Author Interview — Heather Choate

Heather Choate pregnant

A few days ago, I had a great conversation with Heather Choate, a self-published author with over 250K books sold, here’s the advice she had for me:

1)      What made you decide to self-publish?
After completing my first novel, Blackwing Angel, I sent out query letters to over 120 agents.  I had only 3 request to read the manuscript.  All came back with rejections.  120 rejections was a lot to take!  I felt pretty low and doubted myself as an author wondering if I could even do this.  I remember sitting at my computer and thinking, “Is this a good story.”  I still thought it was, despite what the “industry authorities” were telling me.  I knew I loved writing and I wanted to keep going.  I determined I could keep the book on my desktop where no one would ever see it or I could look into publishing it myself and if anyone enjoyed reading it, then all the better.
I spoke to a friend who had independently published his own books and had been successful doing so.  He gave me some great information and I dove right in.  I published my first book in 2012 and have published over 15 books since, hitting the #1 Amazon Bestseller’s list over 27 times!  I had no idea when I made the decision to keep going anyway that I would be where I am now.
2)      How did you find a printer? I publish through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which is Amazon’s affiliated Print On Demand (POD) publishing service.  It is free to set up an account and get your book onto Amazon.  There are no up-front publishing costs.  So, when someone orders your book, you make money.  Amazon takes 70-35% fee (depending on your price point) and the rest is yours after that.

a.      Editor? I have a great editor I knew in college, Josh Levitt.  He has edited the majority of my recent works and has done a fabulous job.  I’m a writer, not an editor and it is a MUST for anyone wanting to publish their own works to hire a good editor.  You want your work to be as professional and polished as possible.

b.      Illustrator? I used Elance.com to hire a great illustrator for my Jonas Flash Chronicles series.  I used Photoshop to do several of my covers myself (not recommend though unless you are proficient at graphic design and formatting- best bet is to hire a professional).

c.      Distributer? KDP does this.

3)      How many books did you have printed?  Again, POD means I didn’t pre-print any books.  I have since sold over 250,000 copies.
4)      How much did it run you? $300-$400 per book for editing, $80- $400 for graphic design.  $100-$300 marketing (this is optional)
5)      How did you cover the initial costs? First, my husband agreed to pay for it, then I rolled over profits from books to cover the other book expenses.  Now, it completely sustains itself.
6)      Did you make a profit? Recoup the costs?  Not initially.  But now, 5 years into it, it covers its own costs and has a small profit.  Most books do not make a lot of money, so you have to have realistic expectations going in.
7)      What would you do differently if you could do it again?  I would have researched more about how to market it and built up my social media following sooner, but really, I’m very happy with how it all went and how I grew.
8)      What was the worst part of the process? Rejections from agents and nasty reviews.  I would get dozens of positive reviews and then get a handful of negative reviews and those were the ones that stuck in my head.  These played with my doubts and fears.  I had to quiet those voices and choose to go forward anyway.
9)      What was the best part?  Having control over the creative process and doing what I loved.  It was great to know that others appreciated what I do and that I was able to help inspire, uplift and entertain people with positive messages.  There is a great need for clean, positive and uplifting literature (especially young adult) and I feel like I’m serving my purpose and on my path when I create stories and books that can fill that need.
Heather has a new book coming out, Fighting For Our Lives, about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer while 10 weeks pregnant. I haven’t read it yet, but here’s the synopsis from the website:

True stories of survival: Mother and unborn child beat cancer through faith and determination

One of the truly remarkable Mormon stories of faith and determination: At age 29, Heather Choate was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was ten weeks pregnant with her sixth child. Her unborn baby became victim to the fast-spreading and highly dangerous cancer in Heather’s body that already spread to her lymph nodes. Doctors told her she needed to abort her baby to save her life. Heather told them, “I’d rather die than take the life of my baby.” Heather and her husband set out to find a way to save both mother and baby. The journey pushed them to the fringes of their stamina, tested the strength of their familial relationships and found them clinging to their faith like it was the last bit of thread on a lifeline.

I’ve been following Heather’s story for years, it’s such an inspiration. Her family is all doing well and growing strong. She stood up to her doctors and stood up for her beliefs. Even if she would have lost the battle with cancer, her whole family would be stronger because of her faith. But she even beat the cancer and now she is able to be an inspiration to so many more.

I hope her story can strengthen your Faith, and I hope that her advice can help you write your stories as well.

Blessings!
Sarah

It’s a Train Wreck in My Head — But That’s a Good Thing

Train Wreck

Hi there!

So right now it feels like there’s a train wreck of ideas and projects inside my head. As I’m trying to build my platform I have so many ideas and avenues to explore, it’s sometimes hard to identify which ones to focus on on any given day. I’ll list a few, in no particular order…

For my blog:

  • At least 2 more author interviews to post articles on, with 2 more on the way (all 4 are self-published or hybrid, I’d like to line up some more traditionally published authors as well…)
  • A mile-long list of Christlike Virtues that I want to post articles on (i.e. Honesty, Charity, Hope, Patience, Temperance, Morality, Learning, Mercy, Thrift, Repentance, Obedience, Chastity, etc.)
  • Half a dozen homeschool topics and lessons learned I can expand on (lesson independence, busy boxes, daily, weekly, and annual schedules, setting up a lesson plan, and organization and setting up your space)
  • A well-planned rant on defining poor vs. rich and who should be helping whom (Hint: if you can read this on a device you own, you are among the world’s wealthiest…)

For my books:

  • Polishing my manuscript for my first book
  • Polishing my query letter for my first book
  • Proofreading my second book
  • Finishing the first draft for my third book
  • Figuring out the outline for my historical novel based on my Great Great Grandparents

These are the best laid-out ideas and tasks ahead of me, though there are more in the wings. I know it’s a lot better to have too many than too few. But it can be just as difficult to succeed. When I was a partner in a retail store, the main thing that brought us down was not knowing how to handle too many customer orders. Heheh! A problem most would envy, but it still can kill a business. So I realize I need to put together a project plan, just as I put together a marketing plan (yet another topic I can post).

Anyone have any tips and tools on how you managed and prioritized the ideas in your head?

Thanks again for reading!

Blessings,
Sarah

Author Interview – Rebecca Yarros

two-women-in-restaurant.jpg

Hi there!

I just finished a wonderful interview with the Amazing author Rebecca Yarros! I absolutely LOVE her writing style and subject matter, though (honestly) I’m not really into the genre she publishes in (YA).

She had some fantastic advice for me and asked that I pay it forward, so here is my first, but certainly not last attempt at passing on her advice.

First off, this is all based on me having a second draft manuscript, and having already started on my author platform. If you haven’t done that yet, take a look at this article. Second, Rebecca is traditionally published, so she went through the onerous process of finding an agent to get published.

So on to the goods:

  1. Don’t submit a draft manuscript. You need to make sure your manuscript is the cleanest, most polished, best developed story you can turn out, before you send it to your first agent. In order to do that…
  2. You need a tribe. Search Google for local writing groups. Go sit in on local workshops, conferences, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 200 word children’s book, or if it’s a 100K+ fiction, you need people to tell you what’s wrong with your book. And, believe me, there’s something wrong with it. Which leads me to…
  3. You need a thick skin. You will be rejected, criticized, and attacked. You need to find a way to get used to it and let it fall off you. Separate yourself from the work, and be prepared for 1 star reviews. Rebecca has a folder in her email labelled “Too Bad For Them,” that’s where she files her rejection letters from agents, — after she learns from them. Be sure to listen to the criticism because it can help you get better, but don’t let it slow you down from sharing your bit of awesome with the world. As for finding an agent…
  4. Try Querytracker.net. They have a listing of practically all the agents in the business. Search for agents in your genre. As you find them…
  5. Make an ABC list. Sort the agents into A’s – amazing, top of heap, awesome (most likely closed to queries), B’s – really good, this would work for me (probably also closed), and C’s – probably new, open to queries, might be able to get you started. And how do you know who’s awesome and who is as green as you…
  6. Research the agents. Go to their website, follow them on twitter. Get to know what they are looking for. Get to know which Authors they already rep. But don’t become a crazy stalker! Another great way, possibly Best way to get to know agents…
  7. Go to a Writer’s Conference. Research the conferences. Take workshops on writing, query letters, etc. Sit on panels where you critique others’ query letters. And, this bit can be expensive, but sign up for 1 on 1 pitching sessions. You get 5 minutes with top agents and their feedback can be invaluable. But most importantly…
  8. Be patient! Finding the right agent for you takes time. When you send out your query letters, send only a handful at a time. Then be prepared to wait 6 weeks before following up, with a nudge. If you get a rejection letter, that’s better than nothing. And if you get critiques, that’s awesome! You can use their advice to get better before you send your query out the next batch. It’ll take awhile, but use the time to strengthen your platform and write!

So basically keep going, keep growing, and keep it up. MANY Thanks to Rebecca and Good Luck and God Bless to you, me, and anyone else who needs it. See you out there!

Blessings,
Sarah

Introductions Are In Order

20170529_200016Hi there!

<stepping up to mic nervously, picture AA meeting>

I’m Sarah, I LOVE living in/near the mountains, and I wrote a children’s book.

OK. So now that that’s out… About 2 years ago I was awake at 3 AM nursing my fourth baby, when I was struck by an idea. It stuck and kept me awake long enough, I finally had to write it down. It was about a boy who, seriously, did NOT want to clean his room. The idea became a story and the story is becoming a book. And I soon as I have my hot little hands on it, I will be beside myself trying to share it with the world. In fact, I’m already bursting at the seams trying not to spoil it!

Anyway, this first book is the catalyst that has started a whole world in my head. Actually, some days it’s more than a bit overwhelming. So bear with me please, as my world gets turned out onto paper so it can be shared.

Excited!

<and scared!>

Sarah