Sunday, 27 October 2013

Jen McConnel Tells Us All We Wanted To Know

about her journey from Indie Author to being picked up by Bloomsbury.

BrightFish Press to Bloomsbury Spark: Guest Post by Jen McConnel
As many of you know, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY began life as my first self-published novel.  How did I go from learning the ropes as an indie author to having the title re-releasing in December as part of the launch list for Bloomsbury Spark?  It’s a wild and fun ride, but I’m happy to share it with you.
In 2009, I wrote a novel I called THE BURNING OF ISOBEL KEY, and when it was done, I had no idea what to do with it.  I queried a few agents, had a few requests, and accumulated some helpful rejections.  Eventually, I stuck the novel in a drawer and kept writing other things.  Fast forward to 2012, when I was actively pursuing traditional publication for my YA works.  For some reason, I remembered ISOBEL, and I pulled it out. .  The NA genre was just starting to emerge at that point, and ISOBEL was an intriguingly hard to classify title; it didn’t rest comfortably in any genre box, but I still believed that it was a story worth telling.
Taking a page from my mom’s experiences (she had successfully self-published a book with her writing partner when I was growing up), I decided to apply for a “Doing Business As”: I named my little publishing company BrightFish Press (I’m a Pisces) and I filed the necessary paperwork with my city, county, and state.  Then, I got to work.
I hired a cover designer through ELance, hired a friend with editorial experience to help me polish the manuscript, and started reading about self-promotion, formatting, and indie options.  The book launched in September of 2012, and while I felt like I was learning as I went, I was fairly pleased with the overall experience.
Fast forward again to April of 2013.  I noticed that Meredith Rich, the editor of Spark, was following me on Twitter, and I looked up the imprint.  It was just beginning to get press attention, and they hadn’t announced any acquisitions yet, but I was really intrigued by the idea of a YA and NA eBook imprint at Bloomsbury.  I queried an entirely different project, and received a very thoughtful rejection.  Although that project wasn’t the right fit, Meredith and I began discussing my other work, and I was surprised when ISOBEL came up in the conversation.  I was happy with the indie experience, and I had assumed that that’s where this novel would stay.  But after speaking with Meredith, I decided to submit ISOBEL to Spark and see what happened.  I crossed my fingers, re-formatted the manuscript, and waited.
Well, you know the rest.  The book was acquired this summer, and will be re-released as part of the Bloomsbury Spark launch list in December.  It’s got a new title, a new cover, and has lost some weight; over 3,000 words of revisions later, I’m amazed to watch the story I thought I was done with transform once again.
It’s been an amazing ride, and I don’t regret any of it.  While the indie experience certainly taught me a lot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to self-publish again if I had a title that I thought would be a good indie fit, I’ve been so happy with my experience at Bloomsbury Spark.  I feel so lucky; how many authors get to revisit their debut?  I can’t wait for de ja debut this winter, and I am so excited for y’all to read the new, improved edition of THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY.
About Jen
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.  Her debut NA novel, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, is coming December 2013 from Bloomsbury Spark . Visit  to learn more.

Connect With Jen


Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.

Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.
Learn More


  1. Thanks so much for having me, Keren! <3

  2. Fabulous experience! I hope your novel gains more readership through Bloomsbury, Jen. As someone hoping to go the hybrid route myself, this is vastly interesting. :)

    1. Thanks, Sandhya! It's been a wonderful experience thus far. Good luck on your own journey! :)


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