Elizabeth Gilbert

Lit IT Girls: How Not to Marry The Wrong Guy

We wish we had met our latest Lit IT Girls, Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain, years ago!  Their debut how-to book, How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He The One or Should You Run? A Guide to Living Happily Ever After could have *really* come in handy during our jackass dating phase.  All we can say is Thank God we never actually walked down the aisle with any of them! While there are hundreds of books about how to find the right guy, there are virtually none on how to detach yourself from the wrong one. So whether you're engaged, in a serious relationship, or a serial dater looking for Mr. Right, these girls can help you decide if you should take the plunge or run screaming in the other direction!

And we LOVE the fact that How Not to Marry The Wrong Guy was originally self-published and then picked up by a major publishing house.  Because you know we're suckers for a good Cinderella story!  And it doesn't hurt that they crush on our girl Emily Giffin and love Grey Goose or a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. So read on to hear more about why the fabu Anne and Jennifer deserve their Lit IT Girl Crown!

Have a friend who could use their advice? (Not you, of course! *wink wink*)Then leave a comment for your chance to win one of FIVE copies!  We'll pick the winner by random drawing on Thursday night!


1. How long did it take to write your book?

Anne: I started interviewing women who married the “wrong guys” in January of 2000. However, my family and my freelance clients were my priority….so the stack of yellow notepads and questionnaires kept getting shoved back on the shelf in my office. As my three kids got older—and I faced a lull in freelance work—my husband encouraged me to write the book I had been talking about for so long! At the same time, I decided I needed a therapist to help me interpret the interviews and write the book.  I wanted to make sure that the finished product delivered sound and credible advice that was backed up by practical experience. Fortunately, I met the right coauthor! (Part of the deal is that I get free therapy, too!)

Jennifer: Within days of our first meeting we were sending writing samples back and forth via email.  Our first draft probably took about one year to complete. Our self-published version, How to Marry the Wrong Guy, was released in May of 2009. After Broadway Books (Random House) picked it up, our editor gave us about 8 weeks to edit and tweak the second version.

2. How long did it take you to get your book published? What were your rock bottom moments along the way?

After hearing so many horror stories about finding an agent, we decided to go for it and publish it ourselves. We literally maxed-out our credit cards paying for printing, our website, graphic design, etc.  Our husbands were extremely supportive even though our newly-founded publishing company was broke!  (It really does pay to marry the right guy!)

The first edition was launched in May of 2009. A fairy godmother placed it in the hands of the man who would eventually become our agent. He watched as we received a lot of local (and some national) media attention and believed that he could help us bring it to a wider audience. He suggested some changes and we wrote a revised proposal/outline in July and August. He shopped it to several publishers and we ultimately sold the North American Rights at auction in October 2009. We know we were really lucky…but it’s also a perfect example of that old saying: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Jennifer: I don’t know if I would call it “rock bottom” but there were certainly days when I just could not find my creativity and would sit and stare at a blank screen for hours.  We also planned a huge release party at a local indie book store.  The first printing was completely wrong and had to be re-done.  We weren’t sure we were going to have books to sell!  There were typos that we missed and we just had to go to print regardless.  It was pretty nerve-wracking, especially being the perfectionist that I am.

Anne: I think there were two rock bottoms for me. The first was when another author agreed to give me some advice and she told me no less than 15 times how much she hated our title. I finally had to say—politely of course—that while I appreciated her advice, she was not in my target audience and I wasn’t going to change it. She was pretty harsh and it really brought me down. Good thing I didn’t listen to her because that title was the first thing that caught our agent’s attention! The other time was when we participated in a “pitchapalooza” event at our local book festival. We had one minute to pitch our book to a literary agent/author in front of about 50 other people. I was so disappointed that we didn’t win the big prize—a meeting with an agent at a renowned literary agency. We went out and drowned our sorrows over several plates of tapas and a pitcher of sangria. We didn’t let it stop us, though. We picked ourselves up and kept moving forward—and it paid off!

3. How did you get teamed up with your publisher? Why did you feel your publisher was a good match for you?

Our editor at Broadway Books, Hallie, received the pitch letter and proposal from our agent. From the beginning, she believed in the book and advocated on our behalf. We were so thrilled that our editor, marketing rep and publicist were smart and fabulous single women living and working in NYC. They shared our mission and did a great job marketing and promoting How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy. They had such great ideas—it was a wonderful collaboration all the way around.

4. Knowing what you know now about publishing your first novel, what would you have done differently?

It was an amazing journey—and we are excited to see what happens next. We don’t think we would do anything differently. However, if we had known how much work was involved in the distribution, sales and marketing of a self-published book (on top of our families and our day jobs) it might have scared us off.  We are glad that we were so clueless!

5. What did you do to celebrate your book deal?

When we received our first advance check, we treated ourselves (and our husbands) to dinner at Tony’s, one of the nicest restaurants in St. Louis.

Jennifer: The day the book hit stores nationwide; I surprised Anne and took her to the Four Seasons Hotel for a massage and rooftop lunch.  We never treat ourselves to such indulgences and it was such a wonderful day!  Then it was back to reality, cleaning our houses and driving carpool.

Anne: I was a nervous wreck the day of our auction and must confess that I ate about eight  mini “100 Grand” candy bars as I waited for the bids to come in! 6. Who is your writer crush?

Jennifer: Easy.  Liz Gilbert.  I was reading Eat, Pray, Love right before I met Anne and I was instantly attracted to her writing style and a bit jealous of her ability to travel without any hesitation.  I immediately wanted to go get fat in Italy, live in an ashram and visit the places in Bali that she described.  I felt like a cyber stalker, wanting to know everything about her.  I longed for the spiritual connection she described happened to her while she meditated.  I meditated a lot while I was writing and had some of my most creative moments while doing so.  Would love to thank her for that some day!

Anne: I have three writer crushes right now. Jen and I went to see Emily Giffin at a fab event at Saks Fifth Avenue a few weeks ago.  She was gorgeous, smart, and funny. I envied the huge turnout of adoring fans (not to mention the great books she keeps turning out!)  Another crush is Susan McBride. She’s a St. Louis-based author (most recent book: The Cougar Club) who has been a huge source of advice and inspiration for us. My non-fiction crush is Amy Spencer, the author of Meeting Your Half Orange. Her optimistic approach to dating is wonderful and I am recommending her book to everyone who wants to find the right guy (once we help them get unstuck from the wrong one, of course!)

7. What's your biggest distraction or vice while writing?

Jennifer: Definitely chocolate and wine are my biggest vices while writing and otherwise!  Writing at home is a huge distraction.  I would try to sit down and write and then think about the six loads of laundry that were sitting in the basement or the junk drawer in the kitchen that needed to be cleaned out.  Needless to say, writing is much more fun than cleaning!

Anne: Ditto on the chocolate. I have even gone so far as to have Jennifer drop a candy bar off at my home office window! (Which she does with a smile—love her!) My other vice is the internet—I can’t stay off Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Lately I have started going to the resource room at the library to unplug.

8. GNO drink of choice?

Jennifer: Vodka tonic (Grey Goose) with extra lime!

Anne: Perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc

9. Favorite trashy TV show?

Jennifer: Maybe I should have included this as my biggest vice!  Pretty much any show on Bravo but especially Housewives of the OC, and New York, and Patti Stanger’s Millionaire Matchmaker are my top choices.  I love observing pop culture and relationships.

Anne: I hate to admit it but I can’t resist Tori and Dean or the Kardashians. I really miss Kendra, Bridget and Holly living under one roof, too! I love you Puffin!

10. What celeb would you love to have a Twitter war with?

Jennifer: Difficult to narrow this down to just one!  Any of the male celebs who have come out recently, cheating on their wives like Tiger, Jesse James, Larry King, John Edwards, in fact, I think John Edwards was the worst behaved so I would love to have a few words with him!

Anne: I don’t want to get in a mean Twitter war, but I would love to send some relationship advice to Kourtney Kardashian, Tori Spelling and Heidi Montag just to name a few. Oh wait, I might get mean with Kate Goesselin!

Thanks Jennifer and Anne!  xoxo, Liz & Lisa

To read more about How Not To Marry The Wrong Guy, head on over to their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Writing Wednesday: Jennifer Colt Tells All About Publishing

It's that time again... Writing Wednesday where we "talk shop". And today we wanted to let someone else do the yapping for us (sometimes we get tired of hearing ourselves blog!) Plus, we crave inside scoop about the biz as we shop our manuscript and anxiously await representation, praying we make more desktops than slushpiles (so far, so good although we did recently suffer one rejection that really bummed us out). So today we decided to give Jennifer Colt, the author of The Hellraiser of the Hollywood Hills: A McAfee Twins Novel, the floor. She's been published by a major publishing house, she's tried self- publishing and she's been independently published (and not necessarily in that order).  And now she's on to e-books. And we wanted to know if she could pick only one type of publishing, which would it be?

And Jennifer has graciously offered to give away FIVE signed copies of her latest novel, The Hellraiser of the Hollywood Hills! (We'll randomly select the winners this Friday!) It's a story that the Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love says she got a big kick out of and can't wait for the next. The premise? Terry and Kerry are identical twins and private eyes who run Double Indemnity Investigations where they keep tabs on philandering husbands, among other things.  But before they know it, they find themselves the number one suspects in a kidnapping investigation. All while they act as glorified babysitters to the Hollywood megastar they're accused of stealing. JUICY!!

And now, here's Jennifer!

L&L: You've done it all- what are the pro's and cons of each type of publishing?

JC: This is a loaded question! It would take pages to answer fully, but here’s basically how it breaks down:

1) Major publisher: They have money and market clout, but they’ll probably spend neither on you if you’re a first-time author. You will need to do most of all the marketing and promotion on your book.

If you’re lucky enough to be picked up by a major publishing house, it means you’ve been championed by an individual editor and vetted by an acquisitions committee, and that the art, marketing, and publicity departments now have a stake in your success. Reviewers will be more likely to give your book a shot. Booksellers will not shun you the way they sometimes do self-publishers (they won’t roll out the red carpet, either – you’re still an unproven quantity).

But it’s important to understand that you will still do most of the shlepping, pitching, and self-promotion. Even established authors like Barry Eisler say they spend 20% of their time on writing, 80% on promotion.

If your sales are good, the publisher will take notice and likely spend/expend more effort on your behalf going forward. If you’ve started out as a paperback author, they may give you a promotion to hardcover!

2) Independent publishing: Most people should not do this the first time out. The print-on-demand business is now so sophisticated, the marketing and distribution so good, there’s no need to lay out the extra monies on physical books that you’ll have to inventory.

That said, if you want to do it I can help you. I’ve started a business now called writerrevolution.com. There are advantages to going this way, such as having your own ISBN and being treated as a real publisher, but you have to be very committed to it. It’s time-consuming and costly, and you should know exactly where your market is and how many books you can sell. (Again, that’s something I can help you identify.)

3) Self-publishing: This is the way to go for many people. It in no way prevents you from being picked up by a major. If you have a great book that is well presented, if reviewers have nice things to say about it, you are in virtually the same position as a first-time author who has a publishing contract, except that you haven’t received an advance. However, your individual royalties will be higher.

If your book or series is a success, you can be sure you’ll be considered by big publishers. You’ve done a lot of the legwork, and they can ride on what you’ve already accomplished in the way of introducing your work to the marketplace. I consider it to be like showcasing your independent film at the film markets. If it’s well received and there’s a defined market for it, a major distributor may pick it up.

In the case of apps like Kindle, you can price your book in such a way that people will be more likely take a chance on you as a new author. It’s a way to build a readership. By now I suppose everyone knows the story of JA Konrath, but in case you don’t…

Joe Konrath (aka Jack Killborn) is a real pioneer in this area. He had so many unpublished manuscripts lying around that, after first offering them for free on his website, he took advantage of the new Kindle technology to sell them at under $2.00 per download. He claims that his slasher book Serial was downloaded more than 70,000 times. With all of his Kindle offerings, he’s making much more money now than he did with the traditional publishers. Plus, Amazon is now playing the role of publisher, offering him an advance on his next book.

Full circle, anyone?

Times have changed and they continue to change, very fast. You can get whiplash trying to keep up.

Notwithstanding the foregoing…


I mean it. I have to get a little woo-woo on you here and say that only you know what’s right for you to do. Consult your gut. Take it out to lunch; have a frank discussion with it. Maintain a “beginner’s mind” and forget the experts. They (we) can only tell you what our experience is and was. Who knows what’s in the cards for you? It’s all a learning experience.

L&L: How did you get an agent AFTER you self-published?

JC: I’ve done all of the above in terms of publishing. I started out in the dark ages of POD with iUniverse, using such bad covers it’s excruciating to see them still up on bookseller sites. (I didn’t yet understand that with the Internet, whatever you do will be there forever.) While writing the series, I queried agents. I didn’t get any interest from them, but I continually sent the finished books out to review sites.

I got some great notices, so I cribbed catchy phrases from them for a new query letter, which finally got me the attention of a terrific agent. (It’s important to target your queries to agents who work with your type of writing. Do the research and give them what they’re looking for only.)

Because I hadn’t expected to hear from her so soon, I had fibbed a little and said the third book, The Vampire of Venice Beach, was ready to go. She panicked a little when she learned that it needed more work, but I didn’t cave. I knew I had to finish it properly so I made her wait.

Then she took the books out to auction – what an exciting day! She called and emailed me several times during the day to update me on the bidding war. At the end of the day we took the offer from Broadway Books, which was the highest.

What bothered me was that they kept calling the series a “trilogy.” I was busy writing the fourth book at that time, and certainly wanted it to continue. I was afraid they’d make me wrap up all the storylines at the end of the third book but they didn’t. I guess they wanted to leave their options open.

In the end, the books didn’t earn out, meaning that they never went into profit. Instead of letting them die (I couldn’t let them snuff out my characters!) I published the next two books on my own.

I’ve really been missing my girls, the McAfee Twins. I keep getting mail from fans wondering where the next book is. I think I’ll write a sixth and do the CreateSpace/Kindle thing with them. The problem is finding the time!

L&L: What are you working on now?

JC: I have an abiding interest in all matters spiritual. That’s how I spend my spare time, reading and contemplating those things, so I’ve finally decided to write a book about them. I’ve dubbed it a “spiritual memoir” because it’s the story of how I’ve learned to integrate these ideas into my experience over the course of a lifetime. It’s almost finished.  (I mean the manuscript, not the lifetime!)

Don’t be frightened by the subject matter – the book is a hoot. The tentative title is Minor Mercies & Big-Ass Miracles. I go into some detail about the techniques I’ve used in obtaining a book deal, etc., such as affirmative prayer, visualization, etc. I know everyone’s heard about that stuff ad nauseam, but I’ve kept a journal for thirteen years that tracks their effectiveness. For instance, I include a copy of the mock press release I wrote for myself before I even had an agent, alongside of the actual press release that came out nine months later. The real press release mirrors my fake one almost verbatim, including the advance amount.

I especially want to get this book out there because I think it could help people who are struggling. (And who isn’t these days?) I’d better go get to work on it now!

For more information about Jennifer Colt, head over to her website!