Advice From Pros: Lou Aronica with The Story Plant

Advice From Pros: Lou Aronica with The Story Plant

Lou Aronica is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with a vast number of titles to his credit. Lou has been highly recognized for his works, including winning the World Fantasy Award for his Full Spectrum Anthology.

His industry experience includes working as an editor and publisher for Bantam, Berkley Publishing Group, and Avon Books. Now, as the President and co-founder of a successful publishing enterprise, The Story Plant, he’s dedicated to publishing quality fiction and developing authors. Since their launch, nearly a third of The Story Plant’s novels have appeared in the top 100 on various bestseller’s lists. Lou was kind enough to share some of his valuable time, perspectives, and advice.

Have you always wanted to work in this field? I was an English major in college, so that put me on one of two paths: teaching or publishing. Teaching was my first choice, but there weren’t any jobs available, so I turned to the book business. As soon as I entered it, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Book people are dedicated to their business in a way that I’ve rarely seen from other industries.

What do you like best about your work? That I can work with a wide range of authors on a wide range of titles and that everyone cares deeply about the work they are doing.

What is one fascinating insight you’ve gleaned from working in the publishing industry? There aren’t terribly many casual book readers. People are either dedicated readers or they barely read books at all. The numbers say that there are far more of the latter than the former, but the passion of the latter makes all the difference – and it’s more than enough to create a healthy book industry. There’s something very special about working in a field where what you create means a great deal to those for whom you create it.

What advice would you give to published authors? To make sure you develop a healthy ongoing relationship with your core fans. This goes back to what I said earlier about dedicated readers caring deeply about what they read. The writers who honor that level of dedication by communicating regularly, treating their core fans like “insiders,” and inviting readers (within limits) into their process tend to benefit greatly from this.

What advice would you give to unpublished authors? To write something that genuinely matters to you rather than focusing on what’s selling in this moment. If what genuinely matters to you happens to align with what’s selling right now, that’s fortunate, but I don’t think it behooves writers to write to a market that isn’t natural for them. This has maybe never been truer.

AI generated fiction is already infiltrating the market, and this is going to ratchet up considerably in the coming months. Those books are going to serve specific audiences precisely. There’s no indication that these books will be particularly good, but they will serve an audience the way a passable Netflix show serves its audience. If you’re not writing what you’re meant to write, you probably won’t do much better than this, and the odds of having a sustainable writing career drop. On the other hand, if you’re writing something that truly resonates with you, there’s a very good chance that it will resonate with readers as well – and those readers will embrace you and tell others about you.

What do you like to see on an author’s platform? I’m still of the mind that the size of an author’s platform matters less with fiction than it does with nonfiction. What does matter, though, is the level of engagement. Having a good opt-in mailing list with a strong open rate is enormously valuable. Being active on socials and having a good number of followers is very useful, but only if you’re getting reactions from your followers.

What conferences or events do you recommend authors and writers attend? I’m going to be doing much more of this starting in the fall of ’23. Keep an eye on the Story Plant website for more details.

What book uplifts you? I have very diverse tastes, so I can find myself uplifted by many sorts of books. However, nothing inspires me more than a beautifully written novel of character. I recently finished Lessons in Chemistry and can’t stop talking about it. Great characters, a powerful character arc, a wonderful topic, and loads of humor and heart.

Image Courtesy of Lou Aronica

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