S2 E4: Andrea Dunlop: Writing in Seattle, Self-Publishing vs Traditional and Writing Routines

What You’ll Learn…

  • How local novelist, Andrea Dunlop’s experience working in the publishing world prepared her for the task of becoming a professional author.
  • Dunlop’s thoughts, feelings, and advice on the publishing industry today, especially in the areas of marketing and self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
  • Dunlop’s own writing process, including the inspiration for her first novella, Broken Bay, and the person who motivated her to start a writing routine.
  • What Seattle’s writing scene is like (especially compared to that of New York).
  • Fun facts about Dunlop, including her favorite books/authors and her hopes for the future of Seattle.

As a published novelist and freelance social media consultant, Andrea Dunlop knows a thing or two about the seemingly daunting world of book publishing. A native of Woodinville, Washington, Dunlop moved to Seattle at the end of 2009 and has called it her home ever since. After Woodinville and before Seattle, she spent some formative years immersed in the publishing industry in New York, working for heavy-hitters like Random House and Doubleday. Dunlop’s original purpose for moving to New York was a common one; she wanted to be a published writer and New York is the mecca of publishing. While her experience did not necessarily meet the glamorous hopes she’d held in her head, it did give her valuable knowledge that she uses even to this day.

One of the most significant things Dunlop learned in her early years was that getting published is all about resilience and dealing with rejection. With the recent rise of self-publishing, authors are more apt than ever to just publish their stories themselves if they are passed up by a traditional company. While self-publishing has many great qualities (Dunlop refers specifically to the creativity with which self-published authors have begun marketing their works), it is still a platform that requires serious research. Dunlop’s own experience attempting to self-publish a failed novel in serial on Into the Gloss shows that this method isn’t always full-proof. It is true that the editors and agents that come with traditional publishing can seem like gatekeepers to a writer, but Dunlop points out that they are also your first line of defense against criticism from readers. She suggests that if you’re going to self-publish, self-publish; don’t just make it a “plan B” when things don’t work out.

According to Dunlop, the publishing industry as a whole has seen more change in the last ten years than it has since the invention of the Gutenberg press. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the area of marketing. In the past, Dunlop’s experience with marketing was harassing the New York Times book reviewers and calling NPR. Now, traditional media has contracted largely and social media has a larger presence. Digital natives have begun using their experience with platforms like Instagram and Twitter to recreate the image of reading as luxurious and personal recommendations reach more people than ever before. There are simply more tools to reach an audience now, which Dunlop praises and involves herself in with her freelance work.

With every marketing strategy, you need a product to market. In the case of book marketing, you need a quality book. Editors and agents want to see that you can write a compelling novel and for Dunlop, that begins with writing a first draft. Dunlop’s first story draft is often what she refers to as a “big hot mess,” with ugly sentences that will surely never see the light of day in a final print. For her, writing is a collaborative art; after the first draft is written and edited by her, she sends it off to her readers, editors, and agent until it is polished and ready to be viewed by publishers. She goes into the process knowing that there are things that need to be improved, which makes it easier for everyone involved.

When it comes to inspiration, Dunlop pulls from multiple sources, including her own life (like she did with Broken Bay). However, her biggest source of inspiration overall came from Polly Devlin, who she met while living in New York. Devlin encouraged Dunlop to make time for her writing, otherwise she would be sitting in the same place ten years from that time wondering why she hadn’t finished her novel. This fear of not finishing forced Dunlop to create a writing routine and made her realize that the world doesn’t care about your passion; you have to care.

Dunlop certainly has a great amount of love and appreciation for the Seattle writing community. Where New York is very traditional and cutthroat, she notices that Seattle is more invigorating and supportive of local, independent talent. Workshops, classes, and organizations like Seattle7Writers provide viable options for local writers to connect with each other, which is crucial, in Dunlop’s opinion. Her hope is that growing issues like homelessness in Seattle will be addressed and supported more thoroughly and that Seattle will remain the vibrant and creative place it is today for writers and innovators of all types.

(Andrea Dunlop’s novel, Losing the Light, and novella, Broken Bay, are available now. If you visit Rise Seattle’s Facebook page and share the post for this episode, you will have a chance to win copies of both books signed by Dunlop.)

About the Interviewee

Andrea Dunlop is the author of Losing the Light and Broken Bay. She is also a freelance social media consultant for writers. She currently resides in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle with her husband. Her two favorite novels of all time are Atonement by Ian McEwan and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. You can learn more about Dunlop and purchase her books at AndreaDunlop.net. You can also follow Dunlop on Twitter @Andrea_Dunlop and Instagram @andreadunlop.


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