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Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Mystery: Laura Pedersen

Today I have a guest post from the author of Beginner's Luck, Heart's Desire, The Big Shuffle, and Best Bet, Laura Perderson. You can find Perderson here at her site.
Question: Since you've worked with both Random House and iUniverse--a self publication company--was there a huge difference between the two? Is there a preference? Was there a certain reason why the lastest addition to your Hallie Palmer series was published through iUniverse rather than Ballantine Books?

Answer: Yes, there’s a big difference between working with Random House, a large corporate traditional publisher and iUniverse, a self-publisher─lots of pluses and minuses, so at the end of the day, it has to be a good fit for that particular project. Along similar lines, Fulcrum, a small but well-regarded traditional publisher, put out my humorous memoir BUFFALO GAL in 2008 and will also be releasing my nonfiction BUFFALO UNBOUND this fall. Again, that’s been a happy and successful relationship because it’s a good fit.

By putting the novel BEST BET out through iUniverse I was able to control the cover design. I don’t consider myself to be a terrific artist but I do have strong feelings about how the cover needs to express the story inside the book. With a traditional publisher, most non-blockbuster authors aren’t going to get much say over that. You can offer suggestions and tweak things, but it will rarely be your vision. Next, traditional publishers find themselves in the business of following trends and keeping an eye on the bottom line. For them, a shorter book is usually a better book because there’s a sense that attention spans have become shorter, and it’s a fact that a book with fewer pages costs less money to print. Certainly Jane Austen would be required to lop off 20,000 words if she were submitting a manuscript today. And Tolstoy would have to pick one, War or Peace. The Hallie Palmer series of novels (BEGINNER’S LUCK, HEART’S DESIRE, THE BIG SHUFFLE, BEST BET) is intended to have a somewhat timeless feel to it. Hopefully that’s not a euphemism for slow, since I like to think that the humor and plot twists keep things moving along. Still, the main character often works in a garden, and I wanted the books to have a transcendental sensibility, and for that I needed a few more pages. The good news is that all of my publishers have been supportive of my choices since the main thing is to keep connecting with readers. Almost all the books have picked up a few prizes and continue to sell well so hopefully that’s happening.

The main dilemmas I find that people have when deciding between a traditional house and self-publisher are sales and editorial. Random House will always get its books in the big stores and most of the small ones. iUniverse has a relationship with B&N and will list your book on Amazon.com, but you’ll have to contact small stores yourself or else take out a few ads in publications like PW. Being that my book BEST BET was the last in a series I didn’t really have to worry about that because readers who run across the earlier books will go looking for the final installment and find it easily enough. And BEGINNER’S LUCK is on so many high school reading lists that a lot of series traffic comes from there. I also donate copies of my books to libraries in New York State (where I’ve always lived) and Ohio (where the Hallie Palmer series takes place) since I loved my local library as a young person and nowadays they’re struggling due to cutbacks. With regard to editing, I found the services that iUniverse offered sufficient for my needs since in addition to writing eleven books I also wrote for The New York Times for ten years. And as every writer knows, the days of the Maxwell Perkins-style editor has gone the way of the two-martini lunch. Publishing house staff has been cut and everyone is doing the work of three people. Many writers I know hire a freelance editor before turning their work into a traditional publisher. As for marketing, unless you’re a bestselling author, you have to do most of that yourself as well these days.

Question: Was Beginnger's Luck's cover redesigned to fit the rest of the series? Will Heart's Desire's cover also be redesigned?

Answer: To answer your specific question about cover design, Random House has said they’re in the midst of a cover redesign for the first three books and this is why if you order a copy of BEGINNER’S LUCK you’ll receive one cover, and if you look it up on Amazon.com you’ll see another. Ideally, when a TV or movie version comes out we’ll redo them all to be in keeping with that, perhaps by incorporating the actors.

Laura Pedersen was the youngest columnist for the The New York Times. Prior to that she was the youngest person to have a seat on the floor of the American Stock Exchange and wrote her first book Play Money about that experience, which received a starred Kirkus review and became a bestseller. Laura has a finance degree from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

In 1994 President Clinton honored Pedersen as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on shows such as “CNN,” “Oprah,” “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “Primetime Live,” and David Letterman. She has also performed stand-up comedy at “The Improv,” among other clubs, and writes material for several well-known comedians.

Laura’s first novel, Going Away Party, won the Three Oaks Prize for Fiction and was published by Story Line Press in April 2001. Her short stories and humorous essays have won numerous awards and been published in literary journals and magazines. Her second novel, Beginner’s Luck, was published by Ballantine Books in January 2003 and selected by Barnes & Noble for their “Discover Great New Writers” program, by Borders for their “Original Voices” program, and by The Literary Guild as an alternate selection. Heart’s Desire, the sequel to Beginner’s Luck, was also chosen for the Literary Guild. Additional writing includes the novels Last Call, The Big Shuffle (featured by Target Stores as one of their best books for Fall 2006), Best Bet, and a collection of short stories called The Sweetest Hours. Laura’s humorous memoir Buffalo Gal (2008) won "Best Memoir" from ForeWord Magazine and an honorable mention for the Eric P. Hoffer book award. Buffalo Unbound will be published in fall 2010.

Laura lives in New York City and teaches at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem. She is a member of the national literary association P.E.N. (poets, essayists and novelists).


  1. I love this interview! I'm going to read her books!

  2. I needed to read hear from a successful author - Laura Pedersen. I've started my own blog (http://daynahester.com): A Chronology of My Self-Publishing Journey, and while I'm a first-time novelist, my logic dictated to go the iUniverse route for many of the same reasons that Pedersen states in the article.

    Thank you for the information!
    Dayna Hester

  3. I really like this interview. I just checked and my library has her books--I'll definitely be reading them this weekend. :)