[quote style=”boxed”]Say yes to (almost) every opportunity that comes your way. You never know what’s going to give you your big break or what will lead to that next deal. [/quote]
Brittany Geragotelis is the author of the “Life’s A Witch” series, fantasy YA novels about modern-day teenage witches. Brittany has been featured on Publisher’s Weekly, The Huffington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The prequel to Life’s A Witch, “What The Spell?“, was recently published in late January 2013 and was featured on the FOX hit series Glee.
What are you working on right now?
So many cool things are happening right now! First, we’re in the middle of pitching a new book series to traditional publishers. It’s in the young adult genre and has generated some promising interest so far! I’m also talking to producers about a Life’s a Witch TV show/movie, which is super exciting…but the entertainment world can be a bit fickle, so we won’t know what will come of it until the deal’s signed and in production. Lastly, I’m self-publishing another title of mine called Kiss & Sell, after gaining donations through a fan-funding campaign on the site Wattpad. It’s a cute teen novel about a girl who decides to sell her first kiss on eBay. It’s exciting to get back to my roots of self-publishing!
Where did the idea to self-publish Life’s a Witch come from?
Well, my journey to becoming a published author was bumpy, long and full of rejection. But what it came down to was, I wasn’t getting anywhere trying the old model of publishing traditionally, so I took matters into my own hands to get my books out to readers. In 2011, I was approached by the storytelling site called Wattpad, where writers can post their content (short stories, full-length novels, poetry, novellas and screenplays) for readers to browse for free. At the time, I’d been told by other published authors never to give my content away for free…but the truth was, I wasn’t okay with the fact that I’d written six books that nobody was reading because they were hidden away on my laptop.
So, I joined Wattpad and decided to give it a try, writing and posting an exclusive young adult book called Life’s a Witch, about a girl who’s a direct descendent of the first woman killed in the Salem Witch Trials. Over the next six months, I finished writing the book and had gained a following–and 6 million reads of it! Eleven months after posting the first chapter of the book, my fans were asking where they could buy it, so I asked myself, “Why am I not self-publishing this?” About three weeks after self-publishing the title–and 18 million reads later–the traditional publishing world came calling and I ended up in an auction for the rights to the series, eventually going with a 3-book, 6-figure deal with Simon & Schuster!
How do you make money?
Right now, my main source of income is through the advances that I get from traditional publishers. Of course, this only goes so far, especially since about 1/3 of my money goes right back into my business (agents, technology, ads, marketing, PR/Publicity, etc.) and nearly half go to taxes. So, since I make my money through a project by project basis, it’s sort of like being a freelancer. I’ll also collect some money through royalties a few times a year and foreign sales. Soon I’ll be doing a hybrid of self-publishing and traditional publishing which will bring additional sources of revenue in.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up when my husband leaves for work (between 8:30-9) and get to work myself! For me, that means I head out to the living room, grab some coffee, and then take up residence on my couch for the day. I check e-mails, answer reader comments and manage my social media for an hour or two (I’m on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Wattpad and have a blog and then start on whatever project I’m working on at the time.)
This could be anything from writing a first draft of a novel, editing a manuscript, working on marketing projects, answering interview questions, storyboarding my next book or writing up an outline. I’ll typically stop for lunch and work out at some point, but around 5pm or 6pm, I put away the work and relax with my husband. We’re night owls and really love TV, so we’re usually up until midnight or 1am watching something on Netflix. When I’m on deadline I’ll work seven days a week, but when I’m not, I let myself relax on the weekends.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through lots of hard work, dedication and perseverance. My creative writing career has always been something I’ve had to set my own goals and schedule for. For nine years I wrote every night for an hour between 11pm and 1am. Every. Night. Even when nobody else was reading them. You have to be self-motivated to be an author. I often get asked advice on how to write a book. All I can say is to actually sit down and write.
In terms of how to put an idea on the page? For me personally, I visualize everything I write. A lot of people say my books read like movies, and that makes sense to me, because as I’m writing, I’m thinking about who I would cast as the characters and how they would move and how certain scenes would look. I also create a sort of storyboard before I start writing, where I have picture collages of the characters and their personalities, that way I always have a visual of the world I’m creating.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The fact that media is changing to allow more people to create and distribute their own content. Self-publishing, YouTube, iTunes, etc…all these creative worlds have been opened up so that creators can make things happen for themselves if they choose to do so. It just means more opportunities for everyone.
I’m also really psyched that so many teen books are being optioned for the big and little screens and morphing into these monster hits (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Mortal Instruments, “Pretty Little Liars”, “Gossip Girl”, “The Vampire Diaries” etc). And they’re crossing age groups! Gone are the days that YA content was only for teens. It’s acceptable for anyone at any age to become obsessed fans.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My first job was at an Arby’s. It wasn’t so much bad as it was…well, fast food. While I was there I learned responsibility (having to get myself to work on time, listening to my manager), how to deal with a variety of personalities and what it felt like to be (somewhat) financially self-sufficient. There’s a lot of pride that came along with those $100 checks back then!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would probably let go of my ego a lot sooner. For nine years it told me that to be a successful and legitimate author I had to be published the traditional way. I hate to think of all the opportunities I missed out on because I thought I was too good for them. Also, I’d try not to listen to all the hate/negativity/rejection. The rejection I received from agents/publishers/editors almost convinced me to stop writing altogether. I would love to have come to the realization sooner that they were just opinions and not necessarily the view of the entire world at large.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Say yes to (almost) every opportunity that comes your way. You never know what’s going to give you your big break or what will lead to that next deal. I said yes to Wattpad because ultimately I had no real reason to say no. At the time, I figured maybe I’d create a new fanbase or at the least gain a few new followers. I had no idea that I would end up getting 18 million reads of one of my books, which would lead to a 3-book deal with a major publisher! Imagine if I had said no to joining the site!
Since then I’ve said yes to almost everything I’ve been asked to be a part of, even if I can’t see exactly how it will help me sell books. I accept writing conference speaking engagements, participate in giveaways, get involved in new ventures and partnerships. Even if I speak on a panel where only 10 people show up, that’s 10 more people I have the chance to turn into fans/readers by the end of my talk. And there may just be a connection worth having out there in the audience. Hey, you never know!
So, unless it’s going to compromise your beliefs or integrity or threatens to wipe out your bank account, what do you have to lose? Say yes!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One? Try six books worth of so-called failure. Like I said…I suffered from nine years of rejection from agents, editors and publishers. I came close to selling a book at one point, but the publishers ended up passing…and then my agent dropped me. This was when I wondered if I should just give up.
So, I took a hiatus from writing. But after six months I got the itch to write again and decided I needed to re-evaluate my goals. Instead of focusing solely on getting my book published traditionally, I changed it to: writing because I love it and feel compelled to do it, and getting my books into the hands of readers. These were much more attainable goals and left a lot of wiggle room as to how it was going to happen. After that, everything just fell into place!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This has nothing to do with writing, but earlier this year I got married. My dress was really poofy and had about 10 layers to it, so by the time I was at my reception, I was so overheated that I almost threw up in the bathroom. I had to sit in there for 15 minutes with a cold compress on my back and my skirt hiked up to give my legs a breather. This was when I thought that they should create a personal fan that attaches to a garter underneath a full bridal gown and keeps the bride cool on her big day. I’d call it the Bridal Breeze. It could be sold at bridal boutiques everywhere and would make great bridal shower gifts. Of course, plenty of people would make fun of it (namely guys), but if you’ve ever worn a full wedding gown you totally get the need for this–and the teasing would just mean free publicity!
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
The amount of bullying that goes on. In schools, on the internet, at work, in the media, etc. It’s an epidemic that causes so many serious health issues (both mental and physical) as well as societal problems. I have some ideas on how we could start to fix things in schools, but I’m afraid it would take a lot more government funding than people are probably willing to give. Number one, we’d need more mental healthcare for kids (both for the bullies and the victims). We also need more supervision around campus’ and a true zero-tollerance policy–not the kind that ends in the victim being forced to switch schools to escape the bad behavior of their tormentors.
Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer to this problem and too many adults are quick to say, “kids will be kids.” But then we’re surprised when the number of teen suicides go up or when students march into schools with weapons because they feel they have no other choice but to end the pain. The thing is, if you got rid of the bullying that goes on in schools, we’d likely create more productive and useful human beings in the long run and there’d be less crime and violence.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
When I was training for the Olympics in gymnastics as a teen, my music for my floor routine was a Kenny G song.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
A) Wattpad because it’s a great platform for writers and readers and it gave me my start! It’s also one of the few places I’ve found online that’s free of negativity. No bullying and trolls on this site!
B) YouTube. A lot of writers don’t understand why they need to be on YouTube, but it’s actually a really great way to reach an audience outside of your typical reading-obsessed community. YouTube also sort of paved the way for creative people to be discovered online after building their own communities of fans–Justin Bieber, Austin Mahone, Fred (AKA: Lucas Cruikshank) to name a few–which is ultimately how I got my start (through content-sharing sites like Wattpad). Besides…you can get totally lost on there for hours….I’m looking at you Grumpy Cat.
C) IMDB.com. I’m obsessed with celebs, TV shows and movies, and like I said, I like to cast my books before I write them. IMDB is where I go for cast lists, network and production info, agent/manager contacts and all the happenings of hollywood. (A close second to this is Eonline. Love it!!!)
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Harry Potter. It was revolutionary for so many reasons: It was the first book that was universally enjoyable for people of all ages. It changed the way we look at book series’. It made JK Rowling the richest female author in the world…the only author I know of that had people dressing up for book releases at midnight. I think it breathed new life into books and made people want to read again. And it’s such a great story of perseverance, bravery, love and the fact that one person can indeed make a difference in the world, despite how young and small you may be. JK Rowling’s own personal story is quite inspiring, too.
And if you refuse to read fiction: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man by Jerry Weintraub. So many lessons to learn from a self-made man.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Companies: @eonline (Celeb scoop); @disneywords (encouragement); @EW (Hollywood scoop)
Individuals: @AmandaHavard (she’s a talented author friend of mine); @JossWhedon (because he’s genius); @IMKristenBell (because she’s the ultimate girl crush)
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Today with my husband. We were catching up on this season’s “Big Brother” and were cracking up over how obsessed Gina Marie is with our friend Nick Uhas (who was evicted earlier this season–Booooo!).
Who is your hero, and why?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look, I know she’s fictional, but the character that Joss Whedon created 10 years ago is really quite amazing. She’s a strong female role model, who kicks butt, is fearless, clever, quick-witted, funny, she doesn’t need a man to take care of her, and she fiercely loves her friends–but is still totally human and makes mistakes. And she saves the world. A lot. I’d love to know that I’ve impacted the world in such a significant way.
If you could collaborate with anyone on a book, who would it be?
Joss Whedon. He’s the best storyteller there is and I can only imagine what it would be like to learn from his process. And it would be his first book, so it would be pretty amazing to be on the journey with him.
What are some of your favorite foods?
I’m gluten-free because I have Celiac Disease, so it would have to be something without wheat, oats, barley and rye. However, gluten-free food has come a long way, so I can still eat the things I love. Some of my faves are pasta (specifically Carbonara). I also love bread in general, French fries, cake, pizza….mmmmm, I’m getting hungry! For more info on Celiac Disease, visit .
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.