The ReviewerBill Kieffer‘s website.
Introducing Chelsea Lauren of Represent Publishing
After honing her craft as both a writer and editor for her school newspaper, Chelsea Lauren went on to attend Southern New Hampshire University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing. Just five months following her graduation, her efforts have paved the way for her debut novel, Underneath the Whiskey.
In addition to her work as an author, Chelsea manages the blog, Let's Learn to Love You at www.chelsealaurenauthor.com. There, she not only shares her personal trials and tribulations with self-love, but also her experience as a self-care mentor, and inspirational speaker to adolescent students. Her work promotes emotional wellness and conveys the importance of learning to love the real you. Her new publishing efforts build on all that has come before.
Chelsea Lauren on Her Bookshelf
I have three bookshelves. There’s only one pictured here and this is a compilation of some of my favorite books that I’ve read in the past few years, and my favorite authors. I often refer to these authors for research on my own work or cover and formatting styles. I like to have them closer to me while I work. They are for the most part sorted alphabetically.
Most of the bottom shelf are my friends books that have been published, aside from Harry Potter, of course! But I absolutely love being able to see my friends books next to all the other books that I love. I can’t wait until one day their books take over more than a shelf!
Chelsea Lauren on Represent Publishing
Please describe Represent Publishing briefly and what genre(s) you serve.
Represent Publishing is a publishing company I founded in order to illuminate diversity and embrace all of our unique qualities. For far too long, we’ve lived in a world where minorities and marginalized groups of people haven’t been represented in fiction books or television or movies. So now, I’ve created a place where we can embrace all of this and place the works into the hands of the readers who need them most.
As of right now, there’s a focus on contemporary fiction and any and all children’s books. Really, the only way one would be turned away would be if the book had no representation or the representation was uneducated or harmful to the audience.
How did you come to found Represent Publishing? What titles and writers did you start with?
From a young age when I started writing, I knew I wanted to represent as many people as I could through my own writing. But then decided to expand the idea to others—and that’s where the publishing company started from.
My first book under Represent is called Mommy and Daddy, Do I Matter? by Yasmin Torres and it’s a children’s book on Supervised Visitation in a courthouse social work setting.
In August, Represent will be publishing a book that I co-wrote with Brittany Evans called Simply an Enigma.
It’s an own voice young adult novel involving asexuality, sex positivity, and the LGBT+ community.
I also plan to relaunch Underneath the Whiskey, my first novel under Represent in August as well. Not much will be different aside from the size of the book and there will be a preview to Simply An Enigma in it!
In November, Represent will be publishing a new adult novel by Savy Leiser called Sculpt Yourself, which represents the LGBT+ community as well, but heavily involves discussions on feminism and women’s rights. It’s a contemporary, soft sci-fi novel that I’m really excited to help introduce to readers.
Politics have become interesting these days. Has the local, national, or even international political climates changed the way you look at your business model or the titles you might put out?
Absolutely. The push to even start this company has come from everything happening in the United States. It has created the questioning we’ve always needed. The push back, the marches, the fights. It has woken people up. I’ve had people ask me before why I choose to be politically active on my own author page, and I believe my personal and business profiles are one in the same. I refuse to be silent. If people disagree with my political beliefs, then they won’t like what my books are about anyway.
I want to be able to represent as many different people as I can and stand up for those who may not always have a voice—so if anything, my passion for this company is stronger and my passion in the world view is stronger. I refuse to be complacent.
There is no time to remain silent because the issues in the United States are not political issues anymore, they are human right concerns.
On Tales of Herself
Tell us a bit about yourself before you put on your publishing hat. Where were you raised? How did you relate to others from your age group?
I was raised in the Hudson Valley of New York. Near mountains, lakes, and rivers. And while I left as soon as I turned 18, I managed to come back eight years later and now reside back in the Hudson Valley. Growing up, I had two friends who would write scripts with me and we’d act out the scripts or we’d write songs and we’d perform them. It’s rather ironic that I don’t write film or act now—but one of those friends ended up being someone I wrote a lot with. We’d co-write or just support each other on with our own fan-fiction ventures that helped me craft and hone my skills for where I am now.
I did feel like getting into writing made me more of an oddball out. I kept it a secret for quite some time and in middle school it really affected my work ethic because instead of paying attention or writing notes, I’d be writing stories. But I embraced my craft in high school and was starting to be recognized for my writing as a journalist/editor for my high school paper and was even published in an anthology that my eleventh grade English teacher submitted me for.
What was the Young You like? Would Young You recognize Current You? What would you tell Young You?
I think young me would be really proud of the current me. I think that they’d find it hard to believe some of the things I’ve done. Young me was really insecure and fell into a depression and I think it’d be difficult for young me to see outside of that and how far we’ve come. I honestly think that young me would be intimated by the current person I am—but in the best way possible.
I’ve written letters to my young self numerous times as coping mechanisms for my mental illness. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it! But I would tell my young self to just breathe and continue on with your passion. Embrace every feeling, embrace all the stories, and embrace where you want to be because eventually you’ll get there. You’re a hard worker, you’re stronger than you can even believe, and you’re passionate.
Believe in what your heart is telling you and your mind will soon follow.
What do your friends and family think of your publishing endeavors? Are they supportive? Have they tried to hold an intervention? Or do you find yourself reminding them of your true calling?
I’m pretty sure my family and friends support my publishing endeavors. At least they tell me to my face that they do! It’s hard sometimes because I don’t have a normal 9-5 job that I can just shut off at the end of the day. So it’s exhausting and hard to keep myself motivated sometimes when I have to work a day job, but then also have to come home to write and publish. And I think that’s hard for other’s to understand that technically I’m constantly working. Or to consider writing “work” is hard for others to understand sometimes. But they do motivate and support as best as they know how. I think the biggest thing for them is knowing that I believe in myself, and they trust that. If I didn’t believe in what I was doing, I think it’d be harder for them to support me.
If you meet someone for the first time and they introduce themselves as a writer, do you... a) say “Hey, funny coincidence...” b) talk about your “day job” exclusively... or c) point to a grouse in the trees and run away when their back is turned?
Most definitely introduce myself as a writer as well! I feel like writer’s tend to hide in their shell, so any time a writer exposes themselves, I feel like other writer’s need to jump on the opportunity to introduce themselves. You can never have too many connections or friends in the writer’s world. We all need to stick together!
On Community Interaction: Readers/Fans
How do you find your readers? Or do readers tend to find you?
As of right now, it’s a lot of social media relationships. Twitter has been great as a writer, and a lot of fans right now are in the writing community. But word of mouth has been working really great. I’m still trying to get out in the community, but mentoring in my old high school has been an interesting experience as well. I’ve had people connect through social media after that.
How do you interact with your readership? Do you have a forum? A newsletter? Pen-pals?
I interact through social media! I have a newsletter as well, but I haven’t decided if I like them yet because I often don’t read newsletters myself. But I always welcome people reaching out. Whether through Twitter @chelslauren92 or Instagram @chelsealauren92.
Fill in the blank: Readers who like _________ are going to read your books?
Readers who like seeing themselves in books are going to read my books. Also, fans of Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, Christina Lauren, and David Levithan, I think would really like what will be published with Represent.
What sensations or experiences do you hope to evoke in your readers? What’s your favorite feedback so far from one of your customers?
I want my readers to be able to feel something. Whether they can recognize the feelings they’ve felt themselves or they are able to place themselves in the shoes of the characters, I just want them to find authenticity in the writing. Maybe they’ll even learn something about themselves.
My first book Underneath the Whiskey has been read by a lot of people who would never think of reading a book about a gay man. That was never my intended audience and I realized that it’s probably the book that would have that intended audience. But people who have read it initially, have been people who know and trust me and wanted to support me, and I was able to open their eyes to a new lifestyle and a lot of issues they weren’t previously aware of. That means the world to me. Especially because that’s a huge problem in our world today that we don’t expose ourselves to other lifestyles so we are quick to judge before we know someone. So if I can even expose people through words, that’ll make a difference.
On Community Interaction: Writers
How do you attract writers? Or do they tend to find you? From submission to publication to marketing, how closely to you tend to work with your creators?
So far, the writers I’ve worked with know me personally. Whether I’ve been introduced through a friend or we’ve been friends in the writing community for quite some time. I’m really excited to reach out and start working with people I don’t know yet, and get to know some more writers.
I do like to work closely with the creators. I want everyone to be on the same page and find it difficult to create something with someone if there isn’t transparency and clear communication. At the end of the day, we both want to produce the best product we can. Without clear communication, there is bound to be problems, extra work involved, and a terrible experience for all. And that’s not the climate I’m trying to create with Represent.
What are the demographics of your writers? How diverse are they, and is that diversity reflected in your books?
Most of the writers I’ve worked with have been in their twenties, similar to my own age, and we’ve all written books that reflect experiences that we’ve personally had.
Even ebooks have to have covers. How much say do your creators have in selecting a cover artist? How much say in the layout and design?
The creator has all of the say. For the most part, the cover artist is determined by the creator themselves. Unless they want me to find a cover artist. I am more than happy to have an opinion, and will suggest a different design if I don’t think it fits well with the book.
But even with formatting, I’ll get the creators opinion on the feel and design of their book. For the most part, they know best and should be involved in the process. I think it helps create a better relationship between publisher and author as well.
How do you reach out to your existing writers? Do you have a forum? A newsletter? Personal emails? Do you host panels at conventions and such?
I communicate with my existing writers all personally though email or social media DM’s. If newsletters are involved it’s a newsletter that is sent out to readers as well. But I think it’s important to keep that communication direct with each person you’re working with.
Most indie authors understand that they must do some marketing of their book, once it’s published. If publishing was a pool and marketing was swimming, are you the doting parent that shows them a video, buys them water-wings, and eases them in? Or are you more the uncle that throws them into the deep end with a slap on the ass and a hearty “Sink or Swim!” shout?
Absolutely the doting parent. Marketing is awful sometimes and no one should have to go through the process alone. It isn’t fun most of the time. So if we can work together, brainstorm ideas, and create fun, authentic campaigns, the better the experience is for all parties.
Where do you recommend indie writers go to market their books? Are there any types of services that you suggest that they avoid?
It’s a lot of trial and error with marketing, I believe. Each book is different. But I’d try a lot of free marketing at first. I think paying someone to help you with marketing is one thing, but advertisements with Facebook and Instagram aren’t always the most helpful. I’ve found you often lose more money that way. So if you can create fun campaigns and get others involved, I think it’s a more authentic way of selling and also, cheaper.
Do you have a regular release schedule or is each release customized for each book?
The release schedule is customized for each book, dependent upon how much work is involved and the schedule of both the publisher and the author. From then, we choose a tentative date and work backward to figure out when marketing campaigns should start.
On Community Interaction: Local Real World Stuff
Do you, as a publisher, reach out to locals through bookstores, craft fairs, or the local chamber of commerce? Do you maybe sell your books at farm markets and the like?
I haven’t yet. I just recently moved back to the area, so I’m trying to discover how the creative world works in my area. There are a lot of us and many thrive, so I’m trying to figure out my in.
What is your area like? What attracted you to it? Do you find it inspiring in any way?
My area is beautiful. I’m in the Hudson Valley of New York, so I live right near the Hudson River and I’m surrounded by Fall Foliage and the Catskill Mountain Range. I’m attracted to all types of nature and I thrive by the water. But this is also my hometown, so many things brought me back to this area. But the Hudson Valley is very artistic as well, which helps creativity thrive.
A few upcoming novels are actually set around this area of New York, so it’s definitely inspiring! I find that many of my settings are a mixture of the places I’ve traveled and my hometown. I like to pull settings from actual places I’ve experienced.
Have you done any readings at local schools, hospitals, or senior center? How did they go over?
I’ve done a reading in a few English classes at my old high school and I’ve mentored in some Health classes in regard to mental health and being an author. They both went over really well and I plan to do some more very soon! I’m starting to write more YA novels as well, so I can’t wait to go back into high schools and be able to talk to the students about those books and the experiences they may connect with.
On Business vs Passion, Publisher vs Creator
Do you publish your own work? If so, do you handle the work differently from idea to distribution?
I do publish my own work. I’m often far better at coming up with marketing tactics for other clients than I am for myself because I have separation from the story. I find sometimes I put more time and energy in creating a better publication for someone else. I’m hoping eventually it evens out!
What’s your day publishing like? How many days or hours of publishing are you able to get in per week?
Publishing is still a part time job for me. I have a day job, so publishing comes before or after work—or more so, on the weekends when I can put more time and energy into creating the best product that I can. But the amount of hours I put in? Definitely depends on how much work I have for a client, but I don’t feel like I ever stop working. Even at my day job, I’m constantly thinking of new ways to market my company or the client’s book I’m working on. The work doesn’t stop when I leave my desk.
If you feel your connection to or appreciation for your (Genre/Niche), how do you reconnect or revitalize that loving feeling?
This is always hard when feeling uninspired. It’s easy to get drained, especially when having a day job, needing to write and work on publishing as well as marketing. There needs to be a balance and sometimes you lose that. And when I do, I go back to the basics. I go back to being a writer—read through some of my favorite things, go on my favorite hike, storyboard with a friend of mine, and work on a new project for myself. Then when I can rejuvenate the writer in me, I am reminded of why I do everything else.
On That Damn Slush Pile
How often is your “open” period, and where do writers find your latest story needs? Do you announce on sites like Horror Tree or Submittable?
My open period is currently always open! I’m a very new publishing house, so submissions are always welcome. Writers can find my latest needs and submission guidelines on my website: chelsealaurenauthor.com and also on Twitter: @representpub and Instagram: @representpublishing
Anthologies? Love them or hate them?
I love them as an author, as I am apart of one called Winter Neverland: An Anthology. Represent Publishing has never published one yet, but I love the idea of doing so! It’s a fantastic way for writers to get together and storyboard with each other, even if working on entirely differently stories for the anthology.
I’m sure you have this posted in at least two places on the Internet, but what is an acceptable format for you and how easy-going are you about it?
For the most part, I am looking for a submission that is clear and concise. The format of the book isn’t that important as long as it’s at least a word or pages document. I can transfer it into a format for my Kindle if I needed to. Google docs is nice too, to be able to create an open communication between me and the writer.
But submission guidelines are on my website. As long as you present yourself respectfully and coherently, I’ll read each submission.
On Current and Future Plans
What are the plans for the immediate future? What books will be rolling off the presses shortly?
Plans for the immediate future are definitely publicity. Just trying to get the name out there! I have a release in August and a release in November. The release in November is going to be really exciting because the marketing campaign starts in August and we are hoping it turns into more of a movement and not just a book release.
Come November as well, Represent Publishing will release a book box set for the holiday season too!
Do you have any long range plans in the works?
Long range plans include publications for myself, I have a finished WIP in the revision stages, as well as a brand new WIP. Yasmin Torres, the woman who wrote the children’s book has a few more children’s books planned. And Brittany Evans and I have plans for another co-written book hopefully in the near future!
I always remind myself that it’s a marathon and not a race. There are many great things on the table but they all just take some time.
Chelsea Lauren's Writing and Publishing Site
Bill Kieffer‘s website.