Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new boutique publisher: A Bit of Grace (Part 1)

Today I'm talking with the YA writer that took a bold step (before J.K.Rowling too I will add) and parted ways with her agent to set up her own publishing firm. I met Kate Grace on the YA writer's community inkpop  and remember being just a tad jealous with she signed with rock star agent Bree Ogden. I've watch her journey curiously through social media and my journalistic instincts for the better of me and I convinced her to share her story with us.

Sharon: So Kate, tell us a bit about your journey that lead you to where you are now.

Kate: I've always been an avid reader and writer in my personal life. Through very difficult times while growing up and as an adult, writing was always what I turned to for release. Writing was for me while other forms of expression and storytelling I did outwardly such as painting, photography and theater. After college (Columbia College in Chicago) I gravitated to editing and writing for magazines and blogs, then a few years later when on to grad school for Journalism at Columbia University in NYC. After school I ended up in advertising as a way to make due and went back to my theater (specifically comedy) roots as a form of creative expression... I fell into it while working my way through The Artist's Way. I got really involved in the improv comedy scene in NYC.

In 2008 I got really sick and was hospitalized. After being released I didn't have the same energy as before and living in NYC was difficult (and depressing) because I couldn't physically be involved in anything beyond just going to work and going home. I was on medical leave for awhile, but even walking down the street was difficult... so I turned to writing again, but journals even got old. I started playing around writing scenes about my two nieces, putting them in fictional scenarios. The experience turned a light on for me. I started to apply storytelling and discovery techniques I had learned in improv performance to writing and suddenly a novel was being born in 2009. After edits and rewrites I started to research the query process for agents and landed myself the wonderful and amazing Bree Ogden at Martin Literary Management. She educated me on the industry and became an amazing friend as well. But in early 2011 I was starting to learn enough about the current state of traditional publishing to realize I wouldn't ever really be happy in that process. After much thought and discussion with Bree, I asked her to withdraw Burden of the Soul from submission to publishers and I started the process of founding A Bit of Grace LLC, a boutique publisher in its very early stages.

Kate's debut novel
is out now
Sharon: Your debut novel 'Burden of the Soul' is out now. Tell us a bit about the story and how you came up with the concept?

Kate: The story follows 17-year-old Clara, a completely average teen on all accounts, coming to terms with her role in a battle of Good vs. Evil. She's half of the oldest soul caught in the middle of a transcendental war being played out in our physical world. She loses family, she loses her touch on reality and through this battles with love, loss, and the truth that the potential for Good and Evil exists in every person, in equal measures. She starts to doubt herself and those around her while learning about all the diverse facets of love and the desperate measures it can sometimes drive us to, because even love has its dark side. It's a difficult and conflicted journey she's on, torn between a great love and the other half of her soul being used as a weapon against her.

It's difficult to say where the concept came from exactly. When I started writing Burden of the Soul I didn't know where it was going. I've read a number of quotes from authors about their main characters, that if they had known what their main character had in mind at the start they probably wouldn't have started writing. I feel that way a bit about Clara, particularly now knowing more about where her journey is going. I applied the same methods taught in improvisational theater to the writing process... honesty and trust, letting go and allowing your subconscious to take over. In so doing I feel like Clara and a number of other characters took over to tell their story. Looking back now after some distance from that #amwriting mental space I can see how parts of myself came out. Different memories such as the darkroom scene. Different dreams I've had while growing up including the stone room, a place my dreams took me during difficult times growing up. In a way now, I see a lot of myself in Clara and Aunt Grace. As if the teen I was is somehow reconciling itself or communicating with the adult I'm becoming every day.

It's a fascinating thing when you let go and just allow your subconscious to take over.

Sharon: You did something a lot of writers would find unbelievable, you were signed by an awesome agent, but parted ways while your novel was under submission. Share with us what lead you to that hard decision?

Kate: It was a hard decision. One of the most difficult I've ever had to make for one simple reason – Bree Ogden is the most amazing literary agent and advocate any writer could dream of having. She wasn't just an agent... I call her the Wonder Woman of Artistic Expression. I have never witnessed someone work so hard and so passionately for others. However the more informed I became about traditional publishing the more I realized the dream I had of being "published" needed to be revised for the sake of what would actually make me happy and fulfilled. I work within the digital world at the day job and am fascinated and excited by the infinite sandbox it provides us to play in. Beyond that, I've never been only a writer. I've been an editor and artist and love the challenge of publishing. It took time, but I finally realized that if I was ever going to experience a balance that would make me truly happy, I would have to be involved in every aspect of Burden of the Soul.

That may be different for other works I have in progress, but for this series in particular it doesn't matter to me if it ever ends up on a bookstore shelf as long as it's out in the world. The decision was made all the more difficult because of how absolutely supportive Bree Ogden was and continues to be. She believes passionately in Burden of the Soul and its characters. Beyond that, she truly cared for my own happiness in a way that is rare, if not completely unheard of, in the world of business. Both she and Sharlene Martin respected my decision and have been a great support every step of the way.

Sharon: So people might class what you've done as self publishing, which is becoming a more and more acceptable trend, but tell us about A Bit of Grace and what you plan on doing in the future with the company?

In one respect it can be considered self publishing as I am the acting publisher of A Bit of Grace LLC, however more than anything it reflects the blossoming trend of boutique publishers popping up. You can see a number of examples of this including some literary agencies that are venturing into publishing works on their own. The growth of the digital plane within the literary arts has diversified the market in a wondrous way. On the road to being published and on submission to agents or publishers you will hear rejections based on the market, which is completely valid. An agent or editor may love your work, but may also know that it's not a good business investment for them working on the large scale they do based on what is happening in the market. They could also just not like it, but that's a whole other thing. The digital realm and boutique publishing has the flexibility to maneuver within the market in a way big publishers can't, just as big publishers have a strength you won't find in boutique publishers. It's just a matter of what will make you happy and what route your story calls for.

So we formed A Bit of Grace LLC, which is a boutique publisher in its VERY early stages. We've structured this in a way that involves the author more and creates the literary arts team (cover photo, cover design, marketing, etc.) around the work rather than fitting the work to the team. Beyond that, A Bit of Grace refers to the "angel's share," as we call it. A portion of the A Bit of Grace LLC earnings will always go straight to organizations working to better the lives of young adults through empowerment, opportunities and education. Burden of the Soul, book 1, specifically benefits Alternatives for Girls, a homeless shelter for female teens in Detroit. it's an organization close to my heart that absolutely stuns me. They demonstrate the amazing potential that can be found in each young woman no matter the hurdles she has to climb. They empower and work in prevention and outreach for young women, helping them to find the strength they had in them all along.

Read Part II of the interview on my personal blog, including what will be happening with submissions.

You can find Burden of the Soul for sale online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. You can find Kate on Twitter, Goodreads, A Bit of Grace Blog and Facebook.


  1. This is fascinating! And best of luck to Kate on this exciting adventure.

  2. I remember Kate Grace from inkpop! This is such exciting news! What an amazing idea. I love that a portion of proceeds will be an angel's share, and I also love that authors will play a bigger role in the process. I'm wishing HUGE success for A Bit of Grace, LLC. Best of luck, Kate, and thanks for stopping by YAtopia! :)

  3. Kate is a publishing pioneer. She saw what she didn't like, knew what was right for her, and made it happen. I'm lucky to know her. I have learned (and I'm sure will continue to learn) so much from her.

  4. Thanks everyone! And a special thank you to Sharon! Your support along with the support of the YA Lit community has been so amazing!

  5. Really interesting read. Really, really interesting. I'm off to read Part II

  6. I loved this interview! Very fascinating! And so proud of the journey you've taken Kate Grace!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story Kate. You are an inspiration!

  8. Thank you all for reading and commenting. I'm so glad sharing my personal journey in publishing is inspiring to you all! Best of luck to all of you on your own journey, and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or just need a pep talk!

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