I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!
There are many roads to success, and today's SAT features an author who chose a non-traditional route - self-publishing. Author Cyndi Tefft's romance, BETWEEN, is a sweet and touching paranormal romance which escapes the abundant cliches in the market.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Definitely a pantser. I like to start with an idea and just run with it. Sometimes that means I get stuck or even burned out and have to come back to it later, but it's the excitement of discovering what comes next that feeds my creative energy. I tried to plot out a novel once. I wrote the synopsis and detailed the plot from start to finish, but by the time I was done, I didn't want to write the book because I felt like I'd already read it!
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
Well, since I've only done it once, I can't say there is a "typical" amount of time. Ha! Between took me six months to write and was over 800 pages when I got to the end of the first draft. I eventually split it into two books and spent about a year editing the first one. So I have a good chunk finished on the sequel already, but I am not sure how long it will take me to get that one to the finished stage.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I prefer to work on one writing project at a time. I am easily distracted, though. The temptation is always there to start something else (the New Shiny Idea!), but if I do, it's that much harder to come back to the first project. Distractions abound: email, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, television, movies, other books I want to read... Just staying focused (especially when the writing gets hard) is half the battle!
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Truthfully, no. When I first decided to write the book, it was mostly because I wanted to see if I could do it. I am notorious for getting excited about a project, getting bored and then moving on to something else. I honestly didn't think I would get all the way to the end. The story itself kept me going, along with encouragement from friends and family.
The fear didn't really begin until I started querying the book and agents began to reject it. I suddenly questioned whether it was any good at all. That worry still sits on my shoulders when I go to write now, which is unfortunate.
Did you go the query/agent route before deciding to self-publish? What made you choose that path?
After finishing my first draft of BETWEEN (which of course, I thought was perfect as soon as I'd typed the last sentence), I made a newbie mistake: I whipped up a query and emailed it to dozens of agents, certain the requests would come pouring in. They didn't.
I had so much yet to learn and I spent the next year reading books (and blogs) about writing, editing, and the publishing industry. I got feedback from others through writing sites and started building my social network. The emotional rollercoaster of the query process was draining, but I loved the story and didn't want to let it die.
Eventually, I was offered a contract by a small press, but I turned it down in favor of self-publishing. I'd been looking into the option for several months—researching how to do it, the pros and cons—and decided that I wanted to go that route. I wanted that direct connection with the readers and since I wasn't going to be published by one of the big houses, I figured I'd have to most of the promotion work myself anyway. The process has certainly been challenging, but it was definitely the best decision for me.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there?
You can spend a lot of time reading books about how to write, how to craft characters, how to build tension, etc. That’s all good and you should do that. Still, the most important thing is to sit down and write the story you want to write. Don’t worry about all that other stuff; you can learn it as you go. Have fun with it.
And when it gets hard (because it will!), remember why you started writing in the first place. It probably wasn’t to earn scads of money or to be on Oprah. It was probably because you had a story in your heart that you wanted to get down. Or maybe it was because you came up with a crazy idea and wanted to see how it would play out. Whatever the reason, let that be the fuel that keeps you going when the words fail you.
Don’t write for validation from others. Write because you enjoy it, because you want to, because you have to. If that’s not true, then rent a movie instead because being an author is not for the faint of heart. Still, if you want it, you can make it happen!
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
To be able to type my name into the search bar at Amazon.com and have BETWEEN pop up for sale is still quite a thrill. To hold the paperback in my hands the first time was sheer bliss. The time and dedication it takes to go from idea to publication is mind-boggling, and to have physical proof that I—yes, I, Cyndi Tefft, She Who Gets Bored Easily—was able to stick it out and make it that far was sweet nectar indeed.
How much input do you have on cover art?
My graphic artist skills are sorely lacking, but I had an idea of what I wanted the cover to look like. I chose the black background and the image of the blue smoke, along with the Celtic lettering in the title. Then I handed that vision over to Woulds & Shoulds Editing and Design, who created pure magic. I am completely in love with the cover and highly recommend their services!
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
Formatting a manuscript is an absolute bear! I had to learn not only the industry standards, but all about mirrored margins, widows & orphans, section and page breaks, text styles, headers & footers, and then how to convert the whole mess from Word to PDF. I had no idea that part of the process was going to be so difficult. I just about threw in the towel at the final stage. Ha!
How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog/site/Twitter?
When do you build your platform? After an agent/publication or should you be working on it before?
No matter where you are in your writing process (haven't started, just finished a draft, ready to go with a polished manuscript), start social networking now if you haven't already done so. Create a blog and get followers. Set up an author page on Facebook. Play and connect with other writers (and readers) on Twitter. Join communities on Goodreads, LinkedIn, AbsoluteWrite, Authonomy and others. Marketing is about getting your book in front of people, so the more eyes you have access to, the more successful you will be when the time comes. Above all, be friendly and supportive!
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Word of mouth has always played a crucial role in marketing products, but it’s even more important to the self-published author. Very few people respond to an author saying, “Hey, buy my book. It’s awesome!” So it’s important for authors to find others to shout it from the rooftops on their behalf.
Book blogs are becoming increasingly important in the changing world of publishing, as many people look to them for suggestions on what to read next. In truth, readers don’t really care who published a book. They just want a good story and they’ll be more willing to give unknown authors a try if a trusted source (like a blogger) recommends them.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog!