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by Sarka-Jonae Miller

December 18, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - New York Times best-selling author and former La Jolla resident Eileen Goudge drops by to answer her favorite reader question and a few of mine. Goudge is the author of more than a dozen books, including Garden of Lies, Trail of Secrets, Thorns of Truth, Such Devoted Sisters, The Replacement Wife, and her latest novel Bones and Roses.

What about book groups as a means of promotion? Tips for finding them? Pros and cons? – Karen Burns

EG: Let me start by saying I’m not a joiner. I went through high school with only two club memberships to show on my college resume, neither of which had required attendance.  But when I became a professional writer I recognized the need for fellowship and community. It’s a lonely profession and the rejections that were a daily blow in the early years were hard. I formed a small writers’ group back then and we met every other week to commiserate over our woes and celebrate the occasional triumph in between critiquing one another’s works-in-progress.

These days the writers’ groups I belong to are online.

One group is a national organization for published authors with hundreds of members:  Novelists, Inc. It’s a wonderful resource for everything from legal and professional services to  advice from experts in criminology (for crime writers). It hosts an annual conference in Florida, which I admittedly have never attended – due to my packed schedule– but which I’ve heard is fun and informative. I always get something out of the monthly newsletter.

Another group I belong to is also for published writers only. Tall Poppies is smaller than Novelists Inc. with fewer than fifty members, which makes it more personal and interactive.  We share book news and links along with opinions, frustrations and triumphs on the Tall Poppies members-only Facebook page and on our Instagram instant-messaging forum.

I’ve met two of the members in person who I now call friends. Does it sell books? I can’t say that it has substantially increased my book sales, but it’s good to have other writers to bounce ideas off of and to promote your works/blog posts/etc. The contacts are very useful. One member was helpful in expediting the rights-reversion process on four of my backlist titles because she worked at the publishing house in question. A process that usually takes months and numerous emails and phone calls was done in 2 emails in 2 weeks’ time!

My  favorite book club that I belong to is the smallest and most organic. A few years ago, I became friendly with a handful of other female authors through Twitter, and we met for dinner when they were in New York City (where I live) for the BEA convention that year. It was a splendid evening and the six of us bonded over wine, laughter and shared horror stories. I suggested a weekend writers’ retreat and the others leapt at the idea.

I spend a month every winter at a beach house owned by my sister and her husband in my former hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. and my author friends joined me for one of the weekends that I was there. This coming January marks the third year of the annual Beach Babes weekend retreat. Each and every one of those ladies I now consider a dear friend. We form a sort of family unit, and we’re in constant contact throughout the year, and we also visit each other whenever possible. Does it sell books? Yes and no. If one member Tweets or posts about another member’s new release or blog post, it doesn’t boost sales in a big way, but every little bit helps.

What’s invaluable is the support system. We rely on one another for advice, shoulders to cry on, book critiquing, you name it. And it’s not always about books. In times of family or professional crisis, or health concerns, or simply if we’ve had a beastly day, we boost each other’s spirits.  If you aren’t already in a group, I urge you to form one of your own. For me this is what social media is all about. It doesn’t sell books per se, but it connects you with other like-minded people, which is the really cool thing about it.    

 SJ: I agree with Eileen that groups are mainly about information and support but being an active member could garner assistance with promotions and invites to author events. You might sell books at a signing organized by a local group or because members helped share your lateset news on social media.

Being in contact with savvy authors could also save time and money due to warnings about shoddy book advertising and other literary services. Sometimes, you'll find more well-known authors willing to give your book an editorial review as well. 

How much of an impact did expert advice and guidance have on the development of your writing career?

When I first started writing, I didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t affiliated with any organizations. I took a night class in marketing for freelance writers, which was extremely useful in getting me started and providing a support system. The biggest boost I ever got was from my teacher, Mary Alice, who took me aside after class one evening and said, “Eileen, I’m saving room on my bookshelf for all the books you’ll publish one day.”

I sailed out of that classroom on wings of hope and happiness. And her prediction proved true (or maybe it was a fulfillment of her faith in me!). Several decades later, I have sixteen published novels to my name, most of which have been published  in foreign editions as well. 

A little faith goes a long way!

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Best piece of advice I ever received is the same one I give nowadays to up and coming writers: Always put the horse before the cart. Meaning that the writing should always be first and foremost in terms of prioritizing your time. Social media has its uses, but it can be a huge time suck.

When I decided to experiment with my most recent novel, Bones and Roses, by self-publishing it, I quickly became lost in the weeds with all the marketing and various tasks that were required. My most important asset—my writing—came second, and I suffered career-wise as a result. Now that I’m back on track, putting the horse (my writing) where it belongs, I’m in better shape professionally and happier, doing what I love. 

What are you working on now?

Bones and Roses is Book #1 of my Cypress Bay mystery series (set in a fictional northern California seaside town). Book #2 of the series is Swimsuit Body, which will be published in the summer of 2016. I just returned from a six-week sojourn in the country where I worked on revisions, and I now have a completed (and hopefully final!) draft.

I’m also working on another novel, set in northern Wisconsin and titled Memory Lake. It’s based on a true crime story involving the disappearance of a young mom who is presumed dead, the victim of foul play. I became intrigued with the story during one of my stays in that part of the country, and the local law enforcement of Burnett County in Wisconsin has been generous in helping me with my research.

How can readers connect with you?

I love connecting with readers! You can find me on my website, and from there just click on any of the social media buttons to connect with me on my various social media platforms. Please do sign up for my mailing list. I don’t send out a ton of newsletters like some other authors, just the occasional one when I have something to say or an announcement to make.

About Sarka-Jonae

Sárka-Jonae Miller is East County Magazine's Ask an Author columnist and the author of five novels, including the award-winning romantic comedy Between Boyfriends that is holiday-priced at 99 cents!  She is also the senior publicist at SJ Publicity. Join her on Facebook and Twitter.

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