Friday, May 20, 2016

The Writer's Voice: Where Is Laura J. Moss Now?

Today's interview features Laura J. Moss, a member of my TWV 2013 team and co-founder of AdventureCats.org. Laura writes YA fiction (as you can see from her awesome entry), so when her agent suggested that she develop a proposal based on her recently launched website, it was something of a leap of faith. I think it's safe to say that the leap paid off:)

This is Laura's cat, Sirius. I'm sure you can guess where the names come from:)
KV: Congratulations on the sale of ADVENTURE CATS: A GUIDE TO LIVING NINE LIVES TO THE FULLEST! What inspired you to write it?

LJM: I never actually envisioned AdventureCats.org as more than a website with an active Instagram community. The book was all my agent’s idea--and it was an “ameowzing” one. She had this incredible vision for it that got me very excited about the possibility of writing a book, and now here we are. I’ve found that as Adventure Cats has evolved, it’s often because other people have shared my passion for it and brought their own vision to the table, and I’m so grateful for that.

KV: I love the idea of a book based on a website! What inspired you to launch it?

LJM: Adventure Cats came about for a few reasons. I’ve been working as a journalist for years and have done a great deal of pet writing, so I’d interviewed some of the more famous adventure-cat owners like Craig Armstrong and Stephen Simmons. I’d started leash training my own cats, but there wasn’t really a resource out there that explained how you go from a stroll around the yard with your cat to hiking, camping and paddling trips with your cat. Last spring I mentioned to my husband that I wished such a website existed and he said, “Well, we could make that.” So he designed the site, and I got to work creating content and launching social media for it. Then I roped in some talented friends to help with writing and marketing, and soon we had a site!

However, while the website started as an informational resource, it evolved into much more as I learned just how much our negative perceptions of cats and cat owners can hurt shelter cat adoptions. Currently, more cats are killed in U.S. shelters (1.4 million annually, according to the ASPCA) than dogs, and I think one reason for that is because of how cats and cat people are stigmatized. Last year, a PetSmart Charities survey found that 49 percent of Americans buy into the “crazy cat lady” stereotype and that the adjectives often associated with cats are ones like “lazy” and “aloof.” But Adventure Cats is proof that cats and the people who love them don’t necessarily fit this mold, and I hope that changing these attitudes will lead to more adopted shelter kitties.

KV: A lot of nonfiction is sold on proposal. Did you sell this project on proposal, and if so, how was writing that proposal different than writing the YA fiction you're used to?

LJM: ADVENTURE CATS was sold on proposal, which was a whole new ballgame for me. With fiction, I’m used to sitting down, seeing where a story takes me, and sort of disappearing from the writing in a sense. But with the proposal, you’re not only trying to sell your idea but also yourself, so there’s a lot more focus on platform and why you’re the one person who can write this book and how you have the ability to get press for it and sell it. In addition to the platform discussion and the requisite sample pages, the proposal also includes sections on sales and marketing, so there were definitely moments where I thought, “I am so not qualified to write this!” But my agent, Myrsini Stephanides, is a pro with this sort of thing and has sold numerous books on proposal, so she made the process as smooth as possible.

KV: Tell us about the submission process. Did it move fairly quickly, or did it take some time? And if it took some time, what did you do to stay sane?

LJM: It actually moved so quickly that I will be spoiled for all future submissions. Within a day of sending out the proposal, my agent said we had interest and she was going to start setting up calls with editors. We had the calls the following week and went to auction the very next week.

Despite the swiftness of how it had happened though and how amazing my agent and all the editors were, I still had plenty of anxiety about the whole thing. But I can get anxious about a trip to the grocery store so that’s not especially surprising.

KV: Now tell us about getting the good news. I understand that you had quite a bit of interest in the project, so what made you pick Workman?

LJM: It’s still unreal to me that there were so many offers to choose from. It was an incredible position to be in, but also a bit paralyzing when it came to making the actual decision. There was a lot to consider--the editors’ visions for the book, the type of book they wanted to make, the advance, etc.--so I ended up making a spreadsheet, which made my Type-A husband very proud.

At that point, I could see all the variables clearly and it really came down to gut. One of the first editor calls I had pre-auction was with Workman, and after I got off the phone with their team, I’d raved to my critique group about how they really “got” what Adventure Cats was about and how they were so easy to talk to and had tons of great ideas for the book. Plus, Workman does a phenomenal job with these quirky types of books. I’m sure I would’ve been in good hands with any of the editors I talked to, but Liz Davis and Evan Griffith at Workman were definitely a natural fit for ADVENTURE CATS.

KV: Once you officially accepted the offer, what were the next steps?

LJM: Once we accepted the offer, there was some email celebration, and then I got to work. We’re planning a spring 2017 publication date, which is very fast in the publishing world, so I’m really writing this book in a matter of months. (I just don’t let my anxiety-addled brain focus on that detail too much.)

And next week I’ll get to meet my agent and the amazing editorial and marketing teams at Workman, which I’m very excited about! Adventure Cats is co-hosting a cat-hiking event in Central Park with Purina, so it’s the “purrfect” opportunity to get to meet everyone face to face. 

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you'd like to share with us?

LJM: As cliché as it may be, I’d say don’t give up. Publishing can wear you down, but the people who succeed are the ones who pursue their dream in the face of hardship and rejection. I participated in The Writer’s Voice three years ago, and I later queried a manuscript that got me a slew of rejections and R&Rs but no offers of representation. Now I’ve sold a book, which still seems unreal to me!

Also, keep in mind that your path to success may take unexpected turns. This is something my critique group and I discuss a lot because many of us had a tendency to think of ourselves as only YA writers, and we saw the only path to success as having those novels traditionally published. But we had to realize that we’re so much more than that. While we’re YA writers and some of us have sold those books, several of us have dipped our toes into other writing waters and found incredible success in self-publishing, blogging and ghostwriting. While everyone is still working toward traditional publication, there’s joy--and a real confidence boost--in seeing people respond so positively to other things you’ve created. While I never thought I’d write nonfiction, selling ADVENTURE CATS has been an amazing experience that’s opened so many doors for me, and I’m ridiculously excited about it. It’s not the path I originally envisioned for myself, but it’s clearly the right path for me.

So don’t limit yourself. Follow your passions. And surround yourself with people who believe in you and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. (Mad love to #Twitterbloc for being those people for me.)

Wonderful advice, Laura. Success can come in so many different forms these days that it's important to keep an open mind. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

5 comments:

RC Hancock said...

What an awesome story! We don't hear about the nonfiction side very much, and adventure cats sounds so fun! Congrats!!! #teamkrista

Andrea Rand said...

Okay, I just visited the Adventure Cats website and it totally put a smile on my face. Having two cats myself, that's awesome. :)

michelleimason said...

What a great story! I'm very intrigued by this idea of adventure cats. One of mine would definitely be up for adventures!

Laura said...

Thanks, everyone! I'm so glad to find more cat people out there! :)

Layla Morgan Wilde ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

Thanks Krista and Laura for providing an insightful view of the process. I've followed @AdventureCats from the start and love the ethos. As one of the few cat behaviorists who espouses the merits of indoor/outdoor cat lifestyle I'm keen to support this book.