CM: You’re the C.C.O. of Author Accelerator, a company that helps writers develop their ideas into manuscripts. What inspired you to create this company?
JN: Writers lucky enough to land a deal with a Big 5 publisher get all the support and guidance under the sun. Failure is almost unheard of because you’ve got a whole team that is invested in your success. Writers who aren’t lucky enough to land that kind of deal – or who haven’t landed one YET — are on their own for the duration of a long-term, complex, difficult project. They often get lost, confused and frustrated along the way. I created Author Accelerator to give writers the support and guidance they need to succeed – so that they can land the deal, or finish a book they can confidently take out into the marketplace on their own.
CM: Many people feel the calling to be a writer, but how did you know that you were meant to be a book coach?
JN: I had no clue that it was one of my superpowers until one of my colleagues at UCLA asked me to help her on a book, starting at zero. I had a plan and a strategy that worked. I kept repeating it with new writers who asked for my help and honing it, and soon my clients were landing top agents and signing with top publishers. I found that I enjoyed my client’s successes as much as I enjoyed my own publishing coups, so I stuck with it.
CM: What makes a great book coach?
JN: I think it’s a combination of someone who understands the creative process and also understands the business aspect of publishing and selling books. I offer tough love – and I really mean it. Tough whip cracking on the deadlines, on knowing your deep level WHY, on making a POINT plus true caring about how hard this work is, how much it matters, and how certain I am you can do it.
JN: Writing is a lonely process, and when you fail, it hurts – badly. I know all that, I’ve lived it, so I can empathize at every stage of the journey.
CM: You teach at writing at UCLA’s Extension writing program. What was one of the things your students there needed to hear the most?
JN: THINK before you write. The time you take before you start writing can save you years of frustration, rejection, and heartbreak. Well, that and also, have patience. Don’t rush the start, don’t rush the middle, don’t rush to publication.
CM: What are the most important aspects you look for in a story?
JN: A writer with something to say and the courage to really say it.
CM: What are some of the most common mistakes you see in manuscripts?
JN: No narrative drive, no emotion on the page. The writing is flat and stingy. Work like this has no chance of touching a readers’ heart.
CM: How can Author Accelerator help aspiring writers?
JN: Our primary goal is to help writers finish a rough draft in six months. We do that by offering weekly deadlines, accountability, editorial feedback and support. We have other services – including manuscript revision, book proposal development and agent pitch programs – but our main service is helping writers finish their books.
JN: I look for four things: excellent technical skills, an ability to see the big picture of a story, an ability to understand how the book might fit into the marketplace and kindness, or empathy, with what writers must face when they face the blank page.
CM: As someone who has worked in publishing, and as a writer who has been published by major publishing houses in New York, what are some things you think most aspiring writers don’t know about the traditional publishing process?
JN: Publishing is big business. So many writers think it’s an industry based on nothing but love, and while love plays a role in it, it’s a business as cutthroat and competitive and money-driven as any other. I’m not suggesting writers have to start throwing elbows, but I AM suggesting they should understand the reality. Publishers support books they think can make money by reaching a lot of readers. It is not criminal for writers to think in a similar way. You can write what you love, but keep an eye on what your readers need, what the marketplace demands. Then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
CM: What have you learned about writing by launching Author Accelerator?
JN: That there is nothing more satisfying to a writer than actually finishing the book. Publishing is nice, of course we wall want it, but just doing it – actually doing it – is the real prize.
CM: Anything else you’d like to add about Author Accelerator?
JN: We have awesome free giveaways! Check out our home page and grab them all.