USA Today bestselling author Anna Snow writes the break-out successful BARB JACKSON MYSTERIES for the Gemma Halliday Publishing House. While Anna is a happy wife and mom, she has a deep dark secret – she’s a self-confessed lipstick junkie. Anna carries no less than 15 lipsticks in her purse at all times. You never know when you’re gonna need one!
AS: I started my writing career writing steamy paranormal and contemporary romance but after a while I wasn’t happy with that genre. I felt out of touch with it, I guess you could say, so I decided to try my hand at cozy mystery. I wanted to stick with mysteries because that’s what I love, but I also wanted to write with humor because I love making people laugh. I’ve always been a huge fan of Gemma’s so when I heard that she had started her own publishing house, I knew that I had to submit my Barb Jackson Series to her, and I’m so glad that I did! I absolutely adore working for GHP. Gemma is amazing.
LP: You’re a USA Today bestselling author – which book or books did you hit the list with and what did you do to celebrate or mark the occasion?
AS: I was fortunate enough to have one of my Barb Jackson Mysteries (Blondes’ Night Out) be included in a collection of summer stories alongside some of my awesome fellow GHP authors, titled Killer Beach Reads. We hit the promo hard and were blessed with a spot on the USA Today Bestseller List.
I didn’t really do anything to celebrate. Can you believe that?
LP: You write cozy mystery – tell us about your series and why you love this genre?
AS: I’ve always been a huge fan of cozy mysteries. I dipped my toes into the genre by reading books by Jana DeLeon and moved on to Gemma Halliday and many others. I love cozy mystery because it has two of the things I love most while reading. Mystery and humor!
The Barb Jackson Mysteries is a fun, light-hearted series about a petite blonde private detective, her best friends, and her wacky aunt Mona. Barb is clumsy, not very girly, and (hopefully) very relatable. I wanted people who read this series to see Barb and instantly relate to her. She has bad hair days, a coffee addiction, she’d live in her pajamas if she could, her detective boyfriend is constantly worried about what she up to next, and she’s a complete work-a-holic. Barb is near and dear to my heart and I hope reader’s lover her as much as I do.
LP: Do you have anything in common with your heroine Barb Jackson?
AS: I love coffee and I’d live in my pajamas if I could. I’m a bit clumsy, but nothing like Barb. I hope most people who read about Barb find that they have something in common with her.
LP: The industry has gone through some big changes in the past few years and some authors who had been doing well with a big pub were let go, meanwhile many indie authors have really taken off – what do you think authors need to do to stay sharp and stay in this business?
AS: Just keep writing and promoting. That’s all we really can do whether we’re published with a big publisher or an indie. I’m still climbing the ladder, so I’m probably not the one to be giving advice, *big grin* but what’s worked for me is that I just keep working. I keep writing. I keep submitting, and I keep moving forward. Do I have set backs? Of course. I sit down have a good pity party, then stand up, brush myself off, and get back to work.
LP: What do you have coming down the road for your blonde sleuth Barb Jackson?
In April 2017, Barb will be helping an acquaintance find out who’s killing the dancers of the Double Trouble Gentlemen’s Club, with some help from her office girl and pal Mandy, and her crazy Aunt Mona in Blonde and Fabulous (Barb Jackson Book 3). This is going to be a crazy fun one!
And later in 2017 Barb will be headed to the Bahama’s on a cruise with her hunky detective boyfriend Tyler Black in Bahama Blonde (Barb Jackson Book #4). This time, Barb discovers the slimy lounge singers dead body in an elevator and just has to stick her nose in and find the killer.
LP: What are three things that you think authors should do to promote their new releases?
AS: Word of mouth is HUGE. Always tell people about your work. Don’t beat them over the head with it, or nag them about it, but talk about it, and social media is a great tool to utilize when promoting a new book.
I, myself, always have business cards, bookmarks, ink pens, book cover postcards, and other swag items that I send out to whomever wants it and I hold a huge giveaway on my Facebook page every release day. Also, try to get a BookBub advertisement. They’re hard to land, and pricey, but if you can hook one, it’s definitely worth it.
LP: Tell us about three authors you love and why?
AS: Gemma Halliday is always first. Her stories are just so funny that I find myself thinking about them even after I’ve finished the book. The same goes for Jana DeLeon and Hannah Howell. I adore these women!
LP: You are also a self-published author and have written erotica – under the same name Anna Snow – what has been the response of your mystery readers to your foray into erotica?
AS: I have the best readers in the world!
I wrote erotica before stepping out of that genre and into cozy mystery and my readers have been so incredibly supportive and responsive to my books in both genres. I keep the two genres separate on my website and everyone seems to be alright with my writing both genres.
LP: BONUS QUESTION: I know you love cats – let’s say you’re Anna Snow’s cat – what could you tell me about Anna that she doesn’t want people to know?
AS: As Anna’s cat Roscoe:
Anna’s insane. Seriously.
Do you know that she steals my poop from the litter box and puts it in a plastic bag in a big thing she calls the trashcan? Geez. What a whack-job. That’s my business she throwing away!
She also does this thing where she tries to sing along with someone she calls “Prince” on the box that she calls a “radio”. It’s not pretty.
And she hides these yummy cookie things she calls a “Fig Newton” in her top desk drawer, then she complains that she didn’t lose any weight this week. But she gave me a piece of the “Newton” one time. I can’t blame her for eating them. They’re stinking delicious!
LP: Thanks so much for joining us Anna!
AS: Thanks for having me here today. I had a great time!
Authors need to promote their books. Some of us blog, others tweet, and just about every author has a website. But social media with its emojis and memes is a visual thing. One way to visually promote a book is with a book trailer, which can be described as turning the blurb of a book into film. When my paranormal historical romance, MOON DARK, was about to be published, I decided I wanted a book trailer made to help promote it. I discovered Jaye Rochon of Immortal Creative and Circle of Seven, who did a fabulous job. The final product was magical, and I wanted to find out more about Jaye and her process. Welcome, Jaye!
PB: Tell us how you got started in creating book trailers and why?
JR: I worked in a corporate environment at an international cable TV network in marketing, advertising and creative services before the concept of book trailers crossed my path. So my experience in promotional videos began with an audience of 80+ million viewers on a daily basis! It was an amazing training ground for high quality, deadline-driven production skills.
But one thing about TV networks is that the on-air promotions can be a bit formulaic at times. Once you develop your branding for a show, it can stay pretty much the same year after year until the network decides to re-brand its entire look.
It taught me a lot about branding and I’m grateful for that. But it started to feel like working in a video factory. So I pursued more creative projects in my free time because diversity is key to success and satisfaction as an artist.
Eventually, I simply met the right people at the right time and the freelance work was enough to support me without the day job. I saw a need for high quality book trailers in the publishing world, and also, as a voracious reader, it was a natural fit to marry video production and literature.
PB: Did you study fine arts or graphic design in school or did you learn on your own?
JR: Most of what I’ve learned has come from working alongside my peers in television and film (many are Emmy award-winning producers, directors, designers and editors).
I was incredibly fortunate to begin as a receptionist and advance into copy-writing then beyond into creative by pitching ideas to executives above me who liked what I had to say. (I am like Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen, I swear!)
The technical skills I’ve learned have been a combination of job training and insatiable curiosity. I am a bit addicted to online tutorials.
A lot of this job also requires the kind of savvy that can’t be 100% taught – it is innate. Gut instinct, the ability to understand an artist’s brand and voice, a passion for pop culture… that’s mostly intuition.
I also tend to watch a lot of opening titles sequences and commercials to keep up with the latest audio-visual techniques and reader/viewer trends. Book trailers are a lot more than software and assets. It’s an understanding of what grabs attention and elicits a powerful viewer/reader response: I MUST read/watch/listen/know more!
Just like the best writers are always reading, the prolific creative freelancer is always absorbing, watching, researching every aspect of the entertainment industry and learning audience trends. I am constantly in school.
PB: Do you work independently or are you affiliated with a design group?
JR: I work independently in all areas of creative services: design, consulting, marketing and advertising as Immortal Creative, but my go-to production partners for book trailers are Circle of Seven(COS) Productions. They know the kind of work that I do particularly well, align me with the right clients/projects and everything is just magical and wildly creative. Sheila English and I met at a convention ten years ago and the rest was kismet.
PB: Tell us about your process. How do you go from a blank computer screen to a book trailer?
JR: It’s all about the author. Every book is so unique. The ideas form visually and conceptually from the characters and world-building in the writing. It happens organically as I read, and my biggest goal in a book trailer is to do what the best writers do: show, don’t tell.
With Moon Dark, the story was drenched in atmosphere from page one. It was so tangibly lush and darkly magical, I just had this feeling of mists and cloaks and velvety seduction running all through me as I read it. Also, Venice, Italy is such a glorious setting, it’s a dream come true to be creative with history and paranormal romance in a “bucket list” city like Venice!
So once I get those gut feelings from the book, script ideas organically take shape. Every so often, really specific shots or visuals hit me before the script and I write backwards – base the writing on an actual specific storyboard. But I usually plan out a very general storyboard in my mind along with the script before I begin any video editing.
One thing I remember about the Moon Dark script was that at first, I had written Venice into it like its own character. Now, Venice is indeed the kind of city that really is an intriguing character, but you helped me refine that after the first draft and we kept it more visual rather than reflected in the copy – as I said above: show, don’t tell, right? You helped me stick to that rule when we collaborated on the script and I thank you, because it worked!
The music also has an enormous hand in the pacing and dynamics of the video. I would say the music is just as important as the script. I remember I was watching the historical, somewhat-paranormal romance TV show Reign whilst working on Moon Dark, and the way they incorporate modern music into the historical settings keeps everything really fresh. So I think that show inspired my music selection for Moon Dark – I wanted something with a bit of modern rock mixed into the classical music, and it really did give the trailer a unique voice and sensual drive.
The rest is all like a mad scientist in a video editing laboratory: blend this texture and that texture, try this font and that font, overlay, overlay, overlay… It’s alive, alive, aliiiiive! It is pretty common to see about 20+ layers in my project files. It is moving, layered artwork, not just stock and text.
Why are book trailers important in your opinion?
JR: Video in general is the #1 most effective way to get people on social media to notice you. It’s actually beginning to surpass the popularity of photos and pictures or memes. It’s a great way to make people feel the impact of your book in very little time and illicit a gut reaction: I must read this book B it looks amazing.
It can also attract TV and film producers to literally see that your book would make a fantastic series or movie. Writers have been producing short pitch videos for decades, and those little teasers often seal the deal for a producer when it comes down to a close race between two screenplays with the same potential. Typically, the one with the pitch video gets green-lit. Book trailers are a lot like that too B with readers, with TV networks, with film producers B it makes an author and that book stand out above his or her competitors.
Book trailers can also help you promote your book on blogs, in ads and out there in social media above and beyond flat images and words. It is dynamic content and it’s powerful because it elevates the author’s ability to touch a potential reader’s senses and make that reader remember your book above the others on their discovery lists.
Who are some of your clients and what kind of trailers did you do for them?
Tor Books and Sourcebooks are my biggest clients (through COS Productions). Those are mainly young adult fantasy and science fiction book trailers, which I love. I also love paranormal and historical romance, and have done some beautiful trailers for independent authors in those genres.
Some authors create their own trailers. Why should they hire a professional designer?
The same reason one would hire a professional cover artist and a professional editor: we have knowledge and experience in what makes a viewer respond to your trailer in a way that generates interest and boosts sales.
There’s also much to consider from a technical standpoint like viewer habits (tune in/tune out rates), pacing of promotional copy, the correct licensing of music and imagery and how to distribute the video and use it for ads.
Some authors have worked in design and/or marketing and could figure out the basics with a consumer-grade video editor and do a decent enough job on their own. But just like with a cheap looking book cover or template-y looking website, you have to be really careful because first impressions are everything. Book trailers require a variety of professional skills. Let the professionals do their job so you have more time to do yours: write amazing books!
PB: What have you just finished that will be out soon?
JR: I just finished an animated dark fantasy book trailer for Sarah Porter’s Vassa in the Night and some fun and unique personality vignettes for one of her characters in the book named Erg, a magical doll. It should be out the week of September 20th when the book hits stores.
PB: Share with us a few of your Oscar-worthy golden moments –toot your own horn about some of your accomplishments that you’re really proud of.
JR: I’m really proud of an opening animated sequence I did for a cheesy-fun SyFy Network monster movie called Red Clover. You can also hear me singing in the movie’s musical score. Funny enough, my friend and the director of that film, Drew Daywalt, wound up becoming a #1 Bestselling Author of the children’s book, The Day the Crayons Quit about a year later. It’s like we were both meant to work in publishing and wild monsters couldn’t drag us away!
I also did a book trailer for legendary literary editor Ellen Datlow’s book, The Doll Collection which premiered in George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau movie theater.
My book trailer for NYT Bestselling Author Veronica Rossi’s novel Riders was featured on the Entertainment Weekly website.
My book trailer for The Sleeping King received a Pixie Award last year and I’ve also won some Telly and Davey Awards in my career.
I was the official TVGuide.com blogger for Ghost Whisperer, Masters of Horror and The L Word…
Those are some stand-out moments for sure…
PB: How much do you charge for a trailer? Do you offer other services B like book covers or formatting?
JR: I consider myself a Creative Services Director more than anything, because I develop branding campaigns as multi-tiered entities. My favorite thing to do is create full author packages with a website, cover art, social branding, book trailers, display/video ads and merchandise/promo materials (bookmarks, postcards, t-shirts, etc.) all at the same time with a consistent aesthetic from the ground-up. It’s how we did it with the big networks and ad agencies in corporate, so that’s followed me into freelancing.
I did try formatting for a while, but it made me miserable so I stopped.
My rates are all deeply personal, because everybody’s creative and career objectives are so unique. Most companies that have set quotes or pricing are working with templates, so they can pretty easily predict how long it will take and develop a simple, three-tiered pricing structure. I quote 100% on the author’s needs, and no two projects are ever alike. I can tell you this, though: I offer corporate level quality and experience at cottage industry pricing.
PB: Who are a few of your favorite authors? What do you enjoy reading?
JR: I love fantasy and paranormal everything, as well as horror. Steampunk is wonderful. I love historical fiction and all varieties of romance. I also love young adult novels when I need to read something with a little less intensity, but all of the addiction. I try to diversify as much as possible and revisit/rediscover the classics. But mostly, I gravitate towards magic and fantasy. I’ve been that way since grade school.
PB: Bonus: When you’re working on designing a trailer what is your go-to snack?
JR: Ha! Hmm… probably popcorn, it’s like the munching action makes my creativity flow better? Yeah, let’s go with that. I love this stuff out of Wisconsin called Palo Popcorn. It’s so addictive, you just wouldn’t believe it. I only indulge in that when deadlines get particularly intense. But on a daily basis, I cannot live without Earl Grey tea. A little bit of milk and Stevia and I’m a happy caffeinated creatrix!
Patricia Barletta writes historical romance with paranormal elements. Her first release with Lachesis Publishing is MOON DARK and it’s the first in a new and exciting series called the AURIANO CURSE SERIES. You can buy it here at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, kobo, Barnes and Noble.
You’re an indie author but do you also still publish with a traditional publisher? Why did you decide to go indie? And how has that worked out for you?
I am a hybrid author—best of both worlds! I’m fortunate in that I’m able to write full time, and because of that, I usually write 4 books a year. That’s quite a load for many publishing houses, so I made the decision to both Indie publish and have a traditional contract. I have to keep to a pretty detailed schedule as a result, but it works out beautifully.
You’re a USA Today bestselling author – which book or books did you hit the list with and what did you do to celebrate or mark the occasion?
I hit the USA Today list with a really fun Christmas anthology last year. My story in that collection is titled PLAY ME (it’s now available as a stand-alone, as the anthology was a limited-time-only publication.) It’s a sexy contemporary about second chances. I was actually under the weather on the day we found out we’d made the list, so I celebrated with a nice, long nap! Not very glamourous, I know. But after I felt better, there was champagne J
You write romance and romantic suspense – what attracted you to both and what is your level of “heat” in your books?
I love the aspects of both subgenres. In my contemporary romances, I’m able to focus on my characters a bit more deeply, and in the suspense, there’s a lot of fast-paced action. I always write with emotion, though, and all of my books are fairly steamy. Romantic suspense allows me to dive into some edgier aspects. My Station Seventeen series (suspense) is a little sexier than my Cross Creek (contemporary) series, but there’s a definite intimacy level in both.
Let’s say I’m new to Kimberly Kincaid – I’ve just discovered you either through facebook or amazon or through a friend. What kind of story am I going to be getting in a Kimberly Kincaid book – and which book of yours do you recommend I read first?
I do have a handy list, broken down by series, on my website. But you’re in luck, because this year I am starting not one but two new series, so you can get in on the ground level of both! The prequel story to my Station Seventeen series is titled DEEP TROUBLE (it’s out now!), with the first full book, SKIN DEEP, coming out today – 9/20. This series revolves around a fire house, and is full of action-packed suspense and sexy characters.
For my Cross Creek series, the first book, CROSSING HEARTS, will be out on February 7, 2017. It’s up for preorder, for those folks who want to be sure not to miss a minute! That series is about three brothers who run their family farm with their father, in the foothills of the Shenandoah. If you like small town charm mixed with big time sizzle, salt-of-the-earth heroes and feisty, fun heroines, you’re in the right place with this one.
Promotion is key to every author. But you can’t always predict how well a promotion is going to work out. Tell us about one thing you do on a regular basis for each new release that has worked for you?
No matter what I do (Facebook parties, book signings, newsletter blasts), I always try to be genuine. I can’t do this job without readers! I want to make sure my interactions with them are engaging and fun.
Tell us about your latest release. And what do you have coming down the road.
I’ve got SKIN DEEP coming out today! September 20, and CROSSING HEARTS on February 7, 2017. There will be more books in each series in 2017, plus a really fun charity anthology in March 2017. I’m thrilled to be so busy!
I read that you make a mean enchilada! – tell us about that and what inspires you in the kitchen.
Oh, we are big cooks in my house! In the kitchen, it’s all about flavor and fun. My husband, kids, and I make it a team event. We do a lot of tasting and laughing as we go, and we try a lot of new things. You never know where your next favorite will come from!
If you were offered a cooking show on the Food Network –what kind of show would it be and why?
I’d want to focus on easy meals that combine comfort food and healthy living. My very favorite foods come directly from the earth. Give me a good BLT, and I am a happy camper!
Authors sit in front of their computers all day. A recipe for potential weight gain and lack of exercise. What do you do to stay healthy and energized?
I have a fitness background, so thankfully I know a lot of ways to stay active and cross-train. I do a lot of yoga, as well as making time for cardio workouts and healthy eating. It’s all part of daily routine for me. I write my workouts on my daily To Do list to remind myself that they are as much of a priority as paying bills or going to the grocery store. It’s all about balancing the chair with movement
Tell us about a great author or book that you just discovered that you absolutely love!
CM: I met the lovely romance author Kate Moore at the RWA National Conference in San Diego and I asked her to participate in a brief Q & A, which she was happy to do. Kate Moore, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your writing career. It was such a pleasure meeting you and learning a bit about your passions.
CM: What are 5 things that you have done consistently that have contributed to your growing success as an author. (You can include both writing craft and business/promotional things.)
KM: First, I’m always writing. Whether working and raising kids, or working and caring for aging parents, or volunteering and caring for grandbabies, I’ve made daily writing a priority. It helps to be a fan of “Take-out Tuesday” and to teach your kids to do their own laundry. (Of course, they still do it at my house!) You might find Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals inspiring. 2) Second, I connect with fellow writers at RWA Chapter meetings and local and national conferences, in a long-standing brainstorming group, and twice weekly to write and share works in progress with a group of fellow writers from all genres at our local library. 3) I study the craft of writing. Reading craft books and listening to smart writers talk about craft stirs my brain and spurs creative solutions to problems of character and plot. Ideas are never a problem. Turning ideas into compelling stories takes a playful application of craft. 4) I respect, appreciate, and thank those whose names don’t appear on the cover, but who are nonetheless necessary to a book’s existence—editors, copy editors, agents, publicists and publishers, reviewers, and, of course, readers. 5) As the publishing world continues to change, I say “Yes” to opportunities, experiment with new publishing and promotional avenues, and keep learning to use the tools of social media to reach readers.
CM: What are you currently working on?
KM: For the first time in my career, I’m writing two books at once. Yikes! What was I thinking? One book is a post-Regency, London-set, historical romance that combines Jane Austen-like issues of family and social position with spies. Can a girl find a husband while simultaneously figuring out who betrayed her father, a British agent, before his enemies get to her? The historical is the first in a trilogy from Kensington’s Lyrical line with release dates starting in 2018. Meanwhile, I’m writing the last book of a contemporary series for Boroughs Publishing Group set in the beach towns south of Los Angeles. In the “Canyon Club” series three “princes of privilege” from the same exclusive boys school, reconnect ten years later when all their fortunes have been reversed. The Loner, once a penniless outsider, is now a tech billionaire; the trust fund Golden Boy is now broke; and the powerless class nerd, is now a powerful wounded warrior. Each clashes with a woman of wit and warmth who challenges him to grow and become the man he’s meant to be. Both series are Jane Austen-inspired and fueled by unlikely but undeniable attractions.
CM: What is the best thing a reader ever said to you?
KM: “I stayed up all night with a flashlight to finish your book.” J It doesn’t get any better than that!
CM: What social media sites do you use the most and why?
KM: My go-to social media sites arefacebookandtwitter.I like Twitter for sharing and discovering sudden flashes of writing insight. I like Facebook as an avenue to connect with readers and fellow writers. I love the interactions. You never know who will post a cartoon that makes you snort your coffee out your nose, an image that inspires awe, or a video that restores your faith in humanity. Meanwhile, trading comments lets you discover other fans of the things you love most from Jane Austen’s novels to V.G.’s Donuts in Cardiff, CA.
CM: A lot of authors love to write series while others love stand alones. What do you prefer and why?
KM: I got the series bug in 2005 after publishing seven stand-alone novels. All of a sudden I had an idea in the middle of the RWA Conference in Reno. I couldn’t write it down fast enough on the back of a green envelope stuffed in my goody bag. What if a famous London courtesan had three sons by three different noble lovers, each of them shaped by her tempestuous relationships with their fathers? Then, what if the youngest was kidnapped? The “Sons of Sin” series was born. I had great fun writing the series and learned so much. It took all three novels to complete the story of the kidnapped boy. I enjoyed staying in the world of the work, fully developing the family dynamics, and using recurring characters, one of whom I’m still writing about today. Nate Wilde, the young thug from To Tempt a Saint, will soon appear in his fifth novel. Since writing that first series, I haven’t gone back, (except for one novella in an anthology of connected stories about a magic Irish ring, Ring of Truth).
CM: Please finish the sentence: I’m a Romance writer because…
KM: . . . because of Jane Austen, and because I believe love is the unfinished business of our lives. Romance is an antidote to cynicism and discouragement. One person’s love can bring us in out of the cold to a circle of warmth, love, and laughter among family and friends, as it does for Darcy, Wentworth, and Edward in Austen’s novels, and Scrooge in Dickens’ most famous story. I try to capture that story of being transformed by love in every book I write.
CM: Once again, I want to thank Kate for sharing some insight to her writing style and career.
LP: You have a very sweet story about how you published your first book – tell us about it – it has to do with wanting to upload a book to your mom’s kindle.
ST: It’s a very long story! In a nut shell, I wanted to give my mother a kindle for her birthday. I thought it would be fun if when she turned it on for the first time, something I had written was on it. Keep in mind, I’ve been writing since childhood. I had only recently discovered Scottish Historical Fiction/Romance. I had fallen in love with Lauren Wittig and could not get the images of Scotland and men in kilts out of my mind. So I started writing Laiden’s Daughter. I was up at 3:30 every morning to write. (My husband thought I was playing Farmville.) I didn’t have an editor or a cover artist, in reality, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was writing it for my mom. I thought I could buy the kindle, get a ‘cord’ to go between the computer and the Kindle, and just give it to her. My husband discovered the book (we only had one computer at the time.) I had to come clean and tell him what I was doing. He came back to me a few days later and said there isn’t a cord, but there is this thing called Kindle Direct Publishing. You have to publish the book then buy it and then it will be on her Kindle. (It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that wasn’t the truth.) So I finished writing it, put together a really bad cover, and published it on December 9, 2011. My secret wish was that someone other than a family member would see it and buy a copy. I had really big goals of selling ten copies. In my life-time. If I could sell ten copies, I would be happy. By the second or third week of February, 2012, (two months after releasing it) it was #3 on Amazon’s top 100 best sellers list! I was selling 450 copies a day. And I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing. The rest, as they say, is history!
LP: You are a self-published author – tell us how that journey has been. Would you ever publish with a publishing house?
ST: At times it feels like a baptism by fire. But it has been the best thing I’ve ever done. It was probably a good thing I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning, lol. And no, I wouldn’t take a traditional publishing deal. I am a hybrid author now, in that I do have a publisher/distributor of my paperback books, but I’m still 100% in charge of everything from covers to editing to marketing.
LP: Generally, what are the expenses and time involved in publishing your own book? How long does it take you to get a book out?
ST: It depends on the book! It took me three weeks to write McKenna’s Honor, but it took an entire year to write Frederick’s Queen. Each book can cost any where between $1500 to $3,000 to publish a book for ebook and paperback. Another $2500-$4,000 for audio books. I have an editor, final proofer, cover artist, and other expenses.
LP: Tell us about an indie author YOU like and why?
ST: Oh, I can’t pick just one! If you mean writing style, then the list is endless. But I have two dear, sweet friends, Kathryn Le Veque and Tanya Anne Crosby, who I talk to on a daily basis. Tanya has a great sense of the business as a whole and Kathryn is great at helping me come up with tag lines for my books. In addition to being awesome authors, they’re beautiful women and I adore both of them.
LP: You’ve had a lot happen in your family this year – can you share with us – how you find time to balance life and writing through life’s ups and downs?
ST: Yes, it has been a very hectic and at times, terrifying, year. Our granddaughter was born more than 3 months early. She was a ‘micropreemie’ weighing in at a whopping 1 pound 11 1/2 ounces. She was born in early April. She is home now and doing amazing! One of the best things about being a full time indie author is that I can either set everything aside and focus on my family without having to worry about losing my job. I put everything on hold when she was born. Once she was doing well and that initial shock wore off, I would go to the NICU every day because my daughter also had a 5 year old at home to take care of. I would go to the NICU, take my laptop, and write. I dedicated Ian’s Rose, my latest book, to my granddaughter. I wrote thousands of words in that NICU, while watching her sleep in that huge incubator. I’m so blessed in that I can focus solely on what I need to and not have to worry about anything else. Now that Malea is home, thriving and growing, I’m back to writing full time. This is a seven day a week job. I rarely take a day off. I’m more apt to only take a few hours off here and there. I make time every day for my husband, I always take my children’s phone calls, and at least once a month we have a big family dinner here now. It’s not easy, but I love doing what I do.
LP: What is your favourite Suzan Tisdale book and why?
ST: Frederick’s Queen. It took a year to write because of the subject matter. I modeled Frederick and Aggie after my uncle and aunt. Just their mannerisms and characteristics. NOTHING that happened to the fictional Aggie ever happened to my aunt! She was raised in a very loving home!
LP: You are a USA Today bestselling author – tell us how that came about and what book (or books) hit for you? How high did you hit and how did you feel?
ST: With Dreams Only Of You, the anthology I did with Kathryn Le Veque, Eva Devon, Cynthia Wright, Christi Caldwell and Eliza Knight, was my first time making the USA Today Bestsellers list! I honestly can’t remember how high we made it. It was an amazing feeling! I cried, I laughed, I squealed, and took my husband and friends out that night to celebrate!
LP: It’s very competitive out there with traditionally published authors and indie authors and authors who do both! How do YOU stand out? Aside from writing a great book.
ST: I’m a nut, so I’ve got that going for me! I think what my readers like is knowing they can reach out to me on social media and I’ll respond to them. I talk with my readers. I love doing live video sessions on Facebook and talking with them. My readers know that I adore them. My stories are always filled with mystery, intrigue, romance and bad guys that I kill off in delicious and delightful ways!
LP: What do you have coming up next?
ST: I just released Ian’s Rose on August 26. My next book in that series (The Mackintoshes and McLarens) should be out before Christmas. It is titled The Bowie Bride. Next year will be a big year for me as I plan to release a few more historical romance novels as well as one contemporary.
LP: Where is the place you would LOVE to visit purely for research purposes!
ST: SCOTLAND! Ireland, Wales, and England. But Scotland first. My husband thinks we only need a week to visit. Ha! I’ll need a week just to get through the Edinburgh Library!
After the man of her dreams, Scotsman Aidan Sinclair, walks into her bread shop, The Hole in the Wall Bakery, in Providence, Rhode Island, Melina Cameron’s life takes a sharp left turn. But then Melina’s entire life veers off course when she finds her temperamental landlady in her best friend’s psychic shop next door, lying in a pool of blood, with a crust of bread sticking out of her mouth!
Which means she and her friend BettyJo are suspects in the murder. Unless, Melina takes matters into her own hands and finds the killer herself. But finding a killer is a heck of a lot tougher than baking bread!
Catrina Burgess (aka Cat Brown) is an author and blogger based in Arizona. When she’s not writing, she loves to bake and spend time with her husband and three rescue dogs Coco, Trouble, and Ashy and their cat Shitty Kitty.
When did you launch Romance Junkies and what made you decide it was time to step back from running it?
I started Romance Junkies back in 2002. At that time I was a freelance web designer and aspiring romance writer. I’ve always been a big reader and in between working a day job and writing I was doing a lot of reading. I thought it would be fun to start doing book reviews with some of my friends. And since I was a web designer I decided to whip up a little website where we could post the reviews. I thought the site was going to be a small weekend project, but the first week we were open, I got a very nasty email from one of the big romance review sites. The letter had a very threatening tone and was telling us we couldn’t feature certain authors that were apparently “their authors.” I remember reading the email to my husband and afterward saying in an astonished tone, “Who knew there was a romance mafia.” I’m pretty laid back, but I don’t like bullies. I decided that day to spend all my free time working on the Romance Junkies. My goal was to try to make it as big as possible, for no other reason than to annoy the “Romance Mafia.”
After 13 years of running the site, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted to spend more time working on my writing, and I wanted to try some new projects. Some new challenges.
Are you still involved in the Romance Junkies site?
Marie Harte, who writes contemporary romance for Sourcebooks publishing, is the current owner/operator. She is a good friend, and I know she is going to do a fabulous job with the site. I have stepped down from all Romance Junkies management, site decisions, and actual work, but I’ve stayed on with the site as a reviewer. I plan to do a few reviews here and there.
When you founded Romance Junkies back in 2002 what was the online world like for romance authors/novels and how has it changed since then in your opinion?
Big review sites and big blogs filled Romanceland. I remember I would hit my favorite sites and blogs each week to get news and gossip about what was going on. Over the years, social media has expanded with things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now I get a lot of my Romanceland news via Twitter and Facebook. Rather than blogs run by a big group of people you see a lot more small, individually run blogs. A lot of young book reviewers are doing their reviews on YouTube.
You’re also an author – when did you start writing and why?
I started writing back in 2001. When I turned 36 years old, my husband lovingly told me, “You need to start working on that writing dream you’ve had since you were a kid, because let’s face it time is running out.” I told him I had no idea how to write a book, and he gave me one of his no-nonsense stares and told me, “Stop whining and go figure it out.” Now in his defense, he does tend to be very straightforward in the things he says. He will tell you the honest truth, whether or not you want to hear it. He is also the most supportive husband—he is one of my main critique partners and has really helped me over the years become a better writer.
I started working on that first book in 2001. It took me eight months to write that first book and five months to edit it. While writing that book, I realized how much I loved the whole writing process. Yes, it’s crazy hard, impossible some days, but so much fun. There’s nothing better than battling through and writing a book and getting to those sweet words—THE END. Nothing cooler than seeing the characters you have in your head become walking and talking entities.
What genre do you write in and why?
I started out writing romance. I have four stories that were published with one of the big epublishing houses. I’m not going to name them since my career with them ended when the house blew up with a bunch of crazy drama. Around that that time I got very sick. So sick I had to give up my day job—I was teaching computer classes and doing freelance web design. My husband, who had always helped me run Romance Junkies, took over the bulk of the work on the site. He also had to take on an extra job since I was no longer able to work. The poor boy had a sick wife at home, was working two day jobs, and was putting up features on Romance Junkies during the wee hours. I told you he’s a very supportive husband. Every year I got a little better and after two years I was able to get back to working on Romance Junkies. Though sadly I was still too sick to go back to working a regular day job.
When I was really sick, every six months I would try to write. The first two years the fatigue was so overwhelming I just couldn’t write. I didn’t have the mental clarity to get words down on paper. And then after year three of being sick I saw that author Candace Haven was offering a fast draft class. I decided to give it a try, even though I knew there was a very good chance I wouldn’t be well enough to participate. To my surprise suddenly I could get the words out. The tips I learned about fast drafting in that class really changed the way I wrote. Instead of editing as I worked, I started just banging out a fast, rough first draft. It was so freeing to allow myself to be creative and to turn off the editor in my head. Of course with no editor on duty, that meant my rough drafts were incredibly rough, and it would take me as much time to polish and edit a manuscript as it did to write it.
Before I was sick, I wrote romance, but now the stories coming out of me were much darker. Even more surprising—they were YA. Working on that first young adult book Awakening was a life saver. When your life is full of fatigue, your world becomes very small. You mourn the high energy person you used to be. You have so many limitations on the things you can do you get depressed. I took all that depression, all those dark thoughts and I poured them into my story. I spent the next two years writing the four books in the Dark Ritual series under the pen name Catrina Burgess. Those characters in the book, the Scooby gang as I call them, kept me entertained and I truly believed helped me get better. I’m still sick, and I still have a lot of limitations on the things I can do, but on a good day I can think clearly. I’m mentally 70% there, which is a huge improvement. More importantly, I’m well enough to write. I never realized how much I loved writing until I couldn’t do it anymore.
You’re published by Full Fathom Five – the publishing company launched by James Frey – who shot to fame years ago with his bestseller A Million Little Pieces – how did that come about and how is it going so far?
I’m with the infamous James Frey publishing through the Full Fathom Five Digital house. I wrote the first three books in my Dark Ritual series and posted them on Wattpad. Wattpad is a teen writing community. I honestly didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading my YA books. I was writing them to entertain myself and my teenage nieces. I was shocked when the series started to get a lot of traction on Wattpad. Before I knew it, the first three books had over 3 million reads. I was getting fan email from teens from all over the world. I decided to enter Awakening, the first book in the series into a Wattpad writing contest. To my amazement, out of 3,000 entries, Awakening was picked as one of ten winners of the Wattpad 2014 Prize. Awakening was named best suspense book. After winning the contest, I was contacted by Full Fathom Five.
I spent a good deal of time researching the new house and their management. It’s always a risk to go with a new house, but I decided to take the risk. It took six months to negotiate a contract we could both live with. Once I was on board with the house, I got to know the staff as I worked with them. And I really enjoyed working with them.
The toughest part of the whole process was the eight months of publisher edits. Since I signed in January and the first three books all came out the month of October, I was under very tough deadlines. But somehow I survived them, though I don’t remember much about last summer, it seemed to have whizzed by in a blur of edits.
I love how the series turned out. I adore the covers. And I would have happily continued working with FFF, but unfortunately the digital house this year decided to downsize. They are not taking on any new submissions. I plan to write a half-dozen books set in the same world as the Dark Rituals series, but now I’m free to do whatever I want with those books. It’s a bit scary having an orphaned series. It’s very unlikely another house will pick up the rest of the series. At the moment the plan is to self-publish the rest of the books. Nowadays when you self-publish you have to consider covers and edits. Those expenses come out of your own pocket. You cross your fingers and hope that the book sells enough to repay the money you paid out of pocket. There is no guarantee it will. There is a risk, but there is also quite a bit of freedom having full control over your book. It allows you to take more risks with the story and the characters.
Given your background at Romance Junkies – what do you think are some key things that every author should do to promote their books?
If you asked me this question three years ago, I would have had a pat answer for you. There seemed to be a roadmap that authors could follow to find success and sales. But in the last three years the publishing industry has been in a free fall. Suddenly authors who had been making a great living writing are having a hard time surviving.
I’ve given a lot of thought to why there has been such a drastic change in Romanceland in the last three years. Is it because Amazon changed its algorithms? The fact that so many indie authors are now publishing romance? Has the avalanche of free books turned readers off from buying books? Could it be that the middle class is shrinking, and people seem to be working more which leaves them less time to read and less money to spend on books? I think it’s a combination of all of the above.
So what can an Author do that will ensure she/he sells a zillion books? If I could answer that question, I would be the most popular person in Romanceland. I think it’s still important to try and get your name out. It helps to be active on social media. Book blog tours, Facebook ads, reviews—I think these things still help with book sales. But when it comes to the big sales I think it’s lightening striking—the combination of timing and luck. If you are lucky enough to have a project that hits big with Amazon rankings and somehow gets found by the readers and those readers spread the word about the book to all their friends–you get this grass roots buzz happening. The rankings and readers interest gets the blogs all talking about the book, and the big sales seem to follow. I don’t know that anyone has found a guaranteed way to make all of those things happen. If they did, I’m sure the whole of Romanceland would be talking about it.
Personally, I’m going to try a few non-writing projects see if I can raise my Author visibility. In the fall I’m going to start doing YouTube videos about paranormal topics. Hopefully, I can make the videos informative yet zany enough to entertain my teen readers.
Let’s say your book has been out there for six months, and the shine is off the apple – what are some key things that an author should do to keep their name out there?
Another good question. The answer seems to be write more books. It’s a tough time in publishing—authors are expected to write multiple books a year and, at the same time, do a ton of social media and marketing. You see many authors struggling to find time to write with all the marketing they are doing. Some authors seem to be able to juggle the two seamlessly. I’ve seen authors who are somehow on Twitter all day long interacting with their readers and yet they still find time to write. I wonder when they sleep.
What do you love reading and who are three of your favorite authors?
You have chronic fatigue syndrome – how does it affect your writing and daily routine? What are some things you do to help keep yourself balanced?
Chronic fatigue is a dreadful thing to have. Most people don’t realize how debilitating fatigue can be. There are days when I feel like I have a house sitting on my shoulders and getting up and putting a load of dishes in the dishwasher seems like an impossible task. I’ve always been a type A personality, but no amount of mental strength or willpower can fight through that much fatigue.
I found what works for me, is if I set a weekly page count. I try to write every day, but that’s not always possible. I find with the weekly page count it helps me push myself to get pages done on those days when I feel well enough to write. But there are many days during the week when I’m too sick even to sit at the laptop. Especially if I overdo it.
Bonus: What are you really good at and why? (can be something silly) J
I can crochet afghans. It disturbs and amuses my friends that I can crochet. I’m someone who lives in graphic t-shirts, jeans, and vans, and I guess crocheting is something that people always think of grandmothers as doing. I’m good at it thanks to my very own grandmother who taught me how to crochet.
Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marie Harte has over 100 books published with more constantly on the way. She’s a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit http://marieharte.com and fall in love.)
LP: Most authors stick to one or two sub-genres in romance but you write in a variety – tell us what you write and why?
MH: I’m an avid reader of romance, and I like multiple genres to read. When I started writing, I wanted to write everything I liked. So confining myself to one genre would have been too limiting. It might not have helped me carve a niche, but it’s allowed me the freedom of enjoying my work, because I don’t get bored.
LP: You’re a New York Times bestselling author. When did you hit the bestseller list? What was the number you hit and with what book?
MH: Funny story. Back before book bundles had gotten so popular, I was in a bundle (A Taste of Decadence) in 2013 that hit the USA Today list. I was in Safeway (grocery store) with my kids at the time, and they got candy to celebrate. A year later I was in that same Safeway in a new bundle, Mastered, and my phone was going nuts. Turned out we’d hit the NY Times list! This was July 31st, 2014. Mastered was #14 on the NYT eBook List, #19 on the NYT eBook and Print Combined List, and #95 on the USA Today Bestseller List. Needless to say, my kids got their fill of sugar a second time.
LP: You’re both traditionally published and you self-publish as well – tell us about that and why?
MH: My first book released in 2004 through a small press publisher. So I began my career traditionally published. Back then, doing it yourself meant vanity publishing, and I refuse to pay to be published. I always kept striving to break into the big 6. But in the meantime, I wrote like crazy with multiple books coming out each year with my smaller houses that were doing really well. Then I delved into self-publishing, once platforms like Amazon, B&N, and iBooks were available.
I think the hybrid (trad and self) publishing model is the way to go. I get much more distribution and visibility through my traditional houses and more freedom and control through self-publishing. But it’s also a lot more work in self-publishing. For sure.
LP: Tell us about three AWESOME books you’ve read by authors who are not yet bestsellers but who should be.
MH: Hmm. That’s a tough one. One author that comes to mind is Katie Ruggle. I’m a super huge fan of her romantic suspense series, Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue. The writing is tight and the plotting is fantastic.
Another favorite who comes to mind is Morgan Hawke. She hasn’t been too visible lately, but I reread her Interstellar Service & Discipline series a lot. It’s just so different from what’s out there, and it was written years ago. It’s a funky scifi, erotic, cyberpunk series, and it’s amazing. I so wish she’d write more!
LP: You took over the helm at the Romance Junkies site – tell us how that came about and why you wanted to pick up the torch so to speak.
MH: I’ve been friends with Cat, the previous owner of RJ, for years. She’d been talking about winding down, busy with family and her own writing, and I begged her not to scrap the site. When I started writing, RJ was a huge presence in the romance community. Times have changed, but I remember how much RJ had helped me with writing and with finding new reads. So I told her I’d buy it. I wasn’t sure about running a review site. It’s A TON of work, but I love books and it’s fun. So for now, I’m holding onto to it with both hands!
MH: We are author-friendly, and our prices are low in comparison to other sites ($25 for a monthly cover spot, for example). We do anywhere from 65+ reviews a month, and we have access to everyone out there. The site has been around for 13 years. We’re growing our Facebook presence, but we have over 4000 twitter followers. We were getting 250,000 hits a month before we rebuilt our site, so we need a little time to rebuild those numbers as our SEO adapts to the new links. We do draw in readers with daily giveaways and FB posts and tweets.
Writer’s Digesthas named us one of the top 101 best websites for writers several years running, to include 2016. We have a yearly writing contest, tips and resources for authors, and great rates for advertising, merging readers with authors. (See our For Authors link.)
LP: One of the things I’ve noticed is that some authors will devote most of their focus to a new release for a few weeks and then move on. What do you think are some key things that an author should do on a consistent basis in order to sell books consistently?
MH: Great question. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It depends on budget and how many books an author releases, certainly. But anymore, it’s not enough to just write a good book. You need to market your work. Sure, punch up that new release. But once the dust has settled, try new promotional efforts. A sale, a new release in the same series to bring back attention to book one. Graphics with catchy text on Facebook or Twitter. It’s a constant process to keep one’s name out there, but readers have to know about you in order to read your books.
LP: Some authors are against offering free books while others say it helps boost sales. How do you feel about freebies?
MH: I think freebies both help and hurt. The first free book in a series? A great marketing tool to get folks interested in the series. A single title always free, when an author only has one or two books out? Not so great. By giving away their stories and making everything free, I fear authors have devalued their work. Now readers want cheap and free all the time, and it sets the idea that a writer’s time isn’t worth the money. Heck, normally, the cost of a book is equal to a cup of coffee. But readers are used to free and .99, so much that those prices don’t seem to phase anyone anymore. I don’t know. Publishing has gotten pretty scary lately.
LP: Tell us about your latest release and what you have coming down the road.
MH: My latest release came out June 7th. Test Drive is the first in the Body Shop Bad Boys series, about a group of rough mechanics working in a garage who like to get dirty on and off the job. *grin* Book two, Roadside Assistance, releases Sept 6th. Just next month! And in November, my third series for Sourcebooks releases. A Sure Thingis book one of The Donnigans–With the eldest Donnigan brothers adjusting to civilian life, their younger sister constantly in trouble, and their little brother clueless about life in general, falling in love is the last thing on anyone’s mind…
LP: Bonus: If you could possess a supernatural power/ability what would it be and why?
MH: The ability to stop time. I never seem to have enough of it!