Libby Cone Interview
July 4, 2009
the author of War on the Margins
We had the good fortune of interviewing Libby Cone on July 4, 2009, shortly before her novel War on the Margins, about the World War II resistance movement on German-occupied Jersey Island, became available from the U.K. publisher Duckworth. Libby previously self-published this novel (we critiqued it on the Self-Published Round-Up page), and she revised it for the Duckworth edition.
Congratulations on your leap from self-published author. It's relatively uncommon for an author to make this leap. What do you think was the key that made this possible for War on the Margins?
I owe it to bloggers. If I hadn't read Jay Rayner's article about the ascendancy of the blogosphere in The Observer, it would not have occurred to me to send War on the Margins to book bloggers.
What made you decide to self-publish, and after doing so, why did you continue exploring the more traditional publishing route?
I had a story that needed telling. I began fairly enthusiastically, sending out 20-30 query letters, all answered with rejections. During this time a friend with editorial experience went over it, and I took the radical advice she gave me, taking a chainsaw to it. Then another friend suggested self-publishing, and I joined that community. Then I saw Jay Rayner's article, and began sending it to bloggers in the US and UK. It was mostly well-received, and the British blogger dovegreyreader reviewed it alongside The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (my book is an inadvertent "prequel"), and then I began to hear from publishers.
Do you have any advice for other writers considering self-publishing and hoping to make the same leap you did?
Marketing is important, but not everybody knows how to edit, and not everybody understands, or takes, criticism. The most important words in my previous answer aren't "agents" or "bloggers," but "friend" and "chainsaw." When my friend suggested a radical alteration, I trusted her judgement. I have seen other writers bemoaning a three-star review and stating that they are going to complain to the reviewer. You can't do that. You have to thank them for the feedback and then decide if they have a point. No readers care how long you worked on the book or how much research you did, subject matter notwithstanding. "But my book is about the Holocaust!" or "My book is about incest!" doesn't cut it. If the prose is awkward or it schleps along, folks won't read it.
Brief Critique of the self-published edition of War on the Margins before it was edited for the Duckworth edition
See listing for War on the Margins at Powell's Books (Duckworth edition)
See listing for War on the Margins at Amazon.com (Duckworth edition)
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