USA Today bestselling author Rachel McClellan believes that using multiple beta readers, building her newsletter, and of course telling a really awesome story are all key to being successful these days.
Her other advice? Rally other writers around you. “Associate with writers right away. They will save you time in finding your way. I wish I would've known this! There are so many author groups on FB that offer tips and support. Writers are a special group, and the majority want to see others succeed.”
See the rest of Rachel’s interview below.
Author website: www.rachelmcclellan.com
Amazon author page
1. How many books have you published and when (month/year)?
The Devil’s Fool
The Devil’s Angel
The Devil’s Soldier
Escape to Eden
Escape from Eden
Several more titles coming soon!
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
The first novel I ever wrote was The Devil's Fool. I began writing it while on a trip to Ireland. There was a particular graveyard there next to a small church that helped me write the first scene of the novel. From there, I couldn't stop.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The hardest part was simply having the confidence to believe that I could write a book. The task seemed so daunting, but once I decided to just tell Eve and Lucien's story, regardless if it ever became published, the words just flowed. I was truly shocked when I wrote, "The End."
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I did a lot of research on what to do next. I edited it, and edited it again. I joined a critique group so they could help. Meanwhile, I began writing another novel, then another. My 3rd novel is the one that was published first through a traditional publisher. Years later, and four more books, later, I self published those first two novels. They are my best sellers by far!
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
It usually takes me a couple of weeks to really go through my novels, then I hand it off to my developmental editor. When she's finished, I incorporate the requested changes, then hand it off to my copy editor.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I love the editing process. I'm always surprised when I read what I've written. Sometimes they don't even feel like my words. I know that sounds strange, but it's true.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha/Beta Readers)? What did you get out of that?
When (my copyeditor is) finished, I give it to beta readers to search for any last minute typos or inconsistencies. I have about twenty of those so my final copy is really clean by the time I publish the final version.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
I use various people based on their style. For my Dystopian series, I use Rebecca Frank. For my darker PNR, I use Rebecca Hamilton and Desiree DeOrto. They all work well with me and allow input.
For my traditionally published books, I didn't have much say in the covers and have to use their designers. Overall, they did a good job.
The cover is always number one on my list of importance. Writers MUST have a professional-looking cover. It's the first thing readers see. To make sure you have a good cover, test it in various writer groups and ask. Don't trust friends and family to give their opinion.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
See question 4.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
My marketing efforts have changed from my first traditionally published novel. I no longer set up online book blogger tours and instead focus my time and money and book promotion sites like Freebooksy, Robin Reads, ENT, etc. They help make a launch much more successful. I also focus on growing my newsletter and newsletter swaps with other authors.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
Initial feedback from readers is always good. It’s fun to hear their opinions and I welcome their feedback.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
The sales of my first novel weren't as good as I thought they would be. I thought there would be more money in publishing traditionally, seeing how my books would be in bookstores across the US, but that wasn't the case at all. Bookstores only stock books for a very short time, especially if they aren't selling hundreds of them a week.
It wasn't until my second self published novel that my sales really took off. It was all about writing a story that readers want to read and writing it well. It also helped that it was a series.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
Income from printed books sucks. Ebooks are 98% of my income, but only on my self published books. Where my publisher owns the rights to my ebooks, I still only make 15% so marketing doesn't make sense as I can't earn back my advertising money. If I could market them, I believe they would do much better.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I convinced my publisher to reducer the prices of my ebooks to $.99 for the first in series, then $3.99. This made a big difference in sales. $2.99-$3.99 is an ebook sweet spot, unless you are a big time author. Then you can price higher.
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?
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
See question 4.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
I personally prefer the term storyteller. I've always been one. I feel bad for my kids. I think they really believe that vampires and werewolves exist!
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I write whenever I have a spare moment. I use a timer and write in 15 minutes sprints. I find with a timer, I can write faster and am more focused. I also listen to brain.fm, a really cool app that plays music to help focus you. Using this method, I can usually write 700 + words in 15 minutes…IF I know the scene ahead of time.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
The first question is “How do I get published?” My answer is always the same: “Write an amazing book.” But that makes it sound so simple, so I always follow that up with the steps necessary to write that amazing book. There really is a lot of work that goes into it, but those who are serious will be successful.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Writing is a long game. You have to really love it to keep going. Chances are your first book and even your fifth won't be super successful. It takes time and a lot of honing your craft to start earning a living at it. Associate with writers right away. They will save you time in finding your way. I wish I would've known this! There are so many author groups on FB that offer tips and support. Writers are a special group, and the majority want to see others succeed.
Also, make sure you have a great cover, an enticing blurb, and a novel that has been professionally edited. Build your newsletter early. Make connections. And have fun doing what you love!!