Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 1
In “43. Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 1,” host Beth Barany, creativity coach and science fiction and fantasy novelist chats with the founding members of the Paper Lantern Writer’s Collective — Ana Brazil, Edie Cay, and Linda Ulleseit — where they discuss their inspiration behind forming the collective, the individual genres they write, and discuss the many ways they help market each other’s novels.
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Paper Lantern Writers
Many cultures around the world have a tradition of paper lanterns. A paper lantern amplifies and diffuses the light from a single flame, allowing the human eye to see further and more broadly in the dark. Paper Lantern Writers (PLW) aims to shine light on the shrouded stories of the past, giving modern readers a clearer perspective on the people and places that came before them. We promote the historical fiction writing of our members, both published and in progress, in order to better connect with readers and reviewers. By collaborating as a group, we build the individual careers of our members through marketing, social media, and events. www.paperlanternwriters.com
Edie Cay writes award-winning Regency romances. A LADY’S REVENGE (2020), THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH (2021), A LADY’S FINDER (2022), and A VISCOUNT’S VENGEANCE (2023) focus on the history of women’s boxing and themes of misfits and found family. As a speaker, she has presented at Historical Novel Society, Regency Fiction Writers, History Quill, Chicago-North Spring Fling, Toronto Romance Writers conference, and the Historical Romance Retreat. She regularly contributes to the HNS quarterly journal. She is a member of HNS, The Regency Fiction Writers, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Follow her on social media @authorEdieCay.
Linda Ulleseit was born and raised in Saratoga, California. She is a retired elementary school teacher with an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University and is a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. She enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family. Linda writes historical fiction that tells the stories of unsung women in history.
Ana loves to write and read historical fiction about curious, ambitious, and totally bodacious women. Her historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER won the IBPA Gold for Historical Fiction, and her short stories “Kate Chopin Tussles with a Novel Ending” and “Miss Evelyn Nesbit Presents” have appeared in crime fiction anthologies. Her short story “Trust No One” is included in the PLW’s UNLOCKED anthology.
Many years ago, Ana inherited the scrapbooks, recordings, and theatrical ephemera of vaudeville songstress Elsie Clark, and used this treasure trove to create Viola Vermillion, the smart, sassy, and (what else?) totally bodacious vaudeville heroine of her publication-pending novel THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE and her work-in-progress THE MAGNOLIA VOODOO BRAWLER.
Ana, her husband, and Cappy-the-wonder-cat live in the beautiful Oakland, CA hills.
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Transcript for episode 43 – Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 1
Are you looking for a way to dig into your world building for your story?
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Hey everyone. Welcome back to How to Write the Future podcast.
The focus of this podcast and the focus of my work is to support writers to create positive optimistic stories because when we vision what is possible we help make it so. And part of that visioning is learning the tools of today that help us become better writers for tomorrow.
Part of becoming a better writer is also learning how to become a better marketer of your fiction and of yourself as a novelist.
The Paper Lantern Writers historical fiction collective
So join me on this three-part series where I interview three historical fiction authors who have come together to create a collective to market their work. Let’s dig in.
All right. So welcome everyone. Thank you so much. I have some great guests today on How to Write the Future Podcast. A podcast for writers who want to bring positive and optimistic stories out into the world, and also want to find innovative ways to bring their books out into the world.
And so I’ve been doing a series of conversations with interesting people doing interesting things with book marketing, and that is why I have these three wonderful women here today who are gonna tell us about what they offer and how they came about. And I think I forgot to write down the name of your cooperative Paper Lantern. Is that right?
Paper Lantern Writers.
Paper Lantern Writers, which when I met you all at the Bay Area Book Festival in downtown Berkeley, like a year or two ago, I think it was last year, and yeah, last year, I was really struck by how you’re all different historical fiction writers. Is that right? And you came together to be a collective to market your books.
And I thought, how wonderful is that and how eclectic.
So, I would love to hear from, each of you, I would love to know about how and why you got started.
I’ll call on each of you and you can introduce yourself. Also, tell us a little bit about you and how and why, for you, the Paper Lantern Collective got started.
And Edie, since you’re my point person and help me organize this, let’s start with you. Welcome.
Thank you. So I’m Edie Cay. I write historical romance.
I am fascinated by writing. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I actually have an MFA in creative writing. I went through all the things. I worked on literary magazines. And when I decided to go to the historical romance route, part of the reason why I wanted to do it was because I wanted to be an indie self-publisher.
I wanted to do my own. So I wanted to have control over my stories. I wanted control of my covers. I wanted control.
So I also had done my research and knew that in romance genre, it was easier, especially five years ago, it was a lot easier for the romance genre to do self-publishing than other genres.
I went that route and when I finally got my first book ready to go, I went to a Historical Novel Society chapter meeting a Northern California chapter meeting, and I’d been a member of the Historical Novel Society for many years and finally got around to showing up. And at that meeting was Ana and Linda who were proposing this idea of a marketing collective.
And I will let them tell the story cuz I showed up for the meeting and just raised my hand and said, I’m in. Whatever you’re doing, I’m in. That sounds great.
That sounds great. And can you tell us in a few sentences the historical romance that you write?
I write award-winning regency romances about women’s boxing, so my romances are of course very uplifting because a romance has to be a love story as a main component of the storyline and also a happily ever after. So I take a lot of my historical interests and then drape them over a framework of a romance.
So my books, some people say, especially the parts from the blacksmith, reads a lot more like historical fiction. It just happens to be that there’s a romance in there too. Whereas some of my other books, like my newest release of Vicounts Vengeance is very much a love story with some other historical facts thrown in there.
Including your main character who’s a boxer.
Yes, there is women boxing in some way or another in all four of my books.
Fabulous. Love it. Thank you so much.
Linda, I’m gonna jump to you next.
If you could tell us, a little bit about why you are one of the founding members this collective, and a little bit about what gave you the impetus to create this kind of group as opposed to, I don’t know, just occasionally networking with people to cross promote and that kind of thing.
Okay, I’m Linda Ulleseit. I have been traditionally published with a small publisher. I have self-published books. And recently my most recent book and the books coming out in June have both been published by a hybrid publisher. So I’ve had a lot of experience with small different ways of publishing.
I write heritage fiction, which is historical fiction based on my ancestors. Mostly stories that my grandmother told me when I was a little girl, that now I’m thinking about going, Hmm, these are really good stories. I need to get those stories out there. I find that my ancestors were very involved in suffragist movement in all kinds of things, meeting people.
One of my ancestors in my book that’s coming out had Zachary Taylor’s daughter as her maid of honor at her wedding.
So those stories and connections are very cool to me, and I’m trying to write and make them cool to other people. So I’d been self-publishing my books and I went to a historical novel Society convention in Maryland.
This was 2019, and I went to a session. Ana was in the same session. I went to a session about author marketing collectives because marketing is really hard. If you’re an author, nobody realizes, well, authors do, but when you’re writing a book, you don’t realize how much marketing is gonna fall to you.
I know I was guilty of that too. You publish it. The publisher takes care of it. You move on to your next book. But it’s not like that. And while writing a book is designed to be an individual endeavor, marketing is not. You have to reach out there and it is hard.
So at this conference, the session talked about how working together could extend your reach, which is exactly what I needed to do.
So I went home to California, went to the next Northern California meeting where Edie happened to be attending, and said, we have to do this.
And so I wanted to make sure that people who were interested were like, not going well, okay, that sounds like fun, but were interested in committing. So I said, come to my house on this date and we’ll plan it.
Well, this is devious cuz my house is like the southernness southern end of the region served by Historical Novel society, Northern California. I’m like the south tip. Everybody else, I think Edie had to come two hours, Edie from your house to my three hours. So I figured if people are coming to my house– so there were people who were already thinking seriously about it.
And that, as I say, was history.
Okay. That’s great. And that, as they say was history. That’s great.
Ana! Pick up the baton. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you write, and tell us about what was your impetus for joining the Paper Lanterns Collective, and what drew you to it?
I’m Ana Brazil, and I write historical crime fiction because I like to have justice for all. I have a master’s degree in history and worked as an architectural historian in Mississippi. So my first novel is set in New Orleans.
And unlike Edie, and unlike Linda, I had a very, very small publisher in, I guess she was in San Mateo back then. It was a one person publishing house. And so my book came out a little bit before that H and S conference meeting in Baltimore. I’d already found out how difficult it was for me to market things by myself, for me to promote my book. My publisher had helped me get a very nice award, but it was still all on me.
So when I went to that H and S meeting that talked about author collectives, I was just there with Linda and I was going, yeah, this is what we need to do. And we met and I did have one goal because I had not sold a lot of books then, and I was still hoping that I could get an agent for my next books because I thought those were so much better.
And an agent would really wanna get those into a publishing house.
So one of my goals was really to sell my book so that when an agent said, well, how many of your first novel you’ve sold? I could say, oh, a thousand. I would have a good number. So I really did have that specific goal.
But in a larger sense. Everything we were talking about creating a collective and doing creative things to promote it were things that I really liked to do.
I was a project manager. I was a team lead of a group of writers at I B M. So I definitely liked the structure of people working together towards a common goal.
And that just spoke to me as a writer, but it also spoke to my sense of who I was as a person, which is a project manager and a leader.
I saw a role for me.
Yeah. That totally makes sense. Great.
It’s so interesting. You’re all in different subsets of historical.
I was really struck by that when I first met everybody.
Honestly, I was like, how do you make this work?
Because your readership — historical romance might only love that and not love historical crime fiction or those who read the heritage fiction, which I hadn’t heard that before. which is beautiful, might not like the others.
How do you overcome that hurdle?
Who would like to take that one up?
I would love to take that one if I could.
Yeah. Please do.
I believe as a reader, I like to read across the spectrum. I love to read science fiction. I love to read fantasy. I love to read biographies. I love heritage fiction, crime fiction. I love all of it. I wanna read everything. I mean, there are times when I get into one genre more than the other, but you know, I’m always drifting off to other other and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
So when we formed Paper Lantern, we wondered if historical fiction was gonna be a tight enough genre bond for all and we’ve had to experiment with do On our website, we have areas so we can say, oh, if you are a historical romance person, you know, here are a few offerings, our authors that you might If you are biographical fiction lover, then try these out.
So, that way we can cater to everybody, but also just show really, I think a lot people love historical fiction because you learn something at the same time as getting a It’s the edutainment, So, and I think that’s really what happens. and It’s so far been really great and I do think that our reach has expanded and other people have been able to see. And one thing that I, uh, as the romance writer in the group, for a while, I was the only one.
I do think that it has really helped because romance, as a genre is often seen as being vapid or somehow lesser.
And I think that being aligned with just historical fiction has actually helped raise awareness for other readers that, oh, there actually is meat to every one of these books.
Let’s move into some of the nuts and bolts around what does it mean to actually be a collective.
What are some of the rules or guidelines or things that make you a collective? Do you have a working agreement?
If you can share with our audience, how does that actually work?
Who would like to take that question?
I can take that one. We actually have a partnership contract now that we’re getting bigger. We have 15 members now. So I actually have a partnership agreement that outlines exactly what we do and what our responsibilities are. Basically informally when we first started, we basically just formalized our informal agreement, which was we’re going to market each other’s books.
As we went along, we formalized that and we created a calendar so that each week on the calendar, we are responsible for posting about one other member’s book. So my particular book will show up at least once a week on somebody else’s social media, for example. We speak at conferences. We do a lot of things.
Any opportunity that comes along, we look at it and say, if this will be good for the group and we jump in and do it.
We try to keep to historical fiction, back to where you’re talking about the sub-genres, because we find that most people who like historical fiction aren’t really limited to genre. They’re just so thrilled to find something that’s historical fiction that they just skim over the ones that don’t look interesting and gravitate toward the ones that are interesting.
But in the meantime, they’ve seen all our books. That’s how it works for all of us.
Yeah. Monthly meetings via Zoom and then we have an executive committee that takes all the ideas of the universe and whittles them down to what we wanna talk to at the general meeting, so that we keep that doable for everybody else without hours and hours of meetings.
Yeah. That’s great.
It sounds like you have a leadership team and a general membership.
And are people paying money to be a part of your group? Is there a financial commitment?
Yes, there is. We pay a fee and that fee pretty much pays for our website, and the hosting streaming services and things like that, that we have to pay fees for.
Great. And you were saying that every week each person is committing to share another person’s book.
And where might that be? A website, a social media channel, newsletter?
On our Paper Lantern Writer’s website and social media, we share often.
That’s not as strict about sharing individual books, but once a week we share on our personal social media, we share somebody else’s books.
I see. That’s great. Wonderful. Yeah. Extending the reach. Absolutely. And exposure.
Extend the reach. It’s all about extending the reach.
Tell us the URL, the website for Paper Lanterns. How can people find you?
Paper Lantern Writers DOT com.
A little challenging to say, but totally easy.
I’d love to add that we blog three times a week now. so we have new content coming out from each of us, and they are a wide variety of different types of blogs. We have some that are very personal about writing and their writing spaces. We have ones that are very much about history today.
Actually, I posted one about Mayday traditions in Regency England, which includes dressing up like a tree like you do.
So, there’s always something coming out, and it’s gonna catch somebody’s interest eventually.
We also try to highlight other writers that are not Paper Lantern Writers as well.
Once a month we have a writing interview that we do. I interview traditionally published authors as well on YouTube we once a month.
So we have a lot of other things that keep us know, aware of what’s going on in publishing and historical fiction.
We like to know what’s going on, and we like to share that information.
We do have a monthly newsletter also that lets people know what’s going on with us, events that are coming up, new releases, things like that. People can join that. They go to a website, they can sign up.
That’s great. That’s great. It seems like you have all the media bases covered. You mentioned YouTube. You’ve got a blog, people have social media, which I’m gonna make some assumptions or you could tell me, what are some of the social media channels that people are using to share each other’s books?
We have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We also have a Facebook group called Shine With Paper Lantern Writers. And the purpose is specifically is to connect readers and writers. So we have a lot of very active group of readers that get in there and really love to hear what’s going on with us. And then we like to hear what they’re reading, what they like to read.
Oh, that’s wonderful. So I heard Facebook, the Facebook group where you’re really connecting with the readers. I could say our readers group, and then you mentioned Twitter and Instagram, and then YouTube.
I think we’re also getting back into Pinterest a little.
That’s wonderful. That’s great. I’m so glad to hear that you have your own newsletter.
And are each of you individually doing newsletters where you reference back to Paper Lantern as well?
I do not.
So I do. I have a monthly newsletter that goes out at the beginning of the month and I do my best to have not just my own information in there, but I also try to highlight a book that I’m reading that has nothing to do with Paper lantern Writers. But then I do always include like, Hey, I’m gonna be interviewing so-and-so this month.
Or remember last year when I interviewed Lisa C and she was just finishing up a manuscript and she was talking all about her research. And now that book is finally coming out.
So, I write my last newsletter, I’ve referenced that and, hey, remember when I interviewed Lisa C? Well now that book’s coming out, if you wanna revisit this and find out all about all of the research she did. So I do reference Paper Lantern Writers. as well as referencing other writers. And then I also have a portion at the end where I do just talk about some good books I’ve read, or TV that I’m enjoying. Water cooler things. In the old days when there were water coolers.
Yeah. Yeah. Great. And Linda, you were saying you don’t yet–
No. I’m in charge of the Paper Lantern Writer’s newsletter, so that’s enough for me. I can’t do my own.
So on my own website, I have a sign up for a Paper Lantern Writer’s newsletter, so then they can sign up for that. If they wanna hear from me, that’s where they’re gonna get it.
Good, good. I’m glad you have that organized.
And how about you, Ana?
I have put my newsletter on hold and actually donate a lot of my email addresses to Paper Lantern Writers so that we could have a very substantial newspaper list. I think right now we mail out to about 2,700 readers.
But once I get my trilogy done, I’m going to reactivate my newsletter and start sending it out.
And I will certainly talk about Paper Lantern Writers because everybody on that list has been getting the Paper Lantern Writer newsletter for the last year or so. So they know of my devotion to the group.
Yeah. That’s so great. That’s so great.
That’s it for part one of this episode with the Paper Lantern Writers. Stay tuned for episode two coming next week where we go deeper into what this collective does to support each other and market their historical fiction.
Thanks for Playing!
Thank you so much, everyone for listening to my podcast. Your interest and feedback is so inspiring to me and helps me know that I’m helping you in some small way.
So write long and prosper.
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ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”
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