It’s been a while since I did a Seven Pillars of Success entry, but recently I was moved to do one for a writer friend of mine who has shown incredible generosity (as you’ll read below) throughout her recent success as a self-published author. I needed to share her story, and she was so kind as to answer my interview questions in length below. Enjoy!
My journey as an author began as a childhood dream. I would spend hours holed up in my bedroom weaving tales of fantasy and far off kingdoms. As an only child, and a Navy brat, I spent a lot of time on my own. We moved so frequently that by the time I developed solid friendships I moved again. Books and my stories became my friends, my life.
The dream of being an author is completely different than actually becoming one. In the days before self-publishing, this dream was realized by only a select few, but now the door has been flung open for a multitude of new voices.
A year ago I published my first book, FORBIDDEN, and like all unknown authors, the results were poor. Once you run through all of your friends and family you’re left with the realization that no one out there knows who you are, so I began researching marketing tips, reading writer’s blogs and learning as much as I could so I had a chance at success.
I began blogging, created a Facebook author page, joined LinkedIn. I did all of the right things and my sales increased slowly, but certainly nothing to write home about. Then I decided that I needed to spice some things up with my book cover. I found an image that I loved on Shutterstock and voila- new look.
The day it released my sales doubled. And then doubled again. And again. I set a crazy goal for the month and met it within two weeks. That month I made the mortgage payment and I thought I was finally getting somewhere, but I had no clue just how far FORBIDDEN would take me.
FORBIDDEN spent four months in several of Amazon’s top 20 lists, a month of that ranked #2. It hit bestseller lists, Hot New Release lists and leaped onto the scene in the UK. I was floored.
To date, over 40,000 copies of my two books have been downloaded and continues to rise. FORBIDDEN and its sequel RECKONING have hit their peek after five months in the top 100 lists. In a few months the final book, REDEMPTION will be released and I have faith that it will throw all three of these books back into the rankings.
I believe giving goes hand in hand with success. To those who are given much, much is expected and I fully believe this. I haven’t been blessed with these books sales to hoard the money for myself. There are so many people in need in our country and I want to do my part, however small or large, to help.
Autism was an obvious choice for me because of my son, who was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was 18months old. It is a cause near and dear to my family. I remember what it was like to struggle to understand my son when he was unable to communicate with us so the iPad idea was a no-brainer.
Donating 5 iPads to children, through my partnership with the St. Louis based Action for Autism, seemed like an impossible goal. I set it at a time when my book sales were rising but I had no clue how long it would take to raise $2500 but I took a leap of faith and pledged. Through the amazing support of my readers, we raised the full amount in just over 3 weeks. Again, I was floored.
My new goal for Action for Autism is to raise enough money to purchase a smart board for one of the classrooms at the Howard Park School in St. Louis and begin a scholarship fund to help parents with the expense of getting the services they need for their children.
But my desire to help doesn’t end with Autism. I’m going be to partnering with several organizations over the coming months and will be writing short stories with the sole purpose of raising money for specific mission goals. I have no clue how much money I’ll be able to raise, but I’ve learned that when you step out in faith, miracles can happen.
What risks and sacrifices have you taken over the last 6 months? What did you stand to lose?
Putting a book out there for people to love or hate is a very personal decision. The cruel reviews are hard to take, even when they ring with truth. People say that you need thick skin, and boy are they right, but you never know just how thick yours is until you get that first crushing blow.
There were days when a single review would throw me off so badly that I couldn’t write at all. It would shake my confidence to the point of where I would wonder if they were right. Then I realized a very critical lesson- you can’t please everyone, nor should you try.
I know my books aren’t for everyone and I’m ok with that now. If there is a mistake that I can correct then I will but if a bad review is based on the content, I tend to let it roll off. I don’t let reviews determine my self-worth as an author anymore. I look for the constructive criticism so I can grow but ignore the personal slams.
What is one area that you struggled as an author over the last 6 months that you didn’t anticipate and how did you overcome that struggle?
To be honest, I never dreamed that I would have so many amazing readers. One of the best parts of my day is getting to chat with fans about books. I love it but at the same time, it really cuts into my writing time. Success is great but it does come at a very tempting cost. Facebook chat sometimes feels like my nemesis.
You are a prolific writer who seems extremely devoted to your craft. I think a lot of writers struggle to find time to write-how do you do it, and how are you continuing to evolve in terms of time management.
Deadlines have become tricky for me. I’m a huge planner and I’ll admit that I’ve actually got the next three years completely planned out. I know what book should come out when and have mapped out editing time and book cover design. I’m on the ball.
Sometimes life doesn’t agree with my plan, so I’ve learned to keep my deadlines to myself until I know I can meet them. I never want to disappoint anyone and this is the only way I can do that. My family has to come first in my life but sometimes my books tend to push their way in. Just because the clock says 4pm doesn’t mean my characters are ready to close up shop.
Patience is such a key virtue for authors, especially those who seek traditional publication. It seems to me that you decided to stop waiting for someone to select you as an author, and you decided to publish your book and actively seek out fans. What have you learn from that choice?
I’ve learned that authors are going about seeking publication in all the wrong ways. If you want to land an agent or a traditional publisher then you need to do the legwork and give them something worth selling. Hopes and dreams won’t get you far. Hard work will.
Whether you are an indie author or someone seeking representation, the fact remains, if you write a truly great book, people will notice.
I can sense the passion you have for your characters and your fans. You even described your fans as your “extended family.” What’s behind that passion and how do you sustain it?
Contrary to my introvert nature, I love people. I love watching them, figuring out what makes them tick and crying with them when life seems overwhelming. Many of my readers truly have become an extended family because they tell me about their jobs, families and dreams. I don’t just chat books, I chat life.
What is the best advice you’ve had over the last 6 months, particularly something that you saw direct results from after you applied it? How do you continue to apply that advice?
The best advice I was given was not to look at reviews, especially the good ones. That might seem a tad backward but reading how great you are makes you lazy and self-important and reading how terrible you are can stunt creativity. I don’t want either of those to affect me so I avoid Goodreads like the plague.
What’s the next step for you?
I have many, on both personal and professional levels. I have a new book coming out shortly, DEFIANCE RISING, that will begin a new trilogy while I have many people impatiently awaiting REDEMPTION, the final book in my Arotas trilogy. Next year, I have several book signings to attend in the Midwest and East Coast as well as continuing to work toward my mission goals.
I’m also working on a project at the moment with another indie author that I’ve been keeping on the down low. It’s gonna be a killer YA Fantasy trilogy that delves into Irish mythology. With my friend’s love for romance, and my passion for action, this should be a wild ride through the Underworld.
Do you have anything you’d like to convey to burgeoning authors out there that might be news to them?
Connecting with other authors is the best way to learn and grow a fan base. Indie authors love to help each other out so listen to what they have to say and be willing to consider their advice.
Street teams are a fantastic way to get the word out about your books. Gather some loyal fans and let the swag fly.
If you have any questions for Amy, feel free to put them in the comments. You can Like her page on Facebook here.