where she tells us about landing an agent, writing NaNoWrimo-style, and her rockin’ guerrilla book promotion tactics.
Oh, and she even gave us a free copy to give away! Want it for your bookshelf? Enter by commenting below and/or liking us on Facebook. We’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, July 10th. Woo-hoo!
And with no further ado, Nora’s wisdom:
Tell us about your book’s path to publication. How did you go about getting an agent and all that jazz? How many agents did you consider or hear from before finding the right one?
Nora: My hustling experience as a freelance writer probably came into play when I started looking for an agent. I’d already hit up multiple friends for notes on the manuscript and I felt like it was in decent enough shape to go out, so first I reached out to any agents who had contacted me throughout the years, wondering if I had material. (I used to do somewhat regular personal essay readings, so that had garnered some interest.) Next, I reached out to every friend I could imagine who might know somebody with knowledge of and relationships in the publishing industry. Last, I did research into some of my favorite authors, whose books I felt were in a similar vein, and checked out who represented them.
I think I made it a longer experience than it had to be, if I’m honest. I was so worried about making a bad decision. There were of course several agents who didn’t think the book was a good fit and then a few I thought weren’t quite the right fit for me. I was lucky to have a few great options. Ultimately, I landed with Anne Bohner of Pen & Ink Literary for MANY reasons. The first was that I just liked and trusted her immediately. The second was that she was enthusiastic from the outset and, though she had some suggestions, her interest wasn’t conditional. She understood that I needed to feel like the book was still mine. Thirdly, she was formerly an editor in the genre and I knew that her experience on the other side of things would inform her in amazing ways.
Lastly, when I first met her, I went to her apartment in New York and she made me some amazing popovers. How do you say no to that?
Do you think your freelance career positioned you well for becoming an author? What would be your advice for other journalists who want to get published?
Nora: I think my freelance career definitely helped in both personal and practical ways: First, it made me less afraid of rejection. (After all, as we journalists know, rejection is an everyday experience.) The hustle was more organic for me, both when it came to find an agent and also publicizing the book. Also, I drew on elements of my fashion, beauty and travel writing experience in Semi-Charmed Life.
Also, I guess that novelists aren’t always so hot on taking notes, but — for me — that’s just part of the writing experience from day to day, so I didn’t mind as much. I think that was helpful.
My advice is just to dive in. If you’re used to writing all the time, there’s nothing stopping you — even if it’s 10 minutes a day and not everyday. Even if you never use what you write, for me it was just a great exercise and outlet. As a journalist, I was used to writing with such strict parameters based on someone else’s needs. This was a chance to write whatever I wanted, which seemed really novel (no pun) and a breath of fresh air.
I know firsthand how hard it can be to juggle various types of writing. How do you stay organized and on top of your workload?
Nora: I don’t. Ha! No, I mean, I try. But it has been tricky at times, especially in the last few months while trying to publicize the book. That was almost the most work of all. BUT I wrote the original draft using the tenets of National Novel Writing Month (so about 1677 words a day on average for a month) and that was super helpful for me. I didn’t get in my own like I might have without that structure.
You’ve done an awesome job of promoting your book on your own. What was your strategy and how did you go about implementing it?
Nora: Thank you! It’s been tricky and I hope that it all works out well. I really just went at promoting the book with no holds barred. I talked to everyone and anyone and I’m sure irritated a lot of people on Facebook. (I may be blocked by a few people who were sick of my updates – ha.) I created an author page there, got on Twitter, created a YouTube channel (on which I’ll hopefully upload readings and maybe Book Club questions via video) and came up with angles to pitch to every editor and journalist that I knew or who came to mind or who I found while surfing online.
The struggle is that there is an endless amount of promotion that you can do and there’s no guarantee in terms of what works and what doesn’t for a particular book. At a certain point, I had to just surrender and decide that I would do what I could, but I couldn’t do EVERYTHING or I would lose my mind trying.
In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about being an author?
Nora: Hmm. Well, maybe that the book has to have been this tome that took you ten years. Of course, sometimes it is and that’s a really impressive, incredible feat. But the truth is that writing a novel is not an insurmountable task. You can do it if you really want to. Whether or not it catches the interest of agents and publishers is another thing entirely, of course. But even just the writing can be a great experience. You never know what might come out of that complicated brain of yours.
The other thing is that, in the past, I think authors have been sort of mysterious figures. But now with Facebook and Twitter etc., authors are people you can actually find and contact. I know that I hope to call into and Skype into Book Clubs around the country and be accessible in that way, if they reach out to me via my website. It just sounds fun!
Any other books in the works?
Nora: Yes, I sold Semi-Charmed Life in a two book deal, so my second book is in the works, though in a relatively preliminary stage. I figure that writing this one will be a much different experience because there are actually expectations attached. But hopefully that will be a good in a whole other way!
Here’s a link to my website for more info on the book, readings & events and for contact info BTW:
Also my Twitter handle:
And my Facebook Author Page: