Writing has been a lifelong passion. Prior to writing fiction, I owned a small PR firm in northeast Ohio. Once my four children reached adolescence, I began writing novels that blended family drama, mystery, and plenty of secrets.
My independently published Liberty Series books won numerous awards, which brought me to the attention of Lake Union, the book club division of Amazon Publishing. Lake Union will release THE PASSING STORM on November 1st—a gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to secrets of the past.
You have sold over 100,000 books. That's a great accomplishment. Did your publisher help you with this or did you have to do much of the legwork yourself?
Actually, my latest release THE ROAD SHE LEFT BEHIND has now sold well over 100,000 copies. The book was selected by Working Mother and Parade magazines as a top book club pick. Overall sales across my entire backlist are much higher than the 100,000 mark!
Thanks to my PR background, I entered publishing with the belief that the best marketing is one-on-one. Whether an author publishes independently or with a publisher, it’s critical to connect with readers directly. How to accomplish this is a matter of individual preference. Some authors are quite visual and build a large following on Instagram. Others gravitate to Facebook groups, the newer MeWe platform, Goodreads, Reddit, or concentrate on building a viable mailing list. There is no “one best way” to reach readers of your brand of fiction.
In the “things to avoid” category, I’d advise debut authors to focus on one or two social media platforms—and avoid trying to appear everywhere at once. Your job, first and foremost, is to ensure that each successive novel elevates your storytelling abilities and thrills readers. Lose that magic—by churning out novels that are lackluster and dull—and you’ll quickly lose your fan base.
With the huge amount of books for sale, how did you set about garnering an audience for your novels?
I was fortunate in that I abandoned the traditional publishing track in 2010 and self-published instead. My novel TREASURE ME received great reviews in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and SECOND CHANCE GRILL garnered the attention of a top Goodreads reviewer (who went on to “hand-sell” the book to many of her friends on the site). Back then, it was easier for a hardworking novelist to land before readers. Today, with millions of books available online, getting noticed is more difficult.
How can a debut novelist break through?
Find a quality critique group with at least one or two published members. Ignore the writers determined to knock out a book in one month or two, and work to hone your craft. Once you’re satisfied you’ve produced a compelling work of fiction (and if you choose to self-publish) invest in great cover art. Then join a group like The Alliance of Independent Authors (https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org) for help on the publishing journey. Interacting with other authors will help you devise marketing strategies and encourage you to begin work on the next novel.
How long did it take you to reach the 100,000 book milestone?
Gosh, I wish I knew the answer off the top of my head. Best guess, I reached the mark after publishing FOUR WISHES, the fourth book in the Liberty Series. All these years later, that five-book series continues to sell well. It’s the same with the Sweet Lake series I published with Lake Union. Once a writer builds a well-received backlist, those older titles undergo periods when they suddenly pick up sales after a lull. No doubt this can be attributed to new readers discovering the author’s work—usually soon after purchasing the latest book released—and then reading across the backlist.
How hard is it to get a publisher these days, and what set your book apart that caused a publisher to stand up and take notice of your writing potential?
Publishers have become more aware of the need for diversity. This can greatly benefit writers of color or those from unique backgrounds who have been sorely underrepresented until now. For any author wishing to work with a publisher, it’s best to find a qualified literary agent.
Years ago, I was at a writer’s conference here in Oregon. A Hollywood producer was giving a lecture about success in film and publishing. He said it was all about relationships, really caring about the people you interact with and showing them you care. Do you find that to be true when marketing your book?
Absolutely! In my experience, the talented authors who display kindness and generosity invariably enjoy the most success. My best takeaway advice? Continue writing great books. Make an effort to connect with readers at least once a week. Do this on whichever social media platform you prefer. And continue to believe in yourself!