Friday, June 22, 2007

Harris, Somerville
Solve Secret of

Publishing Success

Lola Somerville is quite the sleuth.

In Miss Media, she uncovered corporate corruption. In Death by Chick Lit, she’s hot on the trail of a serial killer. But Ms Somerville may have cracked the toughest case of all in between — how to solve the riddle of traditional publishing.

Somerville, along with her creator, Lynn Harris, has moved from Print-On-Demand publisher iUniverse, which brought out Miss Media in November 2003, to the Berkley Trade imprint with her latest effort, Death by Chick Lit. That book hit stores June 5, 2007.

“Berkley was attracted to Harris’s engaging writing, sympathetic heroine, and clever plot,” said Kate Seaver, Harris’s editor at Berkley. “Harris’s writing is hilarious, but at the same time she has some very pointed things to say about the chick lit genre and the publishing industry in general.”

Harris actually had several traditionally-published works of non-fiction before coming out with Miss Media. After that book came out, Harris began outlining the plot for Death by Chick Lit and looking for representation.

“I basically asked all my friends (my friends with good book deals) if they'd mind referring me to theirs. This also gave me incentive to focus on finishing a partial manuscript for the book, because agents don't necessarily take you on as, like, a person—they are more likely to take you on for a particular project. So I was this close to working with Agent A when Agent B called out of the blue after seeing a piece I'd written in Nerve and asked if I was looking for representation,” Harris said. “I met with her and felt we clicked. Plus, it was sort of the literary version of The Rules: I was impressed that she sought me out—obviously, she liked my writing, which is an important start—and that, in the bigger picture that she was the kind of agent who was aggressive and charge-taking and on the lookout like that. (Of course, she was also probably looking to expand her roster, but who isn't? Point is, I liked the way she did it.) And, fortunately, I did have a partial manuscript to show her; double fortunately, she liked it. So we agreed to work together.”

Agent B turned out to be Paula Balzer of the Paula Balzer Agency. She also represents Kathleen Hughes (Dear Mrs. Lindbergh: A Novel) and Tracy McArdle (Confessions of a Nervous Shiksa).

Harris said Miss Media helped prove to industry professionals that she could sustain a novel-length project.

“It did to some degree with my agent. Mainly because she loved it; that helped her be able to sell me enthusiastically and as someone she knew could sustain a book for 200-some pages,” Harris said. “But the new book really had to sell on its own terms.

“I would neither downplay nor overplay your POD book. Make it part of your package, and have your nice, short positive story straight—should it come up—about why you used POD the first time around. But unless your POD book has been a blockbuster—like you've driven around the country and sold literally thousands out of your hatchback—your new book is going to sell to a publisher on its own terms. Still, a POD book is nothing you should hide; it's an excellent calling card to have. Publishers and agents know that many successful writers get their starts this way.”

So how different is the traditional publishing experience from the iUniverse adventure?

“The process itself kind of feels the same, assuming you use iUniverse's (very high quality) editorial evaluation option,” Harris said. “The funny part is, at iUniverse, you're not working directly with an editor whose name you know; feels more like you're working with the great and powerful Oz. You come asking for a book; iUniverse magically gives you one!”

Harris will be busy this summer promoting Death by Chick Lit. She has several signings scheduled in the New York area including an appearance at the Community Bookstore, 143 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 7:30 PM on June 28 and July 15 at Stain Bar, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, 7 PM.

“Nothing really "outside the box," unless you consider a MySpace page outside the box,” Harris said. “While we're making the usual efforts to get good placement in the press and bookstores, I'm also working on building good old fashioned word of mouth—basically reminding your friends to tell their friends they liked it, and so on—which at the end of the day can sell as many books as an official Marketing Plan.”

Check out Harris’s website at and her MySpace page at Harris has already received some solid press coverage for the book including a review by Kate Harding at and an article on (you have to be an Avant Guild member to access the whole article). If you want to go old school check out this article about Miss Media from the original PubGuy site.

Back in 2003, Harris received her author copies of Miss Media the day before her wedding. Her family has since expanded along with her writing career.

“We now have a seven-month-old daughter named Bess, who is a hoot and a peach. I'm sure she will come to love reading books, but for now she mostly eats them. Because of some publishing delays—something you'll have with traditional publishing but likely not iUniverse, by the way—I wound up having to go over the almost-final copyedited draft of DBCL while on maternity leave with a month-old infant. This should explain any typos or infelicities you may encounter,” Harris said.

“Now that I'm back at work, I'm (still) writing for Glamour,, the New York Times, the Washington Post (doing book reviews for the latter two), and others; I also write the dating advice column for and the "Rabbi's Wife" column for All in four days of work; I spend Fridays with Bess. Let's just say she gets more naps than I do.”

Lola’s career path has some remarkable similarities to Harris’s. Somerville may be following her creator down the Mommy track as well.

“I've got a new mystery in mind for her. More of a missing-persons case than a murder, though. And let's just say Lola may be sleuthing for two ...”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Playmate Antonaccio
Shares her secrets

“What’s your Secret?”

Helena Antonaccio has been asked that question ever since she graced the pages of Playboy magazine. The question keeps coming even though 38 years have past since she was named Ms June 1969. Antonaccio is finally sharing her tips in her new book entitled appropriately enough, What’s Your Secret?

“I started writing it about four years ago when fans at shows kept asking me ‘What’s you secret?”, in acting and looking the way I do at my age,” she said.

Despite her notoriety as a Playmate, Antonaccio struggled to find a literary agent for the book.

“If I got one he was fired or left the group, or told they are too booked up with too many authors, nothing negative but just didn't have the time of day for me,” Antonaccio explained.

She turned to Print-On-Demand publisher iUniverse to get the book out and on to major online retailers including and What’s Your Secret was released in May. Antonaccio is already getting kudos from friends, family and fellow Playmates.

“They’ve been impressed and couldn’t believe I finally got the book out,” Antonaccio said.

Antonaccio, a Jersey girl her entire life, continued to model and act following her Playboy appearance. She even made a return appearance in the magazine in August 1997.

“I have lead a healthy lifestyle my entire adult life. I am a firm believer in exercise and eating unprocessed foods as much as possible,” Antonaccio said. “I believe in holistic healing along with conventional medicine. Skin care is very important to me and I would like someday to own my own cosmetic and beauty line.”

The book is likely to earn a mention in the Playmate News portion of Playboy in the upcoming months and Antonaccio is planning other marketing efforts as well. She hope to contribute an article or two in several magazines, may appear at several pin-up and modeling conventions and is hoping to book television appearances as well.

For more on Helena and her book visit