Author Mary Potter Kenyon published her NaNoWriMo project Coupon Crazy with Familius in 2013. Using her success, she’s helping fellow authors learn the next steps after completing NaNoWriMo.
1. How long did it take you to edit/ revise your manuscript?
“Coupon Crazy” was a big project that required a lot of research, and interviewing couponers from all over the United States. I began writing the book on July 4, 2010. I remember the date because I sat down at the kitchen table that morning and began writing. My husband refilled my coffee cup several times, made lunch for the family, and interrupted my writing at 4:00 that afternoon to ask if I was going to get dressed so we could go to my mother’s house for a picnic! I was secretly glad when one of my daughters complained of a stomach ache after the picnic and I could come back home and write some more. Despite the intensity of that initial writing session, I set the beginnings of my first rough draft aside for a few months. I picked it up again in March 2011, when the New York Times had a cover story about extreme couponing. I spent the next year completing the book. I also worked on a book proposal and soon had an agent pitching the project. By September 2012, I’d signed a book contract for “Coupon Crazy” and decided to utilize NaNoWriMo to complete the bulk of editing.
2. Was there a word count you were trying to meet? If so, what was the final word count?
Instead of aiming for 50,000 words, my goal was to edit and revise a manuscript of approximately 50,000 words during November 2012. I’ve joined NaNoWriMo other years since, usually working on a specific project and using the month of November as an impetus to complete the bulk of whatever book I am working on. This year it was a manuscript for a grief journal. I added 7,800 words to a 3,200-word manuscript in November. That might not sound like much, but the journal will likely top out at less than 15,000 words, so I met my goal of getting past the halfway point.
3. Authors often struggle with too long of a manuscript. How did you decide on which sections to edit down and which sections to keep?
When I’m beginning a new project, my initial goal is to just get something down on paper, which is the same goal in NaNoWriMo. It isn’t to produce quality, but quantity. My husband David used to encourage me by saying “The hardest part is getting started.” He was right. A blank piece of paper or an empty page on the computer screen can be daunting, as can the idea of writing an entire book. It helps to just sit down and get something written, even if you end up only using one paragraph out of four pages of work. We can edit something; we can’t edit nothing. I begin with a vision for a book, and write out a general outline. During the editing and revision process, I delete, add, tighten things up, and sometimes even move chapters around. When I have doubts about whether something fits or not, it usually means that it doesn’t. That’s when I cut, slash, and burn
4. Did you have anyone else review your final manuscript before submitting it to publishers? Who?
My husband read over pieces of “Coupon Crazy” in the initial stages, catching some of the common errors. He was the one that pointed out I tend to use certain words repeatedly. I think most writers don’t see their own idiosyncrasies. He died before I signed a contract, so he wasn’t a part of the revision. My friend, Mary, a former English teacher, usually looks over my manuscripts before I submit.
5. Did the title of your book change between the first draft and the published book?
I went back and forth with the subtitle, but the title stayed the same. The title of my grief journal will likely change by the time my editor gets a hold of it.
6. Why did you decide to submit to a publisher instead of self-publishing your book?
I decided a long time ago that I would never pay to have my work published. Despite being a bit of a control freak, I would rather leave the publishing aspect to a professional. I don’t know anything about book design, and I also believe everyone needs a professional editor.
7. Did you work with an agent? Why/why not?
I had two different agents that represented “Coupon Crazy.” One did very little over a period of months, and it took me a long time to admit that she wasn’t a good fit for me or my book, but I finally requested that we go our separate ways. The other agent I had for four months when he said he didn’t think he could sell it. Both agents had only submitted to a few publishers, and they weren’t looking at any smaller or midlist publishers. I sold it a couple of weeks after he let me go as a client.
8. How did you decide on which publishers to submit your book to?
I did submit to a couple mid-list publishers myself, but I just wasn’t finding the right fit. My experience was unusual in that I was discussing another book idea (I have yet to write, but have files full of information on) when the topic of “Coupon Crazy” came up. I’d just broken off with the agent, so was free to submit my book proposal to Familius. It was a good fit, and has been for my subsequent books. If I get to the point where I’m writing a book that fits a strictly “Christian” market, I will revisit a Christian agent’s offer of representation. Authors need to target their markets and that includes the publishers or agents they pitch to. I had a manuscript for a book on caregiving through cancer that I’d pitched for a year before I stuck it in a file cabinet, where it sat for another four. Familius published it as “Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage” in 2014. I had to revise it extensively. In the space of five years, I had become a better writer.
9. What did you submit to the publisher? Was it just the manuscript?
I submitted a book proposal that was 40 pages long. It included an outline, competitive titles, a description of the target audience, a market analysis, ideas for marketing and promotion, and several sample chapters. A book proposal is the business plan for the book, and the majority of non-fiction books are sold by proposal. Publishers don’t have time to delve into the market analysis, and they need to know who will read the book and how you, as an author, can help market and promote it. Especially for non-fiction writers, they will want to see their authors have built up a platform. I actually enjoy writing book proposals; they help me envision the entire book project.
10. What is one piece of advice that you wish someone would have told you as a first-time author?
The work doesn’t end when the book contract is signed. It is just beginning. While I expected a lot of editing and revision, the marketing and promotion aspect can be daunting. Most of us are not comfortable tooting our own horn’ and in order to help sell our book, we need to spend time and money on promotion.
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Coupon Crazy examines the phenomena of avid coupon use and the socio-cultural and socioeconomic factors that construct it. By delving into the history of couponing, refunding, the science of shop…
Mary Potter Kenyon
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Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in psychology and is a reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper. She is widely published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies and a popular speaker and workshop prese… Read More
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