Today, I’m starting a new interview series on my blog called Lessons for Baby Author Me! In this series, established authors will give advice to their former, naive selves. They’ll step back in time and offer words of wisdom on topics like launch parties, book promotion, school visits, first drafts and many more. The topics will vary with each interview. Basically, you’ll hear everything that your favorite authors wish they’d known back in the day when they were first starting out.
The series was inspired by a talk I heard from the amazing Ally Carter at an SCBWI Oklahoma conference entitled, “A Letter to Baby Author Me.” At the time, I was anxiously awaiting the publication of my debut novel, Skeleton Tree, and her talk informed, inspired and spoke directly to my heart.
I’m hoping to pass on some of that love to aspiring (and established) authors everywhere with this interview series. Check back on Tuesdays for new Lessons from Baby Author Me posts.
To kick off the series, I’m putting myself in the hot seat. I’ll be starting off each interview with a short author bio, along with a baby photo paired up with a current author headshot. Should be fun! I don’t technically have a baby photo of myself, so this one of me as a little kid will have to do.
Super Official Author Bio:
KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novel HELLO, FUTURE ME (Summer 2020), along with SKELETON TREE (2017) and BONE HOLLOW (2019), all with Scholastic Press. She is also a contributor to the upcoming NEW SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK anthology (2020, HarperCollins). Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff person at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera.
Wasn’t that a super official bio? Did you like how I switched to third person? Okay, now let’s get down to business. I’m hopping in the Baby Author Time Machine and going all the way back to the day after I sold my first book. Here’s all the advice I wish I could have given to Baby Author Me, but, tragically, cannot.
Taxes: Don’t assume that your local CPA knows how to do your taxes now that you’re a professional author, no matter how many awesome reviews they get online. This is especially true if, like me, you live in a state where there isn’t a huge literary community. A lot of CPAs don’t have experience with this stuff, even if they say they do. My advice would be to do some basic research and handle your taxes yourself. It’s really not that complicated, especially if you use a tool like TurboTax Self-Employed. Bottom line: you are ultimately responsible for any tax mistakes, so why not invest a little time and research to make sure you get it right the first time?
First Drafts: Sure, you think you know all about first drafts now that you’ve sold a book, am I right? You don’t. You will never recapture the beautiful ignorance of your aspiring author self. Book two will be the hardest book you’ve ever written. Book three? Even harder. In real life, writing the first draft makes up about 10% of the overall process. The process starts with proposals that get written, tossed around, rejected, rewritten, and then rewritten again. If you’re lucky enough to sell on proposal (is lucky the right word?), that’s when the fun begins. First draft time! Then it’s off to a super smooth editorial process and the rest is history, right? Erm, no. You will rewrite that first draft, often from scratch, often multiple times, because this is just how your brain works. In fact, despite the ever-changing outlines, you won’t actually know what story you’re trying to tell until the second draft. “But now that I’ve sold a book, it should be easy!” you say, shouting into the void of writerly despair. Sorry, kid. Life doesn’t work that way. Learn to enjoy the constant rewrites, because that’s 90% of your job now.
School Visits: Unlike every other place you go in life, when you step into a school, kids will assume you are famous. They will ask you questions like, “Are you a millionaire?” and, “Do you know J.K. Rowling?” Have fun with it. If a kid asks you to sign his arm in Sharpie, do it. It’ll totally wash off…eventually. School visits are the one time as an author in which people universally think you are awesome, so enjoy it. Kids who have never even read your books will ask you to sign slips of paper for them and pose for photos because, again, you are a famous millionaire. And, occasionally, you will meet those young readers who were truly touched by your books, who come up to you afterward and tell you how much they cried at the end of your story, and profess that you are, genuinely, their favorite author. Please, please, take a moment to pause and realize how awesome this is. You don’t do that enough, but you should.
Hopefully this has given you a brief taste of how the interview series will work. I’ll return from time to time to add more of my personal story. More importantly, check back on Tuesdays for interviews with new authors, and I hope you enjoy Lessons for Baby Author Me.