Lauren Sams is the author of She’s Having Her Baby and Crazy Busy Guilty. She’s also a freelance writer and her work has appeared in ELLE, marie claire, Cosmopolitan, Good Food, delicious., Sunday Style and dailylife.com.au.
Tell us a bit about your early career path – how did you first get into the world of writing?
Well, after a brief flirtation with newspapers at 14, when I joined my local paper’s “Youth Action Page” (I know, I know, very Libby from Neighbours of me), I got into magazines after uni. A writing tutor at uni told me I had a good “voice” for mags, and even though I’d always loved mags, I’d honestly never considered the industry as one I could get into. I didn’t know any writers, I was from Western Sydney – the world of magazines seemed very far away.
But after that tutor suggested it to me, I suddenly couldn’t the idea out of my head. I started writing for CLEO’s website (RIP CLEO), where an amazing editor named Jo Barry took me under her wing. I would not be a writer without Jo’s help, I honestly wouldn’t. She got me a job interview at CLEO – which I did not get – and then another one, a few months later, at Cosmopolitan. I got the Cosmo gig and bloody loved it. To this day, I am a Cosmo girl through and through. It has such a unique identity and voice, and I am fiercely proud to have worked there.
As someone who worked in magazines for many years, what future do you see for mags now?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I love magazines so much, but I do see that there is less and less time and resources available to the editorial staff, which results in an inferior product. It’s such a shame because magazines are such a fantastic form of entertainment – you know, that mix of high/low that Tina Brown began at Vanity Fair: the combination of silly celeb stuff or a page of beauty stills and then a powerful essay or hard-hitting reportage to follow. I do love sitting down with a magazine still, but I have to admit that my favourites are now from the US, where the teams are still relatively big and it’s clear writers are given time and space to do their jobs. There is a real sense of creativity and innovation to a lot of those overseas mags, and I hope that continues.
As for the future here, I honestly don’t know. I think the big glossies will stay – AWW, marie claire – because there is a lot of love for them. As for the smaller players, I’m not so sure.
We are big fans of your tinyletter, Wine Time, have there been any particular benefits for you that have come from producing the newsletter?
Oh, thank you! I love writing it. I really do. It’s something I look forward to every week.
I think it’s important as an author to have a “platform”. I know that sounds a bit wanky but it’s such a competitive world, I think you have to keep putting your name out there so people remember you. I am so crap at social media (my husband, who is a marketing genius, nearly divorced me when he found out I lost my first Twitter username because I couldn’t remember the password) and so I thought, “There’s got to be something I like doing that will help me connect to an audience.” I would be hopeless at committing to a regular blog, and like I said, I’m not great at social media… so the newsletter seemed a sort of perfect mix of the two. It’s got quite a nice little following now, which is so great. I love writing it and I love getting feedback from readers.
You wrote a fantastically honest post earlier this year about the realities of being an author and the work involved in selling your book – what inspired you to share this truthbomb and what kind of reaction did it receive?
Ha! Yes, it certainly was incredibly honest. I wrote the piece (which you can read here) after having published my second book (which you can read here) and realising that writing was only a fraction of my job as, well, a writer. With my first book, I was very lucky to have the complete backing of my publisher – I had the fancy launch party, a relatively big marketing and PR budget, and the book was sold to plenty of discount department stores (ie Target, Kmart and so on, which are the biggest retailers of books in Australia). I assumed this would happen for my second book, and when it didn’t, the burden of publicising and marketing the book largely fell on me. It was hard work. Really hard work. It took me way out of my comfort zone – I hate asking people for things, I hate talking about my work – but it made me realise that nobody would ever care about my book as much as I did. Which sounds obvious, but it took that experience for me to get that straight in my head. I wanted to share the experience with other authors – not to deter them from writing, but to be transparent about the work involved.
The piece received a lot of amazing feedback, mostly along the lines of, Thank you, this is so true! I’ve also heard it did the rounds at several big publishing houses, with PR and marketing staff literally emailing the post to debut authors to warn them of the realities of publishing – how ironic!
I hate talking about my work – but it made me realise that nobody would ever care about my book as much as I did. Which sounds obvious, but it took that experience for me to get that straight in my head.
You made the leap from working in an office as an in house writer/editor to a freelancer – what inspired the transition and how have you found it?
Initially I made the leap as I was working in a job I didn’t love and wanted to get out. But now I find I love freelancing. I really enjoy the thrill of pitching (this sounds crazy but I really do love it) and I love being able to work on lots of different things at once. I get to interview loads of different people and work on ideas that really interest me, and also I do not have to rely on Sydney public transport or pay $15 for a mediocre CBD sandwich.
What do you do to nurture your creativity?
Not enough! I read a lot – a book a week at least – and I listen to a lot of podcasts about writing and creativity (my current favourite is Longform, which is an interview series with non-fiction writers). But mainly I am inspired to create by putting my bum on my seat and opening my laptop.
Mainly I am inspired to create by putting my bum on my seat and opening my laptop.
What have been the best and worst things about being an author so far?
The best is hearing that my work resonated with readers. The worst is Goodreads.
Do you have a designated workspace at home?
I do… but it’s currently being taken over by a four-year-old. So now I work at the kitchen table. Which is closer to the coffee machine anyway, so all good by me.
What’s next on your career bucket list? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
It’s probably not next, but I’d love to write for TV one day. And a young adult novel – I’d love to write one. I am currently writing a third book and it is absolutely doing my head in, so I’m not sure I’d call it ‘exciting.’ Excruciating, more like.
What advice would you give to those who would love to follow in your footsteps as a writer?
Just keep writing. Please, please keep writing. There is no magic formula. There is nothing more you need to know. There is no course you need to take or book you need to read. Just keep writing. Sit down, do the work, and then do some more. That is all there is to it.
BONUS question: What are your thoughts on the term ‘chick lit’?
Great question! I think it’s demeaning and diminishes not just the work of female writers, but the tastes of female readers. Calling something “chick lit” automatically makes it “the other” and by default, “less than.” I loathe it. I actually wrote a piece all about this recently… and you can read it here.