She Writes publisher, Brooke Warner, took time from her many duties as wearer of numerous hats to chat with me about her experience in the book world and what she hopes the future holds.
Kathryn Schleich: Where did you grow up? Did you always have the desire to be a writer?
Brooke Warner: I grew up in Southern California, in San Juan Capistrano. I loved to write little poems when I was quite young, around fifth and sixth grade, but then I didn’t write for the longest time. I was always a big reader, but I’m not a person who had a life-long dream to become a writer when I grew up.
KS: What’s the first piece you had published?
BW: Something in my local newspaper. It was an op-ed that I’d written for a high school class and it was published in the Orange County Register. I was thrilled.
KS: What’s your educational background and/or writing related employment?
BW: I got my undergrad degree from The George Washington University and then got a job in book publishing about one year after I graduated. Book publishing is of course a “writing-related” career, but the process of making books shouldn’t necessary be considered a writing job. I have always done a lot more project management and editing than writing. I got my master’s degree from San Francisco State University while I was employed at Seal Press, my second publishing job.
KS: You’ve talked about the fact that your own frustration with traditional publishing is what led you to found She Writes Press. What were some of those frustrations? How have you tried to help She Writes authors avoid such pitfalls?
BW: The primary frustration is that authors have to have an author platform, or be well known, to get a publishing deal in today’s publishing climate. I understand the rationale behind that, but I think it’s detrimental to how we think about books, and what’s meaningful about books. There is a lot that’s broken about the publishing industry—in terms of how decisions are made, throwing lots of money after some books and ignoring others, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual content of the book. I’ve spent the past eight years writing articles and books and speaking, to She Writes Press authors but also to authors everywhere, about all of the inner workings of publishing and how I see the world because I think it provides some hope that the traditional publishers aren’t the only option, and in many cases they’re not even the best option.
KS: Do you have a specific writing process that works for you?
BW: Yes, establish firm deadlines, hire a coach, commit to the hours I said I was going to write. It’s “butt in the chair” for me all the way. I’m so busy that to fit in the time to write I have to have strong accountabilities set up, internal and external.
KS: Has your son picked up the desire to write?
BW: A little bit. He loves to do comic books and I’m very supportive of that!
KS: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
BW: To write in your own voice. Not to worry about perfect grammar and to sound on the page how you sound in real life.
KS: That’s great advice and something you don’t hear often enough. On the other side, what advice would you give aspiring authors?
BW: To show up in full authenticity. To try to be brave on the page. Connection to your reader comes from letting your guard down and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
KS: She Writes was named Independent Publisher of 2019, which is quite an honor. How did you find out? Going forward, what are specific goals for the presses?
BW: It was a big deal actually. We had to be interviewed and I spoke with the committee because they had some questions about us, how we operate, etc. So I knew we were a contender. When I finally got the message, they called me. I was in Detroit that day and I was thrilled. I was hoping it was going to be informing me that we were receiving the award, so I was smiling from ear to ear when they said it was happening.
KS: What would you like your legacy as a writer/publisher to be?
BW: I hope that I am already changing the industry. That’s my main goal—to have this new, alternative space, which is hybrid publishing, be fully integrated. To have all hybrid publishers meet the hybrid criteria that was outlined by the Independent Book Publishers Association in 2018. But most importantly, to be part of a movement of industry folks, writers, and authors who believe that the book’s content is more important than the fame or celebrity or fanbase of the book’s author. I want to be seen as a champion for writers and as someone who worked tirelessly to level the playing field for authors everywhere.
KS: What projects are you currently working on?
BW: I’m taking a writing break since my new book, Write On, Sisters!, just came out in August. I’m focused on creating an audiobook for Write On, Sisters! and I’m hoping to land a new TEDx talk this year. So we’ll see. Wish me luck!
KS: Absolutely! Thank you very much for your time!
Brooke’s latest book, Write On, Sisters! encourages writers in finding their confidence and overcoming the challenges authors face in seeking publication. In this very informative book, Brooke discusses that today there are more outlets than ever for writers to spread their messages and share their work, more opportunities to speak out and be seen.