It’s an exciting age of publishing. Once considered a pseudo wing of the industry, self publishing has evolved into a springboard of talent, launching otherwise unrecognized authors into the mainstream. I have three such books on my desk: Still Alice by Lisa Genova, The Shack by William Young, and Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl.
At an author event almost a year ago, Julia ended up being at the table next to mine, so we traded each other a copy of our books. When I got home, I started reading her novel and quickly came to one conclusion—this woman can write.
The book definitely has appeal to the people of this town since the story gravitates around her family and their now-closed restaurant, an icon of 40 years on the Milwaukee scene, but the ramifications of family life stretches beyond any city limits. With somewhat eccentric parents and eight siblings (Yes, that’s eight with an E — nine counting Julia), Julia’s memoir grabs hold of our memories the way only nostalgia can.
As I am lucky enough to still be in contact with Julia, she agreed to let me turn this article into my first interview. There have already been several interviews and articles written that touch upon the story and how her family felt about the book, etc., but I want to concentrate on the publishing end of it.
NEAL: Julia, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions.
JULIA: My pleasure. Thanks to you for doing the interview.
NEAL: One thing we always talk about is finding resources for self-published authors. With Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, you put together a very professional book. Did you do it all on your own, did you have friends or family help with things like proofreading and cover design, or did you contract out some of those things?
JULIA: I had to contract out the editing and proofreading—these are not things that I do well, especially when it’s my own writing. I had family and friends read it of course, but the pros I used were Carolyn Washburne (content and copy editing) and Judy Bridges (mostly content editing). They were both a huge help.
As far as putting the book together went, I used Amazon CreateSpace. They were wonderful to work with. I was able to speak to real humans whenever I needed to. They helped with the back cover design, interior layout, and some light editing as well.
The original front cover was done by a family friend, Zach Handziak…so had help there. I only know enough about Photoshop to be dangerous. There will be a new cover when the book is re-released this fall.
NEAL: After all the writing, rewriting, revising, editing, proofreading, etc., the real work begins—promotion. Can you tell us some things you did to bring attention to your book?
JULIA: We don’t realize how lucky we are to have such wonderful local independent bookstores. My first reading was at Boswell on Downer, from there I went to Next Chapter in Mequon, and eventually to Books & Company in Oconomowoc. They all welcomed me with open arms, and have been great about championing this book. For my part I spread the word. I sent e-mail blasts, direct mail pieces and talked about it whenever I could. I wanted the local stores to benefit also.
Along the way, I peppered in readings at restaurants and/or bars, and I attended many book clubs. I also traveled to cities where I had a lot of friends and family (where I knew I could draw a decent crowd). Making sure the bookstore, or the restaurant or bar, made money too was important to me.
I also utilized social media (Facebook, Blog, Twitter) in a big way (well…not so big on Twitter). It’s free, it’s easy, and many people get information there.
NEAL: Like Bigfoot, we hear rumors that they exist, but has anyone actually ever seen a literary agent? Like a lot of new authors, you tried in the beginning to find an agent, but unsuccessfully. In an interesting twist, however, an agent found you. How did that happened?
JULIA: Ha! I’ve actually seen mine, though it took a while. I had a number of sales in mind that I wanted to reach before querying agents. I had not reached it yet, but I had been researching agents to query all along (secret: check the acknowledgements, the first person authors thank is their agent). So my list was ready, when the agent happened to reach out to me….
One day I received an e-mail from an agent in NY who had seen the book on Next Chapter’s website. (I believe they had it on the first page because the book sold well there last summer). So I sent him a PDF, he liked it, I signed with him, and he pitched the book a couple of months later.
It was picked up by Algonquin last September!
NEAL: I read where you said you had to go to the publishing company to meet with the sales team? What was that meeting like?
JULIA: What can I say? Cue the theme song to Mary Tyler Moore. I didn’t throw my hat up in the air, but the whole experience was awesome. The pitch was kind of a nail-biter, but the folks at Algonquin were very welcoming, and I left feeling like the book was in good hands. After all, it’s a little like leaving your baby on a doorstep…not that I’ve done that.
NEAL: How much work have you had to do on the story after the publisher was interested?
JULIA: When something feels done, any additional work—for me—seems like a lot. In reality, my editor (Chuck Adams) and I did some pretty minor edits.
NEAL: Memoir of the Sunday Brunch will be rereleased in November of this year, you say with a new cover design, by Algonquin Books. Can you tell us where it will be available?
JULIA: Yes, new cover, same title. The official publication date is November 13th, 2012. It will be available at the independent bookstores of course, and everywhere else.
NEAL: We certainly wish you the best. Do you have any words of advice for aspiring authors?
JULIA: Everyone says this but it’s true…you really just have to sit down and write. Then, after that, don’t think your book is just going to fall off the shelf at the bookstore. Take a look around, and see how much competition is out there. Figure out why people want to read yours, and tell them.
NEAL: That’s Julia Pandl, author of Memoir of the Sunday Brunch. Let’s keep an eye on her and hope she goes far.
JULIA: From your lips to God’s ears!
Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist