Gooood morning WCDRers and welcome back to another episode of Member Spotlights! Once again, I am your host, Dale Long. Today we showcase M-E Girard. I caught up with her after her book launch for Girl Mans Up, in September.
Dale Long: Thank you for being in the “hot seat” for us today, M-E.
You were a natural, by the way, and reinforced my belief that pitching face to face is much more productive that via e-mail.
Marie-Eve Girard: Thank you! I was really trying to make the launch “not boring” and worth people taking the time to come by.
As for the face-to-face pitching thing: I’ve never pitched in person, but I think that’s really the best way to get someone to pay attention and want to read. If you’re good at engaging someone, then yeah, it’ll probably pay off more than a cold query—which is how I got my agent. An in-person pitch is definitely one of the ways to skip the slush pile.
Dale Long: I loved your response to Ruth Walker’s great question; “was it hard to get published”. If I paraphrase it like this;
“When asked if getting published, M-E Girard said, the work to get to the publishing stage was absolutely hard, the getting published, wasn’t. She said she was in the right place at the right time.”
Would you say that was accurate? It’s what I took from it. And it is encouraging and endearing.
Marie-Eve Girard: I feel like I could clarify that. It’s like, the actually getting a book published, when looking at it from a macro lens, is definitely hard. For so many reasons that I could list. Writing a good book is hard; staying with it when you hate it is hard. All that. But when looking at it from just my experience, in hindsight, it wasn’t hard in the sense that I had my strategy, I did my work, and things fell into place at the right time so that I didn’t have to feel the effects of how hard it really is for a person to get published. I think I put myself in a place where I planned for the barriers to getting my book out (Canadian, debut, queer YA, etc), and I had a strategy to hit the right people, gain access to authors/mentors/facilitators, but the fact that it worked out ultimately, I feel, was out of my hands because of the whole timing & luck thing.
Does that make sense?
Dale Long: Perfect sense. Timing, definitely is a factor. I’m not going to say subject matter because I don’t want to downplay it as a marketing gimmick. But I can definitely see the marketer’s angle. And the market is ripe for that right now.
Marie-Eve Girard: People mean well by saying “Oh, your book appeals to anyone—it’s not a ‘gay’ story!,” it sort of fails to acknowledge that in the diversity world—the world of marginalized voices—my book coming out with the publisher it did, with the protagonist it has, and with the cover is has—all that is a big deal for diverse and queer YA. Also 2016 is a great year for queer YA which shows a shift in publishing, probably fueled by the diversity movements that are especially present in the YA world, and it’s incredibly important, but something I don’t want to reduce simply to marketing. Because the queer YA that has been published in recent years is quality stuff—such a variety of sophisticated, relevant, complex stories—and I don’t even want to act like it’s all owed to marketing jumping on the latest hot topic. It’s a direct result of the incredibly vocal, tireless advocates of the YA diversity movements. Despite all that, though, writing about people and stories that are outside of the mainstream remains a barrier to publishing.
Dale Long: Did you plan and organize that launch all by yourself, or was it organized and funded by your publisher?
Marie-Eve Girard: I organized them myself. But the bookseller and my publisher (HarperCollins Canada) jumped in to make it amazing. I created the events, picked the venues, the dates, the cool things I wanted to have (my yearbook canvas, the sign for the photos), and then they all shared it and promoted it via social media. I had my Toronto launch at Glad Day Bookshop’s cool new location, and the HarperCollins Canada team came for the event, and they brought swag and snacks with them. The publisher and bookseller weren’t physically there for the Ajax launch, but I had the books from Glad Day for sale, and the publisher gave me enough swag to have at this second launch. My friends and family helped me set up and pack up at the second launch. It all worked out better than I thought it would!
Dale Long: This second launch felt more personal. Like it was for you as opposed to for the book. Friends and family. Home town. etc.
Marie-Eve Girard: They were both super fun and amazing but for different reasons. Totally different environments. I’m really glad I did it this way (originally it was simply for the sake of convenience, because Toronto is far and all congested!).
Marie-Eve Girard: Thank you! And again, a timing thing there, too. Just even with my book cover: A gender nonconforming character like Pen right on the cover probably wouldn’t have been seen (in this context, at least) just a few years ago
I’m incredibly proud of the fact that my book cover features an identifiably queer character. This is a big deal in terms of queer visibility.
I could dive into some huge essay about that, but basically we, as a society, don’t view all people as just people—we don’t let everyone be seen (and I hate that I sound so ableist with my choice of sight-related words here!). So visibility is important. Representation of all kinds of people is what diversity in fiction is all about. So maybe to some it’s no big deal to see someone like Pen on a book cover, but it really does mean a lot for YA literature and our society.
Dale Long: Yep, marketing is a slave to societal bias.
Marie-Eve Girard: For sure. So I’m so thankful and proud that my queer story and queer cover are situated where they are in publishing. 😀
Dale Long: You are always a pleasure to talk to. Thanks, M-E.
Since this article, M-E Girard received a New York Times mention for her book, Girl Mans Up, and is generating massive Twitter buzz by some very famous people.
Make sure to come to the December 10th breakfast for the Pro-Panel. M-E. will be part of the panel.