Monday Meet-Up for February 8, 2016
The lovely, talented Brianna Dumont
author of Famous Phonies and Fantastic Fugitives
1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
Hi, all! My name is Brianna DuMont and I currently live in Chicago with my husband and four-month old daughter. I started writing after I graduated college during the “Great Recession” and couldn’t find a job in my field: Art History and Classics. Go figure. Since I loved history, I wanted to write it, and I’ve always been drawn more to middle grade and YA books in my personal reading. This was four years ago, pre-baby. I decided then was the time to pursue the dream of writing I’d had since I was a bookworm kid myself. A week after I queried my first agent, I was signed. Then came the hard part—finding an editor, which took almost two years. It was all worth it.
2. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)
The book industry is tough. It takes the patience of a rock and probably the skin of one, too. Rejection is just the name of the game. But great stories WILL get picked up. Persevere. I wish I’d known that sometimes getting the agent is the hard part. Sometimes, it’s the editor. Sometimes, it’s both. But then after all that, getting reviewers is even more difficult. It’s all about tenacity.
3. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
I have a three book, nonfiction series out with Sky Pony and Scholastic right now for middle graders (and adults who like snarky history!) Through humor, I hope to make history as exciting as I find it. Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History uncovers the real people beneath the famous faces like Confucius (or absence of one, such as Homer). Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History (While on the Run!) lets the reader join in on the manhunt with everyone from Nelson Mandela to Cleopatra. Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, and Double-Crossers Who Changed History debuts in May 2017 and relates some of the most daring thefts in history that made our world what it is today. Like how the theft of tea seeds from China in 1848 brought down the Chinese empire.
4. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?
I believe everyone’s path to publication is unique. For some that wish to start out in magazine or journals, an agent isn’t vital to that success. (Which is how I went about things. Start small, gather publications to put in your C.V., then present it all in a query letter) To have the best chance at lucrative book deals, however, I think an agent truly helps you navigate a world you don’t normally inhabit. A writer can’t be all things, and an agent helps with that business side.
5. Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?
Do their research. For me, self-publishing didn’t seem like a viable option. I didn’t have a wide platform to sell my book (like a successful blog), and no one would see a little book I put on Amazon for a couple bucks except my family. My circle wouldn’t be wide enough for it. You should also decide what you want out of publication. A nice product (such as a family history) for family and friends? Or a huge blockbuster, ten-book deal with Disney Hyperion?
6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
I think most writers suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome. I certainly do. Push aside those little voices telling you your book sucks and keep writing. Get outside critiques (i.e. people you don’t know), and take them (mostly) to heart. If multiple people are saying the same things, then they’re probably on to something. But remember, not everyone is going to love everything you do, so cast your net wide and take care to listen to the thoughtful evaluations only and throw out the rest.
Thanks, Brianna! For more about Brianna and her books, visit her at www.briannadumont.com