Answering your questions about writing, publishing, and marketing books
By Sarka-Jonae Miller
July 13, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) --This week I'm happy to welcome #1 best-selling author, Caroline Fardig, to the Ask An Author column.
Caroline is the author of the Lizzie Hart Mystery series of hilarious cozy mysteries. She recently got a book deal with Penguin Random House for an upcoming mystery novel, Death Before Decaf, and she just self-published her third novel, Bad Medicine. Caroline also happens to be one of my favorite authors.
1. What is the best way to build an audience? - Robyn Wright
Caroline: First and foremost, you have to be ready and willing to promote your work to everyone and in nearly every situation. As an author, you are a representation of your “brand”, and everything you do and say, whether in person or on the Internet, affects the world’s perception of your brand. You have to be approachable and friendly if you want to appeal to a wide audience.
Start with your friends and family. Encourage them to read your work and recommend it to their friends. Start a Facebook author page and a Twitter account and invite people to follow you. Make regular posts, but make sure not all of your posts scream, “Buy my book!” Share personal news, interesting articles about subjects relating to your genre, and feature fellow authors’ works. Always reply to comments and tweets from readers—it’s a great way to connect. It’s also helpful to have an author website where people can go to find all of the information they need about you.
Local events are also a great way to gain visibility. You can hold book signings at libraries or bookstores in your area, set up a table at a craft fair or market, and be available to give presentations to clubs and organizations. Everything little thing you can do to get your name out there helps.
Sarka-Jonae: I agree with everything Caroline said. It's never too early to start building an audience, even before your book is out. Regular blogging at least once a week helps as does putting together a street team.
One strategy my publisher uses is to create Facebook groups for authors' fans. This might start out with family and friends but as you meet people online and in person you can add them to the group, with their permission. Offering sneak peeks and exclusive giveaways is a great way to reward your street team and keep them wanting to help you spread the word. What also works for some people is networking sites for authors and readers, such as Goodreads.com and Book Life.com.
2. How many drafts minimum should you have before your novel is done? – Aaron Deckard
Caroline: I think it depends on your individual writing habits. I tend to write and edit at the same time, so my “first draft” isn’t always terribly rough. Usually after I write a chapter or scene, I go back over it and make changes and improvements. After that first edited draft is finished, I usually go through and edit it again. Once I think my draft is ready for someone else to read, I give it to my proofreaders, and then I use their notes to make another round of edits. Then, to make sure I haven’t inadvertently made any typos while making my changes, I go through my draft again. I guess that brings me to four drafts? At that point, it’s finally ready for my editor to take a look. And then the real revising begins!
At the end of the day, editing is about you feeling confident enough about your work to unleash it on the world. If it takes a dozen drafts, then that’s what it takes. At some point, you have to bite the bullet and publish your work, though. Don’t get so bogged down with the edits that you end up keeping your work to yourself!
Sarka-Jonae: I'd say to write a rough draft and a first draft before showing it to anyone. If you're a new author, consider writing a second draft (that's three so far), and then give it to beta readers for feedback.
Write a new draft based on your initial feedback and then either send it back out for another dose of criticism or get it to your editor. From there, it depends how much your editor wants you to change. You might end up writing one more draft or several.
I also recommend having a proofreader go over the manuscript after you think you're done with addressing everything your editor mentioned. I talked about how to get good feedback a couple of weeks ago. Please see that column for more information.
3. What is an ideal environment for uninterrupted writing? – M. Dianne Berry
Caroline: I think that also depends on the individual. Some people can only work in a neat and tidy office, while others thrive in chaos. Some people need complete silence, while others are energized by the noise in a bustling public place.
Try different environments, venues, and levels of noise. Find what best works for you. For me, I love writing in my office in complete silence. However, there are some rare days when I take off and head to my local Starbucks, which is always packed and loud. While I’m there, I like to people watch and blast music through my headphones while I write. It depends on my mood and the type of scene I’m writing.
Sarka-Jonae: That depends on whether you get easily distracted. For me, silence is distracting, so my ideal writing environment is my home where I can ensure some background noise or Starbucks as long as no one comes over to talk to me. Unfortunately, the more often you go the more often people will come up to you.
SJ's Favorite Freebies: YA science fiction novel, Different by Alycia Linwood (free through July 31), Sarka-Jonae's own Between Heartbreak and Happiness (free through July 16), and metaphysical thriller Shadowline Drift by Alexes Razevich (free through July 13).
– Got questions?
Send them to Sarka-Jonae Miller through Twitter @sarkajonae, Facebook, or via her author website. Alternatively, talk to her in person Saturday, July 18 at 10AM at the Casa de Oro Library in Spring Valley. SJ will also be doing a book signing at Santee Barnes & Noble (Trolley Square) on Sunday July 26 from 1-3PM. Local authors Sherrie Miranda, Linda S. Rice, and Linda Wallace will be signing later that day. Additional events can be found on SJ's events page.
About Sarka-Jonae Miller
SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Her novels include the Between Boyfriends series and the All for You series. SJ also writes health and fitness articles for The Best Years in Life and Natural News.
Check out her Between Boyfriends blog for book reviews, author interviews, TV episode synopses, and giveaways. Follow @sarkajonae and @sjpublicity9 on Twitter for more writing tips, book recommendations, and industry news. Get health and exercise articles from @sjnews9.