Guest Author Interview: Jenny Gardiner by Susan Lute
Posted by Susan
It’s Valentine’s Day and what better day to welcome our guest author, Jenny Gardiner. Fun facts about Jenny from her website: She loves accents and drive her kids nuts by repeating sentences spoken in foreign-accented English that she hears while listening to the BBC and NPR. She loves to cook, and brake for farmer’s markets. She’s a huge advocate of the Buy Local movement. She has nearly 4,000 songs on her iPod. If given the choice to wash muddy dogs that have rolled in the muck, or clean her house, She’d choose the dog-washing (me too, Jenny).
Hi Jenny! Tell us about your publishing journey.
My first novel, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, won Dorchester Publishing/Romantic Times’ American Title III several years ago. As a contestant in ATIII I really cut my teeth as a marketer and publicist–ultimately that’s what that contest was (as much as I love that novel, it wasn’t about book content! It was about getting enough votes to win). That novel did well and was a Barnes and Noble bestseller its first week out, and went into a second printing in the second week. Ultimately it ended up being a victim of all of the problems at Dorchester, sadly, but at least I was able to get my rights back and publish it myself to Kindle etc and recoup some lost money from the Dorchester years.
My second book was a memoir, WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (think Marley & Me, with a deadly beak), published by Simon & Schuster. Loved the collaboration with my editor on that and was very sad (and frustrated) to be orphaned a few months before the book came out. Losing your editor before a book comes out means you don’t really have a “point man” inside the house to usher that book along as best as possible. So the book definitely didn’t have the mojo it could’ve had had she remained there. Oh well!
My next book, SLIM TO NONE, got shopped when the economy fell off the face of the earth. Despite being very well-received with editors who read it, nobody was buying anything. We found one imprint interested in acquiring it, but then they got flipped from commercial women’s fiction to literary fiction, which ruled out buying my novel. So I had a novel I loved that was lying fallow in my laptop when my agent mentioned to me that the principal of our agency was launching a digital imprint. She asked if I wanted to consider putting it up with the launch. I wrestled with it because while I’d gotten a Kindle for my birthday that previous December and LOVED it (this was when the Kindle was pretty new), I knew it was going to be early days in digital publishing, and I knew it would be hard to reach my readers, since few people owned digital readers at that point. But I knew it was such a fabulous and revolutionary product, it was only a matter of time till the price came down, so when Apple announced their upcoming new product, the iPad, I knew I’d made the right decision. At the time my hardback was coming out with S&S and I was swamped trying to do what I had to for that launch, plus with so many things going on with my kids, I knew i didn’t have the time to learn the HTML that was required to do it myself, which is why I did it with Diversion.
In the meantime, my agent had shopped another novel of mine but the publishing industry was only getting worse, so that became a real practice in futility. It took a long time until sales picked up digitally, however. There was a lot to learn about pricing, etc–the early days people were shelling out $350 for a Kindle but wanted their content for free (don’t get me started on that one). It wasn’t until pricing fell to that now-universally-accepted range, with $2.99 being most logical, that things started to really cook. Along the way, the whole Dorchester debacle unfolded, which was super frustrating. So glad I was able to get my book back, as that was the 1st book I put up myself digitally.
I eventually ended up putting up several more books myself digitally because with that one I realized that I like having control over my career and I don’t like having to have any gatekeepers if I can help it. The simplicity with which the system is currently designed finally affords authors the chance to take charge of their careers, and I really relish that. Publishing with a digital imprint can be a good thing because they can have access to Amazon promotion that is generally not available to indie authors, so doing it this way does have its place. And for that person who really doesn’t want to deal with all the dirty details of doing it yourself, it’s a nice option. But I have learned that for me, I really want to know what’s going on and want to be able to do what I want with the book when I want.
What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?
I guess funniest was my first ever book signing, when a very strange looking man who looked eerily like Charles Manson showed up at the store with a watermelon tucked beneath his arm. He made eye contact with me as I tried to avert my gaze and he wandered away, but I knew he’d be back. Sure enough he showed up later and didn’t say a word to me but first picked up my book (SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is not exactly targeted at deranged-looking vagrants toting watermelons!) and pretended to peruse it, then he looked at me, looked at my bowl of freebie Hershey’s Kisses, looked at me, then proceeded to take one of my business cards and started to sketch out what appeared to be two breasts. I was a little creeped out, until I realized he was actually drawing some Keith Haring-like stick figure. When he finished it, he scribbled a signature on it (I could barely look at him as his saliva glistened in his greasy beard), handed it to me, and gazed down at my chocolates. Of course I offered up the bowl, he grabbed a handful, and off he went, watermelon tucked beneath his armpit.
And the most exciting was DEFINITELY when SLIM TO NONE hit the #1 Bestseller on Kindle . Next was a happy surprise when after a free promotion of ANYWHERE BUT HERE that it hit the bestsellers list in the UK!
What has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you’ve had to deal with on your journey?
It’s been hard work. I’m not gonna lie. I have really busted my butt to get where I’ve gotten. It’s been frustrating when those things beyond my control impact me: a house going bankrupt owing me money I”ll never see, for instance. Or losing an editor at a pivotal stage of the publication path. And maybe sometimes it’s been frustrating to watch others reach that pinnacle without having to put in that same degree of hard work. But…I realllllly appreciate where I’ve gotten because of that. I am all the more grateful for every tiny success I’ve had along the way. I understand to savor it.
Who are your favorite authors, and what are you currently reading?
I LOVE Allison Pearson. Love her voice. Really adored In Zanesville by JoAnn Beard. Best book I’ve read in ages: Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. Just beautifully told/written story.
I tend to enjoy humorous novels, I love a strong voice, I really enjoy 1st person POV too.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’ll be publishing a collection of essays hopefully in the next week or so, titled NAKED MAN ON MAIN STREET. And I’m putting together an ebook about indie publishing and my perspective on it. I also have a bunch of books in various states of completion that I want to get out and get published as soon as possible!
About SusanAuthor, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, dreamer.
Posted on February 14, 2012, in guest post, Susan Lute and tagged Anywhere But Here, author's journey, Compromising Positions, guest author, Jenny Gardiner, Sleeping With Ward Cleaver, Susan Lute, Valentine's Day. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.