Author Interview, Margo Kelly, WHO R U REALLY?
The unfortunate truth is that Margo Kelly's first book is based on the true story of her daughter's almost abduction by an online predator. Thankfully, her daughter is safe, and now Margo uses the book to help show parents and teens the dangers that exist online. Margo loves writing, and says she can write a full story in about a month; however, she spends practically the next year revising. "Somedays I feel like the process takes forever," she said, "but I know the extra time makes the story better."
Read her full interview below.
1. How many books have you published and when (month/year)?
WHO R U REALLY?
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started writing WHO R U REALLY? many years ago … after my daughter was nearly abducted by an online predator. After a counseling session one day, my daughter and I played the “what if” game. What if “this” had happened instead of that? What if “this” decision had been made instead of that? And a novel was born. There are many true scenes in the book along with many fictional ones.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
There are quite a few scenes in WHO R U REALLY? that actually happened in real life. The hardest part about writing the story was making those real-life scenes translate into a believable fictional tale … because sometimes real-life events are too hard to believe.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
Once my manuscript was finished, I began querying agents.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
There are several different types of editing in today’s publishing world. First in the process is self-editing. It’s crucial to look at your manuscript with a fresh set of eyes. For me, it helps to change my physical location for self-editing. I typically write my first draft at the computer. So for editing, I will print out a hard copy and sit in a different room to work on it. By changing the physical location, my brain sees the words differently. Second, there’s the editorial letter that an agent usually sends to the writer, suggesting areas for improvement. Third, the acquiring editor at a publishing house will also send an editorial letter. Finally, another editor at the publishing house will send copy-edits for approval. The experience each and every time has been challenging and rewarding. It’s exciting to see the story improve with each step in the process.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I can spew out the initial draft of a story in as little as thirty days, however, it’s messy and unfinished. I never let anyone see that first draft. For me, the real magic happens during revisions, and it takes me nearly a year to revise and polish a story. Somedays I feel like the process takes forever, but I know the extra time makes the story better.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Once I feel like the manuscript is finished and polished, I let a few trusted readers take a look at it. This helps me, because I can make sure the overall plot structure and character development works based on their honest and critical feedback. Once I hear back from them, I make final revisions before sending the story off to my agent.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
The fabulous Frank Rivera (from Merit Press – an imprint of Simon & Schuster) designed both of my book covers. I had final approval on both covers but zero input on their design. Covers are essential in a book’s overall success.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
I chose to go the traditional publishing route of getting an agent. She’s absolutely wonderful, and it’s been the best thing for me.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
I participated in online book blog tours, contests, giveaways, and local in-person events. The publisher also did marketing efforts, including sending advance reading copies to industry reviewers and providing giveaways.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
Terrific. Readers are awesome, and I have thoroughly enjoyed receiving emails and messages from people who’ve read my books.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
Sales have been great, and I’m thrilled that the book has been so well received. Writing a new book is the best thing to help sell previous books. Once readers find an author they like, they will often want to purchase other books by the author. So writing the next book is crucial.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
For me, physical books have sold better than e-books. I write for the young adult audience, and many of them have told me that since everything they do is online or on a device, they love reading a physical book because it disconnects them from their online lives.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
No, I do not set the prices. The publisher and the retail outlets have control over the pricing of the books.
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?
I simply love writing. I will continue to write for the rest of my life. As I write each new book, I learn techniques and strategies to make the process more efficient. With my second book, I learned the value of outlining the plot in more detail.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
No, because it was with the same publishing house.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
Technically, we are writers when we decide to write; however, I felt a form of legitimacy when I signed the contract with my agent.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I write whenever I possibly can. I prefer larger blocks of uninterrupted time, but that’s not always possible. The untold story motivates me to write.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
How long did it take you to write your book?
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Set your goals, protect your writing time, revise ruthlessly, trust your instincts, and write your next story.