Author Interview, Mary Hoagland, Nourish & Strengthen

As a self-proclaimed "hybrid" author, Mary Hoagland has published traditionally and she has self-published. There are pros and cons to each, she said.

Her other advice to writers? Make sure you have non-editors read your manuscript to see if they have an emotional connection. Also, find and go to a writers conference to learn more and associate with others in the industry.

Check out her full Author Interview below!

Author website:

Author Amazon page

1. How many books have you published and when (month/year)?

Nourish & Strengthen

Oct. 2011

Family Size

Feb. 2013

Still Time

July, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Dec. 2015

The {Re}Model Marriage

March 2016

Kayaks & Kisses

Nov. 2016

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?

I started writing the first draft of my first book on a whim. I didn’t realize it was going to be a full book, and it just felt like an experiment, really. I started it when my youngest child went to kindergarten. I finished the first draft the last month of school that year. Much of the story came from the medical issues we’d been having as a family and social issues I heard stories about from friends and family—someone-who-knew-someone kind of stories.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

Writing the story was fun. It was a challenge I wanted to see if I could meet. Could I string together enough ideas with an overarching plot and make it into one cohesive novel? The way I decided to write it—a scene here and a scene there—made editing a little more difficult than any of my other books because I didn’t start at the beginning and write to the end.

4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

Once I finished the book, put things in the right order and reread it once, I thought it was ready, so I sent it in to a publisher. Big mistake! I was so nervous about allowing anyone to read it, I sent it in basically in rough draft form. No second set of eyes took a look at it, no feedback from critique partners, and absolutely no editing. It was bad. Of course it was rejected, and I put it away in a drawer. After about a year, I pulled it out again and read it, seeing so many things that needed fixed. I worked on it again, but still, it was probably 3-4 years before I got up the nerve to allow anyone to read it.

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

When I finally allowed someone to read it, it was my first editor. He was amazing. We went through every chapter, every sentence, every word. Multiple times. After this first book, I haven’t had as much in-depth time with an editor, but it was great to help me get the book into a publishable product. It was an invaluable learning experience, and even though I have learned a lot over the years I’ve been writing, I never allow a book to go to print without going through at least one competent content editor and multiple proofreaders (usually more). You just can’t catch everything yourself.

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

I love (and hate) every aspect of writing from outlining to drafting, to re-writing. Of course, the bulk of the writing time is spent on rewriting and then rewriting again. Revisions take something pretty good to great. It’s so wonderful to see the transformation!

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha/Beta Readers)? What did you get out of that?

I think it’s important to get feedback from non-editors as well as professionals in the business. They tend to help me know if they connected with the story emotionally, and give me a feeling of what to expect from reviewers in the future.

8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

I have two novellas that are published by a small press who also designs the covers. They have allowed me some input in choosing the photo for the basis of the cover, which I appreciate. This helps with cohesiveness of characterization (since it’s a photo of the main characters). While the design choices may not always be what I would have chosen, it’s important that the cover is recognizable as part of the series with the other books published by that press, and they do a good job.

On the other hand, the covers for all four of my novels were designed by me. I love having full control over the covers. While I am working on them, I make sure to get feedback from a variety of sources, including an online book cover critique group full of other designers, because covers are extremely important. I know I’m not the only one who passes up many books because the cover conveys a different kind of book than I’m looking for at the time. If the cover isn’t right, the potential reader won’t even stop to read the book description. You can have an amazing book, but saddled with a terrible cover, it will never garner enough attention to be taken seriously.

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

My first book was in a small niche genre that I was told didn’t sell well. Because of this, the few publishers who might have taken it, decided not to, though they told me it was well written. With those options closed, I decided to independently publish. I enjoyed the process so well, that I haven’t ever submitted to an agent or publisher since—even after I switched to a more general genre. One thing that’s been nice, though, is that even with independently publishing, I was able to attract the attention of two small publishers that I currently have contracts with. I have found that being both traditionally and independently published have their pros and cons, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do both. Being a hybrid author helps open up more doors and find more readers.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

I honestly can’t remember how I marketed my first book. In the five years since I was first published, I’ve learned a little at a time, trying out different marketing techniques. I still feel I have a lot to learn, especially since what works one time doesn’t necessarily work the next. I just try to stay up on what the latest successful trends are and try to diversify marketing efforts to reach more people.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

That I don’t remember either. I do know that it’s only gotten better and better as I’ve been able to reach more people and improve my writing and marketing skills. I do know that initial feedback was good enough that I’ve kept plugging along.

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

I had no idea what to expect in sales numbers. It seems that genre plays a huge part in sales, as do discounts—people are always looking for a bargain. Another thing that helps is working in conjunction with other authors to help spread the word to new people.

13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

I absolutely sell more ebooks than print. No doubt. While it’s nice to have print books on hand for the few people you know personally, ebooks are just more economical for both the reader and the author, and so much easier to distribute. I would recommend having your book available in as many platforms as possible, though, because there will always be readers who prefer one over the other. Another one to consider is audiobook. My first audiobook is currently in production, and I’m really excited to see how it does. I know I’ve had several people tell me they are waiting for it to come to audio.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

Prices are decided by the publisher, so on my independent books, I can set the price. Even then, I have to keep in mind the production costs of print books and the cut from the retailer as a minimum. I also have to take into account taxes and credit card fees when I am selling paperbacks at events. Basically, keeping the price as competitive as possible for the reader, but trying to earn a little off of every sale—and that’s not even trying to factor in a per hour payment for my time. Maybe someday I’ll earn enough to make up for the time I invest.

15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?

It’s interesting to me that as soon as I have one book written—usually by the time I am finishing revisions and starting on production—I have a solid idea for another book. Another idea that keeps coming back and cannot be ignored. I simply love the process—every aspect. And the good thing is, the writing, revising, publishing, and marketing have gotten easier and more enjoyable over the years. I’ve made some great connections with other authors that help get me in touch with the professionals I need (critique groups, editing, proofreading, marketing, etc.) and also help me keep abreast of the latest innovations and techniques. Obviously I’m doing something different if my first book took me seven years from start to finish, and now it takes significantly less time. Most of that I chalk up to being motivated. I know I can do it, I want to do it, and I’ve gotten more skilled at doing so. And I’ve found I enjoy it.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

(I think I kind of answered this already—when I talked about small presses coming to me.)

17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we don’t know when we’ve “earned” the title, but honestly, if that’s what someone spends their time doing, then that’s what they are, right? Even if they aren’t making a ton of money or aren’t published in the way that most people think of when they watch Castle. I guess for me, though, it wasn’t until I had my first, maybe even second book out, that I felt better about the title, and then when I quit my other job and focused on writing and editing full-time that I really felt comfortable in calling myself a writer.

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

I know I should be able to say that I “treat it like a job” and do it from 8-5 every day; that’s what all the writing advice is. I’m sure I would write more books that way. But I just can’t. I have to LIVE, too! Without a full life, there’s nothing to write about, and nowhere to get fresh ideas. I go through spurts. Sometimes I make a decision that I need to do a NaNo of my own (in November or not), sometimes I have a deadline I’m trying to beat. At those times, I write every second I can. And sometimes I work on my house (we’re finishing a remodel) or do work for editing or formatting clients. But I always am writing a book in one stage or another, and when I am actively drafting or revising, I have to be immersed in the book or I will forget what I’ve done. At those times, I try to work on it almost every weekday at least a little.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

I get asked where I get my ideas. That’s a tough one. I don’t really know. Headlines, stories overheard, what-ifs, my own spin on other stories. They also ask about publishing, and about how to actually write an entire book (the process).

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

Do it! If you want it bad enough, you can do it. Whatever you want to learn—ask questions, read, search, discover, try. You will find people who will mentor you if you look. That’s one thing I’ve loved about the writing community—so many great people. One of the best places to learn the craft and to network is writing conferences. The best one I’ve been to is the Storymakers conference in Utah every spring. Be persistent, keep working, improving, and believing and you’ll make it happen.

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