Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
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  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Today I’m interviewing Anita Laydon Miller. She decided to e-published her debut MG novel EARTHLING HERO. She’s calling it “an inexpensive ebook for kids.” The book came out in late March 2011.

Hi Anita. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book?
First of all, thank you so much for welcoming me here! It’s an honor to be allowed into your great space in blogland.

As for me…hmmm…I live with my four kids and husband in Colorado Springs. It is a fabulous place to live and all the outdoorsy stuff we do really leaves a mark on my writing. In addition to my mom/wife work, I’m the book columnist for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. My column prints every Sunday and reaches about 100,000 readers. I’m also working on my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.

My book is about an eleven-year-old boy, Mikey, who wakes one night to find a stranger standing next to his bed. The stranger, Axe, is Mikey’s alien clone. Together with Axe’s sister, the boys must save the world. It’s a fun adventure story. And it only costs $.99.

2. You chose to make Mikey and Axe clones of each other? But their personalities are unique. How did you develop them and their individual voices?

I did a lot of daydreaming about Mikey and Axe before I started writing them—mostly while I was shuttling kids around. By the time I actually put fingers to keyboard, the voices just flowed.

The thing about Mikey and Axe being clones also developed from daydreaming. I think a lot about how we all have multiple personalities, and when those personalities work together, they can really rock. Sometimes I’m cowardly and sometimes I’m brave. Those two sides of my personality help each other, and I thought it would be cool to develop characters who could do something similar for each other.

3. That’s an awesome tip for developing characters. Did you plot out the story and the unique gadgets like the Knocker-outer before you wrote the story or as you went?

I knew how the story would start and I knew how it would end. I knew that in the middle I wanted a chase scene inside a mall, a shootout inside NORAD (a military installation built into a mountain), a fight with Chinese assassins, and a final scene inside a cave near the Garden of the Gods.

For research, I visited Cheyenne Mountain (the military installation), went on a field trip to some awesome caves, and hiked all over the Garden of the Gods. I also shopped at a mall. But I couldn’t find any Chinese assassins.

I “invented” the Shut-up and Sit-still Spray before I started writing. Some of the other stuff (like the Knocker-outer) I added as I went along and revised. I made each version a little more sci-fi. I’m working on the second and third books in the series right now. One of the books will take the kids to an alien planet. That will be much more sci-fi.

4. Wow! That’s cool that you have the series planned out. You were represented by Sara Megibow. I would so love to be represented by her and I bet a lot of our readers would too. Yet you chose to part ways when you decided to e-publish your book. Was that decision hard and what made you decide to do this?

Sara Megibow is an awesome agent. She’s savvy, professional and fun. The agency is run intelligently. I think it will weather the storm in publishing well. But publishing is changing and I wanted to change with it.

Here’s the thing: Do I think I would’ve eventually been published traditionally? Yes.

I don’t think I’m the best writer who ever lived and I don’t have a huge head, but I read A LOT, and can look at my own work critically. I know I was headed toward publication. And it just didn’t look good to me. I’d have to wait years to see my book on shelves, and I’d have little control over how edits would be made on it…so I pictured myself making changes that were lateral changes, ones that didn’t truly improve the story, but just changed it. I also pictured myself worrying whether the publishing house that bought my book would even be around by the time my book was printed. And I didn’t want my ebooks to cost readers more than $2.99. Because to me, that seems like a fair price for ebooks.

Basically, there were about a hundred reasons why I did what I did. But the biggie was control: Financial and creative.

5. Once you made the decision to e-publish your book, it seems like it came out within a matter of weeks. What were some of the things you had to do to get it ready for publication and how did you do them so quickly?

I did a final revision of the book. (I still found several errors after it was up, but fixed those quickly). My husband investigated the formatting techniques and formatted the book. We researched how to sell books through Smashwords, Amazon, the Barnes & Noble Nook store and other locations.

We also made a cover—it’s a photo of the Siamese Twins rock formation at the Garden of the Gods. This is appropriate, since Mikey and Axe are basically twins. It’s also appropriate because a big EARTHLING HERO scene takes place near the formation.

I read buckets about epublishing. JA Konrath is the best resource. If you’re a writer considering publishing (traditionally or independently) you need to stop by Konrath’s blog before you sign anything. I also suggest that you purchase an independent ebook in your genre. Writers need to be aware that authors with good books are making the decision to epublish independently. My book doesn’t suck. Don’t fool yourself into think people who publish independently are sucky writers.

I had the book for sale within ten days of deciding to epublish. That’s with four kids and a part-time job. It’s doable.

6. I love how you decided on the cover for your book. It’s perfect for your story. You are now are in complete control of the marketing of your book. A lot of aspiring middle grade authors feel like it’s already harder to get middle grade books reviewed on blogs than YA books. And I’ve read that some book blog reviewers won’t review an e-published book. How are you planning to market your book and get it in the hands of middle graders?

My goal is to have three entertaining middle grade ebooks for sale before Christmas of this year. The more books I have for sale, the more the books will feed off each other. I really think of my marketing plan as a one year plan in which I give these three books a chance to find their audiences, so that my career as a middle grade author can grow.

My biggest push in marketing is being done by Kindle and Nook. If they can get their ereaders into the hands of middle graders (and believe me, their marketing team is working on that right now), you can bet those middle graders will be looking for good, inexpensive ebooks soooon.

In addition to silently cheering my Kindle and Nook teams, I’m going on this blog tour (thank you, Jonathon, for helping me). I’m also visiting large groups of kids and their parents…talking to them about reading and ereading (because, by the way, I love families to read together)…and I’m giving a reading/writing workshop to local kids this summer. I’ll also be getting EARTHLING HERO info to my GAZETTE readers soon, and I have other plans, too.

Real readers will review the book. And I’ll swallow whatever they write. I’ve already had a few people review it…people I’ve never heard of or communicated with in any way. That’s fun!

7. Are you working on any other projects?

I’m epublishing a MG mystery this summer. I love that book because my daughters love it so much. I think it’s a great book for girls, but I think boys could like it, too. I’m writing a sequel to EARTHLING HERO that I’m hoping will be done by Dec 15. And I’m writing a YA that will be done about this time next year.

8. How can we buy your book and how much does it cost? Do you need an e-reader to read it?

EARTHLING HERO is available through Smashwords, Amazon and the Barnes & Noble Nook store for $.99. It can be read on ereaders, iPhones, iPads, iTouches, etc. It can also be downloaded to PCs and Macs. If you want to download it to a computer, you can go through Smashwords and get it as a pdf. Or you can use a free Kindle app and buy it from Amazon and it downloads it to your computer automatically. The Barnes and Noble Nook app works the same way.

If you can come to this blog, you can read an ebook. If you have any questions about how to do this, email me. I want people to be able to read ebooks…not just mine. I think every writer should own an ereader, though…but that’s for another post.

Thank you, everyone! Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll pop in and out of here all day.

Thanks Anita. Good luck with your book. And she’s right. It’s super easy to download the book to your computer. I did because I don’t have an e-reader.

You can buy a copy of her book here. And you can find Anita at her website, her blog, and her middle grade blog.

I’m giving away one copy of EARTHLING HERO. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 30th. I’ll announce the winner on May 2nd. International entries are welcome.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaways for THE HOT LIST and an ARC of POSSESSION by midnight on April 23rd. I’ll announce the winners on April 25th. And be sure to stop by on April 25th when I’m interviewing Karen Mahoney and giving away a copy of THE IRON WITCH.


Elliot Grace said...

...congrats Anita!
We've been pals for quite some time now, and as with all the great writers I've met online, love hearing of their success.
Was especially interested in the story behind your parting ways with your agent. I did the same...and am now several weeks from my own novel release. I find this an amazing time to be a writer...so many avenues when a short time ago the path to publication was an uphill battle deemed next to impossible to reach.

Great interview Casey and good luck Anita:)


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks so much for letting me be part of your blog tour Anita. Good luck with your book.

Anita said...

NATALIE: Thank you for having me here today!

ELLIOT: It IS an exciting time to be a writer. For so long, there was a stigma attached to self-publishing...like you must be a loser if you're doing it. That's not the case anymore...or at least not as much. As contracts reach the end of their lives, I think we'll see more and more established/traditionally published authors moving into self-publishing. It's just too easy and financially sound.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Knocked out of the park, you two! (And it hurts to use that phrase since my beloved Detroit Tigers were slaughtered last night)

Anyway, I learned a lot from this straight-forward interview, but I also heard your voice, Anita. The same voice that resonates throughout EH.

And, "Sometimes I’m cowardly and sometimes I’m brave." <---that's my favorite thing about you because I am the same way and I am working toward being more brave.

Rick Daley said...

Great interview. I've read EARTHLING HERO and can attest to the fact that Anita does not suck ;-) It's a fun story!

I'm on the path to self-publication for two of my children's books. One is complete for the interior format, I'm working on the cover (attempting to illustrate it myself, which is an interesting learning experience). For the other, I have a better artist working on interior illustrations.

My goal is to have both books published by September. If I can get either of them done before school lets out, even better...I've read them to my son's class (to rave reviews and inspired fan-fiction) and would love to provide some fun summer reading.

Heather Kelly said...

Great interview, Anita! I am shocked that you were able to publish this in 11 days. Wow. And this book indeed doesn't suck. I think that as more and more quality authors start publishing independent ebooks, that stigma will go away (I hope!). YAY Anita!!

Unknown said...

Reading Earthling Hero right now. Super fun book an very well written. This book is full of adventure. I think this book would hook kids right away and they wouldn't want to put it down especially if they were reading it on an ereader or ipod touch/iphone/ipad.

Casey McCormick said...

Fantastic interview, Anita and Natalie! What a great publishing story. Quite a few writers I know are considering going this route, and it really does make sense for a lot of them.

Can't wait to read Earthling Hero. It sounds like a great MG adventure novel!

Anita said...

JONATHON: I know I've never met you, but I feel connected to you. *Hugs*

I told you my fear of water story, right? Well, I was at the Air Force Academy pool today and there was this guy there who had to be a SEAL. It was so awesome. He'd hold his breath for more than two minutes at a time and then he'd swim the entire length of the pool underwater, right at the bottom. Then he'd front crawl back and do the whole thing over and over for like a half-hour. Then he did more cool stuff. Anyway, it was inspiring...I'm feeling brave. God Bless our military!

Anita said...

RICK: Thank you so much for your Amazon review!!! And I'm excited to follow your journey into publishing. It just makes sense.

HEATHER: 11 days was fast. Once I took the plunge, I just wanted to DO IT! And I think my husband was home a lot of those days...he helped me get stuff rolling. It's interesting, because if you read blogs of authors who've epublished, many of them talk about having spouses help. I'm not saying a helpful spouse is necessary, but it is nice to at least have someone to bounce ideas off of.

Darby Karchut said...

Another awesome interview, Anita. Earthling Hero is soaring to the stars!!! :-)

Anita said...

CARRIE: Thank you so much for buying EARTHLING HERO! Please post a review at Amazon or wherever you bought it. I'm learning the importance of those reviews and truly appreciate the time it takes to write them.

CASEY: I'm glad you like the interview and appreciate having space on this great blog...it's a blog all aspiring authors should visit. If you read EARTHLING HERO, please let me know what you think of it!

Theresa Milstein said...

I like the idea of clones with different personalities. My mother is a twin. She and her sister are similar yet so different, so it's more than DNA.

Would you consider doing a print version of this book? I'm interested to read it, but don't want to look at a computer screen for so long.

Anita said...

THERESA: Oh, bummer about the computer screen thing! I can't decide if I should publish a paper version, too...still thinking on that. If I do, it's a year down the road. Sorry...I'd love for you to read the book!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

The helpful spouse is an interesting observation. It is clear that your husband has been a hero in the case of EH. (It seems the kids are very helpful as well.)

I am midway through the book. Reading on a Kindle. I think you have perfectly described your book, Anita. It is fun and inexpensive and certainly does not suck. Also, I have been highlighting selections that I like. I just read a Kindle book that showed highlighted selections and the percentage of people that marked them - I have no idea how it all works, but thought I could get a trend started with Earthling Hero.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Fabulous interview! Some day I'm going to have to pick your brain about your whole marketing plan because it sounds like you have one in place, both online and in real life. It's great to see someone who is a good writer with marketing savvy tackling the middle grade market. You could be at the front of the next big thing! Thanks for sharing your journey.

Anita said...

THERESA AGAIN: I just remembered that my husband found some format that makes reading on computers much nicer. Husband is asleep right now (he's a FedEx pilot), but when he wakes, I'll ask him about it and send you info.

TINA: This whole time that I've been involved in the pub biz, Husband's been shaking his head like, "Are you serious? THIS is the way it's done?" For the first time in years, what I'm doing, how I'm approaching publishing, is making sense to him...I think because it actually makes sense.

I don't know anything about the highlighted selections thing...so much to learn! I'll find out. Thanks for thinking of me and for reading the book!

Anita said...

SHERRIE: Thank you! I really do want to share all the info. Regarding sales, I'll post info after Christmas. That will be good info for writers (me included) to know, I think. A year from now, I'll be able to give people my honest opinion (backed with stats) about whether or not I think this is the way to go for MG writers.

Here's something I have to say now, though: If you are a writer and do not have an ereader, please consider saving $ to buy one. I'm not saying this so that you'll buy my book, but so that you'll know how YOUR readers are and will be buying YOUR books. To me, a writer not having an ereader is like a car design engineer not owning a car. You've got to see how the things are purchased, what people are looking for in them, how they're reading them, etc.

I think by December ereaders will be down to 99 bucks.

Anita said...

P.S. EVERYONE: MG writers email me all the time for advice on this subject...many of the emails include "You have balls." :)

You are not the only one considering this move and nobody is doing it lightly. You'll know if/when it's time for you. Just make sure you've at least considered it before you sign anything with an agency or publisher. And I don't mean to disrespect those who are still striving for traditional publication...it is a beautiful goal, no doubt.

Anita said...

DARBY: Just now saw you on here! Thank you for all your support!

Joel said...

There are a couple of ways to read an ebook on a computer that give the "feel" of a written page.

One that works well is reading on Adobe's "Digital Editions" software. It is downloadable and free. "Digital Editions" plays .epub files. These can be bought on Smashwords.com. Also, a lot of public libraries use this platform to "check out" ebooks. See your local library's web site.

As an alternative, the free "Kindle for PC" or "Kindle for Mac"software is downloadbale on Amazon.com and is also free. If you have an amazon account, it will automatically download ebooks purchased there to your PC/Mac. Similarly, BarnesandNoble.com offers the Nook software for PC or Mac.

On any of these platforms, you can change the orientation and dimensions to make the screen read more like a page of a book.

Hope that helps!

Theresa Milstein said...

@ Joel, thanks. I have a Kindle for Mac set up with Amazon.

Anita said...

JOEL: Good morning. Thank you!

THERESA: Fabulous...if you buy the book, let me know what you think!

Maria Cisneros Toth Blog said...

Huge e-Congrats, Anita! Awesome interview! So glad to hear that MG author's are testing the e-Waters! I plan to go this route, too! Very exciting. All the best! :-)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Outstanding interview, Natalie and Anita! Thanks for sharing so much of your journey and the logic behind your choice to self publish with us. Best wishes with Earthling Hero and your upcoming books. :-)

Anita said...

Wub2Write: Good luck on your own journey. I plan to post progress reports on my blog, so peek in there every once in awhile.

SHARON: Thank you! Always good to see you!

Lisa Nowak said...

Hi, Anita. I'm in a similar situation. I had an agent, and I even got an offer from a small publisher, but after I started researching indie authorship I decided that was the way I wanted to go. I'm glad to see there are some other indies out there writing YA an MG. So far most of the indies I've run into are writing for adults. Good luck with your sales. I highly advise doing POD as soon as you can swing it. :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Congrats to your success, Anita!!

Renae said...

Great interview ladies. Congrats Anita!

middle grade ninja said...

What a wonderful interview. I've considered epublishing, but I lack the courage. Here's wishing Anita and her books all the success in the world.

Anita said...

LISA: Yay! Glad to find another indie...will research you. I'm still thinking about the POD thing...baby steps. :)

LB: Thank you! Things are going well and I'm still excited about the process.

RENAE: Thank you!

NINJA: I think I made a smart decision. I'm getting a bit more confident about it every day.

Buffy Andrews said...

Great interview Nat. And good luck with your e-book Anita. Sounds awesome!

Ella Schwartz said...

Thank you for this great interview! As an aspiring MG writer myself, I have been scratching my head about self publishing versus traditional publishing. Of course, I've been reading Konrath's blog and I've heard about Amanda Hocking, but all this didn't really speak to me as a MG writer. I worry about how MG books will be received in the e-publishing world. Anita is very right - as Kindles and Nooks become cheaper, these devices will find their way into kids' hands. The time is fast approaching. I know my son (8 years old) now has a Kindle because he was bankrupting me with the volume of books I was buying him, not to mention the shelf space!! I wish you the best of luck Anita and I will be watching you and your success very carefully. Thanks for the great info!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Anita, oh, I can't wait to read EARTHLING HERO! It sounds like so much fun and right up my sons' alley, or should I say atmosphere:) You are giving me so much to think about. Blush, I'm one of those authors who doesn't have an e-reader. You're right. I do absolutely need to go there. And thanks, Joel, for letting me know about the free Kindle for Mac software. I had just no idea. I want to try it out today, definitely. Congrats on your launch, Anita! It's all very exciting!

Kelly Polark said...

HEre I think I know so much about Anita and I learn more at each stop of her blog tour! :)
I love the story behind the cover, and I had no idea that Anita had another book to release in the summer! Looking forward to it!