Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 3

Q. “How did you come up with the idea for the bet? And where does the inspiration for his character come from?”

A. “As I said before, I had the Rio scoop many years before I’d even started writing. By the way, this is a bona fide scoop, which is yet unknown to the American travel industry. When I started writing Travel Secrets I knew I was going to have a travel writer discover this scoop, and I knew she was going to illustrate a different perspective on body image, which today is called Body positive, or Bo Po for short. In the first version I gave my editor, T. Greenwood, there was no bet. My editor said the manuscript needed a “call to action,” or higher stake to bring about the tension. So the bet was born. As for the inspiration for Ryan, I can’t discuss that in detail without giving away too much of the following books.”

Q. “Was there anything this editor encouraged you to remove?”

A. “I took out a lot of small things, but I took out something huge thanks to the feedback of a New York agent who said she was interested in Travel Secrets. You see, the first four chapters were in America, and then the action continued in Rio. This agent said it felt as though the story was cut up and that a second story was beginning in Rio. It broke my heart, but I took out those four chapters and the prologue. I did it because of a question a blogger had asked: “Are you sure you started your book at the beginning?” (I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the actual blog or blogger, but I’m very grateful to whomever it was). I had to admit to myself that starting right in the action, when Ryan is about to fire Rachel, and then she bets him, is the place to start. Now I’m also an avid fan of showing things in real time and avoiding flashbacks, unless you can’t do without them, and if they serve a purpose in advancing the plot (I thank my second editor, Sione Aeschliman, for that). So almost everything happens in real time, which puts the reader right in the action.”

Q. “If you’ve made these changes, why isn’t that agent representing you now?”

A. “It turned out she was a predator out to scam new authors into paying huge sums in advance for possible future representation. There are many traps new authors can fall into, and I’m relieved I’ve avoided it. I chose to do the changed version with T. Greenwood, who edited the book before I showed it to the agent. She knew the novel and I wanted her to see my improvements, plus she gave me a discount for the second editing. But when I proudly showed the editing to the agent, her representative vaguely said we need more changes, without any specifics. The agent has an editing company (which is a conflict of interest), and she would offer to edit it for thousands of dollars in advance. New authors are often desperate for representation, which is how some people take advantage of them. Writers want to write and for someone else to take care of the publishing and promoting. But I couldn’t afford more editing. I’d told her I need to think about it, but knew it was an impossibility. After a few weeks I realized that the good reviews I had read about her were from authors she had actually represented , but there had to be more. I wanted to know more about what writers thought about her. So I changed my Google query and found a website called Glassdoor. There I found reviews by ex-employees. And my goodness! I’d definitely hit the mother load. Every single employee had complained about her, but the review that stood out the most was the longest and most detailed. What’s more, it was written by a girl with the same name as the one who used to be this agent’s personal assistant before she mysteriously disappeared. She was so sweet to me in our correspondence, I’d actually missed her when she was replaced. Then I saw this chilling review about how this agent treats her staff and about how she takes advantage of writers to make money, but it was worse than that. This ex-employee claimed the agent’s main source of income was the money she charged writers for editing, not from profits she made from promoting her clients’ books. In short, I’d dogged a bullet there, but my heart goes out to the authors she’d scammed. I don’t understand how her public image is still untarnished!”

Q. “That sounds like an awful experience. Is that why you eventually chose to self-publish?”

A. “That was one reason. Another was that, in spite of exhaustive research into many agents’ wish lists, no one seemed interested. Even though Travel Secrets ticked many of their boxes, no other agent had asked to read it. Seventy percent of them got back to me with a polite no, while the rest didn’t even bother with that. I have no doubt they’re all very busy, since the market is inundated with books, but it’s still somewhat of a mystery as to why someone asks to read women’s fiction, contemporary, body image, or self discovery, and yet was not interested in reading my book. Finally, I got tired of trying. But as I learned the craft of self-publishing (a stressful, self-taught, two-month crash course), I’d realized this is the path for me. I want to maintain full control of everything. An agent would have probably wanted further editing, changed the cover, and maybe even the title, all of which I had no intention of doing. I plan on blogging about the process of self-publishing soon, in the hopes of saving other authors some time in trying to figure it all out.”

Q. “So are you going to do it all yourself?”

A. “Only at first, because of financial constraints. After all, I’m a homeschooler married to a historian. But I plan on crowd-sourcing this summer for book promotions, to make an audio book, and to be able to hire tutors next year so that I can write books two and three full time. Without homeschooling, I know I can finish each book in under a year, since they’re all planned out. Furthermore, I’m going to try and get a company to represent Travel Secrets in Brazil. There are companies who work with Indie authors and I suspect/hope Brazilians will fall in love with it. After all, Travel Secrets unravels the essence of Brazil.”

 

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