Interview with Karen Amanda Hooper

There’s a bit of a hubbub about the terms “self-publishing” vs. “indie publishing.” Many self-pubbed writers refer to themselves as indie – implying they are independently publishing their work on their own. It’s “independent” in its truest definition. I understand where it comes from, but to me, the words can’t be interchangeable because the term “indie publishing” already exists. It refers to being published by an independent press, who is an established publisher but not a “Big 6” style corporate machine. 

Still, when you boil it all down I guess it’s just semantics. The term “indie” is changing, and since words develop new meanings all the time, I won’t argue with self-pubbed writers who call themselves indie. But! For the purposes of this blog (since it’s mine), indie will mean non-corporate and self-pub will mean self-pub. Thanks 🙂

Which brings me to Karen Amanda Hooper. Karen is not a self-published author, but rather an indie author in the old-school sense of the word. She doesn’t have an agent and while there are several independent publishers who won’t take unsolicited material, Karen found one who did. This week isn’t just about self-publishing, but about other viable options that go against tradition. I hope you all benefit from hearing her story, and learn about a third option you might not have considered before.

What do you write?
YA that blurs the line between fantasy and paranormal, and, of course, there’s always romance involved. My debut novel, Tangled Tides, is about an island girl turned into a mermaid against her will who discovers she’s the only soul who can save a world of merfolk, selkies, and sirens from becoming extinct—including herself and the sea monster she falls head over fins for.
Did you query agents before deciding to publish without one? If so, how many/for how long?
I did query agents before submitting to Rhemalda. I had to open my Agent Cupcakes folder (we call them cupcakes instead of rejections because they’re easier to stomach with a sweet name) and count the actual number. Here are my stats: 
Agents queried, 78 total. That was over a 10 month period in 2009. I received quite a few requests, a lot of form cupcakes, some nice personalized cupcakes, and a couple agents who requested the full but I never heard back from them (and yes, I did check in).

How did you hear about Rhemalda? What made you go with them?
Crazy story actually (sorry it’s so long). I shelved this manuscript in early 2010 after getting no offers of representation. By springtime I was querying a totally different project when a USA Today article came out saying how mermaids were the summer paranormal trend. A few writer friends sent me the link saying I should self-publish my mermaid story. I took it as a sign from the universe and figured why not? I never planned on querying it again so why not throw it out there while mermaids were popular. I contacted a couple friends who had self-published and asked for advice on how to educate myself on the process. One of those friends was Michelle Davidson Argyle. She had read some of my story and told me to submit it to her publisher. At the time I really thought I had no shot, but I submitted anyway. A few weeks later I got The Call. I was standing in NYC waiting for a cab outside of the RWA National Con (we were on our way to an agency cocktail party where a friend was about to sign with her agent). Rhemalda told me they loved my story and wanted to discuss some things with me to see if we were a good fit for each other. I wanted to scream with joy from the rooftops but I couldn’t steal my friend’s thunder. (She was literally minutes away from signing with her awesome agent!) So Rhemalda and I scheduled a phone call for the next day where we discussed lots of details, including a new title (thank goodness) and their vision and mine. I sat on the floor in a quietish hallway of Newark airport talking to Emmaline at Rhemalda for over an hour. They genuinely loved my story, they wanted to rush it to publication, and they made me feel like family. By the time we hung up I was so happy and excited that I called my mom in tears.
Do they have their own editors? If not, did you use any outside editors before submitting to them?
Yes, they have two fabulous editors, Kara Klotz and Diane Dalton. Diane is the editor for Tangled Tides.

What are they doing to promote your titles? 
Currently they have a Goodreads giveaway for U.S. readers and they’re hosting an International eBook giveaway as well. We’ve discussed promoting Tangled Tides through Goodreads and Facebook ads, possibly doing fun stuff like reading and signing at the Mermaid Convention in Las Vegas next summer, and hopefully signing at some writing conferences as well. And, of course, ARCs, a blog tour and exposure through Rhemalda’s website.

Do they have a formal contract? If so, did you have a lawyer review it before you signed?
They do have a contract and I did have a lawyer look it over. He had me question a couple points and Rhemalda patiently answered any and all of my questions and explained everything in detail until I was completely comfortable signing. They even added a special clause to accommodate my unique situation of signing one manuscript while another manuscript was still out with agents. Their contract is very author friendly.
Is Rhemalda also handling foreign, audio, merchandising, and film rights? Who has control of the subrights of your work?
Rhemalda handles the foreign and audio rights. I retained merchandising and film. If anyone approaches Rhemalda about subsidiary rights then we’ll negotiate a separate contract at that time.

Do you think you’ll still try to get an agent even after your experience with Rhemalda? Why or why not?
My honest answer: I don’t know. I always envisioned having an agent for my first deal and as a long-term teammate to guide and advise me throughout my career, but for now, the universe has led me down a different path. My experience with Rhemalda has been incredible so far. If all keeps going well then I’ll submit the sequel of Tangled Tides to them. However, a few agents and another publisher have a different manuscript of mine, so time will tell what will happen with that project. Rhemalda made it clear that they will be supportive of whichever route I end up taking.
What advice would you give writers who are considering finding a publisher without an agent?

It can be done. If I did it, anyone can. Oh, and expect the unexpected. It can come out of nowhere like a freight train and you’ve got to be ready to ride. 

For those of you who don’t know (and you might not because it was seeeeecret for a while), Karen is also part of a super cool YA blog team called YA Confidential, so do go check that out. 

Thanks again to Karen for sharing her publication story! Tomorrow we will end the week of interviews with Michelle Davidson Argyle, who has now been mentioned by two of our featured writers this week. (Not to mention she’s responsible to my awesome Glass Cases banner!) See you then.

13 thoughts on “Interview with Karen Amanda Hooper

  1. Karen, I've been following your news and am so happy for you! I read all this with interest, as I've been going through query and cupcake hell lo these many months and am strategizing Plan B, the indie route you have taken. Already making my connections there.

    My very best wishes for success with Tangled Tides. I can't wait to get a copy!


  2. Aww, thanks for all the kind commments and well wishes for my book!

    Tere, I DID shelve it, but I'm glad it didn't stay shelved! 😉

    Michelle, you know how much I love you. I really need to get an I Heart Michelle t-shirt.

    Amber, umm, not quite famous. But Sarah is famous so that makes me cool by association.


  3. Thanks so much for this fascinating interview! Although I'm experimenting with self-publishing on Kindle, I have way more works published through indie press. Indie press is often extremely exciting because indie publishers try so many new things. Karen, your mermaid book sounds awesome! I wish you great success!


  4. Thanks so much for sharing Karen's story! I'm also recently signed with two different Indie Publishers (Musa and MuseItUp) for my YA and MG. These are both manuscripts, that like Karen, I had a really hard time landing an agent. In both manuscripts, I sold the e-book and print rights, but retain all my other rights. I think there are many ways to publish, and hopefully, as I continue to write, I'll get to experience a little of all of them! Thanks so much for this week's series of posts, Sarah!


  5. One of the writers I beta-read for had good success going with a small press. (Dragon Moon Press.) I loved her book; I was literally sobbing all throughout the last chapter. That opened my eyes to the fact that great books can come from all kinds of publishers.

    That cover is super eye-catching. Thanks Karen and Sarah!


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