Today’s interview is with Karen Pokras Toz, a Young Adult novelist and a very successful POD author. I wanted to pick her brain about the genre of Young Adult books as well as her experience with POD.
Below is our interview and don’t forget to come and say hi to us at Push to Publish (http://www.philadelphiastories.org/push-publish-2012-strategies-and-techniques-get-your-work-print-and-online)
Wittle: How did you first become interested in writing Middle Grade novels?
Pokras Toz: I actually did not set out to be a middle grade writer. I originally wrote a manuscript for adults. I found out quickly that writing the scenes where my main character flashed back to her childhood, were the most interesting and comfortable parts for me to write. At the same time, my own children seemed to be losing an interest in reading, despite my best efforts to encourage them. They would complain to me that there was nothing fun or interesting to read (having exhausted more of the more popular kid series books). I decided to prove them wrong, by writing something I thought they, and other reluctant readers, would enjoy reading.
Wittle: Can you briefly explain how you got your first novel published?
Pokras Toz: I ultimately chose to go the self-publish route. It is a lot of work, but I love seeing my book through all phases of production. It has been a great learning experience, and I have met some wonderful and supportive people along the way. The Indie author community is like no other.
Wittle: How did you go about finding an editor?
Pokras Toz: I found my first two editors through different writing groups on LinkedIn. It was important to me to find someone who was not only professional and knowledgeable, but also someone who understood my voice. The editor I work with now, Melissa Ringsted, is someone I met through a writer’s group on Facebook. She has a great eye and takes the time to listen and teach. She is fabulous, and I feel so lucky to have found her.
Wittle: What “outside the box” things did you do to promote your work?
Pokras Toz: I am always trying to come up with new ideas. One thing I have found, is that readers love getting free items, even if it is just a bookmark or signed postcard, so I do a lot of online giveaways with “swag.” I also love getting pictures of readers with my books, so we do some fun photo contests as well. For my newest book, Millicent Marie Is Not My Name, which comes out October 11th, the theme is 10-11-12…Go! So I am hosting thirty minute Twitter parties at 10:00, 11:00, & 12:00 (am & pm EST) on release day with Q&As and of course swag giveaways.
Wittle: In your opinion, how important is it to have a social media presence when one is a Middle Grade novelist?
Pokras Toz: It is so important, especially for an Indie author. We do not have the benefit of a big publisher provided public relations team behind us, and so we rely so heavily on word of mouth and relationships we develop online. Social media is so wonderful because it allows you to have real-time conversations with your readers any time of the day. I really think they appreciate the discussions and one-on-one engagement. I have met so many amazing people through social media. I cannot imagine being on this journey with it.
Wittle: What piece of advice would you give someone looking to go the POD route?
Pokras Toz: Don’t cut corners. You need to produce a professional and quality book. This means not only writing a good book, but also using beta readers/critique groups, hiring an editor (or two), hiring an experienced cover designer, and if needed, hiring someone who can format your interior. Then, look at your end goals. Some POD distributors are stronger for distributing to Internet -only sites, while some are better if you are looking to get into brick and mortar stores. Do your research, be prepared to spend a large amount of your time marketing, and get involved in the many on-line Indie author groups for additional support.
Karen Pokras Toz Bio:
Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife and mom. Karen grew up in Connecticut and currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children. In June 2011, Karen published her first middle grade children’s novel for 7-12 year olds called Nate Rocks the World, which won First Place for Children’s Chapter Books and the Grand Prize Overall in the 2012 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, as well as placing first for a Global E-Book Award for Pre-Teen Literature. In 2012, Karen published the second in the Nate Rocks series, Nate Rocks the Boat, followed by middle grade novel, Millicent Marie Is Not My Name. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).