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Judy L. Mandel: Meet the Author of REPLACEMENT CHILD (A Memoir)

I have always loved interviewing debut authors, both for the GLA Blog, and for Writer's Digest magazine. Today, I'm happy to interview author Judy L. Mandel. These interviews are a great way to learn more about how new writers got published and found their literary agents. Judy L. Mandel is the author of REPLACEMENT CHILD: A MEMOIR (Seal Press, March 5, 2013). She began her career as a journalist, branched out to public relations, and settled in corporate marketing, where she worked for more than 20 years as a marketing director for several Fortune 100 companies. Mandel is now a student in the MFA program of Stony Brook Southampton and lives in Connecticut with her husband.

I have always loved interviewing debut authors, both for the GLA Blog, and for Writer's Digest magazine. Today, I'm happy to interview author Judy L. Mandel. These interviews are a great way to learn more about how new writers got published and found their literary agents.

Judy L. Mandel is the author of REPLACEMENT CHILD: A MEMOIR (Seal Press, March 5, 2013). She began her career as a journalist, branched out to public relations, and settled in corporate marketing, where she worked for more than 20 years as a marketing director for several Fortune 100 companies. Mandel is now a student in the MFA program of Stony Brook Southampton and lives in Connecticut with her husband.

(Just starting out as a writer? See a collection of great writing advice for beginners.)

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ABOUT THE BOOK: "REPLACEMENT CHILD tells the true story of the aftermath of a horrifying accident: a plane crashes into a family’s home, leaving one daughter severely burned and another dead. The death of the child leaves a hole in the family that threatens to tear it apart—but in a great act of hope, the parents give birth to a 'replacement child,' born to fill the painful gap. In this powerful story of love and lies, hope and forgiveness, Judy Mandel tells the story of being the child brought into the world to provide 'a salve for the burns.' As a child, she unwittingly rides the deep and hidden currents of her family’s grief—until her discovery of the truth, years later, changes her life forever, forcing her to confront the complex layers of her relationships with her father, mother, and sister."

WRITES FROM: Connecticut.

PRE-REPLACEMENT CHILD: I have been a marketing writer in corporations for many years, with stints in advertising, journalism and public relations. When my parents died, I felt the pull to write the book they had always urged me to write about our family’s recovery from a plane crash that killed one daughter and gravely injured another. As I researched the details of the plane crash and reconstructed my parents’ struggle with grief and recovery, I found many surprises as well as my own role in the story.

TIME FRAME: I started writing the book after my mother passed in April of 2005 and finished the final draft in June of 2009. There were thirteen full revisions. After self-publishing in 2009, I released the eBook in 2011, which immediately sold thousands.

ENTER THE AGENT: I had wanted Rita Rosenkranz, Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency, to be my agent from the time I met her at a writers conference in Connecticut. (See a list of writing conferences.) She had shown a sincere interest in my story and had asked to see a partial of the book. I felt she had reluctantly passed on the project because of another similar project she had in the works. Several other agents had also originally been interested in the book, but had passed on it. When my sales hit a high point, I contacted Rita again, which was one of the best decisions I made.

(Look through a growing list of memoir agents.)

(Rita Rosenkranz is one of 60+ agents who will take pitches at our WD Conference in NYC, April 5-7, 2013.)

BIGGEST SURPRISE: I was apprehensive about the transition to a traditional publisher from being self-published and have been pleasantly surprised that it has been very smooth and rewarding. I admit to having more control issues than perhaps other authors, since until now I was in control of every aspect of my book. But the professionalism and talent of the staff at Seal Press has made it a wonderful experience.

WHAT I DID RIGHT: The most important thing I did right, I believe, was to revise and revise until I was satisfied with the manuscript. After giving myself a year to shop it to agents, I made the decision to self-publish. I then created my own imprint, hiring my own designers and editor for the print version and later releasing the eBook at a competitive price. I believe my robust marketing of the book at the start laid the groundwork for the awareness of the book and the later pickup it enjoyed. Then, I contacted my fabulous agent who had the wisdom to approach my publisher.

AUTHOR PLATFORM: When I self-published, I garnered local publicity, readings at libraries and a book tour from Connecticut and New Jersey to Colorado and Los Angeles. I did radio interviews for both traditional radio and blog radio shows. My website is optimized for anyone researching replacement children. That SEO has led to interviews with CNN.com and the Daily Mirror in the UK as well as others. I have a Facebook page for the book (facebook.com/replacementchild), use Twitter and have an active blog.

WEBSITE: replacementchild.com. My blog is judymandel.com/blog

NEXT UP: I’m working on a novel titled IF NOT FOR YOU.

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