1. At what moment did you feel like “an author”?
I think the moment you go from feeling like a writer to an author is the moment you realize that your book is in reader’s hands all over the world, and your words are being silently read inside people heads, you see them leaving reviews talking about this world you created. When I had written my first book, I would tell people, “I’m a writer.” But after I published my first book, I told people, “I’m an author.”
2. You’ve been traditionally published but found more success in self-publishing. What made self publishing the right fit for you?
I love being the boss! Having the freedom to set and control my marketing strategies, pricing, publishing schedule, cover design, and everything else appeals to me greatly. Some might say I’m a control freak, but I love having a hand in it all. There’s simply no one as vested in my book’s success as me. It only feels right that I should be at the helm.
3. How did you find your “voice” as a writer?
I listened to that internal voice I fought to ignore. My personality is fun, light, easy going and casual. My writing voice is too. You have to trust yourself and let go a little bit, and give yourself the permission to let it flow.
4. What’s your advice for aspiring authors?
Study craft above all else. I feel fortunate that I began writing in a time when self-publishing wasn’t as much of a viable option. For that reason alone I was able to tune everything else out and really take my time and practice my skill at writing fiction, building worlds, developing character arcs, and piecing together plots.
I wasn’t at all worried about my social media presence, or the number of followers I had, or about what to price my debut novel at. Writers today, bombarded with so many publishing choices are having to make these decisions earlier, and while it’s amazing that we have so many options today, I worry that it takes away from the time you need to really just grow your skills at the craft of writing.
Some people are gifted and amazing, and their debut novel is a shiny, brilliant masterpiece. That was most certainly not the case for me. I wrote seven novels before I published one. I queried agents in New York, I received two small traditional publishing deals that I said no to, because I knew I was destined for something bigger. (And truthfully, I didn’t know advances could be that small).
Two years after saying no to a $500 advance, I signed a deal with a major publisher for well into the six figures. I had no reason to believe in myself, no reason to believe I could ever accomplish something so great with my writing, yet I just did with the sort of blind faith that this business requires.
I’ve always said writing is one of those things you need to work at like it’s your full-time job before you ever have hope it becoming your full-time job. And so I happily threw myself into it, learning and writing and perfecting my craft so that when opportunity knocked, I was there, ready and waiting.
Your Facebook page can be built later, your Twitter followers will come. Take the time you need to write the best book you possibly can. And then (you’ll probably hate me for saying this) set it aside and start again.
5. If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before publishing your first book, what would it be?
If I could do it again, I would tell myself to approach everything as a professional, established author would. My website was DIY, and my first book covers were made by yours truly. I figured no one was going to be looking at those things and boy was I wrong!
6. From self-pubbed to #1 bestselling author… that’s a pretty major accomplishment! What’s your secret?
The secret is … There is no secret! I really believe anyone with ambition can do what I did. I believe in hard work, a little bit of luck and continuous learning. If something’s not working, I have no qualms about scrapping it and starting over. When I began, I was deliberate in studying what the authors at the top of the charts were doing. I noted everything from the covers, to their blurbs, to their pricing. I think it’s important to be continuously learning, and now I’m friends with many of those authors and so I’ll message them and say “why did you decide to price book 1 in your series like that?” Or “who did your social media graphics?”
7. What’s been your favorite piece of coverage to date?
That has to be the morning I woke up to my phone absolutely blowing up with messages and texts from friends and fellow authors congratulating me for having my book featured in Newsweek magazine. I had no idea what they were talking about, and assumed they’d gotten it wrong somehow. But then someone posted a picture of it, and I was floored. I was sure grateful for that editor at Newsweek, and called my parents in near tears. I also have a funny story about the first time I made the New York Times bestseller’s list that I’ll have to tell you another time.
8. Self-publishing is definitely not a solo act. Who are the people who have helped you most along the way?
I’m so glad you asked this question. I have an amazing team of people I couldn’t do this without. I have several talented cover designers and editors I’ve worked with over the years, but would like to particularly call out and thank Pamela Berehulke from Bulletproof Editing, designers Sara Eirew and Hang Le, and my publicity team of Danielle Sanchez from Inkslinger and Crystal Patriarche from BookSparks. I have a private Facebook fan group who are tremendously supportive, and there are also countless author friends who have provided invaluable support and advice over the years. It truly takes a village!