Author Interview, Charity West, The Boyfriend Deal
The ideas just came to Charity West faster and faster, and her fingers could barely keep up. Was NaNoWriMo worth it? Definitely. Finishing that book was the moment she knew she was a writer. That first book did so well she decided to keep going.
Read Charity West's full author interview below!
1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.
The Boyfriend Deal
Battered Not Broken
Worth Fighting For
Coastal Escape Publishing
Rising From the Ashes
Coming May 2017 (TBA)
Author page: http://charitywest.webs.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CharityWestAuthor
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started The Boyfriend Deal as part of NaNoWriMo in 2015. I completed the story about a week ahead of schedule, revised it, and submitted it to Evernight Teen in December 2015. It was accepted a short while later and released in February 2016.
The character of Hadley is loosely based off my daughter. Both girls are band geeks, but unlike my daughter, Hadley is seriously infatuated with the captain of the football team. In reality, Tyler probably would have ended up with the head cheerleader, but I wanted to show that band geeks can be just as tempting.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
Trying to finish the story during the month of NaNoWriMo was a little daunting and I wasn’t certain I would make it. I had a few partials at that point, but hadn’t finished any of them. But once I started working The Boyfriend Deal, the ideas just came to me faster and faster and my fingers could barely keep up. Writing the book was actually fairly painless. During edits, the ending was re-written and some chapters were added, so that was probably the hardest part.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I re-read it, revised, and had someone proofread it before I submitted it to Evernight Teen. And then I obsessively checked my inbox for either an acceptance or a rejection.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
I was a little nervous about the editing process. I wasn’t certain if the editor would love the story or hate it. While it was hard to hear that my story as perfect as I’d imagined it to be, I’m really glad the additional chapters and new ending were suggested. I think it made the story better and really pulled everything together. Once the re-writes were finished, everything else was pretty painless.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
Before I could do any re-writes, I had to read the story again and figure out how I was going to add the information the editor requested. It could have been as simple as a few paragraphs here or there, and while I did do that for some of the changes, I also added new chapters and re-wrote the ending. It took me about a week to get everything pulled together and get it sent back to the editor, and I have to say it was much harder than writing the story the first time. When I finished the story the first time around, I thought I was done, so I put the characters out of mind and started on something new. Having to dive back into that world, and being asked to make significant changes, wasn’t easy but I think I pulled it off.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
I didn’t use alpha or beta readers. I did have someone proofread the story, but she mostly looked for missing words and incorrect punctuation. She said she loved the story and I felt really good about my submission when I sent it in.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
My cover was made by Jay Aheer, who was when my book was first contracted, I was asked to fill out cover art sheet describing my characters and giving input into what I wanted the cover to look like. I didn’t really have any expectations going in and just wanted to give the artist free rein, and I think she did an awesome job. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” except I think as readers we often do exactly that. How likely are you to pick up a book if the cover sucks?
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
After my submission, I had nothing but time on my hands. I had to wait several weeks, and then I received what is called an R&R (revise and resubmit). The editor who read the story made some suggestions about where I could expand the story and requested a different ending. So I revised and sent it back in. I received an acceptance a short while later. I found the publishing experience with Evernight Teen to be pretty painless. They were very professional and were happy to answer any questions I might have. Overall, I was excited to work with them and happily submitted my second story to them as well.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
Evernight Teen purchased a book tour for me, and I think that really helped as someone who didn’t have a reader base already. In addition to that, I did my own Cover Reveal on Facebook, my blog, and Twitter. I tried to post fairly often on my blog to keep people interested in the story prior to the release date, and once the book came out, I posted excerpts and teaser graphics that I’d made prior to release. I purchased a few inexpensive cover ads, but I'm not sure how well they worked.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
The Boyfriend Deal received mixed reviews. It seemed people either loved it or hated it.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
Despite having some poor reviews, The Boyfriend Deal still rocketed to the #1 spot under Teen & Young Adult – Dating and Sex on Amazon and stayed there for about a week or two. It did a lot better than I’d ever expected or dreamed it could and within the first 45 days, I’d sold 2,000 copies. As a debut author who didn’t yet have a reader base, I thought that was pretty fantastic. And I honestly have no idea what made it so popular during that time. The sales have slacked off since then. The story is now a year old, but it still does okay.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I sell hardly any print copies. I’d say 99% of my sales are from ebooks. While print books are great for book signings, and it would be really awesome to see your book on the shelf at your local bookstore, print royalties tend to be a lot smaller than ebook royalties. I haven’t figured out the exact royalty difference, but I think I make about a dollar more per ebook sale than print.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
The publisher set the pricing on both ebook and print. I had no say in the matter.
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?
The Boyfriend Deal did so well, I decided to write more. Unfortunately, the next two releases didn’t do as well as my first one. The editing process was easier on both, as I learned a lot from my first release, and I used the same marketing as I had with the first one. I don’t know if the first cover was more attention grabbing than the next two, or if my first book did so well just based on dumb luck.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
I used a different publisher for the third book, but the process was the same. Submit. Acceptance. Edit. Cover Art. Release.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
The moment I finished writing the first book. Even though it wasn’t published yet, I knew I’d already reached a major milestone just by finishing the story.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I either write in the early afternoon (between lunch and school dismissal) or really late at night after everyone is in bed. Some days I have to force myself to put words on the page because I’d rather watch a movie or read a book. Other days the words are flowing and I feel like I’m nearly possessed by the need to write, and on those days I can write as much as 10,000 words in one day. On average, I try for 1,000 words a day. It doesn’t move the story forward very fast, but I eventually get to “the end”.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
I’ve had people ask me about the publishing process, ask who I’d recommend as a publisher, and just general writing related questions (when do I write, how often do I write, where do my ideas come from).
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
First of all, don’t give up. Even when it feels like the end of your story is too far away, or if you start doubting how good your writing is, don’t stop…keep going until those magic words “the end” then set the book aside. Go read your favorite novel, or watch your favorite movie, and in a few days or even a few weeks come back and read over it again and see where you can make improvements. When you’ve polished it to the best of your ability, then you’re ready to submit.
Do research on the publishers you’re interested in. Find the one that would be the perfect fit for you. As a first time author, I found the really big publishers a bit daunting. I wanted a smaller publisher where I would be more likely to get one on one attention. I wanted a place that had a good support system in place for me, as I didn’t have one of my own. And most importantly, your story is NOT perfect even if you think it is.
Don’t fight your editor when they make suggestions. Re-read your work with an open mind and see if maybe they’re right, maybe you really do need that new chapter or new ending, maybe your character really is a bit flat and you need to flesh them out some more. Don’t be afraid of change.
Marketing is…marketing is a different animal. What works for one book may not work for another. You may find that pretty teaser graphics posted several times a day on Instagram work better than a paid ad somewhere else. Maybe you purchase a book blitz or blog tour from a reputable company. It may succeed or it may fail. I’ve found that most of the readers who visit those blogs are looking for the giveaways…some may click the link to buy your book, but in my experience most don’t. It’s still a great way to get your book in front of people, but think of it more as a tool to get your name out there and not so much as a sales tactic. I think I read somewhere that someone has to see your book 20 times before they’ll click the buy link. So the more you get your book out there, the better. I’ve had success with $20 FB ads, and I’ve had $40 cover ads that didn’t seem to do much of anything. You’ll have to experiment, and remember that just because something works for your first book, it doesn’t mean the same marketing tactic will work for your next one. Also, marketing for a self-published book is going to be a little different from marketing for a book that’s with a publisher.
In the end, you need to decide if you want to go with a publisher and gain their reader base and experience, or if you want to go solo and self-publish.