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When my colleague, Ginger Moran told me her novel, The Algebra of Snow, was being published by a gateway press, I was curious–and knew my readers would be interested, too. What is a gateway press? What’s the advantage over self publishing? Here are Ginger’s answers and a bit more about her edgy novel which I absolutely loved (I ordered 5 copies as gifts!).
Lisa: Before we get to the gateway press that’s publishing the Algebra of Snow, can you tell my readers a bit about the history of the book? It was nominated for the Pushcart Editor’s Choice Award—a special award that commercial editors nominate books for that they feel have great literary merit. How did that happen?
Ginger: The book went through a lot. It began as a short story that got published in Feminist Studies years ago. I expanded it as a novel many years later for my dissertation—an interesting exercise to write about a mathematician when I myself cannot add—and that led to getting a literary agent from a big agency. She sent it to the big publishing houses and it eventually was rejected. Some of the editors didn’t like it at all, but some loved it and many of those said, essentially, “This is a beautiful novel; we’re not sure it will work commercially.” One of those editors, Casey Feutsch at Doubleday, nominated it for a Pushcart Editor’s Choice Award.
Lisa: What happened then?
Ginger: By then I’d graduated (from the program where I first began working on the novel), gotten married, and had my first son the same year I started teaching in college. I started another novel, had another son, and got another job all in the next year. It was a crazy time, but not nearly as crazy as the next phase, when I ended up raising the boys by myself while running the tenure track. I did get tenure but left that job to return to my family home and alma mater after I got divorced.
I had another agent then and she was a real jewel—Kay Kidde, who has since retired. She represented my second novel, The Body of Summer, which also was praised but didn’t sell commercially, and then fell in love with Algebra and tried to sell that. She retired soon after I’d finished a rewrite of Algebra. I had another agent briefly, but I was pretty much just trying to keep things together professionally and domestically, so I was writing in the very early hours of the morning and not sending things out. I finally saw my kids into college and started to send things out again.
Lisa: What made you decide to use a gateway publisher?
Ginger: I polished the book, felt it was time to get it into the world and had heard from an agent that if I used a gateway publisher and the book did well, she would represent my book to larger publishers–and use the success with the gateway publisher to help convince them of the book’s marketability.
Lisa: So what is a gateway publisher and what do they do differently?
Ginger: A gateway publisher is a small publisher who publishes high quality books and provides a point of sale for them. In this case, the publisher is sending review copies out as well as providing a sales page and a nice looking book. I’ve had a lot of input on the cover and also a lot of involvement with the marketing, although authors do most of the marketing whatever way you publish these days–gateway, small press, or commercial.
Lisa: What’s the goal with a gateway press?
Ginger: The goal is get a book out there that can be read, marketed, and entered into contests–and perhaps picked up eventually by a larger publisher. It isn’t self-publishing nor is there an advance. The writer gets a percentage of the sales after costs have been recouped.
Lisa: What is your expectation of using a gateway publisher?
Ginger: I’m delighted that Main Street Rag is publishing Algebra. They make beautiful books. They’ve given me a chance to get Algebra into the world and to put to use the skills I’ve been honing. I’ve been studying marketing for a while now, aware of how much of it a writer has to do these days, and I’m enjoying the learning and the doing. There is a lot of interaction with people, both face-to-face and virtual, and many opportunities to teach and learn. I will be part of this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book and plan to attend other book festivals and conferences.
Lisa: Do you think the book might go back to commercial publishers after this?
Ginger: Yes. If I can get the sales of the book into the thousands, an excellent literary agent has expressed interest in representing Algebra. I’m hoping The Algebra of Snow is going to be one of those “overnight sensations” that sometimes takes the literary world by storm—though in this case it would have taken about 30 years to come about. That may be how a lot of “overnight sensations” happen.
Lisa: Can you tell readers a bit of the story line?
Ginger: Algebra is a novel of subtraction. The main character is a woman mathematician alone in the Adirondack Mountains in winter on leave from her university job and separated from her wild, Irish husband, Donovan. Over the course of the winter, she loses one of her dogs. It’s a lyric novel that goes into the realm of imagination as Amelia delves deeper into the inner reality of her past–her roots as a Southerner, the loss of her mother when she was young, and the passion she feels for her husband despite his unpredictability and their alienation. It’s structured around the fall and winter holidays, from Labor Day to the Celtic holiday of Beltane that signals the beginning of the spring. The book holds the possibility that she will add up to something again at the end of the winter.
Lisa: The book is so richly woven. I can’t even do it justice by describing it–I encourage readers of this blog to read more about The Algebra of Snow here and pre-order your copy now–not only will you save a bundle (well, okay $5.45 per book–just about 40%), but you’ll be helping this very talented author get her book out–the gateway publisher requires 100 pre-orders before the book gets printed. Your good karma in ordering a copy today is sure to come back to you as an author. Plus, I loved this book so much, if you don’t like it, I’ll buy your copy at cost–how’s that for a risk-free guarantee?!
And, if you love it–you’ll get to be one of the people who can say, “I truly helped Algebra of Snow become the sensation it is–I was one of the first people to purchase it and spread the word!”
Questions for Ginger? Ask away. And feel free to share your comments here after you’ve read the book.