Monday Meet-Up, December 21, 2015

YA Suspense Author, Tracy Bilen

1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
 I’m a high school French teacher and when I was in college I studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and lived in a dorm run by nuns. My husband and I enjoy biking and our kids like it too…as long as a trip to the Cider Mill or an ice cream stand is involved. When I was thirteen my parents bought an old Victorian house from author Millie J. Ragosta who took me under her wing and shared book-ish things like galleys with me. I’ve loved writing stories for teens since I was a teen myself. My debut novel came out in 2012 with Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster, but it took a couple of unpublished books, lots of learning about the business, and about 15 years to get to that point. A game-changer for me was when I won a year-long mentorship with Michigan author Shutta Crum. In case you didn’t know this already, Shutta rocks!
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…)
It might seem like landing a publishing contract involves a little bit of luck, and it does. The good news is that there’s lots of ways to make your own luck! You do that by taking advantage of every opportunity you can find. Go to writer’s conferences and take agent/pitch appointments/submit your work for a paid critique. Take on-line writer’s courses from places like Writer’s Digest. Join a professional writing organization like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) or RWA (Romance Writers of America), make writer friends, get involved in a critique group, enter writing and mentorship contests…do whatever you can to stumble across the opportunity that will end up making a difference for you!
3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
As a language teacher, I was thrilled when What She Left Behind came out in German and Chinese. (Come on, France!) And as an art geek, I loved seeing the different covers (in Germany they do separate covers for the paperback and e-book releases). As far as news about my second book, I’ll be sure to give Janice an update when the details have been worked out!
4.      Is having an agent important? Why? 
 Yes, unless you’re planning on self-publishing, I think an agent is very important. First of all, your agent will be able to get your work seen by editors you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Don’t be afraid of finding an agent. If you’ve done all you can with your book, start querying agents. And then write your next book. You might find, like I did, that the book you write next is the book that you were meant to write. But beyond making that sale, a good agent will be able to help you resolve disagreements with your publisher.
5.   Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?
My advice would be to try the traditional route first. Selling to a traditional house will take some of the marketing work off of your shoulders and may lead to foreign rights sales. If you do choose self-publishing, I would suggest you hire someone to do the things an editor at a traditional house would do for you: big picture edits, line-edits, and copy edits.
6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
If you can stop yourself from writing and still be happy, more power to you! If not, keep writing and never give up believing in yourself!

Thank you, Tracy! I look forward to your next suspense novel!