Sunday, July 3, 2011

Interview with Lela Davidson

An Interview with Lela Davidson

We’re re-running our new author series again in 2011, from the week of July 4th through the week of September 30th. Our first author, Lela Davidson, has her first book coming out on July 12th. There will be a big book launch party at the Aloft Hotel in Rogers, Arkansas, between 7 and 9 p.m.

Lela brings fresh look at the complex roles of women in America today. She also has built a platform for her writing that each of us in Writers, Readers, and Critiques can learn from. Welcome, Lela Davidson

Thank you, Bill

Publishing today is easy. Selling enough to make money is a process. In your answers to the following questions, I’d like you to concentrate on how you built your platform to success.

Before you ventured out with Blacklisted from the PTA, you became a strong net presence with After the Bubbly. Let our readers know about that venue and how it helped build your platform.

After the Bubbly is my personal blog. I play with ideas there that are too long to post on Facebook, but not necessarily something I want to work into a full-length essay. The blog helped me in the beginning to learn about online writing and social media. Now it helps me keep in touch with readers.

Along with, After the Bubby, you’re managing editor of Parenting Squad and associate editor of Peekaboo Magazine, a modern day guide to parenting in Northwest Arkansas. I can see the direction you’re going and the audience you’re playing to. These are free to the public, yet increase your visibility and web presence, tell us how they came about.

One of the owners of Parenting Squad was the Editor at a now defunct website that gave me my very first regular column online – After the Bubbly. We stayed in touch. I started writing for Parenting Squad, and when the Managing Editor position opened up, I applied and got the job. Peekaboo magazine is our local RPP (Regional Parenting Publication). When she started the magazine, the publisher took a chance and gave me space. After the Bubbly graduated to print. After a few months I started writing another column in the magazine. Chasing Date Night provides ideas for local date nights and profiles local couples. Now I represent the magazine on a local morning news show—Wake Up with 5NEWS. I guess you could say I’m a local favorite.

Lela, that’s great exposure, you’re writing an active blog, have magazine exposure, and television with the Fort Smith/Fayetteville, CBS affiliate, whose executive said, “The magazine is a big part of the parenting community in Northwest Arkansas and a great fit for our morning broadcast.” Exposure means sales!
You selected Jupiter Press, and imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie, to publish After the Bubby. They’re located in Washington State. Isn’t that where you’re from? Did you use personal connection to develop your strategy here, or is your selection of Jupiter Press a coincidence?

Wyatt-MacKenzie is actually located in Oregon, and the connection came through another author I know who had published a similar book of personal essays. I chose the imprint program offered by Wyatt-MacKenzie for a number of reasons, but mostly because it offered me a great deal of control over almost every aspect of the process, and the ability to benefit from the knowledge of an experienced traditional publisher. The imprint program is a self-publishing option, so I put up the capital to produce and market the book. It was a decision I agonized over, but ultimately analyzed it as I would any other business decision and determined that this was the best step at this stage of my career.

Pay attention here readers. Even with a platform and great exposure, the decision you make: self-publish, co-publish, go strictly e-book, etc. is a business decision, and a different one for every writer.

With the advent of Kindle, Nook, and who knows what’s to follow, the conventional path to publishing looks to be flipped upside down. You seem to have developed a great way to hit the new market. Kudos to you, Lela. Now sell us your book. Pitch to us like you would an agent. Why should I go to Amazon and download Blacklisted from the PTA to my Kindle? Or pick it up in paperback?

Well, I hope you’ll buy a paperback and a Kindle edition! Blacklisted from the PTA is a fun read. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s relatable. And it makes people laugh. (Not just my mother and that Mary Kay lady who keeps trying to get me to redeem my free facial.) Just check out the comments on the Facebook page.

Between diapers, play dates, and a never-ending schedule of birthday parties, it’s a wonder parents have time and energy to procreate. Throw in cliquish PTA queens, complex neighborhood politics, and the fine art of lawn maintenance, and you start to understand why suburban parents actually crave quiet desperation—so long as it comes with a nap.

In Blacklisted from the PTA I take you to Mexican bars, the hockey rinks of St. Louis, ski slopes near Santa Fe, shopping in Dallas, and even introduce you to a few strippers—the novices on the playgrounds of New York City, and the pros in Vegas. I reveal my screw-ups, along with fleeting delusional moments when I honestly believe I am the best mom ever.

And did I mention each of the 62 essays can be read in under five minutes? This is proving to be a very popular feature.

My wife thinks you could become the new Erma Bombeck with your sense of humor and your writing style. After reading your Facebook page, I think others feel that way too.

You’re a mom, a wife, a writer, and work the web constantly. Your subject matter is edgy at times, yet with a lighthearted humor that makes your comments fit. How do your husband, your kids, and your parents react to your work?

My husband has surrendered. I’m fairly certain the blog and magazine column boosted his social capital and he recently asked for a copy of the book to give his boss. He’s fine with the writing, but hates when someone introduces him as Mr. Lela. My teenage son has asked me not to write about him anymore, but my 11-year-old daughter still gets excited when I do. Sometimes sibling rivalry kicks in and The Boy gives me the okay, so long as I don’t run his picture. My parents just like to brag. It’s not like I’m tackling Big Topics. I write about the little frustrations of everyday life, of the foibles of my friends and family, but I like to think I’m not mean about it.

Finally, you and I have known each other for awhile. We both work our butts off writing and perfecting our craft. What piece of advice would you give to the unpublished newbie looking awestruck at the huge amount of work this career really takes?

I don’t think the newbie realizes the amount of work it takes. And that there’s a steep curve. It used to take me weeks to craft a readable essay. Now I can probably bust one out in an hour if I really need to. If you’re lucky, after a while you find out what you’re good at and get into a consistent rhythm. Then, if you’re crazy-fortunate, you catch some momentum and things start moving quickly. That’s where I am right now, and I can tell you it takes just as much work to maintain this success as it did to build it. However, it’s a lot more fun interviewing celebrities and booking travel for TV appearances than it was scouring Craigslist for sub-minimum wage gigs.

Thanks Lela for your honesty in sharing your journey with us. I urge our readers to reward Lela by purchasing her new book. And Lela, I hope you don’t mind if I continue to reply to your blog and Facebook comments with a little barb expressing the male point of view when you misunderstand us. Thanks for being our guest author this week.

Thanks for having me, Bill. And that’s – Blacklisted from the PTA. Everyone needs at least three copies


Michael Lipsey said...

Darn, why didn't somebody tell me being a successful writer was going to be so hard!

Bill Wetterman said...

Mike, nothing worthwhile is easy.

John Biggs said...

Bill, how come you didn't ask about the legs on Lela's new book. Are they really hers? Did you look that closely.

Bill Wetterman said...

Actually, no, although she would have posed if possible. A shopping cart isn't too comfortable after all.

Gloria Teague said...

Great interview. Lela is as personable in print as she is in person. And now, of course, I'm forced to actually buy the book!

aj said...

What a wonderful interview! Great job Bill and Lela. :)