Welcome to the first of many Author!Author! interviews.
Freelance writer and perennially compulsive gardener Jodi DeLong insists that no matter where in Atlantic Canada we live, we can all grow great gardens. When not working in her own abundant gardens, she’s writing, talking or thinking about plants and gardening.
Jodi is a contributing writer, photographer, and long-time gardening editor for Saltscapes magazine, and she also writes regular features on other topics for other publications. Her first book, The Atlantic Gardener’s Greenbook, was published in 2005 by Saltscapes Publishing. Her latest book, Plants for Atlantic Gardens, will be launched by Nimbus Publishing this February. It focuses on the challenges that face Atlantic gardeners including lengthy winters and acidic and/or clay soil conditions and provides East Coast gardeners with a comprehensive source of inspiration and information for overcoming these challenges. Now … onto the writing life.
What was the easiest part of writing your book?
Figuring out how to organize it, and what sort of information to put in each profile. I knew the sorts of questions I have when confronted with a new plant, and the sorts of questions I receive from other gardeners, so that helped to refine my focus. The Nimbus team did a template after I’d sent a few plant profiles in, so we knew what the book’s design would be like, and I wrote each plant profile accordingly.
I also provided all the photography for my book, but I’ve been peering through camera lenses at flower hearts, leaf patterns, bees and butterflies for years, so I had a pretty extensive collection of images to draw from to begin with. Anything I didn’t have, I visited friends’ gardens or nurseries to photograph newer varieties of plants.
Money. Although I applied several times for financial assistance from the NS Dept of Tourism, Culture & Heritage, they never granted me assistance. I tried to point out that this book helps to promote local business (garden centres) and tourism (visiting public gardens), but to no avail. In hindsight I should have talked to all four Atlantic provinces about some assistance, since it covers gardening in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but that would have taken time and energy. So this meant I had to do most of my regular freelance work (full time job) to pay the bills PLUS write the book. Oh, and I wrote it between the end of January and early July, 2010.
It was pretty grueling and exhausting, but thankfully I have a most amazing significant other, (also known as Long Suffering Spouse, Lowell), family, and friends, all of whom brought their own unique support to what I was doing.
What three things would you suggest writers do if they want to get published?
1. Be realistic. Don’t decide to write a book thinking that you’re going to make a fortune. It’s costly to write the book to begin with—especially if you have to travel to do research, or in my case, buy plants—and you can’t depend on getting any financial assistance to help along the way.
2. Do your research before you approach a publisher. Match your particular topic to a publisher’s focus, and then make an appointment to talk to editors/publishers about your idea, by phone or in person. If you get to the point of contracts, read and question thoroughly, so there are no misunderstandings later.
3. Be prepared to do a lot of marketing and sales yourself, but draw on networks and friendships. In some cases, publishers have little money or staff for publicity. In some cases, it’s hard to get reviewed; newspapers and magazines keep shrinking in size, and book editors can’t possibly review every book that crosses their desks, no matter how great it is. So consider the less traditional but equally effective realm of social media: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I gladly point fellow writers at markets, or review their books wherever I can, including on my blog, talk them up, link to them, etc.—it’s a way of giving back.