Since joining the self-publishing community, I’ve come across a great group of people whose support and help rival that of the Mormons (I know this because I lived in Utah for two years). Small press and indie authors alike have been large contributors to what small success I’ve had so far, and I couldn’t be more grateful. One great resource is Ashley Barron, author of the Love + Family Series, a short story collection, and the upcoming Priya novel, Ava. She graciously agreed to do an interview for my blog:
Q: You have a large presence as a blogger and on twitter. A lot of your posts involve interviewing other authors. What has this done for you? Why did you choose this route?
Thanks for having me here today, Terra!
When I first set out on this journey, I didn’t know anything about the role of social media in self/indie publishing. I started my blog in June 2011, got a few posts out there, and soon realized no one but family and friends were reading it. In July 2011, I followed the advice of a smart man I like to call ‘The Godfather,’ and joined Twitter.
What a difference! Twitter opened a whole a new world for me, and for my writing.
All those links to people, information, and ideas inspired me to get serious about this process of self-publishing. I was open to learning, and I knew I had a long way to go, so I reached out to a few authors and asked if I could interview them for my blog. I’m an outgoing person, the type who likes to know everyone in the room, but even a more reserved personality would find many opportunities to form friendships on Twitter.
So don’t be shy! Put a little effort into it, take a few risks, and enjoy the rewards.
My first interviews were with Michael Hicks, Jon Merz, Chicki Brown, Richard Jay Parker, and Melissa Foster. I knew that each of them had sold a lot of books, but I didn’t yet have the context to understand the stunning significance of that achievement. Richard is the only one of the five who is traditionally published, but he works his social media with all the vigor and focus of an indie.
Forming these relationships early in my development was very helpful. As the interviewer, I was able to ask them questions that were of interest to me, personally. All five of those authors were supportive, prompt, and receptive. For a newbie writer, there is no greater encouragement than that of an author who is, in every respect, miles ahead, and who takes the time to stretch out a hand to help others move forward.
It’s team building at its finest.
As I say on my blog’s “About Me” description, I’m not on this journey alone. Nor would I ever want to be. I’ve learned from others, and now I’m passing on my own learning to help shine a light on the joys and challenges of the business end of self-publishing.
Q: The interview by author Stacy Eaton on your main character was an interesting twist, and a great way to introduce your novel. Talk about generating interest! Tell us more about your novel and the Priyas.
Thanks! I adore Stacy Eaton! She is so motivated, so outgoing, you can’t help but catch the fever. She kindly offered to host an interview with me on her blog, and she gave me the option of responding as me, Ashley, or as my main character, Ava. I think I shocked us both when I chose Ava’s voice.
It was a fantastic exercise in getting to know more about a character I thought I already knew inside and out. Some of the answers “Ava” gave surprised me. I highly recommend doing one or two character interviews. I’m looking forward to future character interviews with the other Priyas.
The Priyas are the main characters in my romantic thriller series about a group of women who’ve grown up together in Washington, D.C. The first book is Ava, and there is a funny scene in it, a flashback, where readers get to learn how the Priyas named their secret society. Come to think of it, I might pull that chapter out and post it on my blog.
Bonner, the second novel in the series, has a planned release date of December 2012. I say “planned” because I had originally thought I would be releasing Ava in September 2011. When that didn’t happen, I rescheduled it for February 2012. Guess what? That didn’t happen, either.
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel as though all of the pieces were as evolved, as strong as they needed to be to support a book launch.
Remember, becoming a self-published author may begin with writing the book, but I would estimate that a completed novel accounts for only about twenty percent of the checklist. Your blog, your social media, your promotional materials (interviews, guest posts, free short stories, etc.) make up the remaining eighty percent.
If you skip any of the steps, you’ll have to go back and fix them at some point. Build them into your plan sooner rather than later. Yes, there are exceptions, always, and if you are one of them, a straight-to-number-one-make-it-into-a-movie self/indie published author, I sure hope you’ll do an interview on my blog.
Seriously though, for an author, marketing is all about building a readership. There are tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people out there, readers, who want to know about your book. Get out there. Find them. Give them materials—links to your social media, samples of your work—both for themselves and to pass on to people they know who might be interested in your writing style, your genres, your plots.
Along those lines, always remember to reciprocate when a fellow writer or author gives you an opportunity. Always.
Q: Your novels are set in Washington, D.C. (as are you, I gather). Tell me about your experiences with the area and why you love and/or hate it!
There is a line in one of those old Judy Garland musicals, Meet Me in St. Louis, where a character asks the rhetorical question, ‘Wasn’t I lucky to be born in my favorite city?”
That’s precisely how I feel.
DC is an exceptional town. Everything is here, just on a smaller scale than in the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, etc. Growing up, my brothers and I were constantly packed into the car and taken on day trips to museums, historical sites, plays, farms, restaurants, gardens, anything within driving distance that my parents felt would add value to our minds, hearts, and worldview.
The neighborhood in which I grew up is uniquely multi-cultural. We have Embassies, the World Bank, and the IMF here in DC, and spending so much time in the homes of neighbors from places like India, Greece, Iran, England, Argentina, and Germany was a glorious way to learn that we are all as alike as we are different.
The story of the Priyas could only be told here in Washington. Whatever you think you already know about this town, and its layers, the real twists and turns extend far beyond any one person’s ability to uncover. That makes it a ripe setting for fiction.
The idea of buried secrets is an underlying theme in the Priya series, with arcs that travel through several books at a time. The main theme, of course, is love. I write about love, first, last, and always.
Q: Coke or Pepsi?
Tea! Hot tea, cold tea. Ice, no ice. Black, green, chai. Milk, no milk. Sugar, more sugar. My only requirement is that the cup or mug must be large. Very large.
Q: How long did it take you to build your current number of followers? What techniques have you found to work the best?
I’ve been blogging for ten months and tweeting for nine months. I have invested real time in building up my Twitter community. I believe the authors, writer, and readers on Twitter are among the most engaged book lovers I’ve ever encountered.
At the very beginning, during my first week in this online world, I created a marketing plan. It wasn’t perfect; I look back at it now and realize how far I’ve come. But it was a starting point, a place to focus, to gather ideas and track results.
I cannot stress this enough: you need a marketing plan.
You need to know where you are now and where you want to be next month, in six months, a year. You need to update your marketing plan at least every few weeks. Why? Learning happens that much faster when you immerse yourself into a new culture, a new community. You will likely make changes to your marketing plan, some small, some large. If you stick to your plan, you will achieve some or all of your goals—as long as the goals are set in realistic increments, naturally.
One of my goals is to reach 10,000 Twitter follows and followers by the time I launch Ava, the first novel in my Priya series. It is working out that way, I’m happy to report.
One thing to note: I don’t generally follow people who don’t follow back. I don’t use auto-follow, either, as I’m interested in the exchange of ideas, not a one-way subscription to your tweets or mine.
When you walk into to the “room” on Twitter, give a shout out to a few people, whether you know them or not, and get the ball rolling. Ask a few questions, offer a few answers. Retweet. Original tweet. Share a favorite quote, a corny joke, a cool picture.
Ultimately, you are the one responsible for your own experience. You make your own success. Your attitude, your preparation, and your willingness to open new doors, and take new risks, will determine the level of your achievements.
It’s simple, really, and so unbelievably hard.
Q: If you can, share with us some of the best hints/tips you have learned from interviewing authors.
There are so many talented, giving, motivated, supportive members of our community. If one of the self/indie published authors you admire is a step in front of you, or fifty steps in front of you, read their interviews. Pay attention to their blog posts, their quotes. Ask to interview them for your blog, so you can get to the heart of the areas that you find most interesting, most helpful.
Here is great advice from some of the self/indie published authors I’ve had the honor of interviewing for my blog:
“I learned a lot by publishing my novella first (formatting, marketing, etc.) that would have been hard lessons learned in a full length novel.”
When writers decide to publish, the game changes. That pure time spent writing the first book will never happen again, when your creative juices gush and there is no expectation beyond writing the next sentence. Once you decide to let others read what you wrote, you graduate to authorhood. The time you spend shifts to marketing and promotions. I think this reality is a shock for new writers, and it’s true whether you’re independent or traditional.”
“Start working on your marketing NOW, regardless of where you are with the book. If you are not finished with the book yet, even better. You can’t get a large enough head-start on the marketing but you will always be behind, so work on it now.”
“Your cover is just as important as what is written on your pages. The cover will have a great influence on a lot of buyer’s choice, it tells who you are. Edit, Edit, Edit, and then edit until its’ perfect. Nothing will turn away a reader faster than a boat load of mistakes.”
“‘If you build it, they will come.’ This is not meant as glibness so much as a testament to tenacity and the belief that, yes, doing what I love is its own reward, and the incredibly gratifying reviews and responses to my collection continue to hearten me.”
“As much as you think you can find your own typos, you can’t. After initially publishing, I probably uploaded corrections over a dozen times when my readers pointed them out to me. It was a very humbling experience and one I hope not to repeat.”
Q: For us readers, what can we expect from you next?
Ava debuts in a few weeks! It’s a moment I’ve been working toward for years. Literally. The day my first novel debuts will be a serious marker in my life, and a small celebration is planned. I might insist on reading a few pages aloud, with limited staging and full drama, just to annoy my brothers. That’s a temptation I’ve never been able to resist. Though, admittedly, it’s been duly reciprocated.
A standalone novel is in development for 2013. One morning I sat down at my computer to work on the Priya series, and, before I knew it, was writing a whole new book. For me, becoming witness, storyteller, to the natural birth of an entirely new set of characters is my rarest and most prized moment as a writer.
A big thanks to Ashley for taking the time to do the interview, and for all the time she puts in interviewing other authors and sharing their wisdom with us! Please be sure to connect with Ashley on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords.
Please be sure to check out her new novel; Ava!